Doc and Su Xi, 1997 

Shi Su Xi, previously the acting Abbot of the Shaolin Temple, first came to the Temple in 1935 at the age of 12. He describes, through my translator Lu Yong, a fairly typical early Shaolin life, which as I've said before, consisted of gong fu and Buddhist training, tending the fields, and maintaining the Temple buildings that were not burned down in the 1928 fires (predominantly, the ones in the front).

He spent his early years as most other Shaolin students do, with daily and routine gong fu training and Buddhism teachings, until he reached the age of 18, when he became a Shaolin monk. He apparently spent a great deal of time in the 40's, and 50's, traveling China, visiting one Buddhist temple after another, in an effort to learn Buddhism from many great masters. Also, he "missed" the years of the Cultural Revolution, and the effect thereof upon the Shaolin Temple, as he had been doing Temple related business in Xian. He returned to the Temple after the Revolution had wound down, and was one of the fourteen or so monks who revived the Shaolin tradition. He eventually became Abbot, but with the advancement of his Parkinson's disease (he refers to it as Mohammed Ali disease), he had to step down. He lives his life in what is probably the largest monk quarters in the Temple, and at the present time, very rarely receives visitors.

Shi Shin Hong, Shi Su Xi, Shi De Yang, and Shi Yong Qiang (Lu Yong), in 1997. I took the picture, which is probably why it's a bit fuzzy.

I first met Shi Su Xi years ago, with my master, Shi De Cheng. Since then, there has definitely been a change health wise, and not for the better. My visit with him last year was basically the same as the first, but this year, I had noticed a marked deterioration. His doctors have him on a combination of both Chinese and Western medicines, but at this point, he can barely speak audibly, and cannot walk without assistance. There is a great deal of support for him here at the Temple, with many various monks performing various duties to help him. And twice daily, he has regular clothing put on (which, many monks do to avoid the recognition and the "staring"), and is taken out in his wheelchair for a trip up and down the main street of Shaolin Village.

He was the revered grandmaster of all of the Shaolin monks, and teacher of many of the monks of the De and Shin generations at the Shaolin Temple.

EDIT: Su Xi died in 2007