''How and why did Monk Soldiers come to Linshan Village?'
Linquan Yuan Temple in Putian was considered to be a big temple. According to the stone inscription, it had more than 20 buildings with more than 500 monks living there. How and why did Monk Soldiers from Songsan Shaolin Temple come to Linquan Yuan (later called the Southern Shaolin Temple) in Putian? The answer is simple: Shaolin Monks traveled extensively throughout their history. To understand this practice, we must determine why there were traveling monks. Three key reasons for traveling monks have been confirmed by Chinese historians: 1) Direct orders from the Emperor for military assistance from monk soldiers; 2) Movements between the Northern and Southern Temples for political reasons; and 3) Chan Buddhism's requirement for experience that could only be gained via travel outside the temple.
'1. Direct orders of the Emperor for Military Assistance from Monk Soldiers'
The Southern Shaolin Temple was ultimately the result of Northern Temple monk warriors responding to an Imperial order for martial assistance from Tang Emperor, Li Shimin. Pirate incursions in Fujian Province threatened stability and prosperity in Southern China and the monk soldiers were needed for special operations. Three of the legendary Shaolin Thirteen Cudgel fighting monks, Dao Guang, Seng Man and Seng Feng, led approximately 500 warrior monks south in the early 7th Century A.D. to engage in battle against the pirates. Their special talents helped the Tang soldiers defeat the pirates. Many warrior monks fell during the coastal battles. To commemorate their fallen comrades, Dao Guang was tasked by Tan Zong, Northern Temple grandmaster, to select a site resembling the Songsan Jiu Lian Mountain and then establish a Southern Shaolin Branch to commemorate their fallen brothers. Dao Guang selected the temple in Putian to fulfill this tasking. Tan Zong further tasked him to remember their ancestors and to spread the Chan Buddhist philosophy native to the Songsan Temple. This type of deployment of monk soldiers throughout China is seen throughout Dynastic history. For example, in 1114 A.D., the Mongolians invaded China. The Chinese Emperor ordered the Shaolin Temples to dispatch Monk Soldiers to fight back. Over 500 monks intercepted the Mongolian army at the bank of the Yellow River. They were not successful, but history records that they were there at the order of the Emperor.
'2. Movements between the North and South for political reasons'
During the Tang Dynasty, a struggle erupted over the selection of the 6th Patriarch of Chan Buddhism. Sheng Hui declared himself the 6th Patriarch and emphasized orthodox Buddhism with a strong dash of Confucian orientation in Northern China. The 5th Patriarch's choice for successor, Hui Neng, fled to the South where his more Taoist influenced form of Budhhism flourished. Ultimately, a subsequent Tang emperor declaring the Southern lineage as the rightful Patriarchy later served political purposes. With this declaration, Chan Buddhism's roots had left Northern China. Journeys from North to South were to be expected. The nature of Chan Buddhism seen today is fundamentally a fusion of Taoist and Buddhist thought and culture.
Another documented example of political movements to the south can be gleaned from a well-documented Song Dynasty incident. A young man named Haizhou escaped from the imperial slaughter of his entire family by hiding in the Northern Shaolin Temple. He became a monk and learned extensive Shaolin Kungfu over the next decade. The Emperor later learned of his hiding place, thus forcing him to flee overnight for the safety of Southern Shaolin Temple where he remained.
Other examples of politically driven movements to the south stem from the struggles between Ming and Qing Dynasties. As the Qing cemented control of Northern China 30 years before Southern China fell, many monks from the North traveled to the Southern Temple to continue rebellion against the Qing conquest.
'3. Chan Buddhism's requirement for experience that could only be gained via travel outside the temple.'
For practicing Buddhism, monks had to travel outside the temple. Yongqi and Jinqi, whose names are reflected today in the reconstructed Southern Shaolin Temple's records as the creators of the stone trough referenced in the opening paragraph might have traveled to Putian for any of the above reasons and decided to stay in Linquan Yuan.
Chan Buddhist history clearly explains that after the development of Buddhism, monks began to lead a wondering life in order to prove and expand their belief. Fujian History says that by the end of the Tang Dynasty, Buddhism has been evolved into 5 groups: Yang Zong, Caodong Zong, Yunmen Zong, Linji Zong, Fayan Zong. Most of them were founded by Fujianese. In other words, Chan Buddhism's roots had moved to Southern China.
Therefore, the practice of Shaolin Monks taking Fujian as their destination for visiting would appear natural. Among the five groups referenced above, Caodong Zong's founder was specifically from Putian, the location of the Southern Shaolin Temple. "Putian County Annals"
Southern Shaolin Temple
- Written by: doc