Where is Shaolin Temple in China?

Anybody who has come across or is interested in the Chinese culture has heard of the famous Shaolin Temple which is also referred to as the Shaolin Monastery. We have probably also heard it from the Chinese action movies and seen images of it in Chinese documentaries. What is the Shaolin Temple and where is it? Let’s find out.

What is Shaolin Temple?

Shaolin temple is a temple associated with the birth of Chan Buddhism, a Chinese sect about enlightenment through meditation, intuition, and self- contemplation. It sets aside faith and devotion and methods of self-enlightenment.  These practices can be found in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. This practice is known as Zen in Western countries. Chan simply means a state of mind where one is calm, stable, and has clarity.

The Shaolin temple has also been known as the foundation of Shaolin Kung Fu. The name Shaolin means little forest or woods. The name is derived from the location of the temple near Shaoshi Mountain. All people who desire to be initiated into the Chinese Chan tradition get it from this temple.

When was Shaolin Temple Built?

shaolin temple location

The temple was built in 497 AD in Henan province among the Shaoshi Mountains and was first opened in 477 AD. The temple was built by an Indian who came to the mountains. In his time, there was an emperor who favored his Buddhism teachings and helped in the construction of the first Shaolin temple. The emperor’s name was Hsiao-Wen.  Other ancient records show that the emperor built the temple to accommodate the Indian Buddhist teacher.

All these records are centered on the Indian teacher.  According to some ancient Buddhist records, the Temple was built on the northern side of the Shaoshi, at the central peak of the sacred Chinese mountain. Other records have indicated that the temple was first built in Luoyang city. This record was written by Yang Xuanzhi in ‘The record of the Buddhist monasteries of Luoyang in 547 AD’.

Who Founded Shaolin Temple?

It is believed to have been founded by emperor Hsiao-Wen of the Northern Wei dynasty. The emperor built the temple to accommodate Batuo, an Indian teacher of Chan Buddhism. It is believed that the two had met years before the construction of the temple and established a great friendship. The emperor was intrigued by Batuo’s teachings and invited him to China to spread Buddhism.

Batuo arrived in China via the Silk route in490 AD. The emperor offered him all the necessities he needed to spread his teachings. The temple became a favorite spot for many emperors of that time who could not get enough of Batuo’s teachings. Batuo and his disciples did not live in the Shaolin temple but lived a mile away. The foundation of this temple has been unanimously agreed to have originated from the emperor Hsiao.

How many Shaolin Temples are there in China?

shaolin temple pagoda forest

There were five main Shaolin Temples in China. Hey included the Henan Temple, Fuxien temple, Guangdong temple, Wutang temple, and O Mei Shan Temple. Today, we have the Northern and the Southern Shaolin. The Henan and the Fuxien temples became the foundations for the Northern and Southern Shaolin respectively. The rest were destroyed in attacks.

Northern Shaolin

The Northern Shaolin is located in Northern China and refers to the external martial arts found in the Henan temple. It also refers to the Northern Shaolin boxing school. Northern Shaolin traces its origin over 4000 years ago. The concept was developed by monks as a self-defense mechanism against any peace disruptors. The key point taught in Northern Shaolin is to avoid confrontation and fights whenever possible. If this proves impossible, it is time to apply these powerful martial arts. The northern Shaolin style comprises much legwork, acrobatics, and jumping. The Northern Shaolin temple has become one of the largest tourist attraction sites in China. The Henan temple has attracted attention due to the images seen in Chinese martial arts movies.

Southern Shaolin

The martial arts techniques originated from the Fuxien temple which was regarded as the snake temple. It was larger than the Henan temple and served as the command center when the latter was under attack. The southern playing mantis and Dragon Kung Fu originated from this temple by its masters. It was destroyed in the Boxer rebellion, but its remains were discovered in 1980. Before the discovery of the ruins, the precise location of this temple was disputed.

The Southern Shaolin is also called the Nan-Shaolin. The history of the southern Shaolin has been met with disputes as some scholars argue that its origin is fiction. Nevertheless, there has been established a southern Shaolin temple in Fujian Province. When it comes to styles, southern Kung Fu concentrates on short moves and stable stances.

Where is the Original Shaolin Temple?

The original Shaolin temple originated in Song Mountains in Henan province in 495 AD. An Indian monk who arrived from India at this time was accommodated in the Shaolin to spread his Buddhist teachings. The temple was built in the forest of Shaoshi and attracted many emperors and Chinese natives who became monks in the order of Shaolin. They were known as the disciples of Batuo.

 The emperor of the Northern Wei dynasty liked his teachings and offered him support to teach at the courts, an offer he declined. He was allocated land in the Song Mountains where he built the Shaolin Temple with the help of the emperor. It was built in Chinese architecture. Thirty years later, an Indian by the name Bodhi Dharma arrived in the Shaolin and introduced the Chan doctrine.

Why is Shaolin Temple Famous?

The temple is famous for featuring in the famed Chinese action movies. It has become so famous and has been listed as one of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. It still sits in the mountains of Henan and has become a must-see for any travelers in Chin.

Today, the temple is active and has become a training center for Kung Fu. Children as young as five years old are sent here to learn and carry on with the tradition of the Shaolin temple. It has been destroyed and restored over many years and stands today as China’s tourist attraction site.

What is Shaolin Kung Fu?

Shaolin Kung Fu also called Shaolin Wushu is the oldest form of Chan and martial arts. It utilizes blows, kicks, and punches to stop the enemy from further attacks. Shaolin Kung Fu originated from Bodhi Dharma, the Indian teacher of Chan. He is said to have meditated in a cave for nine years before he joined the order of the Shaolin monks. Bodhi Dharma was believed to have practiced a unique way of exercising while in the cave.

When he left for the Shaolin temple, he found that the monks were unfit and introduced what is today known as Kung Fu as a way of keeping fit. The techniques were later used as a method of self-defense when the monks were attacked. Today, the Shaolin temple is the greatest training center for the modern adaptation of traditional Kung Fu. It is a practicing Buddhist temple where many go to learn Chan and Kung Fu.

Is Shaolin Kung Fu Real?

Yes, it is. It is not just a fictional kind of martial arts in Chinese movies. The techniques are real and are taught in the Shaolin temple. If you happen to be around the temple in the morning, you will notice youngsters practicing martial arts and meditation.

In recent years, the Shaolin monks have become world-famous entertainers as their display and art are amazing to watch. Their display of both hard and soft techniques where hard involves meeting force with force and soft involves studying the aggressor and using the aggression against the opponent.

Is Shaolin Kung Fu Goo for Self-Defense?

Yes, it is. The techniques that involve kicks and blows to stop the attacker can be used in the case of an attack. Although today’s Kung Fu has been undermined by martial arts styles like Taekwondo, traditional King FU was believed to be the most powerful form of martial arts. It is a powerful art as it builds strength through aggressive practice.

 In the Shaolin temple, students are taught on the ground. This makes them ready for defense in the situation of a real-life attack. In training, Kung Fu emphasizes incapacitating strikes in vulnerable areas. The opponent is stopped from attacking in the fastest way possible. This is because the style of martial arts as was laid out in the traditional training is to avoid confrontation and fights, but if they are inevitable, the person is equipped to contain the situation as quickly as possible.


The Shaolin temple holds a precious part of Chinese history and culture. The people of China are known for their knowledge of martial arts. It continues to carry on the Shaolin tradition as many youngsters flock to the temple to learn Buddhism and martial arts.

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