Shaolin history


The history of Shaolin martial arts stretches back into the sixth century.

Nowadays when one speaks of the Shaolin temple, they generally mean the northern Shaolin Temple. The temple was founded more than 1500 years ago under the reign of Emperor Xiaowen during the northern Wei Dynasty (495 A.D.). The temple was built to accommodate the monk Buddhabhadra (Batuo).
After years of studying the Buddhist teachings in India, the monk began travelling. Eventually he came to China where the Emperor Xiaowen greeted him as a friend. Buddhabhadra became the leader of a Buddhist parish that had more than 100 followers by the time Shaolin was founded.

The Shaolin Temple is located on the Song Mountain in the Henan province. This mountain adjoins the Taishi and Shaoshi mountains. The Shaolin Temple was therefore named after its location in the forests ("lin" in Chinese) of the Shaoshi mountain.

The legendary Shaolin Martial Arts were born there in the sixth century with arrival of Bodhidahrma, who left India to further spread Buddhism in China. In the heyday of Shaolin, there were ten sub-temples of the Shaolin Monastery; the most famous of these, apart from the northern temple, was the southern temple in the Fujian province. Due to various reasons (climate, culture, mentality, etc.) the northern and southern Shaolin Temples developed different Kung Fu styles.

Whereas the northern style is known for its fast and elegant movements and a myriad of kick techniques, the southern style is marked by good, stable stands and powerful arm work.


When Bodhidharma came to the Shaolin Temple after years of meditation in the mountains, he found the monks in poor health. They could only concentrate with great difficulty when meditating and could barely maintain good straight posture.

Bodhidharma taught them exercises to develop general strength and good health. Today, these exercises are known as Chi Kung. The well-known "18 Lohan Hands" are thought to have stemmed from these (Lohan means "the enlightened one") as well as "Sinew Metamorphosis" and "Marrow Cleansing Chi Kung".

The Southern Shaolin Temple

Throughout history, the Southern Shaolin Temple was frequently a place where revolutionaries and the persecuted could find refuge from the cruel government.

During the Qing Dynasty when rebels were hiding from government troops in the Southern Temple, the Manchurian troops burnt down the temple and all those who lived there. While most of the monks lost their lives, some succeeded in escaping and built a new Shaolin temple several kilometers to the south. The Venerable Jiang Nan and the Venerable Chee Seen, who abandoned their former temple names in order to avoid being recognized as Shaolin monks, were also among those who succeeded in escaping.

The venerable Chee Seen

The venerable Chee Seen founded a new southern Shaolin Temple. But a few years later, this temple was also discovered and destroyed.

The venerable Chee Seen had to flee once again and spent several years looking for a worthy successor to whom he could pass on the Shaolin arts.

We are directly descended from this lineage in the seventh generation.

The venerable Jiang Nan

The second lineage to the Southern Shaolin Temple leads back to the venerable Jiang Nan, who found a worthy successor at 75 years of age and passed on his entire knowledge of the Shaolin arts. His successor, the venerable Yang Fatt Khun, was a travelling healer at the time of their meeting. He was also a master of kung fu and had successfully fought off many robbers during his travels. The venerable Jiang Nan observed the young man during his daily kung fu demonstrations. After a few days of observing, the venerable Jian Nan challenged Yang Fatt Khun to a duel and defeated him with ease despite his old age (over 70 years). He thereby demonstrated that there is a martial art whose proponents become more powerful with age: Shaolin Kung Fu. After their fight, Yang Fatt Khun knelt before the monk and begged to be accepted as a student. The venerable Jiang Nan answered: OK, but you must give up what you’ve leaned, start from scratch, and come with me into the mountains to train.

We are directly descended from this lineage and history in the fourth generation.

The lineage of Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit and Wahnam