​Shaolin Temple

Description of the Temples

There were 5 main temples at the height of the Shaolin order, though all 5 temples were rarely active at the same time.
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Honan: This is "the" Shaolin temple seen in Chinese kung fu movies, and the one portrayed in the ABC-TV "Kung Fu" series of the 1970s. The physical premises, located in Loyang, a small mountain town southwest of Beijing, have been restored by the Chinese government in the mid 1970s (the temple was destroyed as a result of the Boxer Rebellion of 1901, but probably not until the late 1920s), and subsequently become a tourist/martial arts Mecca. Most of the resident "monks" seen today are actors, similar to the people you would meet in Colonial Williamsburg and other historical sites. During most of its history, Henan Temple was the seat of the most senior monks in the Shaolin Order.external image shaolin-temple-dengfeng-02_leading.jpg
Fukien: Probably built around the same time as Henan Temple, but originally a mainstream Buddhist temple until the early 1600s. This temple was integrated into the Shaolin order around 1650. Larger than the Henan Temple, Fukien served as the "headquarters" during times when Henan was either destroyed or under threat. The southern styles of praying mantis, snake, dragon, and Wing Chun were all developed in Fukien Temple, or by its masters. The temple was burned during the Boxer Rebellion, and its remains were rediscovered in the early 1980s.
Kwangtung: southern school, taught many great warriors, snake temple. Temple was built in late 1700's as a Shaolin temple, built in a mountain area overlooking the ocean near the city of Canton in Canton Province. This Cantonese temple was close to (ca. 150 miles southwest) Fukien, and was home to many southern styles, including Choy Li Fut and dragon (styles often originated in one location and were modified at others). Shelled during the civil warring following the Boxer Rebellion.
Wutang: Tiger temple. Located near the town of Wutang. Built in a politically unstable area (near Manchuria and the Korean peninsula). Probably the temple most involved with temporal concerns, and consequently often besieged by one army or another. Mercenary monks, including Bok Lei, Hung Si Kuan, and Bok Mei all came from Wutang, eventually moving to Henan (and thus involving Shaolin in its biggest political incursion). Very old temple, integrated into the Shaolin order around AD 800.
Omei Shan Temple: (literally, "Great White Mountain"), northern, library and medical temple. This temple was located in an inaccessible area of the Szechuan province and imported monks much like research institutions do today. The temple itself was very old, probably Taoist in origin. Integrated into Shaolin order around AD 1500. Was in close contact with Tibet. Crane temple. This was a major medical "school" for four centuries, the libraries filled with tomes from East and West. The buildings were used for artillery practice by the armies of both Shang Kai Shek and Mao Tze Tung, but restored in the early 1970s. Today, the "temple" serves as the conservation service headquarters for the bamboo forests of Szechuan and research center for the pandas.external image templespic.jpg
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