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Shaolin Temple

Luoyang Shaolin Temple

Celebrated in pop culture as a martial arts Mecca, the legendary Shaolin Temple is also one of the world’s most important Mahayana Buddhist monasteries and the birthplace of Zen Buddhism. Homegrown Taoist philosophy influenced the way in which Buddhism, an import from India, was practiced in Shaolin, with emphasis placed on observing and living in harmony with nature.

According to legend, the local variant of kungfu originated in 520 AD, when Bodhidharma, a Zen Buddhist monk, devised a set of breathing and training exercises to help fellow monks build their inner strength and protect themselves in their harsh, remote mountain home. Over time, the monks developed these exercises into a complex fighting system that combines internal, meditation-based training and breathing with fighting techniques inspired by the movements of animals, hence their names: Praying Mantis, Tiger, Toad, Bird, Dragon, and Monkey, to name a few.