Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1561 Shaolin heshang

Subject: 和尚 monk
Culture: Chinese Buddhist 
Setting: coastal south China 16thc


* Kennedy/Guo 2005 p69-70
"The stock Shaolin myth runs something like this: Bodhidharma was an Indian Buddhist monk who brought Chan Buddhism to China and, after a meeting with the Chinese emperor, settled in the Shaolin monastery.  After residing there for a while Bodhidharma became concerned about the weak physical state of the monks and created a form of exercise and a form of marital art.  He instituted a mandatory training program for all the monks, which included both his exercise plans, known as the Muscle Change Classic, and his martial arts system, which of course became known as kung fu.
    "From these beginnings, the Shaolin temple became the central hub of martial arts development and excellence in China.  The skill of the Shaolin monks was known throughout the empire.  Their reputation became such that eventually the 'evil' Manchu emperor ordered the temple's destruction.  The monks fought bravely, but the temple succumbed to flames and most of the monks were killed.  Only a handful of monks escaped the conflagration and went on to spread the art of Shaolin kung fu to the good people of China.
    "A solid ninety-five percent of that myth is clearly nonsense.   It is easier to point to what is historically accurate: there was a Buddhist temple called Shaolin, and Bodhidharma did reside there for a period of time.  Beyond that, the story is little more than hype, propaganda -- pulp journalism."

Context (Event Photos, Period Sources)

* Kennedy/Guo 2005 p71-72
"There are a number of clear references in the historical record to Shaolin monks being asked -- which often means conscripted -- to fight for various Chinese emperors.  This is not unusual.  Buddhist temples were often large landowners (and continue to be even in modern-day Taiwan) and as such they usually had some form of militia to guard their property.  These militias were often called upon by the imperial government to fight alongside, or even in lieu of, the imperial Chinese army.  The Shaolin temple had fighting monks who made up the militia that guarded the temple's properties and other business interests.  In that regard, the Shaolin temple was no different than any other temple or town in China.
"In contrast to the Eastern myths and to the Western conception, which is largely the result of the 'Kung Fu' television series, there is no evidence that the Shaolin temple was a hotbed of martial arts training or development.  The historical reality was more likely that most Shaolin monks learned whatever combat methods they knew from whatever time they had spent in the army or in village militias prior to becoming monks.
    "To what extent the monks at the Shaolin temple did train in martial arts, the bulk of their exercise time was most likely devoted to weapons training and group maneuvers such as marching, forming ranks, and other typical infantry drills.  This would have been appropriate to the purpose of guarding the temple, the temple's landholdings, and holding one's own if called upon to serve the government.  In all likelihood, the monks were more akin to National Guardsmen or Army Reservists than to Rambo."

* Shaolin Kungfu p18
"The Ming Dynasty (1638[SIC=1368]-1644) saw a blossoming of Shaolin martial arts as never before.  Almost all the residents of Shaolin took up wushu and a powerful detachment of over 2,500 monk-soldiers was organized.  Shaolin wushu had come into its own, whether in boxing, weapons or internal exercise.  The Ming government treasured the monk-soldiers, sending them on expeditions to border areas several dozen times between the reigns of emperors Jia Jing and Wan Li. ... 
    "In 1553, forty Shaolin monks led by Tian Zhen and Tian Chi 'inflicted a crushing defeat on Japanese pirates.'  In June of the same year, 'pioneered by patrols led by Tian Yuan and supported by rearguards led by Yue Kong, Shaolin monks fought and defeated Japanese pirates at Baishawan.'  More than 100 monk-soldiers took part in the battle.  
    "The mass participation of Shaolin monks in military campaigns marked a turning point in the development of Shaolin wushu, which evolved into a comprehensive system strongly combative in nature.  Despite the Qing government's eventual suppression, Shaolin kungfu has remained a leader among Chinese wushu circles."

* Nagaboshi 1994 p420
"In the period 1560-1566 two monks, former Taoist Kioh Yuan Shang Jen (Japanese: Kakuen Shonin) and the Venerable Mikkyo Master Li Lao Shih (Japanese: Riroshi) refounded the Shaolin Chuan Fa system in a temple at the Omei Shan in Szechwan province.  The practices were based upon the original form of Bodhidharma, but also included adaptations (simplifications) suited to the local trainee monks.  Li himself maintained, and continued to train, the fully ordained and suitably initiated monks in the ancient and traditional esoteric forms school based directly upon the forms and the esoteric methods taught by Amoghavajra around 750. ...
    "Li's school had branches at the Kuan-hsien szu, the Ma-Chou Szu and Kung-Hsien Szu near Chungking.  Both the Wu Hsin Tao Li and the Kempo Hishu record that it was around the time of Li and Kakuen that Japan began to send troops of the Satsuma clan to occupy the Ryukyu Islands and, as a result of this, many Ryukyuan islanders went to China to escape and/or seek both religious and Imperial help."




* James 2004 p32
"During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Shaolin Temple martial training began to incorporate a variety of weapons (spears, cudgels, swords, iron staffs), partly in response to the increasing incursions and raids by Japanese pirates.  Shaolin monks were repeatedly enlisted to help repel the Japanese invaders, and it is recorded that during this period Shaolin enjoyed great favor with the government and with the grateful people of China.  By this time the number of Shaolin monks had grown into the thousands."

* Kennedy/Guo 2005 p72
"What the Shaolin temple was famous for was staff techniques.  General Qi Ji Guang writing in 1561 mentions the Shaolin temple and its staff fighting and techniques.  General Qi thought highly enough of the Shaolin temple's staff work that he incorporated one of their set routines for the staff into his martial arts training manual."

* French 2003 p194
"[I]n 1533 (during the reign of Emperor Jai Jing [SIC]), a group of forty monks under the leadership of three master-level warrior monks named Yue Kong, Zhi Nang, and Zi Ran battled a group of Japanese pirates.
    "Japanese pirates made frequent raids up and down China's eastern coast. These pirates viewed the Chinese as subhuman and thus showed no compunction in treating them with unspeakable cruelty.  [CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION: How was this the case if most of these pirates were in fact Chinese themselves?  CONTRA Huang 1981 p163, Lorge 2005 p126, Lorge 2008 p78.]  Chinese historians Geng Zhi and Liang Yiquan describe some of the Japanese atrocities:
They plundered and killed. They shaved the heads of the men and made them [serve] as their guides and porters and do chores for them. During a battle they put the Chinese [[prisoners] in front [as a human shield]. They forced the women to weave and cook during the day and raped them during the night. They poured boiling water on their babies for sport.
Armed with seven-foot iron staffs, the monks managed to kill or incapacitate over thirty of the pirates, while dozens more were granted mercy after they attempted to flee but were encircled and halted in their tracks. This was quite a tribute to the monks' talents, considering that the pirates were well armed with broadswords and other edged weapons and fought with no moral restraint. The monks' vigilance purportedly discouraged further piratical raids along the coast for a number of years."

* Yang 1999 p21-22
"The Gun, or Tiao-Zi in the West and North of China, was generally made of hard wood (e.g., birch or oak).  The Gun was often immersed in wood oil to increase its strength and resilience.  Occasionally, long rods were made of brass or iron, and were either solid or hollow metal.  The former made a heavy and powerful weapon, whereas the latter was designed for lightness and speed.  Both types had the distinct advantage of being invulnerable to bladed weapons.  The circumference of the long rod was such that the thumb and first finger of its carrier just touched around it.  The length of the Gun differed from the North of China to the South.  A Northern martial artist carried a long rod that reached the base of his wrist when his arm was extended over his head.  The Southern fighter's long rod reached only to his eyebrows.  This is why it is called 'Equal Eyebrows Rod' (Qi Mei Gun).
    "There are three popular kinds or long rods.  The first and most common kind consists of a straight piece of rod.  The second kind, called 'Water-Fire Rod' (Shui Huo Gun) has metal caps covering both ends of the rod, but neither end is sharp.  The third rod, called 'Rod Spear' has one tapered end that can be used for piercing."

​* Ting 1986 p

​* Nagaboshi 1994 p