Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1561 Ming Shaolin héshàng
Subject: 和尚 héshàng monk
Culture: Chinese Buddhist 
Setting: late Ming empire, China 16-17thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* 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."

* Comber 1957 p2-5  [NOTE: Cf. Kennedy/Guo 2005 p69-70]
"According to one commonly accepted version of its traditional history, the Triad Society dates from the thirteenth year of the reign of Emperor K'ang Hsi (1674), the second ruler of the Manchu dynasty, when it was founded by a sect of militant Buddhist monks of Shao Lin Monastery at Foochow Prefecture in Fukien Province. The story goes that sometime during the reign of Emperor K'ang Hsi (1662-1723), the ruler of a petty dependency on the western borders of China, known as Hsi Lu, raised the standard of revolt and invaded Chinese territory. The exact identification of this petty state is in some doubt. Some authorities consider it to be Inner Mongolia, while others maintain it is Tibet. However, be that as it may, the regular Imperial troops sent against it were defeated, and the Emperor, in desperation, appealed for volunteers. When the news reached Shao Lin Monastery, the Abbot raised a fighting force of one hundred and twenty-eight monks, skilled in the 'art of war and gymnastics,' and led them against the invaders. He was so successful that the King of the Hsi Lu quickly realised he had met his match, and sued for peace.
      "The Emperor's joy knew no bounds, and he showered precious gifts on the victorious monks, including an Imperial Seal, which, when affixed to documents, gave them the force of an Imperial Edict.
      "At this time, there were two high officials at Court who were themselves secretly plotting to overthrow the government. Their names are not relevant to our account. They were both jealous of the power given to the monks and wary of their fighting strength. They decided on a stratagem to deal with them and submitted a false memorial to the Dragon Throne that the monks were plotting treason. The Emperor became greatly alarmed and ordered them to lead an expeditionary force against the monastery and exterminate the monks.
      "The expeditionary force managed to approach the monastery unseen, and, on one dark night, an attack was launched. They were able to set fire to it without might trouble, and within a short time the monastery became a roaring inferno. Only eighteen of the monks were able to make good their escape, and of these, thirteen lost their lives in the fighting that followed, leaving five survivors.
  "The five survivors fled through the provinces of Hunan and Hupeh, with the government troops close on their heels, and took refuge in the temple of the King of Hades. In the vicinity of this temple, they chanced upon the widow of one of their associates, whom they learned had been ordered to commit suicide at the Emperor's command. While they were searching for his grave, a posse of government troops came up at full speed. It seemed that there was no way of escape for them, when suddenly, in some miraculous fashion, a sword rose by itself out of the earth, with a carving on its hilt of two dragons contending for a pearl, and the Chinese ideographs for Overthrow the Ch'ing and Restore the Ming.  ...  The monks laid about them with this magic sword to such good effect that the soldiers were scattered and they were able to make a getaway.
    "After this fortunate escape, they fell in with a certain former high minister of state, named Ch'en Chin Nan, who had been dismissed from office by the Emperor for daring to criticise, in a memorial to the throne, the attack on the Shao Lin Monastery.  Thereafter, he devoted himself to the study of Taoism, but he secretly harboured in his heart thoughts of revenge by inciting a rebellion against the Manchu dynasty.  Ch'en Chin Nan invited the monks to stay with him in a small temple known as the Red Flower Pavilion.
    "One day, when the intrepid monks were strolling along the banks of a distant river, a large porcelain censer floating on the surface of the water caught their eye.  They lifted it out of the water to examine it more closely, and found to their amazement that it had the same Chinese characters inscribed on it that they had seen on the hilt of the magic sword, namely, Overthrow the Ch'ing and Restore the Ming.
    "The monks now regarded it as some kind of supernatural manifestation, and forthwith offered up prayers to Heaven and Earth, and took a solemn oath to avenge the fate of their fellow monks of the Shao Lin Monastery.  Instead of candles and incense sticks, they set up twigs and blades of grass in the censer, and used water in place of wine.  Suddenly, without any warning, the twigs and grass spontaneously burst into flames.  The monks were awestruck, and hurried back to the Red Flower Pavilion to ask Ch'en Chin Nan to interpret it for them.  Ch'en said: 'This is indeed a propitious omen.  It is a heavenly sign that the rise of the Ming and the fall of the Ch'ing is at hand.'"



Long Staff

* 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

​Three-Section Staff

* Yang 1999 p89
"Three Sectional Staff (San Jie Gun, 三節棍).  The three sectional staff was constructed from three equal lengths of hardwood or rattan, conditioned with wood-oil and chained together.  Its fighting purpose was the same as that of the sweeper, except that the three sectional staff could be used either as a short or a long weapon, depending on which staffs were held.
    "The techniques for the three sectional staff were more complicated than those of the sweeper.  The three sectional staff could be used on either side, and had greater injuring potential.  Legend says that Song Taizu later broke his sweeper into three pieces and chained them together."