CLIO FINAL - page 33

As this process was slow and wouldn’t have been
enough to encourage whole communities to con-
vert, Buddhism was also spread a different way:
through migration. As Buddhist merchants and
people began to settle in foreign lands, they took
their beliefs with them. This encouraged locals to
take an interest in their beliefs, resulting in Bud-
dhism becoming the dominant religion in such
areas. For instance, across the silk route (a trade
passage across Asia), Buddhism would have spread
easily. Opened in the Han dynasty, 130 BC, as mer-
chants would have come to China selling and buy-
ing silk and they would have brought their Buddhist
faith with them. Through migration, Buddhism
spread through largely peaceful methods related
back to the key virtues of its religion; equanimity,
patience and proper conduct.
It was around the 5th Century, as Buddhism
implemented itself as the primary religion across
East-Asia, that the origins of martial arts as we
know them today were founded. As monks trav-
elled across the continent from India and the south,
spreading the values
of Buddhism, one
monk in particular
Buddhabhadra would
become a legend for
centuries to come.
Once he had reached
China, Buddhabhadra
preached for thirty years about Nikaya Buddhism,
and in return for his preaching, Xiaowen, the Em-
peror of NorthernWei commissioned the building
of the Shaolin Monastery in 495CE. The Monastery
was built on the north side of Shaoshi, the central
peak of Mount Song and provided Buddhabhad-
ra with an establishment to preach under. After
preaching his values of self-restraint and harmony,
another Indian monk named Bodhidharma arrived
in 527 CE and took on the teaching of Shaolin values
to his disciples. According to Chinese legend, he
was greatly disturbed by the physical condition
of the monks and therefore instructed them to
engage in brutal physical training that led to them
being some of the strongest warriors in all of Chi-
na. This training is thought to be the beginnings of
Shaolin Kung Fu.
Throughout the Sui dynasty, which lasted
just over 35 years between 581-618 CE, the art of
Shaolin Kung Fu continued to develop. In this time,
individual fighting systems were created and vast
advances were made in the art they had invented.
This led to them becoming extremely powerful
within the Sui dynasty and they were seen as warri-
ors by the royalty. The Sui dynasty came to an end
in 618CE when failed military campaigns brought a
costly end to their reign. When this occurred, large
upheaval and dispute over the throne took place. In
the following years, Wang Shichong declared him-
self emperor and started his conquest to rule China.
As he did this he seized the land where the Shaolin
monks farmed for strategic value which greatly
angered the monks. This led to the monks of Shao-
lin allying with Li Shimin, Wang’s opposition. The
two sides eventually met at the Battle of Hulao. Li
Shimin held the city of Luoyang under siege where
Wang was placed until they were exhausted. Sub-
sequently, they then charged with the monks and
defeated their opposition, not only gaining back the
land of Shaolin but also taking the throne. Conse-
quently all monks of Shaolin received royal patron-
age of Tang, the new rulers.
From this context we can derive that not only was
Shaolin a way of life for some, but that it helped
change the course
of history through
the power and
strength they
possessed. At that
time in history,
Asia was largely
unstable and this
art was a necessity for some to defend themselves
and keep peace within their lives. Shaolin was never
used as a provoking violence however was vital in
regaining what was right to those monks. This is
key when talking of the battles and wars that Shao-
lin monks were a part of, as they were always used
as a means of peacekeeping and defence, never to
spark conflict.
The teachings of Buddhism and Shaolin
Kung Fu at first glance appear polar opposites.
One ,a fighting form specialising in swift striking
patterns and rapid movement, the other a religion
preaching peace and well being. An answer to the
fusion of such seemingly contrasting philosophies
can be traced back to the legendary monk, Bud-
dhidharma. The influence of this monk reaching
the Buddhists at the Shaolin temple is what trans-
formed them from ordinary Buddhists into martial
artists. He believed that the monks were in a weak
physical state so much so that they couldn’t func-
tion properly in long time periods of meditation. It
This martial art preaches mental peace of
mind and many self defence mechanisms
which are heavily linked to the virtues of
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