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The history of Wing Chun Kung Fu. Bodhidharma and the Shaolin Temple

  Автор admin
Раздел Боевые исскусства
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The first Shaolin Temple was built in approximately 495 A.D., in Honan Province near Mount Sung. It was built by Emperor Hsaio Wen, for the purpose of housing Buddhist monks who were charged with the task of translating the Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Chinese, in accordance with the wishes of the Emperor, who sought to make the scriptures available to the people in their native tongue, as a means of achieving Nirvana for himself.
Around 520 AD, an Indian Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma journeyed from India to China. He was the son of an Indian King, and an excellent warrior in superb physical condition. He visited Emperor Wen, but disagreed with him that Nirvana could be achieved by good deeds (the translations of the scriptures) performed by others in the Emperor’s name, as noble as such a project might be. Bodhidharma’s method instead involved meditative practices, seeking enlightenment through direct experience.
After leaving the emperor, Bodhidharma then went to the Shaolin temple. The head abbot, Fang Chang, at first viewed him as a foreign meddler and upstart, and refused him entrance. Bodhidharma instead took up residence in a nearby cave, where he reportedly sat facing a wall for nine years, “listening to the ants scream”. Legend has it that the intensity of his gaze bored a hole in the cave’s wall.
The monks were soundly impressed with his religious discipline and commitment, and he was welcomed into their ranks in the Shaolin Temple. One painting of Bodhidharma dating from the thirteenth century has one of the monks cutting off his own hand as a symbolic gesture of sympathy for Bodhidharma’s spiritual commitment during his stay in the cave.
The monks at the temple were most interested in his teachings, but due to their sedentary lives and poor diet and physical condition, were often unable to stay awake during his lectures. To improve their health and assist their meditation, Bodhidharma devised three sets of exercises, emphasising correct breathing and bending and stretching of the body. The monks, who were in constant physical danger from outlaws and robbers, but who were forbidden by their religious code to carry weapons, modified many of the exercises to form systems of weaponless self-defence, becoming the systems of Kung-fu and other Asian martial Arts we practise today.
Further legend has it that Bodhidharma once fell asleep while meditating, and became so enraged that he ripped off his eyelids, casting them to the ground. From them immediately sprang tea shrubs, whose leaves were used by the monks to keep them awake.
As with many episodes in the history of Kung Fu, there are doubts among historians regarding the truth of the stories about Bodhidharma, and indeed, whether he actually existed. Detailed accounts of his exploits only started to appear in the eleventh century, although there were Buddhist historians of prodigious written output around the Temple much earlier than this, such as Hsuan-Tsang in the seventh century, who make no mention of him.
However, the story of Bodhidharma is seminal to the history of Buddhism, the Shaolin Temple, and Kung Fu.
At the height of its prosperity, around 700 BC, the temple had a complement of around 1500 monks, including 500 fighting monks, together with the land and buildings to support.
The Emperor T’ai Tsung of the Tang dynasty first endowed the temple with the right to train a fighting force of monk/soldiers. In danger at one time, he asked for help from the temple and thirteen monks went to his aid.
The grateful emperor attempted to persuade the thirteen to take up positions in his court, but the monks declined, stating that their martial arts’ primary purposes were to promote the monks’ health and to protect the Temple and its surrounding society. As there was now peace, they were no longer required, but that if the need arose again they would make themselves available.
The emperor then permitted them to increase the size of their fighting force to 500.
Over the next thousand years, the martial arts expanded and evolved, interest in them based to a large degree on the heroic exploits of the Shaolin monks. The military and merchant classes also added to the spread and evolution of the art. Other temples were built, and often became havens for anti-dynastic and revolutionary activity of various sorts, as China’s rule remained in the hands of competing groups and dynasties. Temples were subjected to numerous sackings and burnings, with monks fleeing to other areas, and building or rebuilding temples, spreading their knowledge as they went.
This state of affairs continued up to the fall of the Ming Dynasty in the seventeenth century A.D.

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