Shaolin Sect

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Shaolin Sect

The Shaolin School is a fictional martial arts school mentioned in several works of wuxia fiction. It is one of the largest and best-known orthodox schools in the wulin (martial artists' community). Its base is in Shaolin Monastery, Henan, China. It is also sometimes referred to as "Shaolin Monastery" or "Shaolin Temple" instead of "Shaolin School".

Apart from playing the role of a leading righteous school in the wulin in wuxia novels, Shaolin is also featured in popular culture and martial arts films such as The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978), Shaolin Temple (1982), and Shaolin (2011). It is also synonymous with Chinese martial arts as it is mentioned in wuxia stories as the origin of all Chinese martial arts. It is best known worldwide for the Shaolin Kung Fu associated with the monastery.

The school's members are predominantly Buddhist monks with a minority of non-monks known as "secular members" (俗家弟子).[1][2] Apart from training in martial arts, the monks also follow Buddhist customs, and practices.


The Shaolin School was founded during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma,[3] who wanted his followers to practice martial arts for improving health, and self-defense, as well as upholding justice and helping the weak. Shaolin members are expected to follow a Buddhist code of conduct in addition to having a good mastery of martial arts.


The school is led by the abbot (方丈; fāngzhàng) of the monastery. Shaolin members are ranked by generation. Each member of a certain generation has a prefix before his Buddhist name to indicate his position in the hierarchy. In Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, the most senior generation is the Xuán () generation. The abbot is Xuanci and the senior monks such as Xuanji, Xuannan, Xuandu, and Xuanku also have a Xuán prefix in their names. One of the novel's three protagonists, Xuzhu, is from the () generation, which is two generations after the Xuán generation.[2]

In The Legend of the Condor Heroes, the Xianxia School (仙霞派) is a branch of Shaolin. Its base is at Yunxi Monastery (雲棲寺) in southern China. Its members include Reverend Jiaomu, Reverend Kumu, and Kumu's apprentice, Lu Guanying.

The following is a list of generation ranks in different eras:[2][3][4]

  • Song dynasty: Líng (; 'spiritual'), Xuán (; 'mysterious'), Huì (; 'prajñā'), (; 'imaginary'), Kōng (; 'empty')
  • Yuan dynasty: (; 'save'), Kōng (; 'empty'), Yuán (; 'complete'), Huì (; 'prajñā'), (; 'dharma'), Xiàng (; 'lakshana'), Zhuāng (; 'respectful')
  • Qing dynasty: (; 'large'), Jué (; 'bodhi'), Guān (; 'vipassanā'), Huì (; 'night'), Chéng (; 'clear'), Jìng (; 'silent'), Yán (; 'strict'), Huá (; 'splendid')

The school is subdivided into several groups, which take charge of different parts of the monastery or different aspects of the school's daily activities. They include:

  • Abbot's Vihāra (方丈精舍), the abbot's quarters.
  • Bodhidharma Hall (達摩院), the martial arts training grounds for only Shaolin martial arts.
  • Arhat Hall (羅漢堂), the meeting grounds with challengers from other schools.
  • Prajñā Hall (般若院), another martial arts training grounds, where other school's martial arts are also practised.
  • Discipline Hall (戒律院), the group in charge of maintaining law and order in the school.
  • Bodhi Hall (菩提院), the place where the Yijin Jing is kept.
  • Bhaishajyaraja Hall (藥王院), the hospital wing where the sick and injured are attended to.
  • Śarīra Hall (舍利院), the crematorium for cremating deceased members.
  • Guest Hall (知客院), the reception grounds for guests.
  • Library (藏經閣), the place where Buddhist scriptures and martial arts manuals are kept.

Martial arts[edit]

The Shaolin School is hailed as the origin of all Chinese martial arts and as a leading orthodox school in the wulin (武林; martial artists' community). In Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, it is said to house 72 powerful forms of martial arts and no one has managed to master all of them since the founding of the school. These martial arts have Buddhist names, such as "Bodhidharma's Palm" and "Arhat's Fist".[2]

It is also home to the Yijin Jing (易筋經), a manual instructing the user how to master a certain technique that improves the user's prowess in all types of martial arts. It has also powerful healing properties if the user manages to master the skill. In Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, You Tanzhi acquires the manual by chance and uses its skills to purge poison in his body after he is bitten by venomous creatures. The sutra also increases his inner energy and stamina, allowing him to deliver an ordinary palm stroke with force several times the original impact.[2] In The Smiling, Proud Wanderer, Linghu Chong uses the skills in the manual to heal his internal wounds.[1]

Note: Although the skills listed here are entirely fictional, some are based on or named after actual martial arts.

Discontinued use of the name "Shaolin" in television series[edit]

The term "Shaolin School" was not used in two television series adapted from Jin Yong's wuxia novels. In The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber, a 2009 TV series adaptation of the novel of the same title, the Shaolin School is referred to as the Monks' School (僧人派). In Swordsman, a 2013 TV series adaptation of The Smiling, Proud Wanderer, Shaolin Monastery is referred to as Lingjiu Monastery (靈鷲寺; 'Divine Eagle Monastery').

Although some viewers have expressed dissatisfaction over the changes, the reasons behind the renaming are not made clear to the public. Some people believe that the producers wanted to avoid trademark infringement, since Shaolin Monastery has officially registered "Shaolin" as a trademark and has been involved in lawsuits with commercial companies over the use of "Shaolin" as a brand name or trademark.[5]

In the 2019 television series Heavenly Sword and Dragon Slaying Sabre, the Shaolin School is referred to by its proper name again.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Cha, Louis. The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (笑傲江湖). Ming Pao, 1967.
  2. ^ a b c d e Cha, Louis. Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (天龍八部). Ming Pao, 1963.
  3. ^ a b Cha, Louis. The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber (倚天屠龍記). Ming Pao, 1961.
  4. ^ Cha, Louis. The Deer and the Cauldron (鹿鼎記). Ming Pao, 1969.
  5. ^ "Shaolin temple fights to protect trademark". The Economic Times. 1 August 2007. Retrieved 26 April 2017.