Shaolin Temple (1982 film)

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The Shaolin Temple
Shaolin Temple 1982.jpg
CantoneseSiu3 Lam4 Zi2
Directed byChang Hsin Yen
Written byShih Hou
Lu Shau Chang
Produced byLiu Yet Yuen
StarringJet Li
Ding Lan
Yu Hai
CinematographyLau Fung-lam
Chau Pak-ling
Edited byWong Ting
Ku Chi-wai
Li Yuk-wai
Chang Hsin-yen
Chung Yuen Motion Picture Company
Release date
  • 21 January 1982 (1982-01-21)
Running time
95 minutes
CountriesHong Kong
Box officeUS$106 million (est.)

The Shaolin Temple (Chinese: 少林寺) is a 1982 ChineseHong Kong martial arts film directed by Chang Hsin Yen and starring Jet Li in his debut role (credited as Jet Lee in the film) along with Ding Lan and Yu Hai in supporting roles. The film is based on the Shaolin Monastery in China and depicts Shaolin Kung Fu.[1] The film was among the first major co-productions between Hong Kong and mainland China, and the first to be filmed in mainland China with a mostly mainland cast.[2] The film has a generally episodic storytelling structure, and is an action-comedy film in the first half.[3]

It was the first martial arts film to be made in mainland China; up until then, kung fu films were made in Hong Kong. It was also the first film to be shot at the Shaolin Monastery.[4] It is estimated to have sold over 300 million tickets at the Chinese box office,[5] and is considered one of China's highest-grossing films ever when adjusted for inflation.[6][7] The film's success established Jet Li as the first Mainland Chinese star of Hong Kong, and later Hollywood.[1] It was also largely responsible for turning the Shaolin Monastery into a major tourist destination, both within China and internationally.[4] A remake of the film was released in 2011 titled Shaolin and starred Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse and Jackie Chan.[8]


The film is set in Medieval China during the transition period between the Sui Dynasty (581–618) and the Tang Dynasty (618–907). Inside the Shaolin Temple, the novice Jue Yuan (Jet Li) bows before the Abbot. He is about to be accepted as a monk. The Abbot tells Jue Yuan that he must vow to not commit murder. Jue Yuan is silent. The Abbot repeats the question, and Jue Yuan slowly raises his eyes, gazing intensely at him. The Abbot asks the question a third time.

Several years previously, during the rebellions at the end of the Sui Dynasty, the warlord Wang Shichong rules from Luoyang and has treacherously installed himself as Emperor of the East Capitol. He is overseeing the bolstering of his riverfront defenses against the rival warlords on the opposite bank, close to the Shaolin Temple. The work of the slaves is not fast enough for him, so he orders his prisoners, who are opposing rebels, to join the slaves. These rebels include an older kung fu master and his son, Jue Yuan.

One day, after defending another prisoner, Jue Yuan's father draws the attention of the Emperor, who attacks him and personally kills him. Jue Yuan attempts revenge, but the Emperor seriously injures him, forcing Jue Yuan to escape to the Shaolin Temple. The Sifu (Yu Hai) is teaching the monks kung fu when Jue Yuan arrives. The Abbot proclaims that it is their holy duty as Buddhist monks to provide aid. The Sifu and his pupils nurse Jue Yuan back to health. After he recovers, Jue Yuan joins the monks in carrying water from the river to the temple, which is kung fu conditioning. He struggles, but is helped by a beautiful shepherd girl named Bai Wu Xia (Ding Lan), who is skilled at kung fu.

Jue Yuan befriends the fun-loving Sifu and his equally mischievous students. Jue Yuan learns that the Sifu is Bai Wu Xia's father and that nine years previously they fled the Emperor‘s soldiers, reaching the Shaolin Temple. Jue Yuan declares that he will kill the Emperor, and he asks the Sifu to train him in Northern Shaolin kung fu. The Sifu tells him that Shaolin kung fu is for defense, not killing, and that Jue Yuan isn't a monk. Jue Yuan says that he wants to become a monk.

Jue Yuan's head is shaven, and the Abbot ordains him as a junior monk. Jue Yuan begins Northern Shaolin kung fu training. After a time, he has gained impressive fighting abilities, but while sparring, he pictures the Emperor and nearly kills his partner. He is banned from practicing kung fu and runs away from the Shaolin Temple. Jue Yuan attempts to assassinate the Emperor, but fails and is forced to flee. Ashamed, he returns to the Shaolin Temple. His Sifu allows him to resume his Northern Shaolin kung fu training. Jue Yuan trains for more than a year, and becomes highly adept at Northern Shaolin kung fu.

One day, Li Shimin (son of Li Yuan) who is pursued by the Emperor enters Shaolin. The Shaolin monks make a show of helping the Emperor hunt for Li Shimin so he can escape. Jue Yuan and Bai Wu Xia help Li Shimin, making their way past the Emperor's patrols in disguise. A forbidden romance builds between Jue Yuan and Bai Wu Xia. The escape fails. Bai Wu Xia and an injured Li Shimin flee on a raft down the river, while Jue Yuan sacrifices himself to protect them. His Sifu and a group of Shaolin warrior monks come to his aid, saving Jue Yuan's life, but the Sifu banishes him from Shaolin. The Emperor learns what the Shaolin monks did, and marches on the Shaolin Temple with his army to destroy it.

The Abbot orders the monks not to fight, even as the Emperor's army surrounds the Shaolin Temple. The Abbot pleads with the Emperor for mercy and accepts the blame. He is placed on a pyre, which is set aflame. The Emperor tells the monks that if they reveal the traitors' whereabouts, he'll spare the Temple and the Abbot. He then has his men kill several of the other top monks. The Sifu and the warrior monks reveal themselves. The battle begins, and many monks are killed.

Jue Yuan and Ba Wu Xia return to the Shaolin Temple. The Emperor's army takes the outer walls and outer grounds, and kills all the monks there. The surviving monks fall back within the inner walls. The Sifu is wounded. He entreats Jue Yuan to protect Shaolin and uphold justice, and dies. The Emperor receives word that Li Shimin and his army are approaching his own East Capital, and they abandon the siege of the Shaolin Temple and ride for the East Capital instead. Jue Yuan and the warrior monks ride after the Emperor, joining the battle at the ravaged East Capital, the very site where the Emperor killed Jue Yuan's father. Jue Yuan and the Emperor duel on the shore of the great river. Jue Yuan kills the Emperor, and the battle for the East Capital is won.

Later, Jue Yuan has returned to Shaolin Temple, where the new Abbot asks him if he can obey the vow to not murder. Jue Yuan vows that he will not kill save to uphold righteousness, and the Abbot accepts this. Jue Yuan continues to swear his vows, but when he reaches the vow of celibacy, he is again conflicted. He opens his folded palms to look at a jade amulet, recalling how Bai Wu Xia gave it to him as a token of her love. He looks up to see Bai Wu Xia, who has sneaked into the side wing of the sanctum and is staring at him. He hesitates, then vows to remain celibate, and she leaves. Jue Yuan is ordained as a true monk of Shaolin. Jue Yuan also becomes the kung fu Sifu of the Shaolin Temple, leading the monks in their training.


  • Jet Li as Jue Yuan
  • Ding Lan as Bai Wu Xia
  • Yu Hai as Sifu
  • Hu Jianqiang [ja] as Wu Kong
  • Jian-kui Sun as Se Kong
  • Liu Huailiang as Liao Kong
  • Wang Jue as Ban Kong
  • Du Chuanyang as Wei Kong
  • Cui Zhiqiang as Xuan Kong
  • Xun Feng as Dao Kong
  • Pan Hanguang as Zhi Cao
  • Fan Ping as Hui Neng
  • Jiang Hongbo as Hui Yin
  • Shan Qi Bo Tong as Hui Yang
  • Zhang Jianwen as Fang Zhang
  • Yang Dihua as Seng Zhi
  • Wang Guangkuan as Li Shimin
  • Yu Chenghui as Wang Renze (Wang Shichong's nephew)
  • Ji Chunhua as Tu Ying
  • Pan Qingfu as First General
  • Su Fei as Second General
  • Chen Guo'an as Third General
  • Bian Lichang as Fourth General
  • Wang Guoyi as Fifth General
  • Kong Fanyan as Sixth General
  • Sun Shengjun as Seventh General
  • Yan Dihua as Shaolin Senior Monk
  • Hung Yan-yan as Shaolin student


During production, Jet Li was reportedly paid only CN¥1 per day while filming.[4]

Box office[edit]

In China, it became the highest-grossing film of all time, grossing CN¥161,578,014[6] (US$85,355,528),[9] and estimated to have sold over 300 million tickets in the country.[5] In Hong Kong, the film sold 700,000 tickets,[4] and grossed HK$16,157,801[10] (US$2,661,911),[9] making it the fourth top-grossing film of 1982 in Hong Kong.[11] It became the highest-grossing film of all-time in Singapore with a gross of S$1.7 million.[12]

In Japan, it was the fourth top-grossing film of 1982, with a distribution rental income of ¥1.65 billion,[13] equivalent to estimated box office gross receipts of approximately ¥4.29 billion[14] (US$17.2 million).[9] In South Korea, the film sold 294,065 tickets in Seoul,[15] equivalent to an estimated gross revenue of approximately 882,195,000[16] (US$1,206,700).[17] This brings the film's total estimated box office gross revenue to approximately US$106,424,139 in East Asia.

Adjusted for ticket price inflation,[6][7] and at an average 2017 Chinese ticket price of CN¥34.5,[18] the film's over 300 million ticket sales in China would be equivalent to a gross revenue of over CN¥10 billion ($1.45 billion) in 2017.



The film was largely responsible for turning the Shaolin Monastery into a major tourist destination, both within China and internationally.[4] The movie's popularity swiftly encouraged filmmakers in China and Hong Kong to produce more Shaolin-based movies.[20]

The film spawned a revival of popularity in mainstream martial arts in China.[21] A 3D remake will be directed by Justin Lin and produced by Beijing Enlight Pictures.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Kung Fu Swansong". Newsweek. 12 February 2006. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
  2. ^ Mannikker, Eleanor. "The Shaolin Temple". allMovie. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  3. ^ Lines, Craig (6 June 2018). "The Shaolin Temple Movies: The Series That Launched Jet Li's Career". Den of Geek. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e "How Jet Li turned the Shaolin Temple into a kung fu cash cow". South China Morning Post. 26 June 2019. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  5. ^ a b Pengfei, Liang (19 December 2018). "梁鹏飞:当年《少林寺》电影票房到底有没有1个亿?". Guancha (Observer) (in Chinese). Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  6. ^ a b c "1982《少林寺》票价1毛,票房1.6亿,相当于现在的多少钱". QQ News. Tencent. 15 October 2019. Retrieved 9 June 2020.
  7. ^ a b "34年前《少林寺》卖了1.6亿,它值现在多少钱?". Sohu. 22 August 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  8. ^ "Jackie Chan, Andy Lau to star in new Shaolin movie". China Daily. 22 October 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  9. ^ a b c "Official exchange rate (LCU per US$, period average)". World Bank. 1982. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  10. ^ "Shaolin Temple (1982)". Hong Kong Movie Database. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  11. ^ "ジェットリー興行成績一覧". KungFu Tube (in Japanese). 10 September 2010. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  12. ^ "'Shaolin Temple' Champ of Singapore's Box Office". Variety. 20 October 1982. p. 229.
  13. ^ "1982年(1月~12月)". Eiren (in Japanese). Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  14. ^ "Statistics of Film Industry in Japan". Eiren. Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. 1978. Retrieved 17 February 2019. 1982 (...) Box Office Gross Receipts (...) in millions of Yen (...) 169,522 (..) Distributor's Income (...) in millions of Yen (...) 65,268
  15. ^ "영화정보". KOFIC. Korean Film Council. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  16. ^ Park, Seung Hyun (2000). A Cultural Interpretation of Korean Cinema, 1988-1997. Indiana University. p. 119. Average Ticket Prices in Korea, 1974-1997 [...] * Source: Korea Cinema Yearbook (1997-1998) * Currency: won [...] Foreign [...] 1982 [...] 3,000
  17. ^ "Official exchange rate (KRW per US$, period average)". World Bank. 1982. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  18. ^ "UIS Statistics". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. UNESCO. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  19. ^ List of Nominees and Awardees of The 2nd Hong Kong Film Awards
  20. ^ Hax, Carolyn (9 September 2011). "Popular Shaolin films blend martial arts, Buddhist spirituality". The Washington Post. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  21. ^ Spence, Richard (9 October 2004). "Worldwide: Kung fu schools kick youth of China into action". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
  22. ^ Kevin Ma (15 January 2014). "Justin Lin to direct Shaolin Temple remake". Film Business Asia. Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2014.

External links[edit]