Location: Henan Province
Latitude/Longitude: 34° 30.5’N/112° 56’E
Elevation: 2928 ft MSL
Song Mountain: part of the “Grand Mountain” range that surrounds the original home of the Shaolin Buddhist Temple near DengFeng, China, between Zhenzhou and Luoyang.
Around 464 A.D., an Indian Buddhist monk, called Ba Tuo by the Chinese, traveled to central China . Ba Tuo received a land grant from Emperor Hsiao Wen Di to build the original Shaolin Temple, and became the first Shaolin Temple abbot in 495 A.D. The original Xiao Xing sect or Lesser Vehicle Buddhism initially introduced at the Shaolin Temple by Ba Tuo had many complex theological rules and rituals -- there were hundreds of rules for men, plus different rules for women.
Around 527 A.D. another Buddhist monk arrived in China. He was known in India as Bodhidharma, and to the Chinese as PuTi DaMo. DaMo preached the Greater Vehicle form of Buddhism, which was called Dhyana in India, and Ch’an Buddhism by the Chinese. It became known as Zen Buddhism in Japan where DaMo is called by the name, Daruma. DaMo’s Buddhist theology focused on deep mediation for its practitioners. To dramatize his tenacity to teach the Shaolin monks the methods and effectiveness of his religious beliefs, it is said that DaMo meditated in a cave at the top of the hill above the Shaolin Temple monastery for 9 years – so long that his shadow was burned onto the rock of the cave wall. DaMo is revered as the initial influence that started centuries of martial training that produced the legendary skills and fighting prowess of the monks at the Shaolin Temple.
Over the centuries, Shaolin martial arts, meditation, and herbal medicine expanded to other provinces in China, including Fujien, Shandong, Hubei, Shaanxi, Szechuan, and Guangdong. The Fujien temple, built around 650 AD, was larger than the Henan temple and considered to be the southern headquarters of the Shaolin monasteries. It served as the primary refuge for monks during times when the Henan temple came under attack.
The original Henan Shaolin Temple at Songhan has been the setting for many motion pictures and television shows, including The Shaolin Temple (1982), starring Jet Li, and the Kung Fu TV series (1972-75), starring David Carradine.