The Shaolin order dates back to about 540 A.D., when an Indian monk named Bodhidharma traveled to china. The Shaolin temple was built years before in the remains of a forest that had been cleared. During the time when the temple was being built new trees were also planted to shroud the existence of the temple and keep it in a mystical manner. This secret refuge was also fortified to protect the monks from the harsh climate as well as bandits and thieves. Because of this unique way the name Shaolin (mandarin for small forest) was given to this prestigious temple.
IT took Bodhidharma upon arrival to this temple around 7 years to gain entrance. This was on account of the head Abbott (fang chang) and Damo (bodhidharma) having different philosophies in Buddhism and Taoism. When damo finally joined the monks (believed to be after fang chang died) Damo noticed the monks at the temple were in poor health both spiritually and physically. Most of their day was either sitting praying or in transcribing and translating text. The main responsibility of the monks came from the emperor, which was to archive all the knowledge that was acquired. The second function was to give spiritual guidance when needed.
Damo countered this physical and mental weakness by teaching the monks exercises designed to enhance the flow of chi and the oxygen to the muscles to make them supple and stronger. Damo combined Indian yoga exercises (hatha and raja) with the 18 Indo-Chinese religious images. This created the famous 3 main exercises still practiced today at the Shaolin temples.
• 18 Lohan Exercises
• Changing Muscles and Sinews
• Mind and Bone Marrow Washing
There were five Shaolin temples built over a period of time in different providences, some were actually destroyed but were rebuilt. The most famous was the Shaolin temple on mount Su in the Honan providence. This one was famous for the Five original animal system (dragon, snake, crane, leopard and tiger) the other 4 providences were
• O Mei Sha