The old tree gnarls its root.
September 3, 2007 3:40 PM   Subscribe

Shaolin [Wiki] is having a difficult time lately. A combination of the silver screen and the small screen cemented the ancient school in most peoples' minds as a surefire way to kick ass most stylishly. Its introduction in the US has since been fraught with problems and complications, most notably in 1992 when a tour of Shaolin Fighting Monks returned to China minus one Shi Yan-Ming - who has since started the USA Shaolin Temple. Then the Chinese government tried starting their own Shaolin-approved schools. But various attempts haven't gone right either. What is the state of Shaolin now? Everyone's trying to make a buck in this game. You can buy anything from Shaolin Secrets in scroll form to the opportunity to "live the life of a warrior monk". Shaolin cachet is at a premium. Its name fame is such it's even ruining things back home. Immigration scams, ballet classes, Lollapalooza, the RZA? Can it get any worse? Now people are even saying one lone ninja can defeat a whole temples' worth of monks!
posted by stinkycheese (32 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Nice set up for the last link (though why the blog instead of a news story directly?).
posted by Bovine Love at 3:43 PM on September 3, 2007

Oh, I don't know. Here's a real news story link.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:47 PM on September 3, 2007

From Boing-Boing... (Here)

1. Lawyers are mammals
2. Lawyers are in the court room ALL the time
3. The purpose of the lawyer is to flip out and sue people.
posted by seanyboy at 3:50 PM on September 3, 2007

/me sues seanyboy.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 4:04 PM on September 3, 2007

A shaolin monk is hopeless against the real ninja's ultimate power!
posted by darkripper at 4:04 PM on September 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

(warning: slightly NSFW)
posted by darkripper at 4:10 PM on September 3, 2007

The Shaolin temple ceased to exist in any meaningful sense back in Nationalist days. I don't know if a single ninja could beat them, but if he had a suitcase full of cash it seems he could likely buy them.
posted by Abiezer at 4:44 PM on September 3, 2007

Does this story really require 35 links? Yes, I counted them.
posted by dhammond at 4:51 PM on September 3, 2007

Should've just gone with the last one in retrospect.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:56 PM on September 3, 2007

no worries. the subject matter is interesting, even if the post is a bit sprawling :-)
posted by dhammond at 4:59 PM on September 3, 2007

What, no link to the guys who actually had the Abbot of the Shaolin Temple as their guest last week?

BTW, the Monks were awesome and hilarious at once. They have no respect for traffic lights. They like digital cameras and posing with wonderstruck students. I wonder what they thought of the P.F. Changs that they could see from their hotel....
posted by ilsa at 5:58 PM on September 3, 2007

Shaolin may be/have been a kickass fighting style and discipline, but hey, they make awesome noodles, too!
posted by porpoise at 6:07 PM on September 3, 2007

why hasn't some entrepreneur set up a shaolin monk versus japanese ninja showdown on pay-per-view yet?
posted by bruce at 6:30 PM on September 3, 2007

Ving Tsun FTW!
posted by hermitosis at 7:02 PM on September 3, 2007

Our martial arts brand is unstoppable!
posted by Artw at 8:16 PM on September 3, 2007

stinkycheese: Should've just gone with the last one in retrospect.

No no, it is a good post! Amusing and informative. Hell, at a dojo where I did a few Kyū, I was aiming at taking some Shaolin, which they taught at the higher belt levels. In retrospect, I am not sure the really knew much about Shaolin.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:48 PM on September 3, 2007

Huh. Wasn't there a shaolin soccer team a few years ago?
posted by Pronoiac at 8:49 PM on September 3, 2007

That was a movie. A comedy movie.
posted by ilsa at 9:20 PM on September 3, 2007

The best feel good movie of all time.
posted by Artw at 9:22 PM on September 3, 2007

Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years.
if my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.

- Neal Stephenson - Snow Crash

Because of this quote, I will always hold a special place in my heart for any Chinese monasteries. I have no truck with religion in general, but on the off chance that one day I may need to 'be bad' I'm willing to tolerate a few.
posted by quin at 9:57 PM on September 3, 2007

Bah. Neither Shaolin Monks nor Ninjas are can withstand the Lion's Roar.
posted by homunculus at 10:11 PM on September 3, 2007

Shoalin Buddha Finger.
posted by asok at 4:16 AM on September 4, 2007

This [YT, cheesy soundtrack] is the true power of Shaolin.
posted by Drexen at 4:59 AM on September 4, 2007

Uh, I should also have added a spoiler warning to the above (the first half or so should be okay).
posted by Drexen at 5:05 AM on September 4, 2007

You think your Shaolin sword style can defeat me?
posted by ph00dz at 6:24 AM on September 4, 2007

Pirates > Vikings > Shaolin Monks > Zombie Ninjas > Ninjas
posted by Trik at 11:23 AM on September 4, 2007

You forgot Robots.
posted by quin at 11:28 AM on September 4, 2007

Robots crush all.
posted by Artw at 12:41 PM on September 4, 2007

Shaolin Journey [Youtube]
posted by stinkycheese at 2:54 PM on September 4, 2007

(disclaimer: I'm indirectly associated with Shaolin Temple through my teacher Shi Yan Fan, a disciple of Abbot Shi Yong Xin and fully ordained monk of Shaolin Temple Song Shan, as well as our own organization Shaolin Temple LA. We travel to the temple every other year).
I think abbot Shi Yong Xin has struck a fairly good balance in his effort to revitalize the temple. He had to cooperate with the Chinese government on many levels (which isn't easy) and obviously there has been a certain cost resulting in the temple itself becoming a major tourist attraction which at times is overrun by visitors and may appear to have lost its original nature. However in return he was able to have all but one of the external schools relocated out of the temple valley itself thus restoring the serenity of the ancient site while at the same time promoting the idea of Shaolin around the world.
The temple has grown rather wealthy in the process and to the outsider's eye it may now appear as if it were a mere symbol of the tradition rather than it's actual center of practice. This perception is misleading. The practice of Shaolin martial arts and of Chan Buddhism, the legacy of Bodhidharma, is well and alive there but it is mostly kept out of sight. The monks usually do not appear in public and visitors aren't able to observe their practice which often takes place at night or in the very early morning in the mountain range behind the temple.
Of course the Shaolin sect was scattered and spread out at various points in history and the tradition has been carried on in fragments by numerous outside schools but it is also still present at its original center.
Ilsa: you mentioned the recent visit of the Abbot to LA at the invitation of USSD. He had somewhere between 20-30 young brothers with him when we met him at the airport. Except for 3 these were not actually monks but what is often referred to as Shaolin Warriors, skilled Kung Fu students training in schools outside the temple. These are what the public usually gets to see when they go on tours and what people usually come to think of as Shaolin monks. Some may indeed decide to take that step in the future if the Abbot accepts them but it's not that easy to become a monk at Shaolin Temple. To become a monk at the temple is very difficult and requires great amounts of endurance, patience and dedication.
My teacher completed his ordination at the temple earlier this year during a large and rare ceremony that started out with several hundred candidates. By the end of the 1st week of the ceremonies more than half had already given up and left. Of the remaining people only a select few were ultimately offered to receive ja ba (the burn marks on the head created by affixing thick incense sticks to the head which slowly burn down toward and into your skin) and only a handful decided to actually take that step (my teacher included).
I think it is important to distinguish between the outward appearance and presentation of the temple and its inner life. The path of Shaolin Chan is not external and what is presented to the outside is created to serve different purposes such as promoting and securing the temple, keeping it financially well off, and giving people glimpses of the energy found inside. Anyone looking to explore the spiritual and physical reality of Shaolin Chan must turn away from the buildings and the demonstrations and the publicity and actually simply find a teacher and begin to practice. This is still happening at the temple but it's not very visible to anyone on the outside.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:55 PM on September 4, 2007 [3 favorites]

Apropos of not much, I note that apparently the ancient Chinese masters also know much about sex, and beach games. Is there nothing they could not do?
posted by meehawl at 3:57 PM on September 4, 2007

The movie raises the hilarious point that if they had been studying soccer as part of a monastic life they would be worth a lot more, and the chinese government would do anything to protect them.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:21 PM on September 4, 2007

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