Editors' Choice

10 Unbelievable and Interesting Facts About Shaolin

Diana Rolland / December 15, 2017

We’ve all heard a lot of stories about Shaolin including those of us with non-existence or very little interest in any form of martial arts. While it has its roots and core base in China, the teachings of Shaolin aren’t only famous in China, but all over the world. One of its well-known features is its monks whose fighting skills and knowledge undoubtedly surpass that of everyone else.


For this reason, Shaolin has become a very fundamental part of our global culture. Right from Bruce Lee and Jet Li to the movie Kung Fu Panda and the spread of Buddhism to other parts of the world, Shaolin’s immense influence in the world cannot be ignored. But apart from the little facts that we know and grasp from Shaolin movies and the internet, do we really know that much about it? For instance, are you aware that Shaolin isn’t all about fighting? Well, the teachings of Buddhism don’t encourage or condone fighting in the first place. If anything, Buddhism is an utterly peaceful religion that preaches pacifism, tolerance, self-sacrifice, vegetarianism and above all, non-violence.


Even though we know that Shaolin monks are among the world’s renowned fighters in human history, many of us know very little about Shaolin. That’s why we’ve dug deep to unearth the most unbelievable and exciting facts about Shaolin.


10. Shaolin wasn’t Invented by a Chinese but rather an Indian


Shaolin has been such an important part of the Chinese culture for many centuries that it would be pretty difficult to convince people that it wasn’t actually an invention of the Chinese people. Believe it or not, Shaolin was founded by Budhabhadra, who was famously known by his moniker, Batuo.


Batuo was a wandering Buddhist monk, who weathered the treacherous and dangerous journey from his native India all the way to the northern empire of Wei, presently known as China in A.D. 464 with the sole purpose of spreading Buddhism. For many decades, Batuo preached Buddhism and its teachings to the point that he was noted by Emperor Xiaowen, who then ordered the first Shaolin Monastery to be built on Mount Song, presently known as the Henan Province.


The emperor ultimately made Batuo the monastery’s first abbot. Under Batuo’s guidance, monks at this monastery were expected to follow the Hinayana school on Buddhism, which is allegedly very hard to follow and adhere to even for the hardened and most experienced monks. For this reason, the number of monks in this monastery remained disappointingly small until another Indian monk known as Bodhidharma arrived to the monastery.

Bodhidharma is credited with the introduction of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, which then replaced the Hinayana and became very famous with the Shaolin monks, especially with the fighting skills that it introduced to an extent that it’s still in use today.