How do we know the true history of the monastery? Shaolin Canons (2)

This is a continuation of publications about the true technique of Shaolin. Start here.

Most often people learn about the history and technique of Shaoliniquan from oral stories and personal training, and more-from movies and amateur publications (although there are quite scientific and professional). Each master and follower tells "his own story," often doing myth-making, but it is also part of the tradition. Nevertheless, there is a possibility to understand what the Shaolin monks were actually doing

So, let's see, what are the main sources of the real history of Shaolin and his technique?

First, it is the chronicles of the monastery itself, which were conducted by different people and in different epochs. Naturally, some information could be "withdrawn", some-to decorate, but in general they convey the general picture of what Technics were engaged Shaolin monks.

Corridor stele in the Monastery of Shaolin, 1992

Secondly, these are unique inscriptions on stone Stelas, on which fragments from Shaolin treatises, instructions and biographies of masters were cut. In the right wing of the Shaolins was equipped with a "corridor stele", the yard was once overgrown with bamboo, and the followers could walk in meditation on the court, read the words of Old masters and ponder over them. Many stelas were not preserved, partially destroyed, partially hidden from prying eyes. However, to great happiness back in the 90s. In the 20th century, "printed copies" were removed from them, so today it is possible to restore almost all the "Stone History" of Shaolin.

Thirdly, it is a different kind of county and local Chronicles (地方志), as well as reports of officials, travelers, etc. -they represent the "external history" of shaolins. No single group can be considered absolutely authentic, naturally each source is written by living people and can be subjective. But by comparing everything together, we can verify them and understand not only what we decided to tell, but also what we decided to hide.

Four, these are oral legends. Naturally, we are not talking about a new "story", compiled "here and now", and enshrined in the tradition of the complex of Legends of Shaolin, for example, about Bodhiddharma, his disciple Hueike, about the ways of training. Behind each such legend there is also a hidden meaning (for example, secret interpretations of the meaning of the "nine-year meditation of Bodhiddharma in front of the wall"), so such legends convey the "spirit" of the Old Shaolin.

Cover of the edition "the most important in preparation in methods of Kulart"

Fifthly, these are unique treatises and "canons" (jing): Direct instructions of Shaolin masters and their followers. Many of them died during the grandiose fire in 1928, but some of them survived. A number of treatises were issued by Chinese officials (not monks!) even before the fire, it happened in XIX-early XX centuries. It was a period when many aristocrats-collectors were fond of "Chinese wise antiquities", that is old treatises. They took them to their collections, and then issued a xylographic image. So we have reached "canon of Kulart" ("Quan Jing" 拳經) and "refined sense of Shaolin Kulart" ("Shaolin Quan Shu Jingyi" 少林拳術精義), they were published under one cover in 1917 by the famous martial arts master and Healer Lu Shie (1878-1944) 陆士谔. There is another "canon of Kulachal Art" 拳經, attributed to the famous collector and martial arts master Zhang Kunzhao, who lived during the reign of Kangxi (1654-1722), this text was published in 1929. 

The publication "The most important in the preparation in the methods of Kulart"

And in 1936, The treatise "The most important in the preparation in methods of Kulart" ("Tsuanfa Bayyao" 拳法備要) is published. This treatise was issued in the form of a handwritten copy, which included the two Treatises "Tsuanjing" (of which we wrote above) and actually "Tsuanfa Bayyao". Both texts are credited to Zhang Kunzhao, but the preface to the second text shows that this is not his work. However, it is a generalized treatise for the Shaolin tradition. The most important in the preparation of the methods of Kulart "was circulating in shaolins as early as the 90s of the XX century, he was in the library of Shi Susi, Shi Desyjanya and they considered him a reflection of Shaolin technique. This is where we begin our analysis of the Shaolin tradition.

Shaolin Canons: From Legends to Secrets of Shaolin Tradition (1)

Legends are created today: it is an important part of Shaolin heritage. And, frankly, today even many followers of various "wushu institutions" around the Shaolin Monastery practice at all not what was once part of the tradition. Some things have been forgotten, many masters have gone out of life, the last great mentors of "Old Shaolin", who adhered to all the norms of behavior, in fact ceased to teach in the 90-2000-ies. Today there is a "new Shaolin", A New "Shaolin Wushu/Kunfu" and new followers who have never caught up with the old tradition. Their "Shaolin Wushu" "invent" and the Chinese, and especially foreigners who have not received any instructions.

"Shaolin" and "Shaolin Fist" became probably the most popular names in the world of martial arts of China. Following the famous proverb "All martial arts came out of Shaolin", today many Chinese schools refer their origins to this monastery in Henan province, in the mountains of Songshan. In fact, it is one of the many myths that have always wandered and roam around Shaolin, besides many techniques of Shaolin art have not been "invented" by monks, and have come since the XIII century, in the possible and early, from the national and Army schools fighting Arts. But in the monastery they were codified and preserved-in this great merit of the lineage of the Patriarchs of the transfer of tradition, which became known as "Zhenzong Shaolin Chuan" 正宗少林拳-"True Shaolin Kulart".

Illustration from the treatise "The most important in the preparation of the methods of Kulart" (1936)

And yet such instructions are preserved: to someone they were passed orally, and in some cases recorded in the form of treatises that have survived to this day. In our series of publications, we will see what the true Shaolin art was, what rules the followers adhered to and what techniques they used.