The Shaolin Temple – Change has its price

The Shaolin Temple – Change has its price

I started training Shaolin Kungfu when I was 13. Since then this martial art has always stayed with me no matter where I went.

Everyone who trains this old Chinese martial art will one day go to see the famous Shaolin Temple. For those who are new to this world: The Songshan Shaolin Temple 嵩山少林寺 is located in Henan province, close to a city called Dengfeng. The temple itself is nestled at the foot of Mount Song 嵩山, which gave the temple its famous name.

Over the years Shaolin has been surrounded by controversy. In the attempt to cope with the changes of the modern world, the abbot Shi Yongxin has had to become more than a spiritual leader, he had to become a business man. If the way he tries to keep the Shaolin Temple, its history and culture alive is the right way, is to be decided by everyone individually.

Personally, I cannot blame him. China is developing rapidly and has entered the 21st century. Shaolin simply doesn’t want to be left behind. The messures might seem radical, but I applaud the abbot and his business partners, how they have managed not just to keep the temple running, but also to convince the government of its importance, not just to make more money as a tourist attraction, but also a symbol of Chinese culture. No matter how much we frown upon the new image of Shaolin, if the abbot wouldn’t have taken those actions, Shaolin would have been left behind, there would be no money to restore and maintain the compound, and the world would have never known about Shaolin’s fame.

As a friend of mine once said: Where there is light, there is shadow. You don’t get the good without the bad. We just have to find a balance, so we don’t spend to much time in the shadow or the light.

Here is an older documentary I really liked to watch. I am going through my old youtube list of Kungfu related documentaries and videos, and will share them with you one by one. Maybe some of you can download them and store them for future generations so they won’t be lost.

This documentary is special in the way as it shows it radical change in Shaolin. I admire the fusion of old and modern traditions, of martial art and dance.

Also, I know the kid Dongdong in the video! He has grown up to be an amazing martial artist performer and has travelled all around the world with different Shaolin Performance Groups.


What do you think? Should the Shaolin abbot take a step back and stop selling Shaolin’s culture? Or is it the only way to stay alive in today’s world?

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Anna Z. is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture, and is the creator of Lost Panda, a blog to China and Art. Together with her husband, a Chinese national, she writes about daily life in rural China, focusing on cultural and social differences and the joys (and sometimes difficulties) as an intercultural couple. Apart from China related topics, she publishes her artwork, photography, art material reviews and tutorials to help more people discover their creative side. She is fluent in German, English and Mandarin Chinese.

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