The Burning of the Shaolin Temple
Many people do not realise that when one talks about the burning of the Shaolin Temple by the Qing Army in kungfu context, it was the southern Shaolin Temple in Fujian Province and not the northern one in Henan.
The northern Shaolin Temple in Henan Province, from which many modern Shaolin monks claimed their lineage, remained intact throughout the Qing Dynasty. It was burnt in 1928, eleven years after the fall of the Qing Dynasty, by rival warlords using guns and cannons, and it had nothing to do with kungfu.
It was this northern Shaolin Temple that was restored by the present Chinese government, and has become an important tourist attraction. It was also around this northern Shaolin Monastery that many wushu schools were located. Later, however, the government relocated these wushu schools to other places.
There were actually two southern Shaolin Temples. The first one, known to the public, was situated in the city of Quanzhou (泉州), built by a Ming Dynasty emperor who moved the status of the Shaolin Temple as the imperial temple from the northern Shaolin Temple at Henan to this one. When the Qing Dynasty overthrew the Ming Dynasty, some Ming generals retreated to this temple to plot against the Qing.
A Qing prince, Yong Zheng (雍正), infiltrated into the temple as a monk to find out its secrets. When he became the emperor, he ordered the Qing Army, with the help of Lama kungfu experts from Tibet with their notorious flying guillotines, to burn down the temple.
Some top level kungfu masters escaped. One of them was the Venerable Chee Seen (至善禅师), spelt as Zhi Shan in Romanized Chinese, who built a secretive southern Shaolin Temple on the Nine-Lotus Mountain (九莲山), also in Fujian Province. This second southern Shaolin Temple was also burnt down by the Qing Army under the order of Emperor Yong Zheng, and led by Pak Mei (白眉), a Shaolin grandmaster who was a senior classmate of Chee Seen.
We in Shaolin Wahnam Institute are very lucky as our lineage led back to two patriarchs who escaped from the burning of the two southern Shaolin Temples, the Venerable Jiang Nan (江南和尚) from the temple at Quanzhou, and the Venerable Chee Seen (至善禅师) from the temple on Nine-Lotus Mountain.
Our lineage from our two patriarchs is as follows:
Venerable Chee Seen → Venerable Harng Yen → Chan Fook → Ng Yew Loong → Lai Chin Wah → Wong Kiew Kit → Ángel Pérez
Venerable Jiang Nan → Yang Fatt Khun → Ho Fatt Nam → Wong Kiew Kit → Ángel Pérez
Because of our closeness to the last of the real Shaolin monks just before the Shaolin Temples were burnt, and because of the generosity of our teachers, we preserve the three hallmarks of traditional Shaolin Kungfu, namely combat efficiency, internal force and spiritual cultivation.
We use our Shaolin patterns for combat. Every movement of our Shaolin Kungfu is a training of energy, which leads to developing internal force. Every movement of our Shaolin Kungfu is also a training of mind, or spirit, which leads to spiritual cultivation.
Shaolin Wahnam Institute was set up with the purpose of preserving the Shaolin arts and spreading their benefits to deserving students irrespective or race, culture and religion.
I am happy and proud that my Sifu in his more than 30 years of travelling, have spread the arts to more than 35 countries in all the 6 continents. Sifu Andrew Barnett of Shaolin Wahnam Switzerland estimated that more than 60,000 students had learned from my Sifu, and many more from our Shaolin Wahnam instructors.
Dr. Damian Kissey of Shaolin Wahnam Sabah put it succinctly:
“Bodhidharma spread the arts from West to East, sifu Wong spreads the arts from East to West.”
Today, the Shaolin arts are rarely found in China, the source from where they spread. It will be our honour to bring the Shaolin arts, the treasures of China, back to the Chinese people, if and when they want them.