Significance of Shaolin Kongfu
Shaolin Kongfu has important social values in terms of four major aspects.
I. Effects of enhancement of organ functions and physique
Shaolin Kongfu stresses external and internal cultivation at the same time and unity of form and spirit. As a Shaolin Kongfu saying goes, the internal practice resides in enhancement of spirit and qi and the external practice in hand, eye and body. The essence of Shaolin Kongfu is believed to reside in combination of tangible and intangible ones so that one is strong both internally and externally, mentally and physically. This is favorable for a person’s external body shape and functionalities of various organs.
Shaolin Kongfu has profound effects on functions of human organs. People who often practice martial arts have stronger muscle and flexible movements of joints. In addition, they capacity against fracture, sprinkle, bending, oppression and twist are stronger. They have larger lung capacity, better respiratory nervous and cardiovascular systems.
The history of Shaolin Kongfu for over 1000 years has proved that practice of Shaolin Kongfu has significant effects on body and health in various aspects. For children, adolescent and youth, the practice helps them to grow and develop. For old people, the practice helps to delay aging and regressive changes so that longevity could be attained.
II. Effects of self defense and body building
Self defense is fundamental objective of Shaolin Kongfu and defense Kongfu is inevitable result of Shaolin Kongfu under special historical circumstances. With experience accumulated after a great many fights, Shaolin Kongfu has aimed to improve defense capacity of individuals and groups and the value as a defense means had become more prominent. In the history of Shaolin temple, the monks therein had been asked by the government to participate in a great many battlefields, which have helped to enhance the significance of Shaolin Kongfu as a defense means. In addition, Shaolin temple had a great deal fortune as a royal temple, which had incurred stealing incidents of the poor. And in that circumstance, Shaolin Kongfu had become a means to protect Shaolin temple. With continuous improvement of people’s living standard and awareness of entertainment and body building, the value of Shaolin Kongfu as a way to defense oneself becomes more prominent.
III. Aesthetic value as fighting art and skillful art
Shaolin Kongfu could cater for the public need for enjoyment and aesthetic beauty. The combination of skillful art and aesthetic art is where the charm of Shaolin Kongfu resides.
Each stroke of Shaolin Kongfu combines defense and techniques, fully displaying the quintessence of Shaolin Kongfu by integration of attack and defense. As recorded by Wen Fengxiang in his Visit to Songshan in the 43rd ruling year of King Wanli of Ming Dynasty, among the 60 monks, some play palm stroke and sword and others whip and club… According to records of Chronicle of Dengfeng City, Hong Jieliang used to learn to play club in Shaolin and he loved to use knife. In the fifth year of King Tianqi of Ming Dynasty, governor of Henan Chen Shao had written after his visit to Shaolin temple and watching Shaolin Kongfu performance that he had been appalled by the brilliant performance of the monks. In addition, Shaolin Kongfu had been praised highly by assistant minister of Ministry of Rites of Ming Dynasty, Gong Ding. All these has testified the splendid beauty of Shaolin Kongfu
The artistic beauty of Shaolin Kongfu resides in full display of capacity of human organs and the significance of Shaolin Kongfu to body building has been given high attention. The aesthetic value of Shaolin Kongfu has been given in full play and Shaolin Kongfu is used purely as a military fighting skill. Shaolin Kongfu was started for monks to move around after sitting and meditation and it was used to entertain tourists and temple goers in Ming Dynasty. As recorded in Visit to Songshan, the monks gave drizzling performance by playing clubs and fights; one monk could jump and skip as skillfully as a monkey. The audience could appreciate the beauty of Shaolin Kongfu in its diverse content, beautiful strokes and combination of form and spirit. The beauty of Shaolin Kongfu resides not only in perfect strokes, combination of gentleness and manliness and of static and dynamic but also in that monks of Shaolin temple have safeguarded national security for a great many times in Chinese history. The development of Shaolin Kongfu from being a military tool in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 to an entertaining, performance and body building form of national culture has enhanced the public knowledge of Shaolin Kongfu, improved public aesthetic value and invigorated public desire to work hard.
IV. Patriotic educational value
Shaolin Kongfu stresses the development of Kongfu morals and Kongfu ethics. This education mode as a basic practicing method derives from the concept of integrating Zen and Kongfu has helped to develop the spirit of worshiping Kongfu and observing ethics among the Kongfu practitioners. This spirit has fully displayed the essence of Shaolin Zen Kongfu culture of Kongfu improving morality and morality manifesting Kongfu.
Shaolin temple has displayed strong patriotism and self esteem in its history of more than 1000 years. Monks of Shaolin temple had shown perseverance and unprecedented courage in their diligent practice. The doctrine of Dashanmen (Knocking Gate) of Shaolin temple has enhanced Kongfu players’ morale and unyielding spirit toward arduous environment and strong opponent. The great feat of monks including monk Yuekong and Xiaoshan during the anti-Japanese war in Chinese history has added a moving chapter in history of Shaolin temple, having displayed strong patriotism.
Respect of morality could help cultivate a spirit of respecting morality and natural rules and integrate Zen and Kongfu. In addition, Shaolin Kongfu culture upholds the doctrine that those who have no morality shall not practice Kongfu. Shaolin Kongfu players are supposed to possess four moralities, namely, morality of heart, mouth, hand and care for the masses. Morality of heart refers to sublime and integral thought, trustworthiness and readiness to help others. Morality of mouth means precaution and guard against bad, hurting and arrogant language. Morality of hand refers to no bully and hurting to other people, no damage to other’s belongings, and no obtrusion of other’s interests and benefits. Morality of care for the masses means observation of doctrines of Shaolin temple, respect for social and moral rules, and no disruption of social order and security. The spirit of respecting morality and Kongfu has shaped unique Shaolin Zen Kongfu culture that conforms with traditional Chinese moral values.