понедељак, 18. април 2016.

Southern Shaolin -between myth and reality

The Southern Shaolin Monastery is t is considered a source of almost all kung fu styles form Fujian and Guandong provinces . On the other hand there are no evidence to support existence and location of the monastery. Today , there are several places in South of China that claim the location of the famous Buddhist monastery .
According to the legend Southern Shaolin was founded during the Tang dynasty in the reign of emperor Taizong  7th century .Pirate incursions in Fujian Province threatened stability and prosperity in Southern China and the new dynasty needed help. At the Emperor's request, three of the legendary Shaolin Thirteen Cudgel fighting monks, Dao Guang, Seng Man and Seng Feng, led approximately 500 warrior monks south to battle against Japanese pirates.
With the pirates suppressed the monks remained in support of the local garrison and established the Southern Shaolin Monastery.
A whole millennia later , last Chinese dynasty , Ming, fell and country was ruled by Manchurians ,  Many of the officials from the previous Ming dynasty sought refuge in the Southern Shaolin  and the monastery became a center of the rebellion . Qing government burnt the monastery to the ground with a help of the traitor who was one of the rebellion leaders. Only five monks survived the attack including the traitor . Survived monks went into hiding and taught their kung fu in secret waiting for the right moment to raise again.
Even a superficial examination of available historical and archaeological evidence will show that this complete story is nothing more than folk tale . Surviving monks never existed and their characters changed roles over time . There are no material evidence to support existing of Southern Shaolin at any point in history .
So, where did the story come ? And how it became the most famous and most significant myth of all times in China ?

Story of Southern Shaolin has its foundation in real historical events and all key elements on which the story is built actually happened . Throughout history, China was plagued by internal revolts and rebellions . One of the bloodiest and most significant was Taiping rebellion .In  the conflict, which took place mostly in south China , the Yangtze valley and in the Shanghai and Nanjing area,  from 20,000,000 to 100,000,000 people were killed.The Taiping Rebellion arose from the general discontent of the Chinese population against their Manchu conquerors, who were seen as corrupt and ineffective against the 'foreign devils' and the opium they imported into China and the growth of lawlessness and secret societies in the countryside.
For more than a decade rebells successfully fought the government and almost capture the Qing capital of Beijing in May 1853.
Red Boat opera troupe from Gunagdong province , led by Lee Man Mao ,joined the rebellion and established a headquarters  in “Fine Jade Hall” in Foshan.  Qing government ordered destruction of Fall Jade Hall as base for Anti Qing supporters and soon after Opera was prohibited in that area for more than a decade. Qing manage to do that with a help of traitors from some rebel generals who switched sides .  After rebellion was crushed, rebels who survived and who were mostly opera actors scattered all over China  . Since opera was banned and it was not safe to talk openly about these events, story about Southern Shaolin burning emerged containing all key elements of the real events. There was one more purpose of this story, to give a sense of unity and common origin for different anti Qing fractions who still operated at the time.
During the first years after rebellion was crushed story about Southern Shaolin had specific political purpose and kept a memory of thous events . In later years , people who participated in thous events died and not many people actually knew the real background and purpose of the story . Slowly the focus of the story changed and some other things became important . In republican period there were no more people who participated and knew anything about Taiping rebellion events . The story became a "history" and focus finally changed from political to historical . In thous days , heritage was one of the extremely important things in kung fu circles and Southern Shaolin was perfect to give credibility to the style's history and combat efficiency . Almost everyone connected their styles to Sotuthern Shaolin and one or more of the famous ancestors (who never existed and were at first characters in pulp fiction novels published in the latest years of 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century).