Shi Yongxin, the abbot of the Shaolin Temple, is a tireless advocate for a wide array of measures toward the understanding, revival, preservation and sharing of the Shaolin legacy. He is considered a spiritual head to more than 400 million practitioners of Chan Buddhism and an estimated hundreds of millions of practitioners of martial arts worldwide. As a member of China's National People's Congress, Shi Yongxin has advocated for the expansion of the role of faith in Chinese life. He has also been active in interfaith dialog as chairman for international exchange of China's Buddhist Association.
He has compiled many volumes on Shaolin classics, such as "The Secret Book of Shaolin Kung Fu and Medicine," and frequently writes books and essays on a variety of topics with a Chan perspective.
Abbot Shi Yongxin joined the Shaolin Temple in 1981 as a young man, and he became its administrative head by 1987, after the death of his master, then-Abbot Xingzheng. In 1999 the official title of Abbot was conferred upon Shi Yongxin.
Shaolin Temple is famously known through its kung fu and Chan/Zen Buddhism and is situated in Dengfeng City in the Songshan Mountains of Henan Provence, China, said to be the "heartland" of China where much of Chinese civilization originated.
Shaolin Temple was established in 495 A.D. during the Northern Wei dynasty, by its then-emperor to accommodate the Indian master Buddhabhadra. Later, another Indian monk Bodhidharma arrived at Shaolin Temple, who was said to have crossed the Yangtze River on a reed.
Bodhidharma spent nine years meditating in a cave of the Wuru Peak just behind the temple, and initiated the Chinese Chan tradition at Shaolin Temple. Thereafter, Bodhidharma was honored as the first patriarch of Chan Buddhism, now known to parts of the world as Zen.
Legend also had it that Bodhidharma found monks weak and unhealthy after long meditation practices, so he developed movement to strengthen them, which formed the basis of Shaolin kung fu. Shaolin kung fu later evolved into over 700 forms of martial arts and became the cradle of much of the martial arts practiced in the world today.
In the 1,500 years since its founding, Shaolin has endured wars, famines, invasions and revolutions and also presided over times of great peace and prosperity. Its large cannon of stories, practices, culture, personalities and historical data is the stuff of legend, and it has inspired countless adaptations in traditional and popular culture around the world.
His Holiness the Venerable Abbot Shi Yongxin will be sharing the mysteries of kung fu and healing with the public for the first time ever. This will be called the 1st Shaolin Summit, which will be held in Los Angeles on Saturday, May 21. Some of events during the day will include powerful Shaolin martial arts/kung fu demonstrations using secret techniques and training tips that will be revealed by authentic Shaolin warrior-monks, and Abbot Shi Yongxin will reveal a preview of his autobiography. There will be a welcoming ceremony for Abbot Shi Yongxin at the Shaolin Temple in Los Angeles on May 22.
Peter Shiao, who is the founder and CEO of Orb Media Group, is presenting the 1st Shaolin Summit. I had the opportunity to speak with him, and he told me:
Shaolin kung fu has become watered down over the years because much that is being taught is limited to the external side of the martial arts. Using a differed approach, the head master of the Shaolin temple will be here speaking directly to the people to help bring back into balance the spiritual side of Shaolin kung fu. The Shaolin monks have other-worldly abilities and can do extraordinary feats however, everyone can take something from this event and benefit.
The event is being produced by the non-profit Shaolin Association of North America in association with the Shaolin Temple of China to enlighten people and generate further support of the Temple's basic philosophy of bringing compassion and health into the world that empower people through non-sectarian practices.