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Shaolin History and Lineage

The Shaolin Temple has a very turbulent past which can be traced back roughly 2,500 years. As history goes, in 377 A.D. the Chinese Emperor Xiao Wei approved the construction of a monastery for the head monk, Pao Ja Ko. The Monastery was completely isolated from the outside world. It was nestled against the Five Nipple Peak facing the Emperor’s Table, the main peak of Shao Shih Mountain, with a narrow peak leading to the main gate in the East. The monastery was named Shaolin because of its location within a thick forest on the shady side of Shao Shih Mountain. These mountains are also known as the Central Mountains because of their location in the Central Plains of China.

In 495 A.D. an Indian prince named Da Mo (Bodhidharma) came to China to spread Buddhism. During his lectures he noticed that the novice monks were weak and sickly. In order to strengthen the monks mentally, spiritually, and physically, he developed a series of exercises while he meditated in a locked room for nine years. These exercises came to be known as Yi Gin Ching and Shi Sui Ching.

During the subsequent years, a number of Buddhist teachers were invited to instruct at Shaolin Temple, as well as a number of very popular martial arts masters. As a result, the Shaolin style of martial arts developed in the Northern and Southern Dynasties of China during the years 420-589 A.D. and flourished greatly during the Sui Dynasty (581-618) and the Tang Dynasty (618-907). With the passing centuries, Shaolin boxing branched into a variety of styles which still exist to this day.

The Shaolin Temple evolved into a complete system of martial arts during the Ming Dynasty (1369-1644). In 1644 this progress halted when the Manchurians conquered China. The Shaolin Monastery was invaded and burned down as a result of the takeover. Around 1760 the Manchu’s plotted a massive attack against the remaining Shaolin monks in order to gain complete control. Their campaign destroyed the largest martial art schools and associations in China. Many temples were burned down and many monks were killed, forcing the few remaining monks to build an underground movement to fight the Manchu’s, and others to flee to different parts of Asia. After the fire, Shaolin Monastery would never regain its greatness.

During the 1800s Shaolin Monastery was reactivated as a result of internal corruption in the Chin Dynasty. The invasion of westerners forced the Chins to spend their resources and military power fighting England, France, and Russia. The Manchu’s did not consider the Shaolin practitioners to be a threat because their troops had the perceived advantage of guns over them so Shaolin was allowed the freedom to operate freely but with discretion.

In 1911 Dr. Sun Yet Sin led a revolution that ended the tyranny of the Chin Dynasty, leading to seventeen years of civil war before China was eventually reunited. From 1926-28 Chiang Kai Shek formed a coalition to eradicate all the remaining warlords. He appointed General Fong Yu Hsiang to fight the warlord Fan Chung Xiao, who resided in Hunan Province and was a very good friend of Meaw Shing, head master of the Shaolin Monastery. Meaw Shing and many of his monks fought for warlord Fan’s protection and were defeated. Outraged by Shaolin’s loyalty to Fan, out of anger General Fong’s troops burned the monastery down. This was the third and final time the Shaolin Monastery was burned down. The only structures that survived the fire were the Front Gate, the Guest Hall, the Bodhidharma Pavilion, the White Robe Hall, the one Thousand Buddha Hall, and the Forest of Stone Tablets. The Shaolin Monastery has undergone major restoration in recent times. During the beginning of World War II, the Central Kuo Shu Federation was formed by Shaolin experts and key martial art families in order to join the resistance against the Japanese invasion of China. The war lasted for eight long years and many Shaolin Masters were killed.

After the communist takeover in 1949, many martial art masters left for Hong Kong and Taiwan where they could practice their arts freely without government interference. Grandmaster Zhang Wu Cheng, and extraordinary patron of the plum flower boxing style, fought with Chiang Kai Shek’s coalition to reunite China. Grandmaster Zhang gained great fame with his Chi Kung practice and Mei Hua (Plum Flower) boxing style. He was one of many skilled artists who left the Mainland and took residence in Taipei, Taiwan. It was there that Master Wung Chen-Mao met the late Grandmaster Zhang Wu Cheng and began training and became his top disciple. Master Wung has won many championships and awards. He is considered one of the foremost dedicated Kung Fu teachers in Taiwan. He is not only recognized for his Mei Hua boxing but also his Yang style Tai Chi and Nei Gong. Master Wung is a 16th generation Mei Hua descendant, head of the Mei Hua system, and is a member of the Chinese Kuo Shu Federation of the Republic of China.

In 1972, at seventeen, Andrew Lee began his martial arts training on the Northwest side of Chicago under Master William McFall and Master James Clark. Under their tutelage Master Lee developed a strong foundation for traditional martial arts. Master Lee was introduced to Grandmaster Hsu Fun Yuen in 1979, with whom he studied for a short period. Later he met Grandmaster Wung Chen-Mao in Taiwan and became his student. He continues to train under his tutelage. Like his mentors, Andrew Lee has won many championships and accolades throughout the years and is well respected for his accomplishments in the martial arts community. He is also a 17th generation Mi Hua descendant, a founder of TCMAC, and a member of the Chinese Kuo Shu Federation of the Republic of China. Master Andrew Lee continues to spread the knowledge of traditional Chinese martial arts through his affiliate schools in Chicago, IL, Winterset, IA, and Memphis, TN.

Kevin Miller was a twenty-five year old black belt studying Southern Hung Gar, Praying Mantis, and Snake Style when he became a student of Master Andrew Lee’s in 1991. He first began his training in 1978 at the age of twelve under his older brother Danny Miller. Danny Miller was a Si Sheng at the Green Dragon Society, and later was taken on as a private student under Master Johnny Lee and other Kung Fu teachers in Chicago where he gained the title of Master. Master Danny was often challenged in the streets of Chicago as a test of his fighting ability. Master Danny was never defeated, even by multiple fighters and he gained the highest respect from those he fought. After being certified as a Sifu by Grand Master William R. Vardeman (founder of Golden Talon Kung Fu Association and the Ching Jua Gong System), Kevin Miller also taught Chinese Kung Fu at the Golden Talon Kung Fu Association in Memphis from 1988-1991. Kevin Miller was also recognized as a young Master by his brother; Master Danny M. Miller in 1988. Having the privilege of training under Master Andrew Lee, Kevin Miller gained the skills of Northern Shaolin Long-fist and Tai Chi Chuan, and is an 18th generation Mei Hua descendant. Like his mentor, Master Andrew Lee, he has won many tournaments in South Central United States and is now spreading the knowledge of Chinese Kuo Shu. He currently owns and operates Bei Shaolin Kung Fu in Memphis. He is also the first African American to open a traditional Chinese Martial Arts school in Memphis, TN.