Inside Shaolin


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Jamar Hll-Wright
Limeport, PA

I Am curiuous to talk to monks. I myself wants to be a shaolin monk

Mark Brimm
Houston, TX

As a college-educated and time-worn American, I think the study of kung fu would appeal to most, if not all, Americans if they could give up their need to have everything pre-processed and over-simplified into a single feature film. Shaolin kung fu is like an enormously vast spinning feast on a collosal lazy susan. If you only like steak and potatoes, you won't be able to enjoy the amazingly varied and complex dishes in front of you, balanced out by the differing tastes from different regions, with unique stories behind each item on the table. Why does this taste this way? Why is that prepared in that way?

I think the monks were excited to live abroad in the US for largely personal and even financial reasons, but I think their karma brought them here for other reasons as well. We'd be remiss not to recognize either of these eventualities. There is something to the idea of the Buddhist path continuing and stretching forward and carrying the believer with it, human imperfections and all.

Overall, I think the idea of these monks being negatively affected by the crass elements in the US is probably often being vastly overstated, probably by hurt westerners who want to pin their beloved Shaolin monks down to one set of idealized classic "Shaolin" characteristics. Zhang Li Peng has stated that he never was a true monk and converted to Chirtianity upon becoming engaged. Others seem to retain whatever they came to Shaolin with, as well, some believing strongly, others with doubts remaining. Overall, the monks I've witnessed and known seem to adapt their own values to the environment with practical caution and exhiliration at doing so in a different environment, much as I felt living in China. The monks want to feel connected to the culture they are in, but are tied to their own Shaolin tradition and Chinese culture at the same time from within, a culture and tradition which is ultimately far deeper and more profound than ours. I think the US is not the stereotype it is portrayed as any more than China will ever be, but its moral compass is certainly not remarkably better than that of other countries and governments. There is plenty of natural and authentic culture and life everywhere. Shaolin is in some ways a careful reproduction of itself, just as everything else that is awe-inspiring and ancient. But it has developed sophistication for reproducing itself and getting a true feel for what it once was, and thus becoming it. The stories and the legends persist and recreate Shaolin with each warrior monk that is left with the task of representing it, as does practicing the Shaolin martial art itself and teaching and explaining it. They are most authentically Shaolin in their private moments in their training clothes, when there is no camera to film it, eating their dinner, thinking about what occured that day, talking about this or that student to others around the table in one of the backrooms of the school. The authentic Shaolin is in their beating hearts and the way they bring the sacred into the everyday world of training hard to popular music in shorts and t-shirts.

It made me cringe to see my beloved Sichuan crumble, as I had lived there (Chengdu actually) for almost a year in 2000-2001. I felt horrified that my wife's family there might have been affected by the catastrophe and the chaos it must have created.

The Shaolin Temple branch in Houston, under Shi De Shan, where I attend, for example, raised over $5,000 for the recent China earthquake victims, from one fundraiser on behalf of the Song Shan Shaolin Temple in Henan, China. It's not a tiny school by any means, but it's also not a fancy or polished one. The participants were American born kids with Asian parents. I am sure many other monks who were sprinkled out all over the US from the "Wheel of Life" tour were also involved in this and other similar efforts in their communities. It would be refreshing to see their stories and get another side of Chinese culture and mores that American media sound bites do not often afford us, especially in a time when the US media airs a juicy and provoicative "expose" about a country or culture almost as a prerequisite to going to war with them.

I would like to see another PBS Documentary that follows up on where all these Shaolin warrior monks are now, and how they are coping with the Earthquake that shook many loved ones in Sichuan and other parts of China recently, taking close to 100,000 lives thus far. On how they train and teach their students. On how they impart the spirit of Shaolin, even while, in many cases, being half monk and half secular.


The monk Bodhidharma, who came from, India, introduced the martial arts, not as a sole result of nine years of meditation in a cave. This is an overly romanticized account of what happened. More so, he studied the ancient Indian martial art of khalipayarta as a youth, while growing up in India. It is a variation of this art that he taught to the monks of Shaolin. It is the art of Khalipayarta which is the little know precursor to much of the asian martial arts.

Julian Ong

Amituofo, I am a member of the US Shaolin Temple and a student of Shi fu, Shi Yan Ming. I can understand the confusion as to how you would not consider him a real monk as he doesn't live within the traditional Buddhist laws of chastity that most monks par take in. However there are many other incredible and extremely disciplined aspects of Shi fu's life that are solely dedicated to the Buddha within his heart and his mind. He plays a vital role of great importance in the passing on of his extensive knowledge of Chan Buddhism to the rest of the world. He is a willing teacher and extremely dedicated to the US Shaolin temple and the development of his students. Meat and Wine are nothing as long as you have Buddha in your heart. It is ridiculous to assume that just because one my for go certain pleasures that they are above mortality. As in a sense the embracing of our mortal beings is the embracing of the beauty which is life. Please come and visit the US Shaolin Temple in Manhattan, 446 Broadway, 2nd Floor and you will see his dedication.


yesterday, 05 Oct '06. a show was shown from the National Geographic Channel, tile' Kung Fu Monk'. The monk is Shi Yan Ming. Well, I'm shows a monk that has a family and drink beer which he call 'special water'. If a monk can get laid and drink 'special water'. Why do we need monk, everyone can start running around in robe, get laid, drink 'special water' and chant the sutra and he's a monk. A good part is that he's the abbot of US shaolin Temple. Monk is a class above the mortal being because of the commitment they have put themselve in and they deserve respect but definately not him.

Flushing, NY
It is unfortunate that the majaroty of people when they think "Shaolin," think "Kung Fu," in stead of Chan.
I also find it disturbing that the next generation (if I read correctly) of Shaolin Monk (and of course eventually) Masters will be droping the spiritual teachings (the true point andmeaning of Shoulin IMO) to emphasize the Wu Shu?!?!
It is the spiritual component that makes the Shaolin Monk, not the Wu Shu, which was JUST an exercise created to keep the mind sharp and body awake for Chan!
Maybe I miss read...?

St. Paul, Minnesota
I manage a Shaolin kung fu school ( Minneapolis, MN and have studied Shaolin kung fu for a few years under a couple of different Shifus. Kung fu has much to offer and it really depends upon the indiviudal's expectations and what they hope to achieve by taking it up.
The monks are keen to come to America for reasons ranging from cynical and greedy to altruistic, but I would warn against judging to quickly before you get to know them.
In terms of commercialization, it may be too late. But if you can accept the inevitability of capitalist domain over Shaolin culture, and still find value in training under a good teacher, then you're still likely to benefit.

Casa Grande, Arizona
I Know only about T'AI CHI. I know how well you can develop such a wonderful positive attitude,that will last for always.
I took T'AI CHI to 300 high school students. A am a motivation speaker. It was welcomed. and gave the students a feeling of hope, self-worth, and good choices.
I was taught by a husband and wife team. I have not been this positive like the these past few years. Try it!

Martin Cristobal
Calgary, AB
Well I have been obssesed with how Shaolin works and have been renting tapes on Martial Arts. Kung fu is really popular all over the world from the early days to today. I would think that Americans would like to study Kung Fu to protect themselves and their loved ones. For Shaolin monks obviously, they would like to show their strength buy bringing heavy piles of bricks to break with their skull, or bringing perhaps a tree trunk to break with their hand blade. The Shaolin monks will probably like to bring their practise to increase the popularity of Shaolin Kung Fu so Americans can adapt to it. The Shaolin temple has alot of values and will definitley be affected. For my opinion I would think that everything they would to is important to the Shaolin Society.

Sergio Machial
ny, ny
Any suggestion that a monk spreading Chan and kung-fu by relocating to New York is of dubious integrity is way off the mark.

A tumultuous city like New York is precisely where the many blessings of Chan and Shaolin are needed! People living calmly and at peace with themselves (and others) "in the boonies" as Eli states are already halfway there! Learning the art of balance and adherence to the middle way is a real challenge in the big city, and my Sifu, Shi Yan Ming is doing his thing precisely where he is needed. His brand of Chan and action meditation are gifts that I'm thankful for everyday, bringing me calm and stability in an otherwise insanely chaotic place.


Eli Anikin
Farmington CT
As someone who turned to Buddhism because of Shaoling Kung Fu training, i am suspicious of these monks in America because the reason they want to bring their practice to the US seems to be money, which they simply can't make in China.

Plus, here they can have "their own" temples, rather than being just a monk in a Sangha. Such desires for upward mobility, status and material means are those very ones that even Mahayana/Chan/Zen monks are supposed to try to suppress and extinguish as Buddha taught...

It's evident even from the location of Shaolin's "Overseas Headquarters" in Flushing, NY. One would think that they would locate it somewhere in the boonies of America, where real-estate prices are low, people are more mindful in the Buddhist sense, life is quieter, more peaceful, and more conducive to meditative lifestyle.

The original monastery was located in such a place - not in Beijing. Instead, its American branch is located in a place that's all about materialism and its distractions, personal craving and suffering, which Buddhism seeks to extinguish.

The placement seems to have more to do with marketing, local disposable income and having many profitable students than seeking Enlightenment.

The Shaolin martial techniques are great. Whether these monks remain true to Buddha's teachings and the vows they took remains to be seen. I hope they do, and will observe their progress with great interest. So far though, they seem to have values more like those of Donald Trump than Buddha, or Tamo...






Lee Stanczyk
Seattle WA
My late husband, a former student of Kung fu and Shaolin, must be turning in his grave at the poor presentation this film brings to the art and discipline of kung fu and other Martial Arts disciplines. It is not about your friends being proud of you, or having 'big' things you own, or being on TV!!! The art itself teaches you to be humble and respect the knowledge you learn in your studies. It is a personal pride not one you do for your friends. It is not simply about fighting -but learning the art and knowing when it is appropriate to fight and how to control yourself and your life perspective. I am shocked that such a superficial presentation of the art was shown on PBS. If you were trying to demonstrate the ill effects our culture may have on the art -you may have -but you did a poor job of showing the counter, or true point, of martial arts. Was this a big commercial for Shaolin folks who want to capitalize on the U.S. market? Martial arts organizations and schools who focus on fighting rather than self-discipline are known as jokes to those who are true to the art. I am embarrassed for the people in this film and saddened by the responses you have posted that this film was an encouragement to people to get into martial arts.

Flushing, NY

I am a student of Zen and martial arts. I have been searching for a teacher of martial arts who uses martial arts with combination of Zen. So I am delighted to meet these monks.

Yes it is probably harming to commercialize the Shaolin, as it could be a distraction to the monks. But think about the possibility, of introducing millions or giving exposure to the arts and Buddhism, that this film and monks will bring, especially in this internet age.

By the way, I would appreciate if someone can let me know the address of the temple in Flushing where the monks are teaching.




Hi, I am the disciple of the 32 second generation shaolin monk shi xing lo, once he told me: white people are good people, but white journalist are not, they destroy shaolin by writing journal and by bringing tourist... shaolin temple is dead since 20 years, the day on which tourism began in shaolin.

Brian Sheehan
Edina, Minnesota
I recently started taking Shaolin Kung Fu and Absolutely love it. I believe that many Americans who try it will enjoy it and I urge anyone reading who has not tried it to do so. My only regret about my classes is that we do not go over much of the spiritual side of it. Unfortunately I think this will be the case around America, to many people already have religion, they just want to learn how to flip and kick.


Robert Murphy
Paris Tenn
I have been a martial artist since I was 15, I am now 48 my sparring partner fought Bill Superfoot Wallace for middle wieght championship, the monks will not be affected by comercialzation becuase they see more plainly the insanity of people in America that live for the dollar and they ways of self indulgence and abuse cannot apeal to one who has discipline and sees the folly of people who work so hard for the dollar and pleasures that they havent the strenght to enjoy any of it, what joy is there in being crippled by your life style and using a jewel encrusted bed pan, and unable to walk across the lawn and see your self indulgent kingdom becuase you had a stroke from self abuse,. Some people want to learn kungfu for selfish reasons. they will not prosper becuase you have to love it and be constant.It is good for the monks to prosper becuase of the poverty where they come from ,maybe a few will help make the lives of those left behind better by prospering here.

Houston, Tx
I watched the film on shaolin monks yesterday (October, 30th 03). My 4 yr.old daughter and I found it very interesting. I've always been fascinated with Kung Fu since I was a little girl. I guess because my dad watched those martial arts movies. As I grew older, I started getting into Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li movies.

Balance & Patience

Rachel Roman
Sunrise, FL
What a wonderful film! I absolutely enjoyed it! There are not nearly enough publications on this martial art. I think that the study of kung fu, particularly Shaolin kung fu, appeals to Americans because we are all searching for an inner peace. The tranquility the monks posess from a trained mind and body is evident to all. Americans thirst for this in their lives. The monks that come here must see in us a tremendous potential. There is so much that they can teach us, and I believe that is why they chose to come here. Our society will not change them if they do not wish it to. I believe they are stronger of heart and mind and body than that. They will have to make some changes in order to survive here, but I believe their hearts will always be in the temple.

Tak Chi
New York New York
This is an excellent documentary film. Kudo to you. I can't wait to see if you are planning to have a part II series. Is it possible to interview Jet Li during the days he spent at Shaolin?

I was really impressed with the monk who was with the doctor in Las Vegas. It strikes me that after he practiced Zen for 5 years, he reached a higher level of Kung Fu and enlightenment which makes him a better monk.

As the world is getting smaller, it's great to see all races enroll in Shaolin Kung Fu. It's not about which martial art is better than the other but the beauty of different style and to learn from each other.


The film on the Shaolin Monks was inspirational. It gives us foreigners hope that our cultural differences can be embraced and shared with all.

Martha Burr
Los Angeles, CA
Filmmakers reply -- As longtime friends of Shi Yan Ming, we warmly invited him to participate in our film, but due to schedule conflicts and other personal reasons he regretfully declined. We are sorry not to be able to tell his fascinating story in this film, but look in back issues of Kungfu magazine, or visit his website listed in our Learn More section here. is now listed in that section as well -- it was omitted due to a glitch before! Rich was fantastic to work with, a great host, and now we are thrilled that his school is taking off in Vegas with so many top monks visiting -- don't miss next month's seminars. And his site is great, go there!

A big HI to Brian O'Shea who wrote in below -- Brian helped us out greatly on our China shoot as he was visiting Shaolin Temple at that time -- thanks again Brian!

Martha & Mei-Juin

Mark Roberts
Phoenix, AZ
Good show but how come the doctor in Las Vegas, Richard Russell M.D. Website is not mentioned in show or on this site??... is a huge source of Shaolin Information and the monk in show, Shi Xing Hong is doing a seminar at his school in Nov.

William Reeves
Shelburne Vermont
I was totally blown away by the Shaolin monks.It was very impressive!I became much more educated about there culture.I think that they teach in the US is great,I think is shows what your mind and dedication can achieve.I think they are the type of people that want to spread there values to all other cultures,its so very positive.I hope and wish that they do very well in the US and I know they will.May they all be blessed.Thanks so much for the program.Peace

Brian O'Shea
San Jose, CA
I'm glad I had a chance to see this documentary recently. I have been anticipating it for a while now, and just saw it recently on channel 9. Finally getting a chance to see it has brought back warm memories of my travel to Shaolin not so long ago.

It is interesting to see the way the monks who have come to America have adapted to the culture here, and it's not surprising that they have been so well-received. While Shaolin kung fu has become very popular in America through TV and movies, I think that there is still a lot of room for the philosophical side of the art to be taught as well, and that is something that the Shaolin monks are uniquely capable of providing. I hope that it is not lost on our high-pressure, fast-paced culture!

Great job Martha and Mei-Juin!


Eric Thompson
I can't believe that the actors who put on performances at the old shaolin tmeple have duped you people into believing this is a martial art. It is gymnastics and body builiding with little martial function. If you wished to expploe the tradition of chinese martial arts, there are many oldd genuine boxers in america who could have actually given you some insight into traditional chinese boxing. If you wish to study buddism, there are many other centers already established and respected within the united states.Studying it through gymnastics makes little sense to me.

Lucius M. Nelligan Sorrentino
Ansonia, Boston, Hampton
Its an interesting historical irony to note that the Maoists who for decades destroyed Buddhist Temples from the Pacific to the Himalayas are now exporting the last remnants of this ancient spiritual/martial arts tradition to the USA and promoting it as a vital, indeed, sine qua non representation of the newly emergent Chinese character/spirit. Alas, where is the Dhali Lama in all this?

I'm all for Shaolin monks and the martial and other ritual traditions of "the East." Indeed, one cannot but be awed by them. But I don't imagine there will be many MONASTARIES established in the USA (unless its a day-care center with a kungfu "team" that fits in a SUV).

Bruce O'Leary
Sunderland, MA
I watched the show with great interest, and was intrigued by Monk Shi Guolin's emphasis on using Kung Fu as a way to introduce Zen Buddhism to Americans. Ironically, his Temple is located in Queens, not far from where Roshi Bernie Tetzugen Glassman founded the Zen Community of New York. Roshi Glassman was head abbot at the Zen Center of Los Angeles before that, following the death of his teacher Taizan Maezumi Roshi. A short biography can be found at:

Patricia Cornwell
Garrison, NY
I do have to absolutley agree with Ian Campbell. I had the honor of training with Sifu Shi Yan Ming and was just as surprised that he was not mentioned at all in your film. More so than training the Wu Tang Clan, he also helps to train other celebrities for film roles (ie Wesley Snipes). What is also surprising is that you have the logo for USA Shoalin Temple at your site. The temple is located at Broadway between 3rd and Bond.

Patricia Cornwell

PS It was a magnificent film.

Steve Adams
Las Vegas, NV
I feel you should add to your list on this site about the shaolin world. Shi Xing Hong is coming to teach at the school opened by Dr. Richard Russell, Shaolin Chan Wu Xue Yuan. He is in this video, but not a single link to his website is anywhere on here. A monk from China, Shi Xing Wei is currently teaching at the school and his master, Shi De Cheng and others are coming in the very near future. Please add to the "Learn More" section, without it you all are just missing the point of the Monks in America.

Eugene, OR

I think that kungfu would appeal to many Americans for purely aesthetic reasons. I've no idea why Shaolin monks want to bring their faith here. My only guess, is that there is no representation of their faith - sharing love. The values of the Shaolin monks are obviously affected by living anywhere, whether in China or Harlem. It doesn't matter where you go. How they are affected will depend on what kind of person the monk was before becoming a monk.

On a personal note: I'm very interested in this documentary. After having an interest in Shaolin for over ten years, I'm looking forward to this documentary, but also a little disappointed that Shi Yan Ming opted out. I was most interested in his story. Such is life.

Thank you Martha and Mei-Juin Chen.

Max Bliven

Ian Campbell
New York, NY

Dear PBS,

I happened to be flipping through a copy of Inside KUNG FU and I came across your show. I was immediately interested, since I recently started taking Kung Fu with one of the most, if not the most, famous shaolin monk to defect to the United States, Sifu Shi-Yan Ming. Yet, unless I am mistaken or the spelling of his name has been altered dramatically, Shi-Yan Ming is not represented in the television show. I find this unusual, because he is a 34th Generation shaolin monk, he has opened the USA Shaolin temple which has several hundred members in the New York City area all taught by him, and he has appeared in martial arts magazines many times. He also has connections with the Wu Tang Clan (a popular rap group) and has personally taught many of the members. He also appears briefly in Ghost Dogg: Way of the Samurai. If you would like any information, the temple's website is

Thank you, and I await your program eagerly!
-Ian Campbell


This sounds very interesting no matter what style martial arts one may study. When will it finally air?


As a three year student of Kung-fu, I think that showing a documentary of this particular nature would inspire our young viewers to become interested in learning about the history, philosophy and technique of this deeply rooted style of martial arts. I once have had the priviledge and great honor of personally getting to meet a Shaolin graduate and phenomenal martial artist who now resides and teaches Kung-fu in Mobile, Al.
It would be of inherently beneficial nature to broadcast a documentary of Shaolin Monks in America, who are here not to teach Buddhism, but to show the Way. Maybe something we need to learn in this time of crisis is Kung-fu as a strategy for survival. A documentary of such people who can perform extraordinary feats of talent, not to mention mind-boggling austerity needed to perfom such feats, would be something not only spiritually enriching, but most truly rewarding as well.

God blesses.


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