According to the writings of Daoxuan, a Chinese Buddhist monk who was noted as an influential bibliographer, the first Shaolin monk was a dhyāna master named BuddhabhadraI from ancient India. Referred to as Bátuó in Chinese, he came to China to spread the Buddhist philosophy, and teachings in 464 AD. The first Shaolin Monastery was built for Bátuó on the north side of the Shaoshi mountain, one of the seven peaks of the Song mountains. Shaolin temple written in Chinese characters (少林寺) translates to “Temple of Shao[shi Mountain] Woods”.
According to Chinese legend, Bodhidharma is credited for bringing Chan Buddhism to China and teaching Shaolin monks martial arts, which led to the creation of Shaolin Kung Fu. There are many different accounts on when he arrived, however it is known he came from the Western Regions, referring to central Asia, with him being either Persian or Southern Indian. He was described as being disturbed by the Shaolin monks poor physical appearance and began to teach them how to meditate along with physical exercise. These exercises included the Eighteen Arhat Hands, also known as Luohan quan which means Arhat Hands , considered to be the root of all Shaolin kung fu. Luohan quan has been regarded as the first martial art to ever exist, credit to Bodhidharma. Although there are Chinese historical records indicating martial arts existed centuries before. When he left the temple, it is said he left behind two manuscripts, the Yijin Jing and the Xisui Jing. The Xisui Jing is said to have been lost or stolen, however the Yijin Jing has been copied, translated, and still available today. It’s writings contain a series of physical exercises that coordinate with ones breathing enhancing physical attributes and overall health. Not all monks practiced martial arts or wanted to learn; It wasn’t a requirement and still isn’t. The monks that journeyed into the martial arts chambers were considered warrior monks and highly regarded as the best martial arts practitioners in the world. Today there are now several franchises around the world with former monks teaching the Shaolin culture and martial arts philosophy. Now, just about anyone can become a Shaolin monk if they so choose; even you.