Numerous articles by the Ving Tsun Museum have been published recently highlighting the work of China's government and several historical societies that have reconstructed the Linquan Yuan Temple in Putian and claimed that it is the original Southern Shaolin Temple. If the assertions of these organizations are correct and the Southern Shaolin monks practiced and developed their Kung Fu in Putian for almost 1100 years before the temple's destruction, then abundant evidence should exist throughout Fujian Province of the three treasures of Shaolin: Chan philosophy, internal and external qigong, and extensive combat science. This article explores the historical context and evidence surrounding this claim.
Numerous articles by the Ving Tsun Museum have been published recently highlighting the work of China's government and several historical societies that have reconstructed the Linquan Yuan Temple in Putian and claimed that it is the original Southern Shaolin Temple. If the assertions of these organizations are correct and the Southern Shaolin monks practiced and developed their Kung Fu in Putian for almost 1100 years before the temple's destruction, then abundant evidence should exist throughout Fujian Province of the three treasures of Shaolin: Chan philosophy, internal and external qigong, and extensive combat science. Likewise, one could reasonably expect to find evidence of other general martial arts developed in a community both supportive of and supported by a great Shaolin heritage. The Ving Tsun Museum chose to focus its research on corroborating the findings of the historical societies that rebuilt the Linquan Yuan Temple by looking at the corroborating evidence in the surrounding community and province.
**Evidence of Shaolin Heritage:**
In short, Ving Tsun Museum investigative trips and research specifically sought traces of the three Shaolin treasures and closely examined peripheral martial arts systems throughout the Fujian Province. In addition to the evidence from the scientific archaeological community for Southern Shaolin Temple's existence, there is much circumstantial evidence within the martial arts community around the Putian area to support the Temple's existence. The Museum concludes that there is clear evidence of a current fervor for wushu / kung fu in the Fujian province around Putian and that fervor has existed from ancient times up to this day. Both written documentation and the existence of fully developed kung fu systems still practiced provide ample evidence of extensive martial activities in Putian in both modern and historical times.
**Martial Arts Legacy in Putian:**
Over the centuries there were many styles, systems, and famous martial artists produced in the Putian area. In the ancient book, Nation of Documents, it is recorded that a large quantity of scholars, Sifus, warriors, and generals came from the Putian area. With the Dynastic implementation of military testing, many warriors from Putian successfully tested for high-ranking positions. During the Ming Dynasty alone, Putian had 307 successful military candidates winning leadership positions through contests that included the whole of Fujian Province. These candidates were given governing roles at the levels of city, county, and provincial government. In the early 20th Century, one of the province's best martial artists, Yang Siu Chi, was given the nickname Southern Fist Leader (nam kuen si jou) by the Fujian martial arts community due to his prowess and wide renown. He was a specialist in arm bridge (kiu sau) and crane fist (hok kuen).
**Periods of Decline and Secrecy:**
Despite the proliferation of this documentation during most of the 11 Centuries of Southern Shaolin heritage, there were certain periods of history where no public activities were recorded. One such period was the beginning of the Qing Dynasty. The lack of documentation during this period conspicuously supports the claims of revolutionary activities of the Ming loyalists in the Southern Temple that ultimately led to its destruction. Clearly, the government's claims that the martial arts within the temple went underground to establish secrecy from the government and the public are well supported by this period-specific lack of documented martial activity in a community with a long history of such. Following the destruction of the Shaolin temple, the Qing government also curtailed the folk martial arts around the temple area. Those that lived through the destruction of the temple presumably left the area in order to escape. They took their kung fu along with them and eventually propagated it in other places.
The second period of history where martial arts activities appeared to decline and/or were hidden from public view started during the 18th century when China came into increasing contact with western civilizations. Western modern athletic sports were introduced to China in the late 19th century, and Putian was no exception. These sporting activities became so popular that they replaced most of the classical martial arts as a folk pastime. Yet even after 200 years of martial arts decline, today there is still an abundance of martial arts resources in the Putian area. Putian practitioners still maintain the heart of the southern kung fu system. Ving Tsun Museum research reflects that there are many martial arts systems still being taught today in the area of Putian.