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The Shaolin monks of China have been practicing the art of Kung Fu for thousands of years. While there are many schools of Kung Fu in China, Shaolin are one of the more religiously devout and disciplined.
The title of Shaolin actually refers to a specific Buddhist monastery. It should be noted that the Shaolin were famous in China long before the Kung Fu TV show. Their fame in China is due to the monks' heroic and swift rescue an emperor during the Tang Dynasty. Most Chinese people are not keenly aware of the Kung Fu TV show, and have no idea who David Carradine is or anything about his character, Kwai Chang Caine.
Note: The literal meaning of these two characters is "little forest."
The fame of the Shaolin has spread all over Asia, as even though this is a Chinese title, the same characters are used in Japanese with the same meaning.
少林寺 is the full title of the Shaolin Temple.
This refers to the Buddhist monastery famous for its kung fu monks.
少林寺 is also known in Japanese where they use the same characters but romanize it as Shourinji or Shōrinji.
Some believe this monastery and temple represent the place where Bodhidharma sat with his face to a wall for nine years leading to his discovery of enlightenment and establishment of Buddhism.
少林拳 is the title of the martial art (style of Kung Fu) that is taught to the monks and students in the Shaolin Buddhist Monastery. The addition of Chuan or Quan which means fist is what signifies that you are talking about this school or form of martial arts.
One of the most famous types of martial arts in the world - and not just because of Bruce Lee.
Some translate the meaning as "Accomplishment by Great Effort." I think this is partially true but directly translated it literally means "Merit/Achievement/Accomplishment Man." The word "fu" can sometimes mean "husband" or "porter" but in this case, it can only mean "man." However, few in China will think "man" when they hear the word "Gong Fu" spoken.
This term is also used for things other than martial arts. In fact, it's used to refer to a person with excellent skills in crafts that require a great deal of effort such as cooking, tea ceremonies, and calligraphy.
What a lot of people don't know is that the spelling of "Kung Fu" was actually taken from the old Wade Giles form of Romanization. Using this method, the sounds of the English "G" and "K" were both written as "K" and an apostrophe after the "K" told you it was supposed to sound like a "G." Nobody in the west knew this rule, so most people pronounce it with a "K-sound." And so Gong Fu will always be Kung Fu for most westerners.
Also, just to educate you a little more, the "O" in "Gong" has a sound like the English word "oh."
The popular Chinese dish "Kung Pao Chicken" suffers from the same problem. It should actually be "Gong Bao Chicken."
Historical note: Many will claim that Kung Fu was invented by the monks of the Shaolin monastery. This fact is argued in both directions by scholars of Chinese history. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the Shaolin Monks brought the original fame to Kung Fu many generations ago.
Japanese note: While most Japanese martial artists will recognize these characters, Katakana is more often used to approximate the pronunciation of "Kung Fu" with "カンフー." Some will argue as to whether this should be considered a Japanese word at all.
See Also: Bruce Lee
少林長拳 is a combination of two titles. The first two characters mean little forest, as in the little forest of the Shaolin monks (shao lin = little forest). The second two characters mean "long fist."
This title is specific to a certain technique - if you are studying Shaolin Chang Chuan, then you are already aware of all the ramifications.
This is a poem, including title, that celebrates the tactics and virtues of the Shaolin Kung Fu Monks for future generations.
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The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...
|Title||Characters||Romaji(Romanized Japanese)||Various forms of Romanized Chinese|
|Shaolin Kung Fu||少林功夫||sho rin kan fu|
|shǎo lín gōng fu|
shao3 lin2 gong1 fu
shao lin gong fu
|shao lin kung fu
|Shaolin||少林||sho rin / shorin||shǎo lín / shao3 lin2 / shao lin / shaolin|
|Shaolin Martial Arts||少林武功||shǎo lín wǔ gōng|
shao3 lin2 wu3 gong1
shao lin wu gong
|shao lin wu kung
|Shaolin Temple||少林寺||shou rin ji|
sho rin ji
|shào lín sì|
shao4 lin2 si4
shao lin si
|shao lin ssu
Shao Lin Quan
|少林拳||shǎo lín quán|
shao3 lin2 quan2
shao lin quan
|shao lin ch`üan
shao lin chüan
|功夫||kan fu / ku fu|
kanfu / kufu
|gōng fu / gong1 fu / gong fu / gongfu||kung fu / kungfu|
|Shaolin Chang Chuan||少林長拳|
|shǎo lín cháng quán|
shao3 lin2 chang2 quan2
shao lin chang quan
|shao lin ch`ang ch`üan
shao lin chang chüan
|Shaolin Generational Poem||嵩山少林寺曹洞正宗傳續七十字輩訣福慧智子覺了本圓可悟周洪普廣宗道慶同玄祖清靜真如海湛寂淳貞素德行永延恆妙體常堅固心朗照幽深性明鑒崇祚忠正善禧祥謹志原濟度雪庭為導師引汝歸鉉路|
|sōng shān shào lín sì cáo dòng zhèng zōng chuán xù qī shí zì bèi jué fú huì zhì zǐ jiào běn yuán kě wù zhōu hóng pǔ guǎng zōng dào qìng tóng xuán zǔ qīng jìng zhēn rú hǎi zhàn jì chún zhēn sù dé xíng yǒng yán héng miào tǐ cháng jiān gù xīn lǎng zhào yōu shēn xìng míng jiàn chóng zuò zhōng zhēng shàn xǐ xiáng jǐn zhì yuán jì dù xuě tíng wéi dǎo shī yǐn rǔ guī xuàn lù|
song1 shan1 shao4 lin2 si4 cao2 dong4 zheng4 zong1 chuan2 xu4 qi1 shi2 zi4 bei4 jue2 fu2 hui4 zhi4 zi3 jiao4 le5 ben3 yuan2 ke3 wu4 zhou1 hong2 pu3 guang3 zong1 dao4 qing4 tong2 xuan2 zu3 qing1 jing4 zhen1 ru2 hai3 zhan4 ji4 chun2 zhen1 su4 de2 xing2 yong
song shan shao lin si cao dong zheng zong chuan xu qi shi zi bei jue fu hui zhi zi jiao le ben yuan ke wu zhou hong pu guang zong dao qing tong xuan zu qing jing zhen ru hai zhan ji chun zhen su de xing yong
|sung shan shao lin ssu ts`ao tung cheng tsung ch`uan hsü ch`i shih tzu pei chüeh fu hui chih tzu chiao le pen yüan k`o wu chou hung p`u kuang tsung tao ch`ing t`ung hsüan tsu ch`ing ching chen ju hai chan chi ch`un chen su te hsing yung
sung shan shao lin ssu tsao tung cheng tsung chuan hsü chi shih tzu pei chüeh fu hui chih tzu chiao le pen yüan ko wu chou hung pu kuang tsung tao ching tung hsüan tsu ching ching chen ju hai chan chi chun chen su te hsing yung
|In some entries above you will see that characters have different versions above and below a line.|
In these cases, the characters above the line are Traditional Chinese, while the ones below are Simplified Chinese.
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Professional calligraphers are getting to be hard to find these days.
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Some people may refer to this entry as Shaolin Kung Fu Kanji, Shaolin Kung Fu Characters, Shaolin Kung Fu in Mandarin Chinese, Shaolin Kung Fu Characters, Shaolin Kung Fu in Chinese Writing, Shaolin Kung Fu in Japanese Writing, Shaolin Kung Fu in Asian Writing, Shaolin Kung Fu Ideograms, Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu symbols, Shaolin Kung Fu Hieroglyphics, Shaolin Kung Fu Glyphs, Shaolin Kung Fu in Chinese Letters, Shaolin Kung Fu Hanzi, Shaolin Kung Fu in Japanese Kanji, Shaolin Kung Fu Pictograms, Shaolin Kung Fu in the Chinese Written-Language, or Shaolin Kung Fu in the Japanese Written-Language.