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The Burning Of The Shaolin Temple

During the mid 17th Century, China was conquered by the Manchurians who established the 'Ching' dynasty of Chinese rule. Not surprisingly, the Chinese strongly resented being ruled by 'foreigners' and there was much resistance and rebellion.

In Fukien Province this resistance was particularly strong. The Fukien Shaolin temple was famous for producing some of the best fighters in China, so many of the rebels came here to perfect their fighting skills. Over the years the temple became a centre for rebellion against the Manchurian government.

Realising that the activities within the Shaolin temple posed a threat to them, the Manchurians sent their army to deal with it. Rather than face the renown martial artists of the temple, the Manchurians decided to set fire to it and wait outside to kill any survivors as they tried to escape the flames. The temple was destroyed forever in a fiery inferno and almost all of the monks died in the flames or whilst trying to escape. Only five Kung Fu masters managed to survive.

The five masters who survived were more determined than ever to defeat the Manchurians. They decided to split up and travel through China. It was necessary for them to disguise themselves and stay on the move, since the government would have loved to execute them. Wherever the masters travelled they stirred up the people to prepare to fight the Manchurians. In readiness for a rebellion they taught them Kung Fu fighting techniques (of course at this time the Chinese did not have guns, all fighting was hand to hand).

Through their perseverance and dedication, the five masters set up a network of secret societies which was eventually to spread throughout China. These societies trained diligently in the art of Kung Fu and were sworn to free China from the Manchurians. In order to recognise each other they developed many secret signs. The most well known of these is the 'Shaolin salute' with one clenched fist and one open palm. All Kung Fu styles which trace their ancestry to one of the five Shaolin masters begin their patterns with a variant of this salute.

Training at the Shaolin Temple

The secret societies set by the five Shaolin masters were so strong that they lasted even after the Manchurians had left China. They have now spread throughout the world wherever there are Chinese people. We call them the Triads.

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