In the sixth century the Indian monk Bodhidharma took up residence at the Chinese temple of Shao-lin, where he introduced Dhyana Buddhism, the Indian school of meditation that in time gave rise to Chinese Ch’an (Zen). Since then, both the man and the monastery have been subjects of widespread rumor and speculation. Bodhidharma’s teachings at Shao-lin are believed to have inspired or created a formidable band of fighting monks who, even after a lapse of some 1,400 years, constitute the best-known and most influential of such groups in the entire history of martial arts.

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