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For more than 1,500 years, the Shaolin monks from China's Henan Province have applied the discipline of martial arts as a unique manifestation of their religion, performing feats of astonishing physical prowess and mental concentration within their Ch'an (Zen) Buddhist practice. Originally a means of daily exercise and a form of meditation, the fighting actions evolved into what is now known throughout the world as Kung Fu. Now, GREAT PERFORMANCES presents an exciting theatrical performance featuring the ordained Soldier Monks of the Shaolin Temple. With music, lighting, and a stage set evoking the ancient East, SHAOLIN: WHEEL OF LIFE tells the story of the monks' early struggle to establish and protect their temple in a performance that celebrates their history, religion, and tremendous physical and mental skills.
For more than 1,500 years, the martial arts skills of China's Shaolin monks have developed into a unique manifestation of Zen Buddhism. The name "Shaolin" has become synonymous with the most extraordinary feats of discipline, strength, and courage; and with the growth in popularity of Kung Fu today, the monks' reputation as its acknowledged founders has become established throughout the world.
In the early years, immediately following the founding of the Shaolin Temple in 495 A.D. in Henan Province, the first soldier monks created a set of fighting actions -- the original Kung Fu -- that utilized all parts of their bodies. These actions were initially a means of daily exercise. They were later combined with the use of various weapons, made from simple farming tools, and developed into a form of meditation.
The Shaolin monks have experienced a turbulent history. During the past 1,500 years, they have been called upon many times to defend both their country and their temple from a succession of warlords and foreign invaders. Their involvement in these campaigns further developed what has become known as Shaolin Kung Fu.
Today, the monks are renowned as much for their peaceful existence as for their elite fighting skills, but, as in centuries past, they continue to practice their Kung Fu disciplines and remain ready to defend their country and their temple.