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Shaolin Quan (少林拳) includes several systems of Kung Fu which claim their origins at the Shaolin Monastery or the Southern Shaolin Monestary (Nan Shaolin). According to the Shaolin creation myth, Boddidarma, a Buddhist monk, created the foundation of the art in order to assist the monks in their meditation. It is more likely that the Shaolin monastery simply absorbed many local martial arts, later practicing and teaching them. Other tales associate the spread of Southern Shaolin Kung Fu with the burning of the Southern Shaolin monastery by Qing forces. This view is held by the Heaven and Earth Societies (Tiandihui also called Hong Men) who were responsible for preserving authentic Chinese Boxing to the present day.

In the early 20th century, the Nanjing Guoshu Institute classified Taijiquan, Xingyiquan, and Baguazhang as “Wudang Kung Fu”. All other arts, such as Wing Chun of Fujian White Crane were classified as “Shaolin Kung Fu“. Pleases note that this is an academic classification and has little to do with the actual origin of the various arts.

Although its origins are legendary, traditional Southern Shaolin contains many systems inspired by the fighting methods of animals. These include the famous Five Animal Kung Fu: tiger, leopard, snake, dragon, and crane. The systems are noted for solid stance work, agile foot and hand work, and physical conditioning using a variety of training devices.