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The extraordinary final test to become a Shaolin Master | Sacred Wonders – BBC

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Kung Fu. The Shaolin Temple became world
famous as the home of Kung Fu after being discovered
by Hollywood 50 years ago. 400 monks live and study here. 100 of those are warrior monks. For these student monks, Kung Fu is not just a martial art. It’s a spiritual practice. In two days, Shu Yandian
will face a test to qualify as a full warrior monk. Mastering Kung Fu to the level
expected at the Shaolin Temple takes years of dedication. Yandian will have to prove himself
before a panel of senior monks in both Kung Fu
and Buddhist teachings. If he fails his test, it’ll be three
years before he can try again. Senior monk Yanseng
is Yandian’s mentor. It’s thought Kung Fu was developed
by the early Chinese monks as a way to stay fit enough
for hours of seated meditation. In the past, Shaolin
warrior monks used their skills to protect their monasteries
and villages. But today, its perfection
is a mark of faith. Each monk chooses a specialism. Yandian has been practising
with the monkey stick for 11 years. But there’s one move
he struggles with. Monkey going up the tree. One of the most difficult
in all Kung Fu. Yandian must place both feet
on the stick… ..let go with his hands, and catch the stick
before it hits the ground. Strength, balance, and total
concentration are essential. At his test in two days’ time, he will need to perform
this routine perfectly. But Yandian will not just be
assessed on his Kung Fu. He must also recite a passage
of Buddhist scripture… ..from memory. The examiners could choose any
passage from this book of mantras. So Yandian needs to learn
all 200 pages off by heart. It’s judgment day. The Shaolin Temple is one
of the country’s most important examination centres
for aspiring monks. Apprentices are arriving
from all over China, hoping that this will be
the year they qualify. First, Yandian’s Kung Fu assessment. The Abbott who’s head of the temple will be judging him,
along with three senior monks. Yanseng can only watch
from the sidelines. 11 years of gruelling training
have come to this moment. His examiners have
the very highest standards. Movement must be matched
by stillness. So far, so good. But next, the technique
Yandian fears the most – monkey going up the tree. Flawless. Yandian has excelled at his Kung Fu. But his success
will count for nothing if he now fails the scripture test. The selection panel
asks each trainee to recite from the book of mantras. The monks are trained
to show no emotion… ..even in the face of failure. It’s finally Yandian’s turn. If he succeeds, he will become a full monk. HE RECITES THE SCRIPTURE Fail, and it’s another
three year wait to try again. He’s made the grade. Yandian will now become
a full Shaolin warrior monk. He will spend the rest of his life
training, studying and meditating on his road
to enlightenment.

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