Based upon source information and the presentations in class Kung Fu or more specifically Shaolin Kung Fu is the first institutionalized form of Chinese martial arts. In the National Geographic article written by Peter Gwinn, the author describes the origins of this discipline and uses a real life portrayal of the impending death of a Shaolin Kung Fu master to illustrate how deeply this form of Kung Fu is ingrained in Chinese society and what it means the Chinese today (Gwinn, web). Although this type of Kung Fu is directly linked to Buddhist traditions and the Shaolin monks, it persists today as a very common element in China because of its connection to Chan Wu Yi. The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between Kung Fu and Chan Wu Yi through the various source material presented in this course.

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Gwinn’s description of the origins of Shaolin Kung Fun is poetic. He explains how the Shaolin monks were taught “a series of exercises or forms that mimicked animal movements” by an Indian mystic in the fifth century (Gwinn, web). These exercises were altered by the monks to be incorporated in their lives as a form of self-defense. Over the ensuing centuries, the monks passed on this form of martial arts to their progeny and were quite prolific in using Kung Fu to fight malignant forces. The importance and employment of King Fu is well documented through artifacts in the Shaolin Temple. For instance Gwinn states, “Many of these feats are noted on stone tablets in the temple and embellished in novels dating back to the Ming dynasty” (Gwinn, web).

In reviewing a second resource, a press release on Harvard University’s forum on Kung Fu and Chan Wu Yi, the writer explains how that, “Chan meaning Zen, Wu meaning Kung Fu, and Yi meaning medicine – is argued to have psychological benefits to children with mental retardations” (Unknown author, web). In order for Kung Fu to truly be complete it must include all three of these elements and this martial art is not simply used only for self-defense or in a historical or cultural context. Kung Fu, a part of Chan Wu Yi, can be used to not only improve the quality of many lives, but save them. Shaolin Master Shi Dejian said, “Chan Wu Yi, is a holistic ideology. All three of the elements must be practiced in order for the technique to be effective” (Unknown author, web).

Gwinn’s article does not mention Chan Wu Yi, but he does bring the concept and the connection full circle through his example of the dying Kung Fu master being visited by his former pupils. The old man is preparing himself to die in the same way in which he has lived and that is by the tenets of Chan Wu Yi. The most illuminating feature of this article and the one that hammers the association between the two home, is the discussion of how the old man’s lungs will be the very thing that brings him death, as they will fail. The protégé then discusses how his master would continuously emphasize the need to breathe correctly in order to truly practice Kung Fu. He is telling his student the exact same thing as Dejian: all three elements must be incorporated (Gwinn, web).

In conclusion, Gwinn’s article has an intriguing ended which illustrates the impact Kung Fu and Chan Wu Yi has had on Chinese culture. He describes how the Shaolin Temple is now a major tourist attraction with crowds of people visiting daily to witness the birth place of both the marital art and the concept. Although the myths associated with Kung Fu and Chan Wu Yi have developed and been embellished over time, the original premises still maintain a tremendous amount of merit. That is why Gwinn closes his article with a description of the hundreds of Chinese children being educated in the complexities of Kung Fu and without Chan Wu Yi, Kung Fu is not complete. The two certainly do go hand and hand.

  • Gwinn, Peter. “Shaolin Kung Fu.” National Geographic. March 2011. Web. Retrieved from
  • Unknown author. “Harvard University Presents Series on Chan Wu Yi.” Sampan. April 22, 2011. Retrieved from