Home> Arts
Shaolin captures the spirit of kungfu
Fan Bingbing and Andy Lau in Beijing.

Fan Bingbing and Andy Lau in Beijing. [China Daily]


In 1982, Jet Li's The Shaolin Temple not only put a shrine on Chinese kungfu and Zen Buddhism, but also made Li a household name.

Twenty-nine years later, a Hong Kong director is attempting to reprise the glory.

Benny Chan, best known for directing action films such as Jackie Chan's Who am I and New Police Story, brings together Hong Kong and mainland A-listers such as Jackie Chan, Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse and Fan Bingbing to create Shaolin, an action piece set in the chaos of 1920s China.

Lau plays a warlord betrayed by his sidekick, played by Tse. Studying kungfu in Shaolin Temple so he can exact revenge, he meets Jackie Chan, a Zen monk and kungfu master who pretends to be a cook.

From him, Lau's character learns that the essence of kungfu is not about inflicting defeat, but about saving lives. He then joins the other monks to save people from the tribulations of war.

Despite its stellar cast, the film's star is really the temple, Chen says.

"I see Shaolin Temple as an important role in the film," he says. "Historically, monks of the temple have saved many lives during times of chaos."

Hundreds of monks from the temple play supporting roles in the film and some helped train the actors.

To protect the temple, a 1,500-year-old complex on Mount Songshan in Central China's Henan province, the film was shot in a replica created at a cost of 20 million yuan ($2.9 million) in Zhejiang.

Temple abbot Shi Yongxin is the producer of the film, making it the first, among dozens made on the same subject after Jet Li's version, to be supported officially by the temple.

"The film shows that real Shaolin kungfu is closely connected to the spirit of Zen," Shi said at its premiere on Jan 13.

For Lau, a Buddhist, the film is a dream come true. "Since I was a child I dreamed of being in the temple," he says. "But not until acting in this film did I really understand that kungfu is not for show or killing, it is part of your self-cultivation."

Lau also composed the film's theme song and sings it himself.