Lin Qing was a Chinese government official who visited Shaolin Monastery in 1828. He subsequently published an illustrated book describing his travels. According to Lin Qing, the head monk was uncomfortable showing him martial arts because of government decrees against such practices. Lin Qing described the demonstration using a phrase from Zhuangzi, namely, “xiong jing niao shen”, which describes movements of bears and birds. This in turn refers to physical exercises done during the fourth and fifth centuries B.C.E., when the Zhuangzi was recorded.
(‘Martial arts in the modern world’, T.A. Green & J.R. Svinth, 2003, p 5.)
… in 1828 prominent Manchu official named Lin Qing (1791-1846) visited the Shaolin Temple. By then, bare-handed techniques had completely eclipsed the monastery’s ancient staff methods, and instead of an armed display, the distinguished guest was entertained by a sparring demonstration:
In the evening we returned to the Shaolin Monastery, and paid our respects at the Jinnaluo (Vajrapani) Hall. The deity’s image is most awesome. He wears thin garments, and wields a stove poker (huo gun). Tradition has it that once he displayed his divinity and warded off bandits. Today he is the monastery’s guardian spirit (qielan). Praying to him is invariably efficacious.
I proceeded to ask the monks about their hand combat method (quan fa), but they refused to utter a word about it. I made it clear that I had heard about the Shaolin Fist long ago, and I knew it had been relied upon solely for guarding monastic regulations and protecting the famous temple. Therefore they need not make pretence.
The abbot laughed and assented. He selected several sturdy monks to perform in front of the hall. Their “bear-hangings and bird stretchings” were indeed artful. After the performance the monks retreated. I sat facing Mt. Shaoshi’s three peaks, which resembled a sapphire tripod. Watching the shaded forests, misty mountains, and emerald green thickets, my body and spirit were equally at peace. I resolved to stay overnight.
Published in 1849, Lin Qing’s account of his visit was accompanied by a woodblock illustration of Shaolin monks practicing hand combat. The martial artists were shown under the gigantic shadow of their tutelary deity, Vajrapani (Kimnara), who still wielded his staff of old. The Manchu official, in ceremonial cap and robes and surrounded by his entourage, appeared in the picture as well. Apparently he was fascinated by the performance. Whereas the elderly abbot remained sitting under the hall’s eaves, Lin Qing rose from his seat to watch the martial artists up close.”
(M. Shahar, ‘The Shaolin Monastery: History, Religion, and the Chinese Martial Arts’, 2008, pp 126-128.)
According to Shahar, some scholars believe the renowned murals in Shaolin were painted to commemorate this visit:
Lin Qing’s woodblock illustration leads us to another, more elaborate, artwork, which depicts a similar scene: Shaolin’s White-Attired Mahâsattva Hall (Baiyi dashi dian) is decorated with an early nineteenth-century mural of fighting monks, who are demonstrating their bare-handed skills to visiting dignitaries, probably government officials. The guests, identified by their queues, are entertained by the abbot in a central pavilion, which is surrounded by the performing artists. The gorgeous fresco was executed with such attention to detail that some modern practitioners are able to identify in it the bare-handed postures they practice today. (ibid.)
The Shaolin Monastery charts, for the first time in any language, the history of the Shaolin Temple and the evolution of its world-renowned martial arts. In this meticulously researched and eminently readable study, Meir Shahar considers the economic, political, and religious factors that led Shaolin monks to disregard the Buddhist prohibition against violence and instead create fighting techniques that by the twenty-first century have spread throughout the world. He examines the monks’ relations with successive Chinese regimes, beginning with the assistance they lent to the seventh-century Emperor Li Shimin and culminating more than a millennium later with their complex relations with Qing rulers, who suspected them of rebellion. He reveals the intimate connection between monastic violence and the veneration of the violent divinities of Buddhism and analyzes the Shaolin association of martial discipline and the search for spiritual enlightenment. (from the publishers)
麟慶：鴻雪因緣圖記 hóngxuě yīnyuán tújì volume 3 of 6