On July 21st 1553, 120 Buddhist temple monks met an approximately equal number of “Japanese pirates” in battle.
The so-called Japanese pirates, wakou or woku, were actually a confederation of Japanese, Chinese, and even some Portuguese citizens who banded together. (The pejorative term wakou literally means “dwarf pirates.”)
They raided China during the Ming Dynasty for silks and metal goods, which could be sold in Japan for up to ten times their value in China.
By 1550, the Shaolin Temple had been in existence for approximately 1,000 years. The resident monks were famous throughout Ming China for their specialised and highly effective form of kung fu (gong fu).
Thus, when ordinary Chinese imperial army and navy troops proved unable to eliminate the pirate menace, Nanjing’s Vice-Commissioner-in-Chief, Wan Biao, decided to deploy monastic fighters. He called upon the warrior-monks of three temples: Wutaishan in Shanxi Province
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