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The Shawn Liu Incident: Soon to be published in IKF

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  • The Shawn Liu Incident: Soon to be published in IKF

    I got this in an email way back in December of 2002. I think we had talked about this in the old forum. But, since Inside Kung Fu has decided to publish this, I thought it would be interesting to bring it back to life. I thought it was pretty entertaining.

    Here's what was sent to me, from a friend, who got it from one of Shawn Liu's students.

    The Truth behind the Shaolin Incidents: The Conflict Between the "Shaolin
    Monks" and the Local Peasants and Residents

    December 2002

    Dear Friends;

    On August 1st, 2002, Master De Ru, Shawn Liu, a 31st generation Shaolin
    Master and disciple of the original Great Master Su Xi was attacked by
    hundreds of peasants in the village of Tagou as he was leaving his native
    village of Shaolin. There have been many questions, concerns and rumors
    concerning the incident and the following interview is a Q&A gathered from
    numerous email and telephone communications.

    Many of us are not aware of the currently appointed Abbot, Yong Xin, of the
    Shaolin Temple. Rather then appointing a traditional Monk, the Chinese
    government appointed Yong Xin to essentially convert the temple and its
    surrounding area into a tourist attraction. Since August 9, 2000, the
    government has been demolishing the region without making proper arrangements
    for the relocation of the Shaolin Scenic Park residents and surrounding
    villagers. Not only has this caused many residents to become homeless with
    nowhere to go to live but it has also destroyed many livelihoods, instilling
    desperation and extreme hostility towards the Shaolin Monks. While many of
    the original Monks, such as Master Liu, have tried to stop this destruction
    and help the villagers, the Villagers, who for over a thousand years has
    viewed the monks as their friends, instead, have, being unaware of what is
    going on, begun to associate the destruction with the Temple (because the new
    government installed abbot is the one leading the way).

    The intention of this Q&A is to bring clarity, insight and advice to
    fighters, travelers and mankind in general by addressing the root of the
    animosity and how Master Liu dealt with it under extreme circumstances.

    QUESTION: We have heard different stories about you being attacked by a mob
    of villagers at the Shaolin Temple. What actually happened?

    MASTER De Ru : Yes, I was attacked by hundreds of local peasants outside of
    the Shaolin Temple.

    I was walking at dusk by the Pai Fang (the gate separating the village of
    Tagou and the village of Shaolin), near the entrance to Shaolin Village,
    wondering why a crowd of several hundred people were blocking the road. I
    was videotaping, as I always do when I vist the temple, when suddenly a loud
    voice shouted, "He is Yong Xin's people!" Of course, I was not. I had lived
    in the temple as a monk for decades before Yong Xin, but the villagers did
    not look to see who I was, they just saw a monk from the temple and reacted.
    A few people grabbed my camera. I tried to explain that I was a real monk and
    disciple of the Great Master Su Xi's (still very respected among the
    villagers). I further tried to tell them that I was the head coach of the
    national Wushu-Sanshou team of America. But the mob was too angry to hear
    anything. They were not listening. All I could hear was "Beat him, Beat
    him to death!" Then they began to attack me from all directions, striking me
    in the face, head, and body, mostly from young peasant fighters out in front.
    At that point, I was faced with a choice, a choice that could be considered
    a classic test for a true Monk of the temple. I knew, even in that moment,
    they were not angry at me, but at the abbot and what was being done to the village. My choice was to respond with force. With literally
    hundreds of people coming at me, the only way for me to have responded would
    have been to severely hurt villagers. If I had responded and done
    significant injury to even but a few villagers, the rest would back off. But
    that was not an option for me. How could I, as a Monk, even when being
    attacked, do harm to people merely responding to a such a situation. I could
    not. These were good people and I could not hurt one of them. Furthermore,
    as a Monk, I could not feed into Villagers views about the what they thought
    the temple was doing by hurting them. I could only muster all of my energy
    to protect my body and attempt to withstand the attack. I do not believe
    someone without my training would have survived such an attack. I had to
    merely take, without responding, the force of hundreds flocking around me.
    Then, an elderly man who recognized me yelled at the crowd, "Don't! -- He's
    Su Xi's disciple!" But it was not the time for reason. They were losing
    their homes and livelihoods, with no notice or compensation. They begun to
    attack the old man as well. I covered the old man to protect him, as he
    wouldn't have survived the blows.

    QUESTION: Did you fight them at all?

    MASTER De Ru : No, as I said, I did not retaliate. If I was an ordinary
    civilian fighter, I might have fought a bloody path out of the crowd. It
    wouldn't have been easy, but it could have been done (with more injuries).
    But as a Shaolin 31st generation disciple of Great Master Su Xi and head
    Coach of the U.S. National Sanshou Team, I could not even think of it. First,
    with my training, the injuries I would have caused would have been
    significant, and I could not bear the thought of having hurt, or done worse,
    to these honest villagers. I represent the very essence of martial arts and
    the Shaolin Temple and therefore my actions carry greater consequences than
    the ordinary fighter. My responsibilities are much greater.

    I have fought hundreds of fights (sanctioned and un-sanctioned) over the past
    40 years, and I sustained more injuries in this one attack than in my entire
    fighting career, but I was willing and able to endure and tolerate the
    beatings from these peasants who were being wrongly treated and only, wish I
    could have done more to help relieve their suffering. If that meant perishing
    in this life in exchange for the sufferings of many, I would willingly have
    done it.

    During the highly charged time of the attack, emotions ruled, total hatred
    toward the new Abbot was palpable, and no words would be heard by the mob.

    Total chaos erupted. Rocks hit my head as I helped the elderly man. I had
    to get to a place where fewer people could attacked, so I pushed and dodged
    through the crowd, to retreat to a Wushu Studio Sword Factory back door where
    the road was narrower and fewer people could fit in.

    People fell behind as we backed into the factory yard. Still, the elderly man
    needed protection, leaving me more vulnerable, and repeated efforts to
    explain were met with more shouts of "Kill him!" Eventually, things calmed
    down as a few older villagers from the Shaolin Village recognized me and told
    the crowd who I was. One man from the village recognized me as his teacher.
    It was only then that everyone realized they had made a big mistake. When
    they stopped and realized who I was, I think they had a renewed respect; they
    realized I could have fought back and hurt them, but I did not. I therefore
    taught the villagers a greater lesson in not attacking then by attacking.
    While I was injured, I implored them to cease the violence because it would
    not accomplish anything, despite the injustice. "This is the only way we
    know," they replied in desperation. "We won't have a home to live in if we do
    not fight. We hate evil monks because our homes will be destroyed without
    compensation -- even if they promise compensation, there is no guarantee.
    Yong Xin is behind this." The people were, understandably, driven mad by

    I am content with my reaction to the attack, that is, in having not resisted,
    and I would do it again if necessary, to the extent that my bodily suffering
    can help the people and uphold the time-honored Shaolin tradition of
    non-violence. The practice of promoting benevolence to all sentient beings
    is the most important spiritual aspect of Shaolin, and the reason why the
    reputation of the Temple and its traditions have remained so strong for over
    1,500 years. Although it may seem ironic that I, as an undefeated fighting
    champion, and a Shaolin trained Monk who had lived in the temple much of my
    life, allowed myself to endure such a beating, the incident serves as an
    example of the self-discipline and self-control that martial artists seek.
    With great power comes great responsibility. The angry peasants, in this
    case, were merely resorting to the only recourse they believed they had,
    which was, unfortunately, violence.

    QUESTION: Shifu, I went to the Shaolin Temple with you. Everyone greeted you
    and talked to you. How could they make such a mistake?

    MASTER De Ru : The incident happed in Pai Fang, near theShaolin village, not
    in the Shaolin Village; this is close to a mile from the Temple. The
    majority of the crowd was Tagou Villagers and many small street
    Venders/merchants that had migrated there from other remote areas over the
    last 15 years. There were many young fighters, 20 years old or younger, who
    may not have known me. Although I lived at the temple much of my life since
    childhood, I have been in the US for 17 years now. While the older
    villagers, many who may have studied under me, would recognize me, many of
    the young villagers under 20,
    would not know me. Some of them explained that they saw me around the Temple
    at times, but didn't recognize me for who I was.

    QUESTION: Did they regret what they did to you?

    MASTER De Ru :

    "We do not hate all the Shaolin Monks but the evil ones. But how do we know
    who is good?" The peasants seemed confused, I continued to convey to them
    the message of non-violence.

    They apologized to me again and again for what they had done. A few came to
    shake my hand and some bowed to me saying "We are so sorry". They insisted on
    helping me to the hospital, but I needed to see my Shifu as I was worried he
    would try to come down to the village after hearing the reports that I was
    attacked and would be hurt as well.

    I arrived back at the temple and my Shifu was indeed worryied about me while
    surrounded by our many monk brothers. My Shifu, Great Master Su Xi, is
    respected and loved not for his abilities in self-defense, but rather for his
    tolerance, forgiveness, his benevolence and his love for people in spite of
    their ignorance against him during the cultural revolution. He is the last
    remaining original Monk (was in the temple pre-revolution) still living in
    the Shaolin Temple today.

    A woman in her eighties and others came the day after the attack to apologize
    to my teacher, Great Master Su Xi, as well as to me. They said the following:

    "We are all truly sorry for mistaking you for the wrong person. We never
    wished to hurt you. The village realizes you were a disciple of old monk Su
    Xi, who has always been so kind, benevolent and good to us. He is very
    respected here for teaching everyone martial arts."

    I told them I held no grudge against them, and that I hoped they could get
    resettled, after negotiations with the proper authorities, without being
    driven into homelessness.

    QUESTION: Do you think you would have gotten out of it if you had fought back?

    MASTER De Ru : To survive in the midst of an angry mob of hundreds wishing
    you dead is not an easy task for even a shaolin monk. I believe anyone else
    would not have survived such an attack. I took me time to recover in deep

    I must admit, in the midst of the rocks hitting me, there was a brief moment
    when I wanted to figh, but my heart and reason took over right away. I am
    happy with what I accomplished by taking no action. In essence, it is the
    best action I could have taken.

    I preserved my intergrity, but most importantly, I protected the Shaolin
    Temple's name. The most important thing in the spirit of Shaolin is to
    relieve people from suffering and spiritual death. My Shifu always told me
    "with great power comes greater responsibility to save lives, not to destroy."

    If I fought back, the consequences would have been dramatically different.
    The injuries and damage I could have caused to such a large number of people
    would have been great. But, I not only represented the US, as coach of the
    Team, but I also represented my Shifu, the Great Master, and the only " Old,
    Spiritual Monk" left at the Temple in China. I could not imagine a greater
    test for a Shaolin Monk. If I had done different, if I had fought back, I
    don't believe I would have walked away still a Monk; I could not have called
    myself that. I won the heart of the people without fighting. That is my
    greatest triumph.

    QUESTION: What is happening to the Shaolin Temple now?

    MASTER De Ru : The Shaolin Temple has suffered many hardships and
    persecutions over the past fifteen hundred years (since 495 A.D.), not the
    least of which were the war lord bombing, Cultural Revolution, the European
    and Japanese invasions, but it has survived each time. [Currently, the greed
    and exploitation of unchecked capitalism is the greatest threat, and the
    tourist dollar is widely believed to be a driving force behind the dramatic
    changes at the Temple over the last several years.]

    When the peasants attacked me, it immediately brought me back to the days
    when my Shifu was attacked by the local peasants and especially the Red
    Guards, during the Cultural Revolution. He was kicked down to the ground,
    hardly able to lift his head for a breath, much less walk. He was forced to
    kneel down on the ground and bow to people for hours with a sign that read,
    "the five evil kinds." He was bleeding, as I was during my attack.

    During the Cultural Revolution, I was afraid of being recognized as having
    any connection as a Monk's disciple because monks were regarded as "bad
    people," enemies of the country. I later used my Sanshou skills to fight for
    the country. And now, with the growing appreciation internationally for the
    Shaolin tradition, it is all the more tragic - but perhaps emblematic of the
    yin-yang principle -- that the Temple should suffer from its own success as
    the new Abbot and local government work to transform the town to promote

    QUESTION: What happened after the attack?

    MASTER De Ru : I spent two days of quick healing and one day and night of
    meditatio. Many of my Shaolin brothers came to take care of me and give me
    strength and power to deal with my injuries.

    This life and death situation has given me a new perspective on life, one
    that awakens my capacity to cherish, to live and to serve.

    The attacks I faced were a wake-up call insisting on our realization of a gro wing need for a basic understanding between people and cultures.

    QUESTION: How did you go about your healing process?

    MASTER De Ru : I spent at least 26 hours meditating, doing Qi Gong to
    recuperate from the injuries. I summoned all the conscious and subconscious
    systems into one awareness, starting with basic breathing techniques to calm
    my mind. In doing this I was able to bring all my cells into awareness and
    open my vessels in order to release the tension wherever there was tension.

    The basic deep and consciously regulated breathing brings the body and mind
    into one consciousness. Reprogramming the mind further regulates one's
    breathing, resulting in the delegation of responsibility to each of the
    body's systems improving the flow of oxygen to the bloodstream as well as the
    blood's circulation.

    The mind has the ability to inform the body's systems to repair itself and
    improve its functions to work more efficiently. It will also produce a
    natural chemical or healing agent also referred to as QI. It is the most
    efficient way for your body to heal.

    Your body can be the most effective factory to produce the most effective
    drug in the world. One just needs the recipe found within the genes. The
    information can be accessed at any time, but only after having ridden oneself
    of both social and cultural interference through deep breathing and quiet

    QUESTION: What advice can you give to young fighters and martial artists
    based on this incident?

    MASTER De Ru : Fighters need to learn how to heal themselves in the most
    efficient and effective manner. It is through meditation one learns the basic
    senses needed to survive. To be a good martial artist, you need not only know
    how to fight, but how to heal. That is the most important and highest level of all.

    To be a martial artist is to know how to be tolerant, how to discipline
    oneself and control oneself under the most extreme set of circumstances.

    A martial artist must always remember the basic martial arts ethics and
    principles, without them martial arts becomes nothing more than simple
    physical exercise. Respect, tolerance, integrity, discipline and control are
    the essence of the Shaolin Temple. Even risking your own life to save others.

    QUESTION: Is it safe to visit China?

    MASTER De Ru : For those who wish to visit China, I believe it is safe,
    especially Beijing, Shanghai and many big cities. Your best bet is to have a
    guide or tourist agency handle your agenda. They know where to go and how to
    make your travel more efficient and pleasant. The attack on me was because I
    was in my traditional Shaolin Monk uniform. Such an attack would not likely
    occur on tourists.
    Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

    "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

    (more comments in my User Profile)

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