Arts and Culture
Most of the discussions about Shaolin Temple’s image focus on its kungfu or the controversial commercialization, and the explanation of the image for the public from the temple is generalized. Here I am trying to answer two questions: what was the image of Shaolin Temple since early modern times? How was this image constructed in the history? By means of the Stele of the Integrated Image of Three Religions and Nine Schools with a Eulogy (Hunyuan sanjiao jiuliu tuzan bei 混元三教九流圖贊碑, 1565), I incorporate the image analysis, textual research, and the field investigation to conduct this case study. Through an analysis of the stele’s line drawingvisual expressions and cultural symbols of the Caodong zong genealogy and three types of space that was inside and outside it (namely the positional relationships shown in the line drawing, the stele’s spatial pattern in the temple, the Mount Song/Dengfeng region where this temple is located), this study reveals that the image of Shaolin Temple after the mid-Ming period was more about the inclusive culture rather than other aspects. The construction of the Shaolin Temple’s image not only included Hunyuan sanjiao jiuliu tuzan bei, which contains pictorial and material elements, but also involved the political and cultural factors from both internal and external. Also, it was inseparable from its local cultural ecology.