Shaolin Temple (1982 film)

The Shaolin Temple (Chinese: 少林寺) is a 1982 ChineseHong Kong martial arts film directed by Chang Hsin Yen and starring Jet Li in his debut role (credited as Jet Lee in the film) along with Ding Lan and Yu Hai in supporting roles. The film is based on the Shaolin Monastery in China and depicts Shaolin Kung Fu.[1] The film was among the first major co-productions between Hong Kong and mainland China, and the first to be filmed in mainland China with a mostly mainland cast.[2] The film has a generally episodic storytelling structure, and is an action-comedy film in the first half.[3]

The Shaolin Temple
Shaolin Temple 1982.jpg
CantoneseSiu3 Lam4 Zi2
Directed byChang Hsin Yen
Written byShih Hou
Lu Shau Chang
Produced byLiu Yet Yuen
StarringJet Li
Ding Lan
Yu Hai
CinematographyLau Fung-lam
Chau Pak-ling
Edited byWong Ting
Ku Chi-wai
Li Yuk-wai
Chang Hsin-yen
Chung Yuen Motion Picture Company
Release date
  • 21 January 1982 (1982-01-21)
Running time
95 minutes
CountriesHong Kong
Box officeUS$106 million (est.)

It was the first martial arts film to be made in mainland China; up until then, kung fu films were made in Hong Kong. It was also the first film to be shot at the Shaolin Monastery.[4] It is estimated to have sold over 300 million tickets at the Chinese box office,[5] and is considered one of China's highest-grossing films ever when adjusted for inflation.[6][7] The film's success established Jet Li as the first Mainland Chinese star of Hong Kong, and later Hollywood.[1] It was also largely responsible for turning the Shaolin Monastery into a major tourist destination, both within China and internationally.[4] A remake of the film was released in 2011 titled Shaolin and starred Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse and Jackie Chan.[8]


The film is set in Medieval China during the transition period between the Sui Dynasty (581–618) and the Tang Dynasty (618–907). It opens with various shots of the Shaolin Temple, including the wall paintings, the many beautiful trees, gardens, shrines, gates, and statues of Buddha and the Gods. The temple bells toll as the monks kneel in the pillared inner sanctum and bow before the great altar of the Golden Buddha, before which sits the Abbot of Shaolin. A shaven-headed, blue-robed novice (Jet Li) stands with his palms pressed together and his head bowed. He is about to be accepted into the Shaolin Temple. The Abbot speaks to him of ceremony, purification, and learning to respect one's self and others. Then the Abbot asks for his name. "Jue Yuan", he answers. The Abbot tells him that to be accepted into the Shaolin Temple, he must vow to not commit murder. He asks if he can obey this, but Jue Yuan is silent, staring downward. The Abbot repeats the question, and Jue Yuan slowly raises his eyes, gazing intensely at him. The Abbot asks the question a third time...

The film flashes back to the warlord and deadly fighter Wang Shichong killing an old man with a throat lock and throwing him off a high brick wall into a muddy river, then abusively ordering the rest of his slaves back to work. They're at a labor camp by the great river, toiling in the mud among corpses that hang from gallows as the soldiers whip them. It is during the rebellions at the end of the Sui Dynasty, when China became divided between various factions. Wang Shichong, who ruled from Luoyang, has treacherously installed himself as Emperor of the East Capitol, and is overseeing the bolstering of his riverfront defenses against the rival warlords on the opposite bank. They are near the Shaolin Temple. He forces even the old, crippled, and sick to work, but still the work isn't progressing fast enough for him. He orders an officer to bring all his prisoners, who are opposing rebels, to join the slaves.

These rebels include an older kung fu master, famous for his kicking skill, and his long-haired son, Jue Yuan. The soldiers whip the slaves, and one old slave collapses and drops a wooden beam, which causes an officer's horse to rear and throw the officer. The officer begins to beat the slave to death, but Jue Yuan's father attacks him, though his ankles and wrists are chained together. The officer proves to be a kung fu fighter, and they fight, but Jue Yuan's father still manages to defeat him. This draws the attention of the Emperor, who attacks Jue Yuan's father himself and rips his throat out with his bare hand. Jue Yuan rushes in and unleashes the kicking skills that his father taught him, scattering the guards and fighting the officers, but then the Emperor beats him up and deals him a deadly Dim Mak palm strike to the chest. Jue Yuan is thrown into the river, and he manages to swim away and escape. He staggers through the wild, dying of his wounds, but finally he manages to reach the Shaolin Temple. The Sifu (Yu Hai) is teaching the monks staff kung fu when Jue Yuan arrives and falls unconscious.

Throngs of refugees from the war-torn countryside are flocking to the Shaolin Temple every day. The Abbot proclaims that it is their holy duty as Buddhist monks to pray for the refugees and do all they can to help them. They nurse Jue Yuan back to health. When he has recovered, he joins them in carrying water from the river to the Temple, which they use as kung fu conditioning. He struggles, but is helped by a beautiful girl named Bai Wu Xia (Ding Lan), who sings and herds rams in the beautiful wildlife-filled forested hills that surround the Shaolin Temple.

Jue Yuan spies on the monks' kung fu training and gets himself into various other comedic misadventures around the Shaolin Temple, befriending the light-hearted, fun-loving, mischievous Sifu and his equally mischievous kung fu students in the process. One night they all sneak out to eat and party around a fire in the woods. There he learns more about the Sifu and his former family in the North.

He learns that the Sifu is Bai Wu Xia's father, that she was one of the main ones who nursed him back to health, and that she is skilled at kung fu. The Sifu says that nine years ago, he and his wife were being chased by the Emperor and his soldiers, and he left his wife with a farmer to hide while he fled on, eventually hiding in the Shaolin Temple. The farmer, who had no children, spoiled Bai Wu Xia when she was young.

Jue Yuan declares that he will kill the Emperor, and he asks the Sifu to train him in his Northern Shaolin kung fu. The Sifu tells him that Shaolin kung fu is for defense, not killing, and besides, Jue Yuan isn't a monk. Jue Yuan drops to his knees, presses his palms together, and says that he wants to become a monk.

Jue Yuan's head is shaven, and he bows before the Abbot of Shaolin on the great altar of the golden Buddha. The assembled monks sing mystic hymns, ring bells, and strike gongs. A mosquito bites Jue Yuan as he kneels there, and he kills it, but the Abbot blesses and accepts him, and he is ordained as a junior monk.

Jue Yuan joins his fellow monks in Northern Shaolin kung fu training. After a time of at least several months he has gained impressive fighting abilities, but while sparring, his enemy flashes with the visage of the Emperor in his mind, and he almost kills his partner. He is banned from practicing kung fu. His emotions flare quickly out of control, and he runs away from the Shaolin Temple.

Jue Yuan attempts to assassinate the Emperor, but fails and is forced to flee. Ashamed, he returns to the Shaolin Temple. His Sifu admonishes him, but welcomes him home and allows him to resume his Northern Shaolin kung fu training. Jue Yuan trains for at least another year, as seen in a 'four seasons' training sequence, and becomes highly adept at Northern Shaolin kung fu.

Then another refugee comes fleeing to Shaolin, this one pursued by the Emperor and his men. This refugee is Li Shimin, son of a great leader who founded the Tang Dynasty, Li Yuan.

The Shaolin monks keep peace with the Emperor and his men, and make a show of helping them hunt for Li Shimin. But Jue Yuan helps Li Shimin escape through the mountains, and Jue Yuan and Li Shimin end up hiding together in an abandoned ancient mountainous cave temple with many giant statues of Buddha and the Gods. Bai Wu Xia stealthily brings them food and water.

Li Shimin must escape, though, so Jue Yuan and Bai Wu Xia help him, sneaking and bribing their way past the Emperor's patrols in disguise. Throughout this time, a forbidden romance builds between Jue Yuan and Bai Wu Xia. But they fail in their clean escape, and Li Shimin and Bai Wu Xia flee on a raft down a river, Li Shimin with an arrow in his leg, while Jue Yuan sacrifices himself to slow down the Emperor's outriders. However, his Sifu from Shaolin and a group of Shaolin warrior monks come to his aid and massacre the outriders. They save Jue Yuan's life, but his Sifu excommunicates him from Shaolin for his acts and banishes him. He desperately follows them back to the Shaolin Temple anyway, but they throw him out and drive him away.

The Emperor learns what the Shaolin monks did, and marches on the Shaolin Temple with his army to destroy it.

Jue Yuan comes back yet again, and this time his Sifu sends him away along with Ba Wu Xia, to take her to safety and never return.

The Abbot of Shaolin orders the monks not to fight, even while the Emperor's army surrounds the Shaolin Temple. The Abbot pleads with the Emperor. He appeals that the Temple has a very long history, and a crime should not merit the destruction of the buildings, or any of the monks. As the Abbot, he accepts the blame. The Emperor has him placed on a great pyre, which is set aflame. He tells the monks that if they reveal the traitors' whereabouts, he'll spare the Temple and the Abbot's life. When no one talks, he has his men kill several of the other top monks, and threatens that if no one talks, they'll all be killed.

Then the Sifu and the warrior monks reveal themselves. The Sifu cries that they must fight. The Abbot, as he is immersed in fire, tells the Sifu to release the souls of the Emperor and his men and send them to Heaven. And so the battle is joined. Many monks are killed.

Jue Yuan and Ba Wu Xia return to the embattled Shaolin Temple. The Emperor's army takes the outer walls and outer grounds, and kills all the monks therein. The surviving monks fall back within the inner walls. The Sifu is shot full of arrows. He entreats Jue Yuan to protect Shaolin and uphold justice, and dies.

The Emperor and his men break open the inner gate with a battering ram, and they're about to massacre the rest of the monks, but then the Emperor receives word that Li Shimin and his army are approaching his own East Capital, and they abandon the siege of the Shaolin Temple and ride for the East Capital with all speed.

Jue Yuan and the warrior monks ride after the Emperor and his men and join the battle at the ravaged East Capital, at the very site where the Emperor killed Jue Yuan's father. Jue Yuan and the Emperor duel with swords and empty hands and feet on the shores of the great river. Their battle climbs up a great wooden structure, falls off the top into the river, and returns to the shore. Finally Jue Yuan uses his Northern Shaolin kung fu to kill the Emperor, and the battle for the East Capital is won.

The film returns to its beginning, with Jue Yuan in the sanctum of the Shaolin Temple, kneeling before the high altar, as the new Abbot asks him if he can obey the vow to do no murder. Jue Yuan vows that he shall not kill save to uphold righteousness, and the Abbot accepts this. Jue Yuan continues to swear his vows, but when he reaches the vow of celibacy, he is again conflicted. He opens his folded palms to look at a jade amulet.

He flashes back again. He and Bai Wu Xia kneel and bow before the shrine of the fallen previous Abbot, to whom they have offered many baskets of fruit and other foods. Jue Yuan speaks aloud to the Abbot of how he is determined to enter Buddha. Bai Wu Xia gazes at him with tears in her eyes, knowing what this means. Jue Yuan vows to defend Shaolin and uphold justice, quoting the last words of his fallen Sifu, Bai Wu Xia's father. Bai Wu Xia gives him the jade amulet, a token of her love, and departs.

Now, in the present, he looks up from the jade amulet to see Bai Wu Xia, who has sneaked into the side wing of the sanctum and is staring at him from behind a great pillar. He hesitates, then vows to remain celibate, and she leaves.

The great bell of Shaolin tolls, and the gongs and drums are beaten as Jue Yuan is ordained as a true monk of Shaolin.

The film's closing scene is of Jue Yuan, now the new kung fu Sifu of the Shaolin Temple, leading the monks in their training.


  • Jet Li as Jue Yuan
  • Ding Lan as Bai Wu Xia
  • Yu Hai as Sifu
  • Hu Jianqiang [ja] as Wu Kong
  • Jian-kui Sun as Se Kong
  • Liu Huailiang as Liao Kong
  • Wang Jue as Ban Kong
  • Du Chuanyang as Wei Kong
  • Cui Zhiqiang as Xuan Kong
  • Xun Feng as Dao Kong
  • Pan Hanguang as Zhi Cao
  • Fan Ping as Hui Neng
  • Jiang Hongbo as Hui Yin
  • Shan Qi Bo Tong as Hui Yang
  • Zhang Jianwen as Fang Zhang
  • Yang Dihua as Seng Zhi
  • Wang Guangkuan as Li Shimin
  • Yu Chenghui as Wang Renze (Wang Shichong's nephew)
  • Ji Chunhua as Tu Ying
  • Pan Qingfu as First General
  • Su Fei as Second General
  • Chen Guo'an as Third General
  • Bian Lichang as Fourth General
  • Wang Guoyi as Fifth General
  • Kong Fanyan as Sixth General
  • Sun Shengjun as Seventh General
  • Yan Dihua as Shaolin Senior Monk
  • Hung Yan-yan as Shaolin student


During production, Jet Li was reportedly paid only CN¥1 per day while filming.[4]

Box officeEdit

In China, it became the highest-grossing film of all time, grossing CN¥161,578,014[6] (US$85,355,528),[9] and estimated to have sold over 300 million tickets in the country.[5] In Hong Kong, the film sold 700,000 tickets,[4] and grossed HK$16,157,801[10] (US$2,661,911),[9] making it the fourth top-grossing film of 1982 in Hong Kong.[11] It became the highest-grossing film of all-time in Singapore with a gross of S$1.7 million.[12]

In Japan, it was the fourth top-grossing film of 1982, with a distribution rental income of ¥1.65 billion,[13] equivalent to estimated box office gross receipts of approximately ¥4.29 billion[14] (US$17.2 million).[9] In South Korea, the film sold 294,065 tickets in Seoul,[15] equivalent to an estimated gross revenue of approximately 882,195,000[16] (US$1,206,700).[17] This brings the film's total estimated box office gross revenue to approximately US$106,424,139 in East Asia.

Adjusted for ticket price inflation,[6][7] and at an average 2017 Chinese ticket price of CN¥34.5,[18] the film's over 300 million ticket sales in China would be equivalent to a gross revenue of over CN¥10 billion ($1.45 billion) in 2017.



The film was largely responsible for turning the Shaolin Monastery into a major tourist destination, both within China and internationally.[4] The movie's popularity swiftly encouraged filmmakers in China and Hong Kong to produce more Shaolin-based movies.[20]

The film spawned a revival of popularity in mainstream martial arts in China.[21] A 3D remake will be directed by Justin Lin and produced by Beijing Enlight Pictures.[22]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Kung Fu Swansong". Newsweek. 12 February 2006. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
  2. ^ Mannikker, Eleanor. "The Shaolin Temple". allMovie. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  3. ^ Lines, Craig (6 June 2018). "The Shaolin Temple Movies: The Series That Launched Jet Li's Career". Den of Geek. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e "How Jet Li turned the Shaolin Temple into a kung fu cash cow". South China Morning Post. 26 June 2019. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  5. ^ a b Pengfei, Liang (19 December 2018). "梁鹏飞:当年《少林寺》电影票房到底有没有1个亿?". Guancha (Observer) (in Chinese). Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  6. ^ a b c "1982《少林寺》票价1毛,票房1.6亿,相当于现在的多少钱". QQ News. Tencent. 15 October 2019. Retrieved 9 June 2020.
  7. ^ a b "34年前《少林寺》卖了1.6亿,它值现在多少钱?". Sohu. 22 August 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  8. ^ "Jackie Chan, Andy Lau to star in new Shaolin movie". China Daily. 22 October 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  9. ^ a b c "Official exchange rate (LCU per US$, period average)". World Bank. 1982. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  10. ^ "Shaolin Temple (1982)". Hong Kong Movie Database. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  11. ^ "ジェットリー興行成績一覧". KungFu Tube (in Japanese). 10 September 2010. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  12. ^ "'Shaolin Temple' Champ of Singapore's Box Office". Variety. 20 October 1982. p. 229.
  13. ^ "1982年(1月~12月)". Eiren (in Japanese). Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  14. ^ "Statistics of Film Industry in Japan". Eiren. Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. 1978. Retrieved 17 February 2019. 1982 (...) Box Office Gross Receipts (...) in millions of Yen (...) 169,522 (..) Distributor's Income (...) in millions of Yen (...) 65,268
  15. ^ "영화정보". KOFIC. Korean Film Council. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  16. ^ Park, Seung Hyun (2000). A Cultural Interpretation of Korean Cinema, 1988-1997. Indiana University. p. 119. Average Ticket Prices in Korea, 1974-1997 [...] * Source: Korea Cinema Yearbook (1997-1998) * Currency: won [...] Foreign [...] 1982 [...] 3,000
  17. ^ "Official exchange rate (KRW per US$, period average)". World Bank. 1982. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  18. ^ "UIS Statistics". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. UNESCO. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  19. ^ List of Nominees and Awardees of The 2nd Hong Kong Film Awards
  20. ^ Hax, Carolyn (9 September 2011). "Popular Shaolin films blend martial arts, Buddhist spirituality". The Washington Post. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  21. ^ Spence, Richard (9 October 2004). "Worldwide: Kung fu schools kick youth of China into action". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
  22. ^ Kevin Ma (15 January 2014). "Justin Lin to direct Shaolin Temple remake". Film Business Asia. Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2014.

External linksEdit