Bodhidharma was the second Indian Buddhist monk to travel to Southern China. He was born to King Sugandha in the late 5th century. After Bodhidharma was born, he became a member of the warrior caste called Kshatriya. He grew up in a very religious atmosphere and later became a teacher.
According to traditions, he was said to have been the founder of Zen, or Ch'an Buddhism. Although there is little information on his biography, he is considered a legend. His arrival to China is a debatable subject. Some say that he traveled to China during the Song Dynasty, around 420-479 AD and another says he arrived during the Liang Dynasty, around 502-557 AD. However, it is concurred that his activity was most present in the lands of the Northern Wei Dynasty, around 386-534 AD. In the 6th century he had a meeting with Emperor Wu-Ti. The emperor started having local Buddhist monks translate text form Sanskrit to Chinese, thinking this was a chance for the public to practice the religion; he wanted to give way to nirvana. Bodhidharma did not agree with Wu-ti and believed that one should not take action to get benefits, but should act because it's the right thing to; therefore, he and Wu-Ti went their separate ways. Bodhidharma later traveled to a nearby temple named Shaolin to speak to the translating Buddhist monks. When he first arrived he was refused admittance, but he meditated until he proved that he was worthy. During his stay at the Temple, he noticed the monks there were weak from the long hours of meditation. Because the monks were weak and thin at the time when Bodhidharma arrived, he developed Shaolin Kung Fu to make them stronger and healthier. Therefore, he went to a nearby cave behind the temple where he meditated for nine years to find a way to strengthen them. There are many legends about Bodhidharma and his stay at the Temple and caves. One legend suggests that Bodhidharma developed Shaolin Kung Fu to help heal cramps from lengthy hours of meditation. Another says that he developed it to protect himself wild beasts that crept close by the cave. Some say that while he was meditating, he faced problems with sleep, so he cut off his eye lids with a knife. Another legend says that the sun burned his shadow onto the rock where he meditated because he sat there for many years that rock is currently displayed at the Shaolin Temple. When he returned to the Temple, he used Indian stretches such as yoga to strengthen the monks.
"Bodhidharma." Wikipedia. 27 Jul 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhidharma#Contemporary_accounts>.
Erling Hoh Zen and the art of combat: Shaolin temple, the birthplace of Zen Buddhism and kung fu, mixes meditating monks and bustling tourists :[National Edition]. National Post [serial online]. August 10, 2002:B4. Available from: ProQuest Information and Learning, Ann Arbor, Mi. Accessed July 27, 2007, Document ID: 244905411