The Shaolin Temple is located in the Henan province of China. When the Shaolin temple first established, it did not have any elements of martial arts until Bodhidharma (Toma) appeared. The Order of Shaolin Ch'an derived from Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism which was primarily the study of nature and humanity's purpose of existence in our world. The Shaolin Order took about nine years to establish, but even then it still wasn't respected.
Martial art is just a small element of Shaolin. Shaolin is actually way to life; Zen Buddhism is the main element. The Shaolin way to life was assumed to be created in 6th century B.C. by Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism.
Shaolin temples are the most famous temples in China for many reasons. One reason is because there were only five main temples during the order of Shaolin, which are usually the temples, shown in the kung fu movies. Another reason is that they were the only active temples during the Boxer Revolution. The five temples: Henan, Fukien, Kwangtung, Wutang, and O Mei Shan all played a major role in establishing Shaolin and holding it strong. Shaolin temples have three caste systems. First, it's the students who clean the temple, wash the clothes, and make dinner while proving that they were worthy of learning the way of life and mastering it. Next, it is the disciples who proved that they were worthy of getting a higher level of teaching of the way of Shaolin. Last are the masters who teach the students and disciples. They know every aspect of Shaolin life, history, and martial arts.
Through trials and tribulations, the religion and way to life is still being practiced today. "All know the way, but few actually walk it" (Bodhidharma). Bodhidharma created Zen Buddhism to teach people to be better, and for many people it worked.
"History of Shaolin temples." Gung Fu institute. 24 Jul 2007. <http://www.shaolin.com/shaolin_history.aspx>.
Ophir, Eyal. The Legend. Shaolin Chuan Kung Fu. 24 Jul 2007. <http://www.taifushin.com/shaolin/legend.html>.
Wissler, Shihan. "A Historical Perspective of Daruma (Bodhidharma, Ta Mo)." The Recognized Martial Arts System of Aibudo. 24 Jul 2007. <http://www.aibudo.com/history/daruma/daruma.html>.
"Zen Master Boddhidharma Quotes." 24 Jul 2007. <http://www.thinkarete.com/quotes/by_teacher/zen_master_boddhidharma/>.