What’s In A Shaolin Warrior’s Refrigerator?

yellow-mt4-000451Shaolin Warriors alongside the majority of Chinese people see food as medicine and eat in accordance with traditional Chinese Medicine. Foods have Yin and Yang qualities and we alter what we eat in accordance with how our health is that day. For example, if we have a cold then we’ll make chicken soup with dried red plums,  Goji berries and ginger, an excellent tonic soup.

Inside the Shaolin Temple we eat vegetarian food but outside the temple, the fighting monks are allowed to eat meat if they feel their body needs it. Some people believe that all Buddhists are vegetarian but the historical Buddha was not a vegetarian. He begged for his food and accepted whatever was given to him. There is a strong philosophy of compassion in Buddhism which has led many Buddhists to become vegetarians. However in this article I’m not going to go into the ethics of being a vegetarian. I’m just going to give you an insight into a Shaolin Warrior’s daily diet.

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Natural Food   Shaolin Warrior’s focus on eating foods in their natural state. We don’t eat energy bars or cereal, we don’t drink coca cola,  protein shakes,  alcohol, or water with ice. We eat a diet which is rich in fruit, vegetables, and good quality protein. For carbohydrate we eat white rice, steamed buns or noodles. We drink water at room temperature, and lots of green tea. For snacks we eat nuts and fruits.

 Carbohydrate – The Difference Between East & West   Before I came to the West I’d never seen brown rice before. I, along with the majority of Chinese people don’t like the taste of it so it’s not something we eat. There seems to be a backlash against refined carbohydrates or even carbohydrates in general in the West. But anyone who trains hard needs to eat carbohydrates. ( I eat about three times the amount of carbohydrate the average person eats because I train so much.)White rice is a source of dietary fiber, which is important for a healthy digestive system, it contains vitamin B1 and is low in fat.


Daily Food  Our daily food is stir fried vegetables and protein with carbohydrate, the most common protein being lamb, chicken, pork or tofu (now that I’m in the West I eat turkey and Quorn which is a good source of lean protein).  Lamb is usually grass fed which is better than grain fed, it’s Yang and is good to eat if people are low in energy. We rarely eat beef. We eat protein with every meal because it helps us to sustain energy during our training.  For our evening meal we don’t eat any carbohydrate unless we’re going to train that evening.

IMG_4725Timing Is Important  In this picture, we’re having breakfast at the Shaolin Summer Camp. Shaolin Warriors believe that the time they eat is as important as what they eat. We eat our heaviest food at breakfast because we need this energy for training, a slightly lighter lunch then less food in the evening. Studies have shown that eating breakfast aids weight loss. Eating within an hour of exercise burns a little more fat and helps to promote leanness. Eating before exercise enhances performance and increases the amount of calories burnt.

Chinese food  – excluding Chinese food in Western restaurants which is usually not authentic Chinese – combines food in such a way that not only is it  packed with nutrition but it’s also an immune booster.

IMG_4732 5 Vegetable Immune Booster    A good example of this, and a dish to eat in the evening is  five vegetable stir fry with ginger. Take five vegetables, preferably five different colours, cut them thinly then stir fry them with ginger, garlic and chili. I suggest that one of your vegetables is red pepper which has a high vitamin C content,  and shitake mushroom which enhances immunity . Ginger aids digestion, chili contains capsicum which has anti-bacterial qualities and garlic is one of the most powerful healing foods that you can include in your daily diet to boost immunity. This simple dish not only tastes great but helps to prevent cancer, the common cold,  gives you your five a day, and cannot make you fat.

Although our diet is Chinese,  you don’t need to start eating Chinese food to change your diet to healthy, you just need to make sure that you’re eating fresh fruit and vegetables with good quality protein and carbohydrate. Food in its natural state has all the nutritional benefits you need.  Avoid processed food. Live simply and keep your diet simple. That way your mind and body will be in balance.

21 thoughts on “What’s In A Shaolin Warrior’s Refrigerator?

  1. How much is known about the yin and yang properties of western food? How do we eat more balanced in a medicinal manner similar to the Chinese mentioned at the start of the article?


    1. Amituofo , soy products, such as tofu and soybean sprouts.
      certain meats, such as crab and duck.
      fruit, such as watermelon and star fruit.
      vegetables, such as watercress, cucumbers, carrots, and cabbage.
      water. You can still get the same results yin yang balance in the states. Good food east or west you can find its counterpart if that makes sense. Your body will tell you what it needs once you learn to read it. Shi de Yang has some good instructional videos also. Example say I have the flue I’ll take a chicken stuff it with rice, Ginseng, dates fill half way with water and steam. Add some steamed buns with slivered red. green and yellow peppers raw.You don’t have to have buk choy you can use chard or choy sum. The best bet though in the west is ma pa Asian markets most of the time they will help you understand. Medicine being food has been going on in Korea , China and Japan for a very long time. So its ingrained and passed down from generation to generation. Also if you want to understand it more the Taijitu. There are now Shaolin Temple camps in the west Chan City Mo.


  2. Dear Shifu,
    This double, contradicting, message about vegetarianism is rather puzzling.

    If something is harmful to others or otherwise ethically problematic, then one makes his *greatest* efforts to avoid it; If something is permitted – then it obviously isn’t perceived as basically wrong.

    In a world where world class athletes are vegetarian or vegan – it is hard to make the case for any “need for meat” that justly tramples an ethical principle (and as you must have guessed, I am one).

    The original Buddha may have begged for his food, and hence consumed what was given to him, but what does it mean should the arguably compassionate buddhist, who BUYS his food – do?

    When one buys his food, he perpetuates further production of the type of food he consumes, so one is either complicit in the production of soy, lentils, and rice – or in the violent “production” of meat.

    I see this and I am saddened: is the buddhist philosophy serious in practicing the compassion it claims for – or not..?


    1. They eat meat and do not follow vegetarianism because they are not real monks. There are no more real Shaolin monks, since the communist government dismantled the religious part of the temple and turned it into a tourism and media company. Traditionally it was the lay-monks who protected the temple, these had given no vows and therefore could eat whatever they wanted. Monks are forbidden to eat meat.


      1. I feel so sorry for Tibetan monks.Pretty sad to get arrested just for having a photo of the dalia lama.Monks being imprisoned and tortured. I think if china switch to a society based on master kong and buddhism there would be more harmony. You are right about what has become of the big city temples. Seeing a lady in a bikini hanging off the buddha taking photos. Maoism is wrong about religion being a drug of the masses. The 4 noble truths and 8 fold path have made a drastic change in my life. Also morning sutras are great for centering oneself for the day.. The good thing is shaolin now have two temples in the usa that are free from oppression.


    2. Was the Buddha a vegetarian?

      Dr. Tony Page writes in his 2000 book, Buddhism and Animals:

      “From the age of thirty-five, when Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha (the “Awakened One” or the “Enlightened One”) until his death at the age of eighty, this remarkable spiritual Master travelled extensively throughout his native India preaching to all who would listen.

      “Unlike the social establishment around him, he paid no heed to divisions of caste, class, sex or race.

      “Like another Saviour who was to come five hundred years later, he would sit with criminals and prostitutes, the rich and the poor – anyone who had an ear for his Gospel.”


      Although it is an agnostic moral philosophy (i.e., no recognition of a personal God) a few centuries older than Christianity, Buddhism teaches a consistent ethic of reverence for all life. No wars have ever been waged in the name of Buddhism. Similarly, the act of abortion is explicitly condemned in the Buddhist canonical scriptures. Sir Edwin Arnold’s poetic biography on Siddhartha Gautama, The Light of Asia, caused quite a controversy in Victorian England: centuries before Jesus, an earlier teacher lived “the Christ life.”

      The ethical teachings of the Buddha are quite similar to those found in the Gospel of Jesus: One must never be proud nor harbor anger against anyone. He who humbles himself shall be exalted, while the one who exalts himself shall be degraded. Harsh language must never be used against anyone.

      Avoid lust, anger and greed. One should not scrutinize the mote in a neighbor’s eye without first noticing the beam in one’s own. One must “turn the other cheek” if attacked or abused. One’s own possessions must be shared with the less fortunate. If a man obtained the whole world and its riches, he still would not be satisfied, nor would this save him.

      In 261 BC, the Indian emperor Ashoka witnessed firsthand the innumerable casualties he caused during one of his many military campaigns. His heart was filled with grief. He converted to Buddhism. 19th century scholar and writer H.G. Wells considered Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism one of the most significant events in world history.

      Ashoka, formerly a bloody and ruthless emperor, became a remarkably kind and gentle leader. Ashoka established some of the first animal rights laws. He stopped the royal hunt, stopped the sacrifice of animals in his capital city, stopped the killing of animals for food in the royal kitchens, and gave up the eating of meat.

      Why would Ashoka have given up eating meat if vegetarianism were not part of the Buddha’s original teachings?!

      Ashoka made it illegal to kill many species of animals, such as parrots, ducks, geese, bats, turtles, squirrels, monkeys and rhinos. He forbade the killing of pregnant animals, or animals that were nursing their young. He declared certain days to be “non-killing days,” on which fish could not be caught, nor any other animals killed. He established wells and watering holes, places of rest and hospitals for humans and animals alike.

      Ashoka educated his people to have compassion for animals, and to refrain from killing or harming them. He sent missionaries to all the neighboring kingdoms to teach mercy, compassion and nonviolence. Through Ashoka’s patronage, Buddhism was spread all over the Indian subcontinent. Buddhism would eventually reach the rest of Asia; today there are an estimated 300 to 600 million Buddhists worldwide.


      The first precept of Buddhism is: “Do not kill, but rather preserve and cherish all life.”

      There is an ancient poem, reputed to be the only text ever written by the Buddha himself, which states:

      “Let creatures all, all things that live, all beings of whatever kind, see nothing that will bode them ill. May naught of evil come to them.”

      The Buddhist emperor Ashoka (268-223 BC) declared in one of his famous Pillar Edicts:

      “I have enforced the law against killing certain animals… The greatest progress of Righteousness among men comes from the exhortation in favor of non-injury to life and abstention from killing living beings.”

      The Dalai Lama has said, “I do not see any reason why animals should be slaughtered to serve as human diet when there are so many substitutes. After all, man can live without meat.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. its not what goes into your mouth that defiles you, but what comes out of your mouth. Humans would not have survived the rugged ice ages etc if it were not for meat and animals. Go and try and eat wild carrot and broccoli, you cant because it does not grow wild in nature, its been domesticated and has become weak and needs constant attention to grow right, or else bugs etc destroy the domesticated plants.


      2. The dalai lama is not thinking, how is Eskimo or desert dwelling cultures meant to survive on just veg in these climate plants especially domesticated plants will not grow. Not all animals are sent to slaughter houses, many people still respectively kill there own, while farmer plough fields and sprays chemical fertilizers killing thousands of bugs.


      3. The Dali Lama may have said that but he does in fact eat meat apparently because of contracting hepatitis and gall bladder disease. Being a vegan and ex-medical professional myself I do not see how these diseases affect ones ability to be vegetarian or vegan but there it is.


    3. You should do some research into what actually goes into the production of fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. The waste and effect on the environment rivals or surpasses the animal industry. It’s not as black and white as the idealistic propaganda would have you believe. Ultimately it is just another scheme to divide people and get a group to think they are superior and making a superior choice of lifestyle. It’s absurd. Plants live as well, who are we to decide which forms of life are okay to harvest and which are not? At least my meat has a chance to get away (however slim), those poor carrots are at our mercy.

      Vegetarians tend to project their own feelings onto animals, this is irrational. You have a right to believe what you will, right or wrong, but judging and pushing those beliefs on others through guilt and shaming language puts you in a far worse camp. There are bigger fish to fry then what’s on our dinner plates.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Firstly, plants do not have a central nervous system so do not feel pain. Secondly, most of the plants, and in particular soya, which is grown is for animal feed! Therefore, we can better protect the environment by eating more plant-based foods directly ourselves instead of it going through a middle source such as animals. Take a look at earthling Ed’s talks on this subject I think you will find it quite enlightening.


  3. Monks are not forbidden to eat meat. They may do what they feel is the right thing to do. They very often do not eat meat, because that is an ethically humane thing to do.


  4. Rose Evans writes in her 1984 book, Friends of All Creatures, aimed at grade-school children:

    “In 502 AD a Chinese prince named Hsaio-Yen became the first emperor of the Liang Dynasty. His name as emperor was Wu-Ti. In his youth, he was a Taoist, a follower of the contemplative and nonviolent religion founded by Lao Tzu. Impressed by Chinese Buddhist monks, he converted to Buddhism. In 511, he stopped the use of meat in the palace kitchens.

    “In 517 he forbade the use of animals in religious sacrifices. He commanded that people should make vegetarian offerings–fruits and vegetables–in place of animals, or make sacrificial animals out of dough.

    “The emperor sometimes wore a Buddhist monk’s robe and performed menial work in a temple for a few days. He was compassionate towards criminals, and disliked punishing or executing people.

    “The emperor Yuan, also of the Liang Dynasty, began ruling in 552. He was also impressed by Buddhist teachings. He especially believed it was a moral duty to help and rescue living beings. He built a pavilion with a fresh water pond in it. This pond is the first of its kind in recorded history of the famous ‘fang-sheng chih’ (‘ponds for releasing life’). They were usually built by devout Buddhists.

    “People brought shrimp, fish, turtles and other small water animals from the food merchants, saved them from being killed and eaten, and released them in the ponds. The practice of building these ponds and releasing living creatures in them became popular in China. Emperor Su-tsung of the T’ang Dynasty ordered the building of eighty-one such ponds.”

    Contemporary Hindu spiritual masters like A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada have taught us that if one wishes to eat cow’s flesh (or the flesh of any other animal for that matter), one should wait until the animal dies of natural causes, rather than take the life of a fellow creature.

    And the eating of carrion or animals which died of natural causes is forbidden in Jewish and Islamic dietary laws. Animals that died of natural causes can’t be offered to Krishna, either. This indicates that we are vegetarian first and foremost out of nonviolence toward and compassion for animals — the moral wrong of taking the life of a fellow creature — rather than because we follow “dietary laws.”

    Avoidance of onions and garlic is not limited to Hindus in India following an Ayurvedic diet; there is a tradition of avoiding these foods in China, antedating the arrival of Buddhism. The ‘Enjoy’ Vegetarian Restaurant chain in San Francisco, CA is run by Chinese Buddhists, and they do not serve onions or garlic in any of their preparations. However, they do serve mushrooms!

    In Theravada Buddhist countries (Burma, Ceylon, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Tibet, Malaya), although the monks are forbidden to kill animals, they beg for food and are expected to eat whatever is offered them. Contrasting the Mahayana Buddhist countries (e.g., China) with the Theravada, in A Vegetarian Sourcebook, author Keith Akers writes:

    “In the Mahayana countries, the custom regarding monks is completely different, reflecting a different attitude towards meat consumption. The Mahayana Buddhist monks do not beg for food at all; they prepare their own food, which is either bought, grown, or collected as rent. The Mahayana monks in China were strictly vegetarian in ancient times and remain so today.

    “Dietary abstinence from meat was an ancient Chinese tradition that antedated the arrival of Buddhism. In China, all animal foods, onions, and alcohol were either forbidden or customarily avoided. Animal products were avoided in dress as they were in diet. There was a prohibition on the use of silk or leather (not observed in Theravada countries).

    “Not only are the Mahayana Buddhist monks vegetarian, but so are many Buddhist lay people in China. Lay people usually receive a lay ordination, in which they must take from one to five vows. Almost everyone takes the first vow, which is not to take the life of any sentient creature.”


  5. Warrior Monks denotes protection, protection of what ?

    protection of the body of “THE TEACHING” DHARMA.

    If not protecting The Teaching then they will be hijacked into protecting the body of ignorance or ADHARMA. which could be analagised by an emperor who is only interested in his own power so would like the masses to be ignorant of “the teaching” so as to be able to wield his own power, or another analogy is the body of the slaughter industry.

    So the Shaolin Temples were attacked by such emperors or the slaughter industry

    and now they are inadvertantly protecting the slaughter industry ADHARMA instead of DHARMA.

    A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada warns us that THE TONGUE IS OUR GREATEST ENEMY

    The emperor of Adharma has weapons and they include meat eating when not needed. (eg eskimoes have to eat fish due to their environment) and onions and garlic which are poison and are counted as being as bad as eating beef.


  6. If you search internet for shaolin diet you will get lots of conflicting info…no meat no eggs no dairy….yes dairy no eggs….yes meat sometimes…no onion garlic spice…yes as the recipe above.


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