The inheritance of Shaolin Kungfu is carried out strictly through transmission from the masters to the disciples. This relationship is the most fundamental demonstration of the patriarchal clan system traditional to Shaolin Temple. Such a system formed the grass-roots structure in ancient Chinese society and helped to build an extremely strong sense of social bonds. The Shaolin patriarchal clan system was established in the 13th century when Master Fuyu, leader of Caodong sect, led the temple. Master Fuyu built Shaolin Temple into a family temple dominated by the patriarchal clan system. The adoption of this system has a far-reaching impact on the temple and Shaolin Kungfu. At the peak of its historical influence, the temple ran 25 sub-temples with as many as 800-plus monks. In the 13th year of the reign of the Emperor Yongzheng during the Qing Dynasty (1735 A.D.), the imperial court carried out a major rectification of the patriarchal clans of the Shaolin Temple. At present, Shaolin Temple still has ten sub-temples with over 150 monks in total.
Master Fuyu set down the naming system for passing down Shaolin Kungfu for 70 generations. This list is as follows: Fu, Hui, Zhi, Zi, Jue, Liao, Ben, Yuan, Ke, Wu, Zhou, Hong, Pu, Guang, Zong, Dao, Qing, Tong, Xuan, Zu, Qing, Jing, Zhen, Ru, Hai, Zhan, Ji, Chun, Zhen, Su, De, Xing, Yong, Yan, Heng, Miao, Ti, Chang, Jian, Gu, Xin, Lang, Zhao, You, Shen, Xing, Ming, Jian, Chong, Zuo, Zhong, Zheng, Shan, Xi, Chan, Jin, Que, Yuan, Ji, Du, Xue, Ting, Wei, Dao, Shi, Yin, Ru, Gui, Xuan, and Lu.
The monks of the Shaolin Temple come from all over the world. The naming system, which is a "70-word verse" in Chinese, has made the Shaolin Temple into an extended family. All the monks of the Shaolin Temple are required to learn these 70 characters by heart. At present, the monks in the Shaolin Temple still follow the naming system of Master Fuyu of the 13th century. In nearly 800 years, there have already been more than 30 generations and the representative of the current generations have the characters of "Su", "De", "Xing", "Yong", "Yan" and "Heng" as the first character of their Dharma names.