Saturday, July 25, 2009

Shaolin Temple

This is my last post on my China trip. I actually saw a few other things that were fascinating like the "temple of the white horse" supposedly the first Buddhist temple in China and the Longmen Grottoes (which are amazing! Thousands of Buddha carvings). But I decided to just finish up with my trip to the Shaolin Temple since for me that was the highlight.

The Shaolin temple is situated in the Henan Providence in Dengfeng. For most westerners the Shaolin Temple is best known for its association with Kung Fu. And a lot of Kung Fu is what you get to see should you have the pleasure to visit. The with the temple associated Kung Fu school is of an impressive size. The dormitories equal those of a university. It looked to me like most students were in their early teens. Their training is hard core, they train pretty much all day no matter what. Did I mention it was 100 degrees out? Most of these students do not go on to become Shaolin Monks, most will join the military, law enforcement or will start their own martial arts school. When I asked one of the students if he wanted to become a monk, he just shook his head quickly saying it was far too difficult. Which would explain why there are only 300 Shaolin Monks practicing in the temple. For the monks the martial arts training is for spiritual goals but it comes with other practical benefits such as better physical condition and self-defense. Shaolin is the most well-known Ch'an (Zen) school that incorporates martial training into its meditative regimen. I got to see a performance by the Shaolin monks and it was INSANE. Honestly it was unreal, it felt like they were ghosts, they moved so quickly and it looked like they were weightless. The Pagoda Forest was the other thing I enjoyed experiencing. It's where all the established Buddhist masters were buried. I was quite humbled walking through the resting place of these great masters.

There is so much awesome history surrounding the Shaolin monks. I loved hearing some of the stories and it gave me a whole new appreciation for meditation, something I've been trying to incorporate more into my daily life..... but damn, these guys meditated for hours at a time. Anyway I could talk about the Shaolin for hours... I will leave it with some images. I don't have a lot of pictures from inside the temple since you weren't allowed to photograph inside the buildings.

This statue greets you as you enter the Shaolin property.

Entrance to the actual Shaolin Temple.

Here you can read the history of the Shaolin... well if you speak chinese then you could read the history.

The Pagoda Forest, this is where all prominent monks are buried. The more stories the tomb has the more established the monk was, 7 is the highest a monk can achieve.

Dharma Hall of the Shaolin Kung Fu School.

Students beginning their afternoon outdoor training sessions.

shaolin students training

I just remembered something amusing and rather odd. As I was watching the students train a chinese family came up to me. The father asked me if I would hold their little girl (I'm guessing she was about 7 months old). I was at first totally confused. He then further exlained that he wanted to take a picture of me holding his baby!!! I was like WHAT? But then was kinda flattered and so I held this strangers baby while he and his wife took pictures (grandparents were simling in the background). Judging from the babies look, she was just as confused as I was. I wonder where that picture will end up. I'm still not totally sure why they wanted to do that LOL.

Actually, this was a different Kung Fu school. If you walk around that area you will see Kung Fu everywhere and no I'm not exaggerating. Besides the Shaolin school there are about 50 Kung Fu schools in that same area.

Shaolin monk meditating.

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