The Shaolin Temple is considered as the origin of Zen Buddhism and all kinds of martial
The Shaolin Temple lies at the foot of the Songshan mountain, one of the five holy
mountains of China. During its 1500 years old history, the Shaolin temple was often attacked
by plunderers. It was burned down several times. Today the Shaolin temple is partially
restored. At its prime time over 2500 fighting monks lived and trained in the Shaolin temple.
Nowadays only around 50 fighting monks exercise Shaolin Kung Fu in the Shaolin temple.
This is the theory but now we look at the Shaolin temple more closly:
Each martial arts fan will begin dreaming at first sight. A beautiful old red coloured
temple with green deviations welcomes each visitor and the broad stone stairs say "Come
Above the entrance is a sign in Chinese characters. You can read Si Lin Shao (But you must
read it from right to left, therefore it is called Shao Lin Si!). The board with the golden
inscription was already written in the Quing dynasty by emperor Kangxi (1662-17721).
The first impression is deceptive if you see hundreds of busses dropping crowds of
tourists. On the left side of the Shaolin temple was built an own large parking lot for
tourist busses, however this is constantly occupied, so that many busses have to go to the
approx. 200 m far large parking lot in front of the pagoda forrest - Shao Lin Ta Lin -. Over
1 1/2 million (!!!) tourists visit the Shaolin temple each year. So the two lions, which
guard the temple on the left and on the right side have a lot of work.
On holidays it is very extrem and the tourist leaders with their megaphones compete for
the loudest voice. On the way to the entrance various Chinese photographers press you to take
and buy some Polaroid photos. Costs are round about 10 Yuan.
As a foreigner you are a special
attraction. No Chinese is interested in the Shaolin temple any more and an enormous amount of
Chinese will surround you, stroke your skin and hair and require a common photo. The whole
family (and sometimes it is quite numerous), would like to take photos with you and in any
possible combination of the family members. Sometimes it can take more than half an hour or
If you pass the salesman of stamps - he engraves your name in Chinese characters in a
stamp - you reach your goal: Shaolin temple.
You walk through a large gate which is also called the Mountain gate.
On the left and right side you can regard numerous stone tablets. The characters of these
stone tablets were written down by famous calligraphers of the Tang and Song dynasty, e.g. of
emperor Taizong (627-649) of the Tang dynasty. Many of the stone tablets were characterized
by wind and influences of weather.
Furtheron a door leads to an auxiliary building of the Shaolin temple where you can admire
statues, which represent all kinds and poses of Shaolin Kung Fu training. Over 100 statues,
which were manufactured only of wood, can be astonished by the interested visitor.
Since short time Shaolin Kung Fu demonstrations take place on a provisionally stage. Of
course you have to pay ADDITIONALLY!
On the opposite side there is an entrance to the bamboo forest, where the monks train
There is also the Stelae corridor to visit. In this corridor there are over 50 stone
tablets exhibited, wich were built in the diverse dynasties since the north Qi dynasty
(550-577 a. Chr.). As a highlight there are stone tablets which were personally signed by the
emperor Li Shimin. All stone tablets represent singular fragments of the Chinese
calligraphics, drawing and the sculpture art.
If you follow the way till the end a centuries-old tree is noticeable, where various holes
are present. The Shaolin monks have beaten those holes with their bare fingers into the
You'll come to another gate, which is guarded by two giant guards, who are on the left and
At this large place there is a number of statues in different sizes, which look like a
The turtle is called Bixi, the 7. Son of the dragon. He loves it to carry heavy loads.
There are some enormous cast-iron containers, in which incense sticks are burned.
The Shaolin monastery consists of seven main buildings: The enormous entrance gate, Tian
Wang Hall, Daxiong Bao Hall, the Cangjing Pavilion, the Abbey, the Dharma Pavilion and Qianfo
In the Daxiong Hall are 3 enormous golden Buddha statues. The Buddha of the past stands
left, in the center is the Buddha of the present and on right handside is the Buddha of the
Photographing of the Buddhas is strictly forbidden! There are 18 smaller golden statues at
the left and right side, the arhats. In the Daxiong Hall the morning ceremonies of the monks
take place long time before the Shaolin temple opens its gates for the tourists.
The roof structures of each individual temple building are arranged splendourful and
represent the high Chinese architecture.
On the backside is a small altar. Special attention is directed toward a smaller golden
Right is a superior tower. It is the bell tower.
During ceremonies the sound of the enormous bell is to be heard far distant in the
This new stone shows the famous shaolin song from the movie shaolins. This movie from 1982
was the first step to publish shaolin temple and shaolin kung fu to the whole world.
In front of this monumental building 2 large stone templats are constructed. In these
stone templats are carved the names of the 13
Shaolin monks, who supported Shimin in the fight against Wang Shigong and helped him to
win this battle.
Beside the bell tower is a small building, which is called Kimnara Hall. In this hall you
can see 3 statues of prince Kimnara.
Next to the Kimnara hall there is a possibility of purchasing some souvenirs. There is
also a passage to a closed area, where tourists can watch Wushu demonstrations. There is an
restaurant too, which is led by the Shaolin monks. Because of the fact that the monks may not
eat meat, this is a vegetarian restaurant.
To the left hand of the Daxiong Hall you see a masterful piece of work of art, the dragon
wall. 9 dragons are represented on a 15m long stone mosaic. There is also the Six Saints
Hall, a small pavilion, where 5 Jade statues are shown from Bodhisattvas.
The Cangjing Pavilion, also called Dharmo Hall, is one of the most important buildings
because the old pssed on buddhistic Sutras are kept here, the basics of the buddhistic
religion. The monks meet there to pray. There is no permission for tourists. The government
provided several million Yuan for the restoration of this pavilion. Inside the Cangjing
Pavilion is a large lying buddha statue of jade.
At the left side of the Cangjing pavilion (behind the dragon wall) a narrow passage leads
to the living rooms of the monks.
The area of each Shaolin monk is extremely small and small equipped. This is the theory
and it is almost correct, but there are some exceptions. Nowadays it is no rarity of seeing a
monk with Coca Cola, a mobile phone and a motorcycle. Some of the monks possess their own
Kung Fu school and they operate more as a manager than a monk. Thus they usually earn a lot
of money with totally excessive prices for foreigners. Some of these monks already posses
their own houses and are married. Those, who still live in the Shaolin temple try to increase
their quality of life. Thus we entered areas, where brand-new Kettler training equipment was
located, which was payed with dollars, bought from a foreign country!
If you manage your way through the inside of the shaolin temple you'll approach a locked
iron door. Behind this door there is the living room of the abbot. There the current abbot -
Shi Yong Xin - does his daily business without being disturbed by the crowds of tourists or
A splendourful arranged lions guard the entrance.
Shi Yong Xin is currently the abbot of the famous Shaolin temple. Shi Yong Xin is not a
fighting monk but a praying monk and many chinese say that he is responsible for the
destruction of the Kung Fu schools settled around the Shaolin monastery.
During this ceremony the current abbot Shi Yong Xin gave the directors of the largest Kung
Fu school in China Mr. Liu Baoshan and Mr. Liu Haichao the permission for teaching officially
in the name of the Shaolin temple.
On the right hand side another highlight can be visited. In the Wenshu Hall the stone of
Dharmo is shown. The legend says that he had been gonen for 9 years into the songshan
mountains for meditating. The outlines of its body were burned by the sunrays into the stone.
However you must look very closely to be able to recognize these outlines.. (it took us
several months of looking!!!).
Now you will reach the main building of the Shaolin Temple, the Hall of Thousand Buddhas,
which is called in Chinese Qianfo hall. The stone stairs, which were made from only one big
stone, were allowed to be touched only by the emperor. All other persons had to use the
'normal' (comfortable) stairs.
At the inner walls many hand paintings with the 500 Luohans can be seen. This hall is one
of the oldest and holiest in the Shaolin Temple. There the Shaolin monks trained shaolin
wushu over centuries. Deep holes in the stone ground tells a story of very hard training.
A cultural relict of the Shaolin Temple is the painting in the Baiyi Hall which shows some
monks training wushu. This hall lies in the right rear corner of the Shaolin Temple.
Next to the Baiyhi Hall is a souvenir shop, in which multi-colored flashing plastic
buddhas can be purchased. On the opposite side weapons can be bought in a small shop .
There are still numerous other buildings.
After these numerous information of world famous shaolin temple, relax and enjoy this
fantastic 8 min video of shaolin
After these fantastic impressions and crowds of tourists you can buy some souvenirs in
small shops in the Shaolin Temple. The prices are much higher than on the road, however there
are some souvenirs recommended e.g. multi-colored shining buddhas (just joking!) or music
cassettes with buddhistic music (price 10 Yuan), which can be puchased only there.
Outside the walls of the Shaolin Temple an inconspicuous area lies on the left side where
all kinds of weapons are sold to super-relevated prices. It's worth only a short view,
because the offer is very small, the quality moderate and prices are too high.
These are the main attractions in the Shaolin Temple itself. There are still many other
buildings, pavilions, stone templates and many more....
Who is interested in visiting temples should go to the very beautiful taoistic temple
(Temple) in Dengfeng (approx. 20 minutes by bus from Shaolin).
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