worldwide as the cradle of Chinese martial arts, Shaolin Monastery is
80 kilometers southeast of Luoyang at the western edge of Songshan, the
central of China's four sacred Taoist peaks. It can be reached in 3 hours
on a country road through farming villages. The fame has brought change
and it is far from a remote and romantic retreat where the wisdom of the
ages is passed from master to novice. It is now a major tourist area,
as well as a place of pilgrimage for monks and lay Buddhists. A training
hall has been built next to the monastery for the many foreign enthusiasts
that come to study. The founder of the monastery was the Indian monk Bodhidharma,
where he reportedly sat facing the back wall of a cave and meditated for
nine years. His silhouette is said to have been imprinted on the rock.
Imperial sanctions ensured the growth of Shaolin's reputation as a martial
It still houses 70 monks to this day. One of its greatest treasures are
the 18 art frescoes, painted in 1828, depicting ancient monks in classic
fighting poses that today's novices attempt to emulate. In Thousand Buddha
Hall, depressions in the stone floor of this main hall of the temple serve
as reminders of the tough combat exercises performed by the monks. Southwest
of the monastery is Stupa Forest and its 230 monuments and burial mounds,
the oldest of which dates from the Tang Dynasty.
Shaolin Monastery, in the Songshan Range near Luoyang, is the home of
most Asian martial arts. Be it Kung fu or karate, taekwondo or judo, they
all originated in ancient China as fighting techniques of one individual
against another. The bald-headed Shaolin monks, well known for their inimitable
Shaolin boxing, recognized the signs of the time a few years back and
made the monastery a commercial affair.
The monk that founded the Shaolin monastery climbed to the heights of
Songshan in 527. He realized that many Buddhist monks were unable to keep
up demanding meditation exercise in complete quiet and concentration.
Based upon observations of the movements of animals, the monk is said
to have developed an excise that he described as a method of physical
training, and this in turn became the origin of Shaolin boxing. This type
of boxing must surely be one of the most sophisticated Asian martial arts.
Ticket: 20 yuan (US$2.4)
Transportation: Special tour bus to Shaolin Temple is available at Luorang
railway station. It will take 2 hours' driving with ticket pricing 20