A Travel to Shaolin Temple

Written by Dec 19, 2007 19:18
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Shaolin Temple was established in 495 during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), in honor of an Indian monk called Bodhidharma (known to the Chinese as Da Mo), who is founder of the Mahayana sect of Buddhism or more popularly known as Chinese Chan (or Zen) Buddhism. Shaolin Temple is therefore regarded as the birthplace of Chinese Buddhism. The present Shaolin Temple is not only famous for its ancient Buddhist culture, but is more renowned at home and abroad because of its Sholin Martial Arts (Kung Fu).

After reaching the Sholin Temple, the first structure I saw is the enormous entrance gate. Hung on its top is a tablet reading 'Shaolin Temple', which was inscribed by the Emperor Kangxi (1622-1723) during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Under the stairs of the hall crouches two stone lions made in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Behind the gate is a corridor paved with inscriptions on stone steles made during several different dynasties

Tian Wang Hall (Hall of Heavenly Kings)
After entering the entrance gate of Shaolin Temple, you will see the Tian Wang Hall (Hall of Heavenly Kings). It is characterized by double eaves flanked behind by a Bell Tower (this tower holds a great bronze bell) and a Drum Tower (this tower holds an artistic drum). The hall gates are guarded by two colored clay figures of Vajras. Inside the hall are statues of the four Heavenly Kings, each standing divinely while holding his distinctive weapon.

Daxiong Bao Hall (Mahavira Hall)
Daxiong Bao Hall (Mahavira Hall) is the main hall of Shaolin Temple. The original was built in the Jin Dynasty but destroyed in 1928. The present structure was restored from the original in 1986. In the hall are the statues of the Trinity Buddha - Sakyamuni, Amitabha (Emitofo) and Bhaisajyaguru (Yaoshifo, God of Medicine). There are 18 smaller golden statues at the left and right side, the arhats. In the Daxiong Bao Hall the morning ceremonies of the monks take place long time before the Shaolin Temple opens its gates for the tourists.

Cangjing Pavillon (Sutras-keeping House)
The Cangjing Pavilion is one of the most important buildings in Shaolin Temple because the old Buddhist Sutras are kept here, the basics of the Buddhist religion. The monks meet there to pray. There is no permission for tourists.

Qianfo Hall (Thousand Buddhas Hall)
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 in the Ancient time. All other persons had to use the 'normal' stairs in two sides. At the inner walls many hand paintings with the 500 arhats can be seen. This hall is one of the oldest and holiest in the Shaolin Temple. There the Shaolin monks trained Shaolin Kung Fu over centuries. Each deep hole in the stone ground tells a story of very hard training.

Talin (Forest of Pagodas)
Lying to the west of the temple, the Forest of Pagodas is a must see for each visitor. The forest features 250 pagodas from different dynasties. The oldest one was from the Tang Dynasty. The pagodas are the tombs of the celebrated Shaolin monks. The sizes of these pagodas range from seven stories (14.6 meters) to just a meter in height. All are built in either stone or brick. The exquisite stone and brick carvings are of great value in the study of Chinese carving.

Dharma Cave
This is the place where Dharma patiently faced the wall and meditated for 9 years. In the end, he reached the immortal spiritual state and created the Buddhist Zen. The cave is seven meters deep (about 23 feet) and three meters high (about 9.8 feet). In the cave, many inscriptions are carved on the walls.

Martial Arts Training Center
The Shaolin Wushu (Martial Arts) Training Center comes last. It is a good place for practicing Chinese Sholin Kung Fu. Shaolin monks have been practicing Kung Fu there for over 1,500 years.

In conclusion, The Shaolin Temple, which is located in beautiful scenery and surrounded by mountains and rich vegetation, is worth a visit. It will give you a better understanding of Chinese Buddhism and the martial arts.

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