Our Trip to Shaolin Temple-Denfeng Henan Province
Participants: Kung Fu Association Bedworth UK
Program Title: Kung Fu Cultural Trip 2005
Trip Date: 28/03/05/12/04/05
Written by Alex
We arrived at Shaolin International Hotel in time for dinner. On the way to the restaurant we passed the hotel shop and across from this next to the inside bamboo garden is a local artist selling various scroll type paintings. While I was looking at these I noticed a very nice tiger painting. I got talking to the artist through our guide and after some discussion and explanations I commissioned him to paint a Black Tiger with our club logos. After we had sorted out the price he then went to work. He was still painting when later that evening we went to bed and was there finishing off at breakfast.
After the extreme cold of Wudang and snow on Hua Shan we were greeted with fantastic sunshine at Shaolin. We arrived at 8.45am at the temple in the hope of missing much of the usual tourist crowds. Unfortunately even still at this time of day Shaolin was swarming as usual. (We also realised later that it was Easter Sunday and so a Bank holiday even in China.) We lined up outside of the temple for the obligatory photos at the main entrance. Once this was done we then entered into the temple and waited while our guide found out where we were to meet the Fang Chang. After a short while he returned informing us that Abbot Shi Yongxin had been called away on business and so Heng Shen, who was master of the Guest Hall, would welcome us. (Our guide informed us that all-important visitors were first welcomed at the Guest Hall.)
We walked into the next courtyard to the Guest hall and Master Heng Shen was waiting for us. We exchange greetings and chatted through our guide. Within a few minutes two other monks as arrived to be part of our welcoming committee. (The young boy monk, had also been involved in the photos when the Russian premier had recently visited.) With the aid of our guide as a translator introductions were made and we greeted each other. After this we then lined up to present our club pennant to mark this year's visit to the Shaolin Temple. While we were doing this, a large crowd started to gather probably wondering what all these foreigners were doing. Several of our group took photos, and then to my surprise my assistant instructors made a presentation to me for 20 years studying of Shaolin Kung Fu.
After this presentation several of my assistant instructors and myself were invited next door into the Da Mo Hall. Master Heng Shen showed us in and then introduced us to Master Yan Wen, who was the Master of this hall. Master Yan Wen had just finished a service with several other monks and was therefore dressed in his ceremonial robes. We exchanged greetings, talked and had a look around the hall. After some time, and many photos later, Masters Heng Shen and Yan Wen invited us to tour the temple at our leisure and then bid us farewell.
Some of us worked our way back into the previous courtyard then turned into the courtyard of one of the large bell towers. (From the front of the temple this is the tower to the left.) When we were here last year this area was still under construction and we wanted to see if it had been finished. Some construction was still under way further up on the left, but this work appeared to be for residential buildings for students / monks outside the normal temple area. Around this courtyard were the many action figures that portray different parts of the Shaolin history. While we were looking around this area we meet some foreign students that had come to Shaolin to study either Wu Shu or San Shou. I talked to a Romanian man who could speak English and he described the hard training regime of his three months at the temple.
After leaving these students we slowly worked our way back up along the left side of the temple until we finally reached the Thousand Buddha Hall at the rear. We had dressed in our training uniforms and along the way the Chinese tourists were continually approaching us to be in their photos. Several of us made a donation and were permitted into Thousand Buddha Hall. We positioned ourselves in the foot indents and performed some basic drills in riding horse stance, believing that this is how they trained in the old days as seen in Jet Lee's Shaolin Temple film. This brought a smile from the monk in this hall and cameras clicking like crazy from the hordes of Chinese tourists crammed at the doors.
From here we worked our way back towards the front of the temple along the right hand side this time. Along the way we had to visit the Baiyi Hall and view its famous wall mural of the monks training. As we got closer to the front we came across about a dozen monks waiting outside one of the halls. We quickly made some greetings and asked if we could take some pictures with them. They agreed and we took some very hurried photos as a bell was sounding and they had to then run off into the hall.
Outside the temple all of the traders had been moved from the stalls that used to surround the large car park in front of the Pagoda Forest. All that remained was the odd stall selling different types of food. We were all hungry and decided to try an eggy type pancake. These were great and we all ended up having two or three each followed by an ice cream to finish. Once we had finished our lunch we then went into the Pagoda Forest. Just like the temple the place was swarming with tourists. (What a contrast to last year when we nearly had the place to ourselves. We had come about the same time of year, but obviously not on a Bank holiday the previous year.)
We strolled around the Pagodas in the glorious sunshine taking in the fantastic views. Once again we were constantly being approached by the Chinese tourists to be in their photos. When we reached a raised level area towards the rear of the forest, we then rested awhile and took our own photos. From the Pagoda Forest we walked back along the road towards the Shaolin Temple. Across the road and stream from Shaolin there is another temple building called the Deep Meditation Yard. A few of us decided to enter this building and see what was inside. This temple was built in a cross shape with 500 Arhats lining these corridors. In the middle of this building were the usual Buddhists statues that many Chinese tourists were lining up to worship. In each corner of this cross shaped building, there was four different gardens representing the four seasons. A couple of us took sometime out in these gardens to just sit and chill out for ten minutes, relaxing from the hustle and bustle that is Shaolin.
After leaving this building we continued along the road to the new main entrance of the Shaolin site. Last year this area was not quite finished, but this year the place was complete. This main entrance was flanked by rows of shops that had been built to re-house all the stores that used to surround the large car park in front of the Pagoda Forest. Many of us toured the shops hunting for different bargains and souvenirs before leaving Shaolin.