Trip Start Sep 14, 2006
169Trip End ??? ??, 2007
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I'm not big into martial arts, but the thought of seeing some Shaolin Monks doing Shaolin Kung Fu in their own back yard was too much to resist. We headed down to the bus station. I had wanted to get the direct bus to Dengfeng that stops off at the Monastery, but the girls were already talking to a tour bus who said they'd get us there for 30 yuan. I went along with this, even though I was wary and got on board. After an hour, the bus stopped and we got out to pay for our tickets to enter the temple
I don't know what hits you at that place, but all you want to do is walk around pumped up and ready to do some Kung Fu kicks. I imagined it must be something in the air and that the first placid monks who originally made this their home caught the same vibe and developed Kung Fu from it!
The Monastery is in a valley in the Song Shan mountains, and there are now 50,000 students studying Kung Fu in the area
Next we went into a gymnasium area where sparring under tuition would take place. Then came the demonstration, a 20 minute show of Shaolin Kung Fu. The lights went down and we were treated to a display of weapons, form, combat and strength. One highlight was when a Shaolin student held a needle between thumb and forefinger and drove it through a sheet of glass to pop a baloon behind. The glass didn't shatter from the impact, the needle went straight through leaving it in tact.
Our guide's English was pretty poor, and all through the demonstration I was wishing I hadn't sat next to him. Later, at the temple, I'd start to get a headache and begin dropping hints that we could take it ourselves from here!
Ironically the guide was an English teacher in one of the many privately run Kung Fu schools in the area
The temple itself was not the show piece that the training centre was. However, it was a great insight into how this place combines Zen Buddism with martial arts. People who come here to learn come here to learn both.
Unable to shake our guide off he led us to the Pagoda Forest. This place is a beautiful graveyard for the Great Monks who were in charge here through the ages. Each Abbot is honoured by his students who build giant Pagodas for their headstones. The various shapes and sizes of the Pagodas dictate how popular they were. The oldest Pagoda is over 1500 years old, and is propped up by tree trunks to stop it crumbling down to nothing. The newest one is only a few years old and strangely has pictures of a train and a laptop computer carved into it.
One the 1000m walk back to the car park the place was buzzing with adolescent Kung Fu students all training or waiting to train. They were organised by school and were all wearing their own school's kit. Some were punching sand-bags, others were waiting patiently next to weights. Some were running around on tree stumps and doing simultaneous back-flips off them.
Steve and the Girls were having a great time and I was pleased that I'd steered us towards a successful day out. It was 4pm and we had all silently realised we wouldn't be going to Kaifeng tonight but it didn't matter in the slightest - this was well worth spending another night in Luoyang for.
Oh, and I've gone multi-media, look out for the videos at the end of the normal pictures - hope they work!