Shaolin Temple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zhengzhou
My last big stop before getting back to Beijing was Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province. It was a 19 hour trip by night train from Guilin. The train arrived almost on the minute! I'm impressed by the Chinese railroads.

I heard later that Henan is a poor province. I didn't really notice, but it was actually the only time I had something stolen from me. It was just a package of cigarettes on the train while I was sleeping, but anyway.

The Internet Bar tells the standard
It wasn't very easy to find the internet bar. It usually isn't in China, but this was harder than ever. When I asked, people pointed at a restaurant and I looked around at the building and around the corners but didn't find it anywhere. Finally I realized that I had to go through the restaurants kitchen, up stairs to the second floor, passing some public toilettes, and then finally, I found the internet sign, wong ba.

At the internet bar I had the worst keyboard ever. There were no print left on the keys, well maybe one and a half letter. Not really easy to use. After one hour the time was out and they just shut off the power, I lost my connection and everything I had written. So I just had to book a new computer and start all over again. Besides, very carefully they registered my passport and visa number before I was allowed use the computer. Twice! Strange place, what's going on here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Student showing his abilities at Dengfeng boarding school.

Going to Shaolin Si?
My goal wasn't Zhengzhou itself but the Shaolin Temple, Shaolin Si. It's not so far away, a couple of hours west of the capital. If you haven't heard about it, it's the world most famous and legendary school of Kung Fu, Chinese martial art. I got there by bus. 

Well actually, I didn't get there, because a guy who was eager to guide me, told me to get off at the wrong bus stop. Fooled again! I ended up at a small village called Dengfeng. I think the guide got some form of provision from the local school.

A nice mistake
As I've said, when you don't know the language you never know what's going to happen. But in a way this was good, because I ended up at a small rural primary school. Like most schools in this area they were focusing on martial art studies. No westerners in sight. Well, at the school I met a interesting Israeli guy and we had company for a couple of days. The main Shaolin school of today has became a real tourist business. This was more the real thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pagoda in Dengfeng, on the top of the hill. Nice twenty minute exercise to get there. 

 

 

 

Stairs, stairs, stairs .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boarding School
Like all schools in the neighborhood it was a boarding school. It's said that there are about 7000 students in the whole area. The students is mainly in the age from 4-5 years to18 years, but I also met some older guys. 

Simple life
It was a very poor school. The students lived in dorms with 8 to 20 students in each room. The food was very simple. Corn soup, some vegetable and a piece of bread, maybe occasionally, there was some meat. There were no hot water anywhere, the toilets were VERY dirty, and the shower? Well, we never found it! I washed my hair in the cleaners sink.

Hard Drilled
The children was hard drilled. The daily exercise begun at 5.30 am. 7 o'clock it was breakfast and then it was time to clean the school yard. During the day the students then had ordinary lectures. And finally at the end of the day, when it became dark around 7 pm, it was time for a couple of hours more physical training.

Upcoming masters?
I think a lot of those kids grows up to be police officers, military staff, security guards etcetera. Of course some students is to become acrobats or Kung Fu masters, and maybe be doing shows all around the world.


Really funny kids at Dengfeng.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again fool again
I paid fore some exercise but the teacher never showed up. I think the teacher, who was a student himself, found it embarrassing to teach stupid, ugly and overweighed foreigners. Besides at this school they wasn't used to deal with foreigners. We did have some arguing about this.

Off to the Real Place
So anyway, in the early morning, me and the Israeli guy went by a bus cab to the REAL temple instead. At the time the Shaolin Si is, like so many other places in China, now transformed into a giant tourist circus, and probably it has lost some of its old charm. 

Recently Rebuilt
On the other hand, the whole place was burnt down in 1928, and not rebuilt until in the 90th. The tourists now brings new money to the temple and they make big efforts into rebuilding the temple and garden in a old fashion way. 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Early morning exercise at the Shaolin temple. The morning haze is still lying heavy over the hills.

 

 What the **** are they doing!?

Acrobatic Show
We watched a 30 minute performance inside the school by some of the master students. Extraordinary show! I'll promise you have never seen anything like this, ever! Acrobatics, fighting scenes, power demonstrations, and some spectacular, unbelievable exercise, like the one above.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the area we also found a small Daoist temple with some strange statues. Very dusty though, they could have had use of a new cleaner I think. 

 

 

The Center of the Universe
The Shaolin Temple is not just one temple among all other. In ancient time the government was looking for places to be associated with the five elements of Chinese philosophy. Very simplified explained as the north, south, west, east and the center. After years of searching they found this place as representing the center of the universe, and the temple was built here.   

Buddhi Dharma
Later on, in the 5th century, a monk by the name of Buddhi Dharma arrived at the temple. He was to become the founder of Zen Buddhism in China as well as the inventor of the modern martial art. 

The Holy Cave
To achieve his greatness he again left the temple for meditation. On the hillside close to the Shaolin Temple he found a cave where it's said that he stayed for nine years meditating. The legend even says that he spent so long time in the cave that when he left, his shadow remained on the wall. Today, the stone with his shadow is moved to the Shaolin Temple.

The holy cave. The stone with the shadow of Buddhi Dharma is now removed to the temple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stairway to heaven.

 

 

Walking with the pilgrims
So today, by natural causes, this mountain is a important goal for pilgrims. Me and the Israeli guy spent the afternoon walking all the way up to the top. It was a couple of hours hard work to get to the top, but by now, at least I, was used to climb those Chinese stairs.

A Funny Troupe
At the stairs we actually met a Japanese Buddhist on his pilgrim way to see the cave. Very gentle guy. We all kept company a couple of day and formed a funny troupe, a Israeli Jew, a Swedish atheist and a Japanese Buddhist born in Argentine. 

Crazy Tour
Going back to Dengfeng we all three together hired a bus cab. We had a female driver because we thought it should be safer. Kind of crazy tour. The problem was, we didn't really know where we were going. In the morning we were just angry with the school and took off without really noticing where we were going. 

Now we circled around in the village and the female driver got really pissed of with us. She stepped on the gas pedal, but wanted to through us off. We yelled at each other and argued, but finally found the right place, jumped out of the bus and paid. No tip today.

 

The holy Buddha, watching over the temple area.

Jim from Argentine outside the entrance to Shaolin Si

 

 

I was  there! On the top to see the holy cave and the Buddha.