At nearby Songshan is another famous temple, the Shaolin Temple – home of kung fu. Before heading back to Hefei, we journeyed to this beautiful place hoping to see some awesome monks practicing the true arts of kung fu. We didn’t see any monks but lots of younglings learning the art, but we did enjoy another historic and beautiful Buddhist monument.
The Shaolin Temple is several hundred years old and like the White Horse Temple has contributions from just about every dynasty and generation since it was built. Also, like the other temple, a lot of it has been rebuilt due to fire and other destruction. Some of the structures and statues are hundreds of years old and beautiful pieces of art and history.
The whole temple progresses up a hill with grand courtyards in between each hall and other guardian halls on the sides. There are centuries old trees and magnificent steles on giant dragon turtle backs. My favorite part had to be the upper-most buildings with the amazing frescoes on the walls.
The main hall at this level has beautiful paintings of various Buddhas all over the walls, and the floors have the storied divots where allegedly monks spent hours practicing their movements and stances.
The Pagoda Forest
Further up the hill from the temple is the Pagoda Forest, a cemetery of sorts for monks of the temple. Each stupa contains the ashes of a monk. Some are very old and others very new. One particular pylon had a laptop computer, an airplane and a car carved on it. This really was one of the coolest cemeteries I’ve ever seen.
Kung Fu Training
The temple is famous for its kung fu. There is a large training school on the property and many more in the area. Also near the temple is a training center with the training equipment we’ve seen in movies like Kung Fu Panda such as the posts of varying heights and the large bowls. No one was training there, but in a few other places we found students of the training schools practicing.
These students weren’t training to be monks but mostly kung fu performers much like Jet Li and Jackie Chan, who according to some I’ve talked to trained there. I don’t know how true this is since I couldn’t find any evidence pointing to it. Personally, I think this is just a great myth to make the two of them even cooler by having trained at the legendary Shaolin Temple.
We didn’t see any monks actually training as we had hoped but it was a very busy day. Also in the scenic area is another temple as part of the complex, where visiting monks would have stayed, and it is surrounded by mountains. We didn’t have time to hike and explore, but if ever I return, I’ll try to make time to hike around the mountains.
Until then, adventure is out there.