Nestled beneath the slopes of Songshan Mountain in Denfeng County, China is the world-renowned Shaolin Temple (or Shaolin Monastery). The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shaolin is famed as the birthplace of Wushu, or Kung-Fu as we know it in the west. Here warrior monks train from a young age to become masters at this age-old martial art.
The Shaolin Temple is located on the outskirts of Dengfeng, approximately half way between Zhengzhou and Luoyang in China’s Henan Province. The Temple is located within the Songshan National Park; a beautiful area of mountains and valleys.
Shaolin has been an important site of Buddhism since around 464AD when an Indian monk came to China with the first Buddhist scriptures after arriving at the nearby White Horse Temple.
Legend has it that one of China’s early practitioners of Zen Buddhism withdrew to a cave here for nine years to seek enlightenment. It is said that he cut off his eyelids so as not to sleep and heighten concentration. The result was an intensity of feeling where he could even hear the ants scream!
The Shaolin Temple has been rebuilt many times over its history and during the cultural revolution (1966 – 1976) the site fell into major disrepair. Thankfully the monastery has been restored to its former glory and is as impressive today as it ever was.
Shaolin has been synonymous with Kung Fu since at least the 18th century and today it is still a training school for novice monks. Every day there are impressive displays for visitors to witness the sheer grace and might of these young fighters.
Each display lasts 30 minutes with a selection of draw-dropping demonstrations that will leave you with a mixture of admiration and awe. One of the displays involves two monks holding a long, sharpened spear to the neck of another. The monk with the spear resting on his throat then proceeds to push forward until the thick wooden spears are bent. One slip and it wouldn’t be a pretty sight!
In spring and summer, you can also witness the training that goes on in the courtyards at the temple.
The Pagoda forest is a sort of Buddhist graveyard with each large stone pagoda representing a burial monument to the dead. It is an impressive site at the foot of the mountains and is as tranquil as any cemetery you will find.
Songshan Mountain offers some fantastic hiking and there is even a hidden village built atop a steep cliff that is only accessible by steep hiking trail. There are two cable cars for those not feeling so energetic as the trail is a good day’s hike!
There is a hotel on site but many people make the day trip from nearby Luoyang (see below for transport information).
You can find a few restaurants, including Chinese and fast food on site as well as numerous shops and kiosks selling snacks and drinks.
There are toilets on site which are kept clean. At the entrance you will find one or two western-style toilets but once in the park they are Chinese style squat toilets.
There are gift shops at the entrance to the site where you can buy souvenirs including martial arts weapons such as nun chucks and display swords (blunt).
Entrance to Shaolin costs ¥150 ($21) and includes access to a Kung Fu performance, the Dharma Cave, Pagoda Forest and Songshan National Park.
Cable cars cost ¥80 ($11) and ¥120 ($17).
Most people visit Shaolin from nearby Luoyang. Daily buses ( price ¥20) depart from Jianxi Bus Station (next to Luoyang Railway Station). Journey time is approximately 2 hours.
Some buses go direct to the entrance. Other buses will go to Dengfeng Town. From there you need to take a short taxi ride to the entrance (fixed price ¥30 / approx. 20-minute drive).
From Beijing or Xi’an take the train to Luoyang (if you take the fast train you will arrive at Longmen Station and will need to transfer to Luoyang Railway Station for the bus – a taxi should take 30 minutes and cost around ¥50).Last updated on Jun 1, 2021
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