Our teaching friends at the school took us to see Shaolin Temple, which is a UN-ESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage Site. It is located in the Song mountains about 2 hours from the school, and is known to be the birthplace of Chinese Chan Buddhism. It is thought that the Indian monk Bodhidharma introduced buddhism to China in the fifth or sixth century and emphasized the traditions of meditation and contemplation. Recognizing that monks were often unhealthy and weak after long meditations, Bodhidharma developed the martial arts practice of Kungfu to help make them stronger. Kungfu is practiced by the monks who reside at Shaolin, and the Wushu Training Center is a performance hall where shows are put on to display their authentic form of martial arts. The grounds also include a Pagoda Forest where prominent monks are buried. The pagodas range in shape and size and illustrate the importance of the monk, with the tallest being 15 meters.
Shaolin has been renovated to accommodate tourists and individuals who travel there to pray. It was difficult to feel contemplative and meditative with the number of travelers, however it was easy to understand the importance of the temple and we were awestruck by its sacred architecture. There are thousands of students of all ages who come to learn Kungfu and their commitment is unyielding. It was quite impressive to witness the dedication these students and teachers have made to the practices of Kungfu and Buddhism. It genuinely encouraged us to reflect on the practices and commitments in our own lives, which is always a great way to learn and grow.