Mount Songshan Scenic Area And The Shaolin Temple.
Random photo: Impressions of China
Nestling among the verdant pines and cypresses at the western foot of Mount Songshan中岳嵩山, Henan Province, one of China’s five sacred mountains (the other four are Mount Tai东岳泰山in the east, Shandong Province, Mount Hua西岳华山in the west, Shaanxi Province, Mount Heng南岳衡山in the south, Hunan Province, and Mount Heng in the north, Shanxi Province北岳恒山) is Shanlin Temple, a famous ancient monastery in China. In 495, when Bodhidharma, a Mahayana Buddhist, left Sri Lanka for China in the 6th century and developed the Chan (Zen) Sect (a Chinese Buddhist school). At that time, Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) ordered the establishment of a magnificent Buddhist temple (Shaolin Temple) in honour of Bodhidharma菩提达摩, a knowledgeable monk who came from India to teach Buddhist scriptures to the Chinese. According to historical records, the famous Buddhist arrived in the city of Guangzhou in South China in 527, several years before going to Mount Songshan. In stead of touting the Buddhist scriptures at the very beginning, Bodhidharma spent nine years meditating about philosophical problems inside a cramped cave close to the top of the mountain. Facing a large rock at the end of the cave, which was seven meters long by three meters wide, Bodhidharma meditated for most of the day as he was so engrossed in Buddhist theories. Legend claims that sunlight burnt an image on the surface of the rock in front of him. In order to commemorate a monk with such unparallel will power, people named the historical site Bodhidharma’s Cave. In order to protect the cave from demolition, monks moved the valuable stone inside the Temple and occasionally presented it with tributes, because the rock is one of the treasures of the Shaolin Temple. Another valuable legacy left by the famous founder of the Chinese Chan (Zen) Sect is martial arts. It is said that Bodhikharma was accustomed to doing exercises by imitating a tiger, monkey, scorpion and mantis during the intervals in his meditation. Over time the original form of martial arts came into being. Due to the efforts of the original monks and those of later generations, the art was constantly improved and formalized. Practising gongfu功夫;(a Chinese style of fighting without weapons that includes blows with the hands and feet, related to Karate武术不用武器，以拳脚打斗，与空手道同宗; a Chinese system of self-defense resembling the Japanese system karate) has become commonplace among monks since then. He gathered together a large number of followers to whom he taught the doctrines of Chan Buddhism. Since that time, Shaolin Temple has become the ancestral court of the Chan (Zen) Sect of Chinese Buddhism.
At that time, the elderly disciples of Bada, Seng Chou and Hui Guang, were skilful in martial arts, and capable of kicking a shuttlecock back and forth 50 times on a raised platform by the side of a wall, and “walking on the side of the wall and jumping upon roof beams.” They started the Tradition of martial arts at Shaolin Temple. After his arrival, Dharma advocated sitting absolutely still in meditation by facing the wall for a long time. In order to exercise the bodies and strengthen the nerves of the monks as well as for self-defense, the tendency of practicing martial arts became increasingly popular. At the end of the Sui Dynasty (581-618), and in the early years of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), a general of the Sui Dynasty by the name of Wang Shichong ordered his nephew Wang Renze to occupy a strategic terrain in the vicinity of Shaolin Temple and resisted the attack of the Tang army. Emperor Gaozu of the Tang Dynasty sent his son Li Shimin, Prince Qin, to attack Wang Renze in order to unite the whole country, Li Shimin (599-649, reigned 626-649) led his troops to capture the city of Luoyang, which was controlled by the powerful warlord Wang Shichong. Unfortunately, Li’s troops were defeated and the warlord’s soldiers caught the prince. The city of Luoyang was only about 50 kilometers from the Shaolin Temple so the monks heard the bad news quite soon (ill news runs apace). Out of deep love towards the wise prince, the abbot decided to send 13 monks with superb martial arts to save him from jail. Disguised as ordinary folks, the monks entered the prison and succeeded in rescuing the incarcerated (imprisoned) prince. With the help of 500 monks, the prince’s troops conquered the enemy days later. After Li Shimin ascended the throne years later, he returned to the Temple in a bid to show his gratitude. The Emperor praised the Shaolin Temple, saying it was the top Temple in the country. In addition, he made the 13 monks generals, but did not succeed for quite some time.
In the time of danger, Shaolin monks Tanzong and Zhicao, dissatisfied with the oppression by Wang Renze, led 13 valiant monks to break into the barracks of the Sui army. They captured Wang Renze and went over to Li Shimin, the second Emperor of the Tang Dynasty. Taking this opportunity, the Tang army overwhelmed the army of Wang Shichong at one stroke. This is the well known story of 13 Shaolin monks rescuing Prince Qin. Afterwards, the fame of the martial monks of Shaolin Temple was spread far and wide. The martial arts of Shaolin Temple has developed day by day and attained high degree of proficiency through tempering during the Five Dynasties and the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties.
The martial arts of Shaolin today include several hundred varieties, such as Chinese boxing, broadsword, spear, sword, rod, qigong (a deep breathing exercise), qinggong (light skill), neigong (internal skill), tongzigong (boy skill), zhuanggong (skill on stakes), mashanggong (skill on horseback), and buxiangong (skill on foot). Every kind of skill is practiced to surprisingly high attainments.
Shaolin boxing is characterized by “lifting up leg as light as feather, kicking as heavy as Mount Taishan; appearing as delicate as cat and as fierce as tiger; proceeding like dragon, moving like lightning and roaring like thunder;” and the difficulty of distinguished attack from defense and constant change. There is also “figure boxing” which imitates the actions of birds, beasts, insects and fish and is designed to take the opponent by surprise.
In addition to 18 kinds of common weapons such as sword, spear, and lance, the weapons of Shaolin also include rare weapons as iron fan, iron pen, iron flute, Shaolin prick, hand helmet and spearhead, used to take the opponent by surprise too.
The internal Qigong of Shaolin can cultivate the heart and nature, and the external qigong (hard qigong) can help strengthen one’s health and self-defense. Iron-sand palm, breaking stones with the top of head, iron cloth shirt and steel belly are all types of hard qigong.
The Shaolin’s tongzigong, once mastered, can make every part of the body as soft as cotton, as light as a swallow and as hard as steel. Shaolin plum-blossom stakes, each over two meters high, are used for practicing skill on them. The skill of “heart-and-mind stake” is a combination of breathing and force. The hollows on the ground inside the Thousand-Buddha Hall of Shaolin Temple have been formed by monks’ practicing skill.
Usually, the martial arts of Shaolin is kept secret and not to be passed on to outsiders. The practice of the skills is also not to be made public. Their genuine skill (gongfu) is accomplished through ten or scores of years of hard practice. Their skill is indeed marvelous; the monks walk rapidly atop glass; they walk on precipices like walking on flat ground; they sleep on stakes leisurely; they stand on the top of their heads on granite. They can break a brick with the head, cut a stone with the hand, pierce wood with the finger, resist a lance with the throat, hold a car with the teeth, lick fire with the tongue and hang themselves on roof beam with the jaw. They can also break a rock with a kick, draw a motorcycle with an arm. If you are a guest in Shaolin Temple, please be careful! The iron kettle for containing tea is over 50.
Shaolin Temple is widely considered to be one of the birthplaces of Chinese martial arts. Historical records show that the Shaolin Temple’s gongfu dates back some 1,500 years ago.
The original Shaolin Temple, built in 485 by Emperor Yuan Hong to help spread Buddhism, consisted of 5,000 halls encompassing 1,400 square kilometers. Unfortunately, a warlord in 1928 burned down most of it and the 100 or so halls now on view were rebuilt in the 1980s. But despite that Shaolin has still managed to retain its ancient charm and it would be difficult to find a place to match it in terms of atmosphere and enthusiasm for gongfu.
The Pagoda Forest 塔林
With a history of more than 1,000 years from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the Pagoda Forest has more than 230 pagodas for Buddhist abbots住持, and is the largest one in China that has survived till now. Despite the difficulty, the Temple has been making active moves to safeguard its intellectual property rights. The forest is a treasure house for the study of the ancient Chinese brick structure and sculpture art.
Zhongyue (Central Mountain) Temple 中岳庙
Located at the foot of Huanggai Peak黄盖峰 in Mount Songshan, 4 kilometers east of Dengfeng City seat, the Central Mountain Temple was first built in the Qin Dynasty (2210-206 BC). Its present structure, modeled on the imperial palace in Beijing, came into shape during the reign of Qing Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795). The Temple consists of 10 main halls arranged in a row measuring more than 600 meters. There are over 400 rooms in a total floor space of 110,000 square meters. It is one of the 12 best-known temples in China. The largest hall, Tianzhongge (Heavenly Central Tower), occupies an area of 920 square meters. It looks very much like the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City in Beijing. In the compound stand four human figures cast in iron in 1064, each about three meters tall, and more than 300 cypresses dating from the Tang and Song dynasties (618-1279) are still growing luxuriantly.
More About The Henan Province
- Kaifeng Introduction
Kaifeng is one of the Seven Ancient Capitals of China. As with Beijing, there have been many reconstructions during its history.
- Luoyang Introduction
Luoyang is a famous historical and cultural city.
- Zhengzhou Introduction
Zhengzhou, capital of Henan Province, has a history of about 3,000 years.
- Mount Songshan
Scenic Area And The Shaolin Temple.