The Shaolin Temple
The Shaolin Temple is said to be the â€œNumber One Temple under Heavenâ€. The temple symbolizes the beginning of the Chinese Zen Buddhism and the Shaolin Martial Arts. The Temple is located in a beautiful scenery, surrounded by mountains and vegetation. The Shaolin Temple offers a lot of fascinating cultural sites, such as the Hall of Heavenly Kings (Tianwangdian), the Pagoda Forest, the Dharma Cave and the Mahavira Hall (Daxiongbaodian) and the Shaolin Temple Martial Art Training Centre.
On the top of the Shanmen hall is a tablet placed inscribed by the Emperor Kangxi (1622-1723 A.D.), during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 A.D.) The two stone Lions which are placed at the stairs of the hall were sculptured in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.) The two sides of the hall behind the gate contain paved inscriptions on the stone steles. The hall of the heavenly Kings is guarded by two figures who represent Vajra, which are Buddhist warrior attendants. Figures of the Four Heavenly Kings are to be found inside the hall. The Four heavenly Kings were responsible for helping the troubled and less fortunate, inspecting peopleâ€™s behaviour and blessing the people. Important celebrations and prayers were held at the Mahayira Hall. Several Buddhas and stone lions can be found at this hall.
The Pagoda Forest is actually a graveyard for prominent monks, who are buried there over the years. The pagoda forest contains over 240 tombs, which were built in the Tang, Song, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasty (618-1911 A.D.) and is the biggest pagoda forest of China. Most of the tombs are stone and brick structures, less than 15 meters high. Every tomb has carvings, inscriptions and carry the year of construction. Besides the pagoda forest, there are a lot of pagodas spread around the Shoalin Temple.
In the direct area of the Shaolin Temple, two monasteries can be found. One is the Ancestorâ€™s Monastery and the other one is known as the Second Ancestor Monastery. The first one was build to honour Ta Moâ€™s nine years of meditation in the cave and the other one is a nursing home of the second ancestor, named Huike, who amputated his arm to show his sincerity to study Buddhism from Ta Mo. The four springs in front of the monastery are created by Ta Mo
The Cave of Ta Mo, also known as the Dharma Cave is quite famous. This is the place where Ta Mo meditated for nine years. In the end, he reached the immortal spiritual state and created the Buddhist Zen. In the cave, many inscriptions are carved on the walls.
The Buddhist Living Quarters for transient monks is located on the south bank of the Shaoxi River opposite to the temple. It was initially built in 1512, but renovated in the Qing dynasty. It collapsed in 1958 and was rebuilt in 1993.
The environment of the Shaolin Temple Wushu Training Centre is perfect for practicing the Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu, and monks have been practising their martial arts there over the past 1500 years.