For anyone interested in Chinese Martial Arts 中华武术 or Chan Buddhism 禅宗 visiting China's Songshan Shaolin Temple 嵩山少林寺 is a must. Visitors can go to Shaolin Temple to learn Shaolin Kung Fu 少林功夫, meditate in the ancient surroundings or to learn Chinese History, and by all means, off the beaten path.
Shaolin Temple is located in the foothills of the Songshan 嵩山 mountain range, just 15minutes outside the town of Dengfeng 登封, which is about 2 hours away from Zhengzhou 郑州, the provincial capital of Henan 河南. Many public tour buses run from Zhengzhou 郑州, Dengfeng 登封 and the nearby city of Luoyang 洛阳 to the Shaolin Temple daily. Alternatively, for visitors staying in Zhengzhou 郑州, Dengfeng 登封 and Luoyang 洛阳, they can arrange a day tour from their hotel.
Most visitors use Zhengzhou 郑州, Dengfeng 登封 or Luoyang 洛阳 as a base for making the day trip to Shaolin Temple. Day tours to the Shaolin Temple can be arranged from most 3-5 stars hotels in this 3 places and this is certainly the most relaxed way to go as the hotels can arrange for a car and a English speaking guide.
Shaolin Temple was established in 495AD by Emperor Xiao Wen Di 孝文帝 in Northern Wei Dynasty 北魏 for the purpose of housing the famous Indian monk, Batuo 跋陀, who came to the ancient capital of Luoyang 古都洛阳 to spread Buddhism. Emperor Xiao Wen Di was a dedicated believer of Buddhism so he ordered the construction of Shaolin Temple at the foot of the Songshan Mountains and appointed Batuo 跋陀 as its first abbot 方丈. Batuo was said to have translated countless Buddhist texts and had several hundred followers when he was the abbot of Shaolin Temple.
“Shao 少" refers to the Shaoshi Mountain 少室山, one of the two mountains in Songshan Mountain Range. “Lin 林" means “forest”. “Shaolin Temple 嵩山少林寺" literally means a temple in the forest of Shaoshi Mountain in Songshan Mountain Range. Now Shaolin Temple is reputed as the "Number One Temple under Heaven 天下第一名刹" and it was listed as UNESCO’s World Cultural & Natural Heritage List in 2010 as part of the “Historic Monuments of Dengfeng.” Shaolin temple was also said to to be the birthplace of Chinese Chan Buddhism 禅宗 and the Shaolin Martial Arts 少林功夫.
Chan Buddhism 禅宗 is known to have originated at Shaolin Temple, and its spiritual founder was an the Indian high Bodhidharma 达摩. Chan Buddhism 禅宗 is characterized by a rejection of much of the protocol associated with other sects of Buddhism and is oriented around the practice of meditation. In Chan Buddhism 禅宗, the "Temple" is everywhere, and one can pray anywhere, meditate in any position, and it emphasizes the idea of personal awakening and understanding.
Today Shaolin Temple is rated as a 5-star government appointed attraction in China, it is well-organized in terms of its clear layout and signs, clean toilets and environment, and easy transportation. Basically a Shaolin Temple trip will take around 3 hours covering three major sites including watching Shaolin Kung Fu Show for half an hour, one hour visit to Shaolin Temple itself and half hour visit to the Pagoda Forest.
* The linear travel route is about 2-3km which takes much walking. There is also shuttle bus Service at 10RMB for one way trip within the compound.
* Admission Fee to Shaolin Temple is 100RMB and the Opening Hours is 0800Hrs to 1700Hrs all year round.
* Please spend the whole day there from 0800hrs so that you have plenty of time to wander around the temple complex and even take a stroll in the mountains or up the hill to Bodhidharma’s cave 达摩洞.
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