Saturday, January 3, 2009

20 March 2008 – Shaolin

On our journey to Shaolin, we make an unscheduled stop at the Geological Museum which exhibits fossilized animals, flowers and dinosaur eggs, millions of years old, statues of former rulers and a huge jade ship. We are given a quick lesson in the art of selecting quality jade, which we realize will be handy as we exit into an amazingly large shop filled with crystals, stones and jade and cheerful assistants ready to aid us in our purchases.
The Monks at Shaolin have been practicing Wushu Chan since 600 AD. Shaolin is the place where the wandering Indian monk Bodhidharma chose to settle, bringing with him Buddhism around 800 AD. Here developed Chan Buddhism, which has had great influence on the various martial arts from this part of the world. The Chan teaching of pure meditation and silencing the mind yet being fully alert is together with the Daoist conception of Qi energy, the two founding concepts of Taijiquan. But whilst Taijiquan focuses on calmness in movement, the Shaolin Kung Fu is explosive and puts a lot of energy in to hard Qigong practice, as was evident from the deep finger holes made in the tree trunks lining the alleyway to the inner temple complex.“The training room was the last Temple we came to and the stone floor was marked with deep grooves where the monks had stood and trained. Yet another strong experience.” Magnhild
But Shaolin is not only a holy temple. It is also a place for study of the connectedness of the philosophy and Martial Arts. There are permanently more than 30.000. Kung Fu students living and training in a huge number of schools set up by various masters. So, after our tour of the temple and the pagoda forest, the adjoining old grave yard with ashes from past abbots, fighting monks and scholars, we are very fortunate to be invited to train at Dang Fan School.We cause a disturbance as we enter the courtyard of the Dang Fan School and the children, who were having a short rest from their training, gather around to watch as the instructors train us in Kung Fu. The children's faces are bemused as they watch, what they surely thought were rather clumsy moves.
As practitioners of Taijiquan, the movements of Kung Fu are a challenge, but under the masterful tutelage of the four Shaolin Monks we manage to make fairly good progress and we hope a good impression. After the hard training, we are given a unique opportunity to witness the well trained skills of the Shaolin Monks and their students. Some of the children were very young, but their discipline and meditation skills are beyond our comprehension.We are happy to be able to stay in the Shaolin Temple and fortunate to be able to travel a short distance to witness the most amazing outdoor performance of the 'Zen Music Shaolin Grand Ceremony.' The theatre is built into the surrounding countryside, using nature as the background. There are over 700 performers and the sound of the drums, the singing, martial art moves and the visual effects takes one breath away. We sit enthralled, feeling privileged to be in the countryside experiencing a performance that challenges Broadway and London's West End.

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