In this chapter you will read how tour guide will
show you to tour around the temple.We aslo arrange Shaolin tmeple tours
for you in China to see world famous Kongfu
Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to the world-famous Shaolin Temple in Henan Province. It is
my honor to be your tour guide. This spot of interest became famous
with the showing of Chinese feature film "Shaolin Temple"
during the 80s; A great number of tourists from home and abroad have
visited this place.
We are now standing at the foot of Mount Wuru (Five Breasts), which
is situated on the northern slope of Mount Shaoshi, anoff-shoot of the
Songshan Mountains. It is 13 kilometers northwest of Dengfeng City.
A huge and lofty memorial archway over there serves as its hallmark.
The main entrance to the Shaolin Temple is about one kilometer's away.
Now I'd like to make a brief introduction to this scenic place which
has a worldwide fame.
The Shaolin Temple was first completed more than 1, 500 years ago. In
495 during the Northern Wei Dynasty, Emperor Xiaowen ordered the construction
of this temple, to help with the settling down of a famous Indian monk.
Then another eminent monk came here from India to introduce the Zen
doctrine. At the turn of Sui and Tang dynasties, the temple was made
ever famous by the founding monarch of Tang Dynasty, as 13 monks who
were good at martial arts had proyided protection for him at a critical
time. In March 1928, a warlord burnt down the major buildings that caused
severe damage to the temple. After the founding of the People's Republic
of China, this derelict temple was renovated on many occasions under
the auspices of the government. It was listed as one of the major areas
of historical and scenic interest in China. Broadly speaking, the Shaolin
Temple consists of residence compound, pagodas as well as two temples
dedicated to the above- mentioned founding monks. In a narrow sense,
the temple mainly refers to the residence compound, to which we are
paying a visit to- day. Covering a space of more than 30,000 square
meters, this area
is a place where abbots and ordinary monks live and observe Buddhist
rites. Look, this is the main entrance leading to the residence com-pound.
This is a three-section architecture with single eaves. Leading up to
the gate is a stone staircase that is flanked by a pair of marble lion
statues. On the lintel of the gate there hangs a plaque bearing Shaolin
Temple in Chinese characters. This was the handwritten work by Emperor
Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty.
Entering the gate you will be greeted by the statue of the smiling pot-bellied
Maitreya. Flanking the main path are a dozen of stone tablets that are
erected by foreign monks who have completed their studies in the temple.
Among these one is dedicated by the daughter of a famous Japanese boxer
who studied martial arts here from 1936- 46. By its side there grow
a LOOO-year-old gingko tree and cypress. The majority of China's temples
and monasteries are characterized by a group of architecture facing
the south. The main buildings usually consist of a gate, a hall of Heavenly
God, a Mahavira Hall, depositary of Buddhist sutras, the abbots' room,
etc. All the structures are positioned along a central axis in symmetry
and flanked by annex halls. This also applies to the construction of
Shaolin Temple. In addition, there are also halls that house rare tablets
and martial arts illustrations. In the forefront of the Hall of Heavenly
God, there are two
sculptured fierce looking gods, known as Generals Heng and Ha. As the
legend has it that whenever they entered a war, they would win by shouting
the sounds of "heng" and "ha", Later, the Shaolin
monks adopted this practice while mastering martial
arts. In the hall erect four statues of Heavenly Kings, which serve
both as guardians of the temple and well-wishers on behalf of local
people. Their missions were evident in the musical instruments they
hold in their hands. The Belfry and the Drum Tower were restored only
recently, owningto.the contributionandhelpofferedbypeopleofallwalksof
In front of the Belfry, there is a line of three stone tablets. The
first tablet deals with conferrals upon Shaolin monks of ranking ti-tles,
high pays, fertile farmlands and farm tools offered by Li Shimin, the
emperor of the Tang Dynasty for their assistance. It bears the autograph
handwritten by the monarch.
The second tablet is known as the Trinity Tablet. The figure de-picted
by it is an embodiment of Buddhism, Taoism and the Confu-cian School.
Given the fact that the three schools fought with each other time and
again in other parts of China, this harmonious coexis-tence of the three
The third tablet bears a poem written by Emperor Qianlong in September
1750. This poem deals with the scene when he paid an imperial visit
to the Temple.
Now we are approaching the lofty Mahavira Hall, a structure rebuilt
in 1988. Enshrined in the middle of the hall are a group of statues
including that of Satyamuni. As China adopts a policy of reli-gious
freedom, quite a few pilgrims have paid their homage here.
After turning around the Mahavira Hall and proceeding further northward,
there is the brand-new Depositary of Buddhist sutras. At the foot of
the staircase leading up to the gate, there places a big iron pot, which
was cast in the Ming Dynasty and weighs 1, 300 jin (one jin equals half
a kilogramme). This pot is said to be used to cook meal for as many
as 2,000 monks. In the heyday of the Shaolin Tem-pie, the temple boasted
possessing a total of more than 14, 000 mu (one mu equals 1/15 hectare)
farmland, and more than 5,000 roomunits of halls and pavilions.
Proceeding further northward, we come to the Abbots' Room, or the fifth
group of buildings of the temple. A bronze statue dedi-cated to Bodhidharma,
or the founder of the Zen sect, is enshrined in the center of the room.
On the advice of his master, this eminent monk went to China to practice
Buddhism. He first came to Guangzhou, then proceeded to Jinling (Nanjing)
and eventually set-tled down at Shaolin Temple. It is said that to cross
the Yangtze Riv-er, he borrowed a reed from an old laundrywoman, and
crossed the river on it. In the back of the statue hangs a piece of
painting depict-ing this scene. This is worshipped and cherished by
monks of the Temple.
Bodhidharma reached the Shaolin Temple in 527 and settled down. With
his face against the wall, he sat alone in meditation for nine years
in a natural stone cave in the back of the temple. At a re-sult, the
shadow of his face and body was imprinted on the wall, hence the Stone
for Facing the Wall.
This founder of the Zen sect developed a set of "Arhat boxing"
in an effort to relax himself after prolonged sitting in meditation.
Later, his disciples perfected this school of Chinese boxing and made
it a must for every monk. In this s~nse, the Shaolin Temple is also
known as a place famous for its martial arts, in addition to the Cra-dle
of Zen Sect.
The tradition has it that in the end, Bodhidharma retired and left the
temple. It is said that he died from poison on the bank of Luo River
and buried by the Mount Xionger (in today's Yiyang County, Henan Province).
Another legend has it that he returned to hometown in India with his
shoes in his hands.
The sixth group of architectures consists mainly of Lixue (Standing
in the Snow) Pavilion, which was dedicated to Bodhidhar-rna and Huike,
his pious follower and the second founder of Zen. It is said that in
a snowy winter, Huike who was deep in snow standing outside asked his
master Bodhidharma to pass on teachings to him.
But he was refused by his master. At last, Bodhidharma
replied that unless it snowed in scarlet flakes, he would not meet his
demand. When hearing this, Huike cut off his left arm with the sword
and went round the courtyard, his blood dripping into white snow. Deeply
moved by this, Bodhidharma gave grand ceremony and passed his mantle
and alms bowl as well as teachings to him. Later, Huike became the first
prominent Chinese abbot of the Shaolin Tem-ple .
The last and the rearmost buildings include Pilu (Vairocana) Hall. This
used to be where the monks practice Shaolin School of Chinese boxing,
a kind of boxing that is famous for its leg move-ment. Ages of hard
work left 48 deep hollows on the brick ground. Today, an annual international
festival concerning martial arts is ob-served here.
Aside from martial arts practice, the Pilu Hall is also known for Buddhist
treasures it houses. Enshrined in the middle of the hall are two statues
of Buddha. The one in the rear is a bronze one cast dur-ing the reign
of Emperor Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty. A Burmese lay Buddhist, Yang
Guangfo, donated the other one placed in the front in 1989. It was made
of marble and inlaid with jams and gold.
On the wall in the north there is a mural that was painted during the
Ming Dynasty. Featuring 500 Arhats who were received by Vairocana, this
piece of mural is seven meters tall and covers a space of over 300 square
meters. The Arhats are different from each other in complexion, pose
and costume. The skin colors are also different as a varying result
of oxidation of pigment.
This concludes our visit to the Shaolin Temple. To sum up it may be
said that this temple is famous for four reasons: it is the cra-dle
of Zen sect and the Shaolin School of Chinese Boxing; it is also a treasure
house full of cultural and religious relics; at last, this temple serves
as a major tourist site attractive to sightseers from both home and
Thank you for your attention. Hope to see you again.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce myself "to you all.
(Introduction of yourself to the guests.) I am happy to have this op-portunity
to show you round the Shaolin Temple. I hope you will lend your kindly
cooperation during this tour. Thank you in advance.
Why the Shaolin Temple is so popular? There are two reasons for this.
In the first place, it serves as the birthplace of Zen sect, a branch
of Chinese Buddhism. A major branch of Buddhism, the Zen sect is an
embodiment of local Chinese religions and Confucian doc-trines that
exerts widespread influence upon the Chinese culture. The
.Zen stands for deep meditation and the Zen sect advocates being se-rious
to everything, thus the practice of Buddhism. The Zen sect pays attention
to the result instead of means. It holds that everybody is Buddha-inclined
and this is only shrouded by worldly ideas. As long as one is serious
with each matter, the Buddhism is thus ob-served.
The way to practice Zen sect is to sit in meditation with one's face
against the wall. It is widely believed that Bodhidharma, the founder
of the Zen sect, had sat for nine years. As a result of this, his shadow
was imprinted deep intoa wall on the opposite.
Another reason for the popularity enjoyed by the Shaolin Tem-ple lies
in the martial arts, which enjoys a tradition of some 2, 000
Shaolin Temple (II)
years. It is considered that the Shaoling Temple is one of the main
birthplaces of martial arts. The Shaolin branch of Chinese boxing epitomized
various schools prevalent in northern China and was praised widely by
Chinese martial arts practitioners.
Bodhidharma developed a set of physical exercises to help his disciples
to get rid of fatigue stemmed from prolonged sitting in med-itation.
After ages of development, a special branch of martial arts emerged.
The Shaolin Temple was first completed in 495, during the reign of Northern
Wei Dynasty. In 527, Bodhidharma, the disciple of Sakyamuni of the 28th
generation came here to practice Zen creed. In late Sui Dynasty, 13
monks who were good at club-wielding helped save the life of the soon-to-be
emperor of the Tang Dynasty, Li Shimin. After his enthronement, Li conferred
upon many titles, farmlands to the Temple and made it known far and
near. During the Song and Ming dynasties, the Temple boasted 14, 000
mu of farmland, more than 5,000 room-units of structures and over 2,000
residence monks. In late Qing Dynasty, the Temple began to de-cline.
In 1928, a warlord set fire to the temple and damaged many buildings.
Most of the architectures we are today visiting were rebuilt later.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are now approaching the scenic area of the
Shaolin Temple. The Songshan Mountains we are seeing on the way consists
of two hills, Mount Taishi and Mount Shaoshi. The Shaolin Temple is
situated at the foot of Mount Shaoshi and covered by dense forests.
Hence the name of Shaolin Temple. Broadly speaking, the Shaoling Temple
refers to residence compound, pago-das, temples dedicated to the first
founder and the second founder of Zen sect. Strictly speaking, this
site consists of residence compound and pagodas to which we are going
to pay a visit.
With the screening of a feature film concerning the Shaolin Temple a
dozen years ago, this place of interest came to fame overnight. Tourists
from home and abroad thronged here and a bian-
Selected Tour Commentaries
nual international festival featuring martial arts has been held. What
is more, more than 30 schools offering martial arts lectures were founded
and more than 10,000 students have graduated. Many of them come from
Well, here we are. Everybody please get off the coach.
We are now standing in front of Shanmen (mountain entrance) to the Temple.
Looking up at the plaque hanging above the lintel, you will find the
plaque bears three Chinese characters, Shaolin Si, or the name of the
Temple. This is said to be handwritten by Emper-or Kangxi of the Qing
Dynasty. This work is very precious because the emperor seldom wrote.
This statue is dedicated to Maitreya, who was thought as the fu-ture
successor to Buddha. It is one of the Buddhist teachings which says
that one must keep to be optimistic in order to enjoy himself as well
as hap.piness and longevity. This is the depositary of stone tablets,
a symbol of interaction between the temple and the world.
It is said that there used to be an alley here. It was flanked by 18
wooden figures that could automatically fight with newcomers. Only those
that were lucky enough to win the fight were eligible to become a monk.
Those who also won the fight after long-time culti-vation were allowed
to graduate and practice Buddhism elsewhere.
This kind of tree is known as ginkgo. It has been here for thou-sands
of years and has not born seeds yet. So it is also called as "Luo-han
The hall on the left is known as Hall of Demonstrating Hammer Movements.
It shows some bodily movements of Shaolin boxing through clay figures.
People used to say that one could master this kind of boxing in three
minutes according to the statues:
This is the Hall of Heavenly Kings. These two imposing statues were
dedicated to the Ferocious Gigantic guardians. The musical in-struments
in their hands symbolize good weather for the crops.
Now take a look at this stone tablet. It is the most valuable one of
all the tablets this temple holds. Carved 1,200 years ago, it de-236
Shaolin Temple (II)
picts how Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty commended 13 monks who
once helped save his life. The emperor is said to have au-tographed
on the tablet.
The belfry and the Drum Tower were rebuilt in commemoration of the Temple's
founding for 1,500 years. Enshrined on the ground floor of the belfry
is a statue dedicated to Ksitigarbha, or Dizang in Chinese. He was the
Bodhisattva that saved all the living creatures in Heaven and in Hell.
He was believed to have possessed an unlimited amount of the best strains
We are now approaching the major structure of the temple, Mahavira Hall,
which serves as the center of Buddhist service. The hall contains statues
dedicated to three famous figures of Buddhism, who are in control of
three different worlds in terms of space and time. The one on the left
was dedicated to Amitabha, the supreme ruler of Western Paradise. According
to Buddhist sutras, this world is characterized by "beautiful scenery
and aroma as well as melodic music. The one on the right is the Bhaisajya-guru,
founder of the so-called Eastern Pure Glazed World. It is said that
people living there were free of all kinds of illnesses. The statue
situated in the center is dedicated to Sakyamuni, the ruler of the present
world of Saha. This is an imperfect world where people suffer from aging,
illness, death and all kinds of hardship. Flanking these three statues
are sculptures dedicated to 18 Arhats. The arhat is a rank title of
the Buddhist hier-archy.
This piece of ironware weighs 1, 300 jin -(one jin equals half a kilogramme)
and was cast during the reign of Emperor Wanli of the Ming Dynasty.
It was used as a cooker. Since the temple once boast-ed as many as 2,000
monks, it was not uncommon that such a big pot was used.
The animal bearing the tablet is not a tortoise, but a Chinese mythical
animal "bixi", who is said to be one of nine sons of the Dragon
King and the one having the greatest strength. So there is no wonder
that he is the right one to carry heavy stone tablets. Accord-
Selected Tour Commentaries
ing to the local tradition that the one who touches the animal will
be free of worry and illness.
This structure is known as the Depositary of Buddhist Sutras. Rare books
concerning secrets of martial arts were also safely kept here.
This room was a place where the abbots lived. Emperor Qian-long of the
Qing Dynasty also lived here for some time in 1750, so this room was
also known as the" Dragons's Court". This bronze statue was
dedicated to Bodhidharma, the founding father of Zen sect. He traveled
extensively before settling down in the temple. It is said he crossed
the Yangtze River on a reed, with the help of the Guanyin Bodhisattva.
The Lixue (Standing in the Snow) Pavilion is the only structure that
carries great importance. Once upon a time there lived a follow-er of
Bodhidharma, Shenguang, who was eager to succeed his mas-ter. On a snowy
night, he begged as usual with Bodhidharma out-side, standing in the
knee-high snow. The master set forward a pre-requisite: he would not
meet his demand unless it would snow in red flakes. Shenguang drew out
the sword and cut off his left arm and stained the snowy ground. Bodhidharma
was so moved that he passed his mantle, alms bowl and musical instruments
on to Shenguang and gave him a Buddhist name of Huike. He was regarded
as the second founder of the Zen sect. Emperor Qianlong wrote a phrase
on a plaque in commemoration of this story.
Now we are going. into the rearmost structure of the Shaolin Temple,
Qianfo (One Thousand Buddhas) Hall. This hall was com-pleted in the
Ming Dynasty and the monks used to hone their boxing technique here.
Erected there is a bronze statue dedicated to Vairochana, an incarnation
of Sakyamuni. There stands on the wall a mural dealing with a scene
of five Arhats in audience with Vairochana, a rare piece of folk artwork.
This picture is composed of three layers dealing with mountains, clouds
and roaring sea. The figures differ from each other and are vividly
portrayed. Since lead
Shaol in Temple (II)
powder was used in the pigment, oxidation occurred and the color of
some figures' face turned darker. You might have noticed the deep hollows
on the ground. They are 18 in total, which are worn by monks through
of standing position. The Shaolin school of Chinese boxing is a comprehensive
way of martial arts, which embodies combat-orientated defensive as well
as offensive skills. It is especially famous for the
movement of the leg. In addition, this school attaches much impor-t
tance to the application of appliances. It also emphasized the cultivation
of breathing. Therefore, this school attained fame in China as well
as in the world.
This structure we are visiting is known as Liuzu (Six Forerun-ners)
Hall, where statues of five eminent Bodhisattvas, i. e., Mahasthamaprapta,
Guanyin (Avalokitesvara), Manjusri, Samantab-
hadra and Ksitigarbha are enshrined. They are flanked by statues dedicated
to six founders of Zen sect headed by Bodhidharma. Now I'd like to tell
you an interesting story which is well known in China's
Buddhist circle. Once upon a time there lived an eminent monk, known
as Hongren, who was the fourth successor of the Zen sect. The aging
monk was going to pass on his legacy to a follower who is
clever enough. So he ordered his disciples to compose a poem to show
their wisdom. His first follower Shenxiu wrote one which goes like this:
My body is like a pipal,
My heart is like the dressing table holding a mirror.
I clean it constantly,
In order to keep the dust away.
A little monk also wanted to have a try. So he dictated one like this:
Pipal itself originally is not a tree,
Selected Tour Commentaries
While the mirror is not a table at all.
Since there is nothing around,
How can the dust fall?
The master appreciated this poem very much and passed on his mantle,
alms bowl and belongings to this clever monk, then he be-came the fifth
successor and was given the name of Huineng. Later, Huineng taught Zen
sect in Nanhua (South China) Temple, Guang-dong Province while his senior,
Shenxiu, went on preaching in north China.
Ladies and gentlemen, here is China's largest group of ancient stupas,
popularly known as Forest of Stupas, which number more than 240. The
total number remains inexact to this day. This area has served as a
cemetery which dates back to the Tang Dynasty. The dead monk's ashes
used to be buried underground but a pagoda would be erected right above.
The difference in shape and height just indi-cates the varying positions,
popularity and support of disciples the deceased enjoyed when they were
alive. What is more, allĄ 8¤ ( these pagodas are of one storey, because
the Buddhism holds that odd number is the symbol of cleanness and bachelordom.
This is the only contemporary pagoda ever constructed in this area.
It was dedicated to the last abbot, Shixingzheng. This one in peculiar
shape belongs to Monk Xiaoshan of the Ming Dynasty. As a master of martial
arts, he led the imperial army to fend off the Japanese invaders on
southeastern coast. This is the tallest pagoda that was completed during
the Song Dynasty. It was dedicated to a number of monks who had not
attained great achievements or who had no disciples. Unlike other constructions,
this pagoda has a door leading into it.
This derelict and cracked pagoda is the oldest of its kind. It was dedicated
to Fawan, an eminent monk of the Tang Dynasty. These pagodas provide
precious evidences on brick-stone archi-tecture, carving and sculpture,
history of arts and religions. Nowev-240
Shaol in Temple (II)
erybody has 20 minutes to move around at will. Please get on the coach
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the end of our visit to the Shaolin Temple.
Thank you for your cooperation. Hope to see you again here. Thank you.