Shaolin Temple (Shaolin Monastery)
The Dengfeng Shaolin Temple (also Shaolin Monastery or Shaolin Si) is home to the Shaolin practice, which dates back more than 1,500 years. Visit to see the tile-roofed halls, temple guardians, and Pagoda Forest, home to the pagoda-shaped tombs of long-dead monks. Don't miss one of the frequent kung fu shows, which highlight the monks’ flexibility and strength. A few foreigners commit to lengthy study courses, focused on kung fu and/or meditation.
Things to Know Before You Go
Home of the Shaolin Monks, the Shaolin Temple is a must for fans of martial arts and Chinese culture.
There is a charge to enter the Shaolin Temple Scenic Area, which includes the temple, Pagoda Forest, and much of Mt. Song.
Parts of the Shaolin Temple are accessible to travelers who use wheelchairs and some bathrooms are adapted.
How to Get There
The Shaolin Temple sits in Dengfeng, Henan Province, about 35 miles (57 kilometers) east of Luoyang and 55 miles (89 kilometers) west of Zhengzhou. Many travelers visit from Luoyang, as a side trip from Xian, which is about 90 minutes from Luoyang by bullet train or four hours by road. Both Luoyang and Zhengzhou have airports with connections across China.
When to Get There
The Shaolin Temple is open from morning until late afternoon, seven days a week, with regular kung fu performances throughout the day. It’s a popular choice with Chinese tour groups, so expect crowds around Lunar New Year, the first week in October, and on weekends. Buddha’s Birthday (generally in April or May) sees displays, rituals, and crowds to match.
Life in the Shaolin Temple
While there are plenty of tourists wandering around the Shaolin Temple, it remains a working Zen Buddhist monastery, and boys from poor backgrounds come from across China to seek their fortune here. (There are also a few Shaolin nuns.) Life is strict, with early mornings, a meat-free diet, and training and meditation sessions even when it snows.
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