Shaolin Monastery or Shaolin Temple is a Chan Buddhist temple on Mount Song, near Dengfeng, Zhengzhou, Henan province, China. It is led by Abbot Shi Yongxin. Founded in the fifth century, the monastery is long famous for its association with Chinese martial arts and particularly with Shaolin Kung Fu, and it is the best known Mahayana Buddhist monastery to the Western world.
Shaolin Monastery and its famed Pagoda Forest were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010 as part of the "Historic Monuments of Dengfeng."
Lying at the foot of the Wuru Peak of the Shaoshi Mountain to the north-west of Dengfeng County of Henan Province, the world famous Shaolin Temple is favored by nature with circling springs, flourishing forests, competing hills and sights of quietness and elegance. The Shaolin Temple is regarded as the origin of Zen while Dharma is considered the founder of Zen in Chinese Buddhism. The name ¡°Shaolin¡± is closely related with its location, meaning "Temple in the forest of the Shaoshi Mountain". Shaolin Temple
First built in 495 A.D in the Northern Wei Dynasty, Shaolin Temple has a long history. In 527 A. D., Dharma, a famous master monk from India, came here to spread the theory of Zen. Since then, the temple started its expansion, the number of monks in the temple began to increase and Shaolin Temple became more influential. Shaolin Temple is regarded as the origin of Zen while Dharma was considered the founder of Zen in Chinese Buddhism. Since cultivation of Zen requires sitting still facing the wall in a pose of tailor-fashion, which is apt to lead to weariness, monks practice martial arts to drive the fatigue away. Legend has it that it was Dharma who created the Shaolin Martial Arts.
Stepping into the Shaolin Temple, tourists will find themselves in a world of selected antiques and historic sites with artistic buildings, sculptures, frescos, bells as well as elegant handrails, inscriptions, stone steps and pagodas which have earned great fame for this temple and won visitors both at home and abroad.
Generally, Shaolin Temple refers to the Changzhu Yard, the prime building of the Shaolin Temple, which is the center for the abbot and deacons of the temple to live and hold Buddhism activities. Built adjacent to the mountain, the Changzhu Yard has seven buildings including the major ones along the middle line and several others on the wings, covering more than 30,000 square meters in total.
Chuzu Hut (Progenitor Hut)
At the foot of Wuru Peaks, 2 km to the northwest of the Shaolin Temple, there lie a cluster of small ancient buildings named the "Chuzu (Progenitor) Hut" or the "Mianbi (sitting in meditation facing the wall) Hut". The Chuzu Hut is composed of the Main Hall of the Northern Song Dynasty, the Mountain Entry, the Qianfo Cabinet and two small pavilions. More than 40 inscriptions can be found in the hut, including the Zuyuan Diben and the Dharma Mianbi Hut written respectively by Huang Tingjian and Caibian, famous ancient Chinese calligraphers of the Northern Song Dynasty (960 - 1127 A.D.). The main hall of Chuzu Hut is considered the oldest building of wood structure. Embossment of warriors, flying apsarases, lotuses on the 16 stone pillars in the main hall are sculpted with refinement, unique in style, valued as art classics of stone carving in the Song Dynasty. The main hall of the Chuzu Hut is greatly valued in history of architecture for its long history, ingenious style and unique appearance as significant historical materials in the architecture study of the Song Dynasty.
Forest of Steles
The Forest of Steles in the Shaolin Temple consists of more than 20 stone monuments of various dynasties. Some of those famous inscriptions were written by Japan monks in the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368 A.D.), the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.) and the modern age. Stele Corridor, a large establishment in the form of a long corridor in the Ciyun Hall on the east side of the paved path leading to the main hall, has more than 100 steles with inscriptions from the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 A.D.) to the Qing Dynasty (1636 ¨C 1912 A.D.), many of which are very famous and valuable. A monument among them was set up in 1980 by Zong Daochen, a former monk of the Shaolin Temple in the 1930s and later went back to Japan and became the founder and leader of Japanese Shaolin Kung fu Allies which has one million members today. Zong Daochen has visited China five times.
Located behind the Tianwang Hall, the Daxiong Hall, the largest building of the temple, is the center of Buddhism activities. The great hall with double eaves and a roof of typical Chinese style is five-rooms in width and the same in depth. Statues of major Buddhas are worshiped here, with Sakyamuni in the middle and others on the wings, including the statues of Dharma and 18 arhats.
Qianfo Hall (Hall of One Thousand Buddhas)
Qianfo Hall is located at the back of the temple, 7-room in width and 3 in depth. White jade statue of Sakyamuni and bonze statue of Buddha Vairocara made in the Ming Dynasty are worshiped in the shrine at the very center of the Hall. On the east wall, the west wall and the back wall are the color frescos of 500 arhats making a pilgrimage to Buddha Vairocara painted in the Ming Dynasty. The top layer of the fresco is painted with peaks over peaks, the middle layer with sea of clouds, the bottom layer with rolling waves. The arhats in the fresco are vivid in various poses, chatting, worshiping, or showing their powers. With clear outline, vigorous lines, fluent painting and precise structure, it is a rare treasure among Chinese frescos. The 48 pits called "zhanzhuang" on the brick floor of the hall came out of long-term foot stamping practices of those Shaolin monks with profound kung fu powers.
Shaolin Pagoda Forest
The Pagoda Forest, about 500 meters west of the Changzhu Yard, is the cemetery of monks of all generations of Shaolin Temple. Dignitary monks of the Shaolin Temple were buried here with a pagoda established on the top of the tomb to show their merits and virtues. Composed of more than 240 brick or stone pagodas built in the Tang, Song, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, the Pagoda Forest is the largest ancient pagoda group in China. The height, size, shape and the floor numbers of pagodas vary from monk to monk, based on their Buddhist status, cultivation, the number of his followers and the financial condition of the temple in a certain period. Pagodas here have one to seven floors, 15 meters being the maximum in height, often with inscriptions. Various in shapes from squares to hexagons, from columns to cones; different in materials and structures from a whole stone to layers of bricks, they are peculiar with great diversification, making an art museum of ancient pagodas. Besides being a tour attraction, the Pagoda Forest is much valuable in the study of ancient Chinese stone or brick architecture, sculpture, calligraphy, art and religion.
The Yugong Pagoda is a hexagon brick pagoda of seven floors standing at the center of the Pagoda Forest. Yugong refers to Fuyu, the most famous abbot of the Shaolin Temple in the middle of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 ¨C 1368 A.D.), the only monk being titled Duke after death. For his great contribution to the resurgence of the Shaolin Temple which could almost match the founder, a stele inscribed "Great Founder" was set up in front of the pagoda on his tomb.
Dozens of meters away from the top of the Wuru Peaks, there is a natural stone cave, 5 meters in depth and 3 in width, named "Dharma Cave", where Dharma had spent nine years sitting in meditation, facing the wall, as the legend goes. It is said that out of long-term sitting, the shadow of Dharma was cast onto the wall of the cave and left a vivid image of a figure there, even with the pleats of clothes vaguely seen, like a light Chinese painting. The stone bearing the shadow image, called the Dharma Shadow Stone, was later dug out to be cherished in the Shaolin Temple by monks of later generations for fear of possible damage.
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