It is located on the slope of Songshan Mountain in a picturesque area surrounded by dense forests. The monastery appeared here at the beginning of the V century. True, he belonged to another religious movement – Taoism. Buddhists settled in this place only in the year 495, immediately after the previous owners of the monastery were persecuted.
The founder of the Shaolin tradition is the monk Bodhidharma. He somewhat changed the understanding of Buddhism that was usual for that time, combining prayers, meditation, and physical exercises. Thanks to this unity, the monastery became not only a place of spiritual development and self-improvement but also a real center of martial arts.
How Shaolin Monks Live
According to some reports, today only 100 real monks live in the Shaolin Monastery, who rarely go out to talk with tourists. Almost all of their free time they meditate, train and pray. It is not so easy to see how they do it – special permission is required. It is noteworthy that there are no monks from Russia in Shaolin yet.
All work to ensure the life of the monastery is carried out by novices: they equip courtyards and engage in other types of economic activity, are present at the services. They are also not forbidden to communicate with numerous tourists. Some of them in the evenings, taking off monastic clothes, go to the city to have fun.
Exhausting physical training awaits Shaolin monks every day, which tempers their spirit and strengthens willpower. The whole life of the monastery’s inhabitants is closely connected with the constant improvement of the body, the mastery of martial arts and prayers – these traditions have remained unchanged for several hundred years.
The Shaolin monks wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning and, regardless of age and weather, gather at the temple site to indulge in a two-hour collective meditation. Of the elders, 10 caretakers are always chosen, who closely monitor so that newcomers do not accidentally fall asleep. Otherwise, the violator is “awarded” with sticks, and he must thank the caretaker for the assistance provided.
After spiritual saturation, the time comes for gymnastics to develop flexibility. Stretching in Shaolin style is a rather complex and difficult set of exercises, which for an unprepared person can be unbearable.
At the end of their unusual charge, all the monks come to the temple, where they listen to sermons on the life path and purpose, and then again go on to training: they perform gymnastic exercises that promote muscle development and increase strength.
Next, martial arts training classes begin. Beginners learn 5 basic styles: Dragon, Tiger, Snake, Leopard and Praying Mantis. Each of them is necessary for the improvement of certain qualities. Training in these styles lasts 3 years, after which the student is assigned the rank of a warrior and a certain belt – a kind of analog of the belts in karate or judo. Having become a warrior monk, the adept begins the complex and very tough training, mastering the entire complex, consisting of 170 special techniques.
All physical exercises end at 2 p.m. Only then can a monk begin to eat, and then he is given 1 hour for personal needs. After this short break, classes begin again, but already in the halls, where the training is held “at full strength” with the elders of the monastery. In addition to martial arts, monks study medicine and methods of influencing pain points.
Dinner at the monastery begins at 7 pm, after which the monks and novices can go about their personal affairs. Someone devotes this time to sciences or languages, someone to additional training, and someone to the amusements that are quite familiar to us. The inhabitants of Shaolin are not at all isolated from the outside world. The monastery has a TV, and the inhabitants of the monastery regularly watch the news. This time is specially allocated – 2-3 times a week for one hour. The monastery also has a reading room, where there are always fresh newspapers and books.
How to get to Shaolin Monastery
If becoming a novice of the Shaolin Monastery is not so easy, then visiting it as a tourist will not be difficult. To do this, you must go to China by ordering tickets and a hotel on your own or by booking the appropriate tour.
If you decide to travel on your own, then the best option for accommodation will be the small city of Dengfeng. It is located just 30 kilometers from the monastery of monks. There is no direct flight from Moscow to Dengfeng, so you should take tickets to Beijing and fly from there to your destination. A bus runs from Dengfeng to the monastery. The fare is 15 yuan. You can get into the monastery complex by buying a ticket at a price of 110 yuan.
If you want to not only visit the monastery but take an active part in his life for a short time, then you can use the services of specialized centers that work with Shaolin and organize group trips. An accompanying person “attaches” to each group. During the tour, it will be possible not only to visit the monastery but also to participate in prayers and meditations and even practice with the monks. Among such centers, one can distinguish, for example, the Damo Martial Arts Study Center.
Each tourist, entering the territory of the monastery, must comply with a number of mandatory rules. Almost all the halls and rooms are open for visiting, but it must be remembered that this is a sacred place and excessive fun and frivolity are unacceptable, and you can take photos or videos only with the permission of the monk who will accompany you.