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Shaolin Temple

Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng County, Henan Province, is known in and outside of China for Shaolin wushu (martial arts). The temple was built in 495, the 19th year of the reign of Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty and was named Shaolin because it is at the northern foot of Shaoshi Mountain and surrounded by densely growing trees (lin means forest).


In 527, the Indian monk Bodhidharma came to China and settled at Shaolin Temple, where he began to preach Chan (Zen), a form of Buddhism originating in India. This was the beginning of Chan Buddhism in China, with Bodhidharma as the first teacher and Shaolin as the first temple. Later, during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Chan became the most influential branch of Buddhism in China.

Bodhidharma advocated self-cultivation through sitting meditation and held that meditation is of primary importance to the attainment of Buddhahood. He set an example by sitting with his face to the wall in a rock cave northwest of the Shaolin Temple for nine years, and his shadow became engraved deep into the rock face. The rock is now in Baiyi Hall at Shaolin Temple, and the cave is now known as Bodhidharma Cave.

In 1125, the Temple of the Founder of Chan was built on the road to Bodhidharma Cave. The main hall, though not large, is a treasure house of sculptures. Carved on the 12 octagonal stone columns of the hall are colored designs of female musicians, children, birds, pomegranates, peony flowers, and grass. There are another four stone columns featuring bas-reliefs of heavenly guardians, auspicious clouds, and coiling dragons. The sculptures on both sets of columns have bold lines and imposing colors, and the human figures are simple and unsophisticated.

The stone slabs in the eastern, western, and northern halls bear carved designs of officials worshiping Buddha and of arhats (saints) watching the sea, as well as dragons, Chinese unicorns, sea turtles, elephants, and deer. The designs are vivid and lifelike.


Qinqiang Opera


Li River


Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center

Key Words

Tea   West Lake   

Temple      Su Dongpo 


Fans   Embroidery

Garden     Fuzimiao

Zhonghua Gate

Nanjing Salted Duck

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