Shaolin Temple — Day One

DENGFENG — 1 November 2012 — When I was looking on the Internet for lodging near Shaolin Temple, I wanted to stay as close to the grounds as possible. The temple (a k a Shaolin Monastery) looked remote and I wanted to avoid having to travel back and forth from my hotel. But I had no idea that my choice was actually in a small village above the monastery, or that Kung Fu students would be practicing right outside my window: Or that I’d be eating in the same convenience store as the monks:He was watching TV and keeping an eye on the kitchen.While these creepy dudes were keeping an eye on me:I had my first bowl of Henan meintou, finally!It was SOOOO delicious and HOT!!! It had Chinese greens, pickled cabbage and two types of handmade mein — round noodles and flat ones. Yummmmm!!!

Before I knew it, I had eaten the whole thing, every last drop:It was a good thing I filled my belly with such a big bowl of hot meintou because after that I went outside and watched the Kung Fu students training in the cold mountain night: It sure made me wish I could do Kung Fu too!

Worse, this morning as I walked downhill from the village toward the monastery … I saw Kung Fu everywhere … Even the garbage receptacles had a Kung Fu-ness about them:garbage lionAnd the streets were paved with Zen:

You could do Kung Fu anywhere!

Especially inside Shaolin Temple:Where the guardians are formidable Kung Fu warriors:temple guardians and all the monks are fierce warriors toobut look more like Zen masters,guarding the altarsor dispensing medication.There were a million tourists:and worshippers:And people seeking healing: Everywhere it smelled like flowersand prayersand gratitude on fire …Even if you knew nothing of the history of Shaolin Monastery — such as that it’s been around for nearly 2,000 years, or that it’s the birthplace of Kung Fu and Zen Buddhism, or that it’s been burned to the ground a sqillion times by emperors, bandits and warlords, and rebuilt a sqillion times — there’s still something about walking on its stones and leaning close to its fires that’s transporting — like you’ve stepped through a time machine into another place.

I can’t explain it.

I lingered.

And didn’t want to leave. I wished that I could sit like one of the Buddhas and bless the tourists all day.

Or do Kung Fu all over the place.Or in place.But I couldn’t.

When you’re an author, there are always more things to see.

So I left.

And walked over to the Pagoda Forest. It’s the largest one in China.

It was very quiet.

According to a guidebook I bought at the monastery, pagoda means the grave in Sanskrit.

They hold the bones of Buddhist monks. pagodaCreepy!

No wonder it was dead silent.

After that, I couldn’t hold my iphone straight to take a picture!

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