Shaolin temple was built in 496 A.D. The 1982 hit film, “Shaolin Temple,” starring Jet Li, pushed this ancient temple from the secluded mountain forest onto the world stage and also closely connected the Shaolin Temple with Chinese Kungfu.
The temple was built in 496 A.D. during the reign of Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty. It was named after its location – a luxuriant forest (pronounced “lin” in Chinese) on the Shaoshi Mountain. The 1982 hit film, “Shaolin Temple,” starring Jet Li, pushed this ancient temple from the secluded mountain forest onto the world stage and also closely connected the Shaolin Temple with Chinese Kungfu.
Many people develop their knowledge and love of Chinese Kungfu from this film. “Jet Li is my idol. It was because of his films that I have gradually learned about Kungfu,” said Zhao Junming. Many people, like Zhao, regard the Shaolin Temple as a symbol of Chinese martial arts.
In Dengfeng, you can feel the existence of martial arts almost everywhere. There are Kungfu costume and gear shops, and it seems that the shop owners themselves were good at Kungfu. “In Dengfeng alone, there are 50 or 60 martial arts schools,” said Zhao, who was a coach at one of those schools. His school has more than 1,000 coaches, like Zhao, and over 20,000 students.
During our journey to Shaolin Temple, we saw many students practicing skills on the rough playground. Tanned and sweating, every one of them looked strong and capable. As they exercised kicking and jumping, a cloud of dust arose.
“Every time I go back hometown, people ask me if I can defeat many bad guys on my own.” Zhao said, smiling, “I said no. Actually since I started practicing Kungfu, I have become quite calm and placid and I hate fighting.” To Zhao, only cultivating the mind and developing the character can one advance his skills. This also reflects the characteristics of Chinese Kungfu: temperance, modesty and reserve.
The Shaolin Temple attracts thousands of visitors from both China and abroad every day. Some Kungfu lovers even come here to learn the skills. Zhao said he is pleased that he has more and more foreign students. So far, he has taught Kungfu to 700 to 800 foreigners. So now, his schedule not only includes practice of Kungfu but also learning English. “I want to help more friends learn about Chinese Kungfu and fall in love with it,” he said.
Published in Confucius Institute Magazine
Magazine 15. Volume 4. July 2011.
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