After leaving the hotel in Zhengzhou, which was once one of the eight ancient capitals of China, we are going to Dengfeng city, the home of China’s most famous martial art – Shaolin Kung Fu.
The Shaolin Temple nearby is the origin of Chinese Zen Buddhism, and the Songyang Academy, called “the Centre of Heaven and Earth” is located 87 Km from Zhengzhou, or, as we were advised, a 2-hour drive. It will be scenic because we are heading towards the mountains.
As one of the four ancient Song Dynasty Academies, Songyang Academy is one of many schools in the province. It is both on a large scale, is quite spectacular, and is a comprehensive Wushu training base where students are trained to spread the Shaolin Wushu Kung fu style at home and abroad.
There is a 500-seat demonstration hall where you are able to observe 30 minutes of various martial arts in shows starting on the hour.
Outside there is a specific area that generally has about 600 trainees learning kung fu elements during the day but can hold 5,000 people when outdoor performances are required.
The kung fu school
The thing you notice most about the kung fu school is its size and then the number of buses which tells you that it is a popular tourist stop.
And with that size comes long distances between the car park and the venues we need to go to, the first of which is about half a km, and that’s just to get to the ticket plaza.
But, it is pleasantly set out and is quite a large number of shops for both souvenirs and food
We pass by some of the students going through their paces
From there it’s another long, long walk to the show arena, where we’re supposed to see various kung fu elements on display. We watched this for a few minutes, then headed off towards the hall for a more intense demonstration of kung fu, and because there is limited seating we have to start lining up at the head of the queue to get a seat.
Everyone else has the same idea and we join the throng which then becomes a ride, and true to the Chinese they start finding ways to push in, even using the imaginary friend somewhere ahead in the queue.
The doors open and then it’s open slather, with the hoards pushing from behind and sliding up the side to get in first. We go with the tide, and manage to get in and find a seat though we were separated from three of our group.
It was an interesting show even though not one word of English was spoken, which from our point of view was a disappointment because we had no idea what was going on.
It wasn’t hard to follow
What the performers were doing was relatively self-explanatory, and quite fascinating, especially the guy who broke a sword over his head, and the guy who stopped two spears penetrating the neck, both examples of very disciplined men.
Boys gave a demonstration of kung fu moves, and intensity and age increased as this progressed to the end.
Next, we were taken in hand by an instructor in Tai chi or an equivalent, I was not quite sure what it was called, and went through the twelve or maybe more moves that constituted a morning or afternoon exercise session or it could be just for relaxation. I lasted the first session but it was a little difficult to do with my sore limbs and a bad back.
Not that I could remember any of it now other than hands overhead, hands in front, bent knees, and a few gentle kung fu hand moves.
Perhaps when I get home I might seek out someone to show me the moves.
Whilst the others were following their training instructor, I wandered about, finding a large statue
And some smaller statues
Lunch in the Zen Restaurant
After all that exercise it was time to have lunch purportedly the same food as the king fu masters.
It’s in the Zen restaurant, aptly named, and the food when it came, came thick and fast, but some of it wasn’t very nice, meat with bones, tofu, a tasteless soup, but some good dishes like the vegetables and noodles with meat, without bones.
The only problem was nothing to drink except a pot of hot water. No tea, no cold water, and if you wanted a cold drink you had to pay for it. After paying 550 yuan why should we have to pay more for a drink when we have not had to so far.
But no cold water? That was just not on, and when we brought this to the attention of the tour guide she just simply ignored us. We just didn’t get anything.
That basically tainted the whole experience.
After lunch, there was the Shaolin Temple and the Pogoda Forest to visit.