Learning Kung Fu at Shaolin Temple

I don’t remember much about the fieldtrip I went on with Mckaela when she was 5 years old but somehow I think I will never forget this fieldtrip I went on with her at the age of 13.


With 35 students, 5 teachers, 2 parents, and 2 tour guides we take a short 1 1/2 hour flight to the Henan Province where the Shaolin Temple, Forest of Pagodas, and Mount Songshan are located.  Here the students will spend 5 days studying basic Kong Fu skills, hike across the mountain of Songshan, and visit the Longmen Grottoes before returning back to Chengdu via hard sleeper overnight train.

We learned that there are over 30,000 teenagers that live at the Shaolin Temple Martial Arts Training Center where students practice the ancient Kung Fu skills that monks have been practicing for over 1,500 years.


It is said that a group of monks lived in this secluded area in 540AD when an Indian Buddhist priest named Tamo traveled to the temple and joined the monks living there.  Tamo saw that the monks were not in good physical condition.  Most of them spent hours each day hunched over tables where they copied handwritten texts so they lacked the stamina needed to perform most of the basic Buddhist meditation practices.  Tamo taught them movement exercises designed to both enhance chi flow and build strength.  These exercises were based on the movements of the main animals in Indo-Chinese iconography (e.g., tiger, deer, leopard, cobra, snake, dragon, etc) This is now known as the birthplace of Shaolin Kung Fu.

After the students each wrote in their reflection journals it was our turn to study basic Kong Fu skills such as boxers, leg, fortune, hand, and steps.


I think the kids had more fun playing at the monks playground but at least it’s still exercise, right?


The Forest of Pagodas is a graveyard for Buddhist dignitaries.  The layer and shape depend on the Buddhist status and prestige during his lifetime.  There are over 200 pagodas here and the tallest one has seven layers.  If I don’t make it off this mountain I would rather have a 7 tier pagoda than be cremated which is what they would do with me in Chengdu…just saying~

Mount Song is one of the five Sacred Mountains of Taoism in China.  It’s summit is 4923 ft. above sea level and the views are spectacular.  It’s just a couple thousand steep steps to the top and not one tree was cut down to make the path so you either go around or duck under…


The trees are pretty cool though.  Some even have an eye like they are watching you.

 Just a few more steps to the top…

then you can finally smell the blossoms.


The coolest part of the whole mountain is the backside.  If you have Acrophobia you may want to skip this part.

   Made it!  Guess I won’t need that pagoda after all.

On the bus again we are on our way to Luoyang where the Ancient Longmen Grottoes are located.  The Longmen Grottoes is one of the oldest and finest examples of Chinese Buddhist art housing tens of thousands of statues in little caves but let me tell you this place is CROWDED.



One of the unique things about this trip is the students got to interact with other students their age at a local Chinese school.


Playing basketball is always a good ice-breaker.

I still don’t get the obsession with autographs but Mckaela was asked to sign her name again….

and again….

and again.

I can’t believe this is the only picture I got of the food we ate this week but it’s the same thing every meal.  There’s always rice, a few plates of vegetables fried in a lot of oil, meat is questionable, and there was a bottle of coke and sprite at each table that the teenagers guzzled down quickly usually.  This picture was taken at a restaurant called The Roasted Duck.

Just 22 hours now on a hard-sleeper train and we will be back in Chengdu.

This is the group of girls I’m assigned to.  I couldn’t have asked for a better group to travel with.

 What it looks like in our boxcar…

I was surprised to see the fruit trolley but not a bit surprised to see the typical Chinese snack trolley come by.

A lot of students said the train ride home was their favorite part of the trip.  Mine was being in the mountains at Shaolin Temple and hanging out with Mckaela all week long.  I felt more like an overgrown teenager than a chaparone on this trip.  I’ve never seen more dedicated teachers in my life and the students are all so fun!


5 Comments on “Learning Kung Fu at Shaolin Temple”

  1. Robin says:

    I just love your stories, and I enjoy the pictures….it makes me feel like I am experiencing it with you. I am struck by how mature Mckaela looks! You both look amazingingly beautiful and happy. It just makes me miss you soooo much more.
    I have to say though the food never looks like something I would really want to experience……..I’m just sayin…..:-)

  2. Brandee says:

    Amazing! What an incredible trip. Thanks for sharing. I can’t believe McKaela! What a beautiful Young Woman. I LOVE your bangs!

  3. Tom & Joan Christensen says:

    Grandma & I just reviewed this together and were very touched as we saw the photos of you and McKaela. You are both so beautiful and it is so great to see you have these everlasting experiences together.. HAPPY MOTHER’s DAY! We are here at Mitch & Anna’s and Greg is here with us. We LOVE you all very much! Greg let us see some of your vacation pictures last night.
    Grandma Sweetheart & Grandpa Tom

  4. Kathy Muir says:

    So cool! It is so wonderful how you take advantage of your surroundings and make life such an adventure..

  5. Simply marvelous!! What a fun trip and getting to spend time with Mckaela–awesome. Miss you.

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