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HENAN PROVINCE is considered the birthplace of Chinese civilization. Located on the Yellow River Plain, it is where the Shang dynasty, China's first dynasty, came into existence around 1700 B.C. when members of the invading Shang tribe overpowered the local tribes. Like Shandong, Henan is an important agricultural region dominated by the Yellow River. Shaolin Temple—of kung Fu fame—is located here.

Shaolin Temple - in the region of Song Mountain, Dengfeng City, is reputed to be 'the Number One Temple under Heaven'. Included on UNESCO's World Cultural & Natural Heritage List in 2010, the temple is the cradle of the Chinese Zen Buddhism and the Shaolin Martial Arts such as Shaolin Cudgel
Shaolin is not only the birthplace of Kung Fu it also a place of importance in the history of religion in China. In A.D. 527, the Indian monk named Bodhhidarma founded the precursor of Zen Buddhism after spending nine years staring at a wall and achieving enlightenment. He also is credited with creating the basic movement of Shaolin kung fu by imitating the movements of animals and birds. According to one he invented kung fu to counteract the effects of extended periods of meditation. How did kung fu evolve and why was it founded by a bunch of supposed peace-loving Buddhist monks. Scholars speculate that monks learned to defend themselves at a time when banditry was rampant and there was a lot of fighting between local warlords. The origins of kung fu are somewhat murky. There are accounts in ancient texts of monks performing feats of physical skill and strength such as two-finger handstands, breaking iron blades with their heads and sleeping while standing one leg.
Shaolin Temple became associated with martial arts in the 7th century when 13 Shaolin monks, trained in kung fu, rescued prince Li Shimin, the founder of the Tang dynasty. After this Shaolin expanded into a large complex. At its peak it housed 2,000 monks. In the 20th century it fell on hard times. In the 1920s, warlords burnt down much of the monastery. When the Communists came to power in 1949, Buddhism, like other religions was discouraged. Land owned by the temple was distributed among farmers. Monks fled.

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Additional Photos by Grzegorz Oczkowicz (GREGG) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 558 W: 117 N: 1113] (7888)
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