I can remember it well.
You travel to the nearest major city hub by regular commercial transportation, and then you get on the brand new highway on the road to your entertainment destination. The highway, because of it's necessity to move large amounts of tourists, is one of the larger and fastest highway thoroughrares in the area. It most definitely cuts your travel time in more than half, from what it used to be. Upon your arrival, you're ushered into a huge parking lot, which is organized by letters, numbers, and signs, so that you can either find your car or the tour bus that you took to get to this place. From there, a shuttle takes you to the entrance to the theme park. An entrance, huge and grand, which includes hotel accomodations, many restaurants, and many, many shopping centers. You pay for your ticket at one of the many ticket boothes, and then jump on another shuttle to take you to the park. A park, incredibly manicured and neat, thoroughly well designed to be not only ergonomically efficient for it's many tourists, but organized so that the greatest number of people can be hurried through in any given amount of time. The object, of course, is to move as many guests as possible through the attractions in order to maximize your income potential.
My first trip to Disneyworld was memorable. As was my first trip to Disneyland.
No doubt, I might have the same feelings one day next year, when I return to Shaolin.
It's incredible. It's also very controversial. But first, the facts.
The highway between Zhengzhou and Shaolin is completed. In fact, it's much better than the part of the road one uses when one travels from the airport. Given the fact that most people in China travel by train, it wasn't a bad choice. The road has been under construction for the last few years, and is finally finished. It takes about one hour to make the journey, as opposed to the two plus god knows what, in the past, depending on truck traffic, breakdowns, accidents, and the usual and general Chinese **** that one finds in the typical and general Chinese road.
The highway ends at a parking lot. A rather large one at that. It's being built by the local Dengfeng government, and from what I've heard, some local entrepreneur has spent one hell of a lot of money to "lease" it for the next ten years. The expected profits are supposed to be huge. It lies on the outskirts of Shaolin village, directly to the east southeast of the huge monk statue that greets you, in the triangle between the road to Shaolin village, and the road to Louyang. It's still under construction.
Next, directly to the south and west of the monk statue, is a new village. A rather large one at that too. About eight large two to three story old Chinese style architecture. All of which, is supposed to contain hotel accomodations, restaurants, and shopping centers. Oh, and the ticket agency. You have to buy a ticket to see Shaolin temple. (In all my journeys through China, Tibet, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, Shaolin was the only temple that I've ever seen a ticket counter for).
The old Tagou school still stands, but it's future is grim. For the new one, a structure which reminds me of the Pentagon in the US, (but higher), is starting to become functional. In fact, the new Tagou school is just incredibly huge, most definitely the largest group of associated buildings I've seen in China other than the Oriental Plaza structures in Beijing. But, the rest of the village in that area, is just about gone, with the exception of one school area to the south. Many of the structure remants (pads, etc) still remain; the area closest to the original Shaolin temple area gate, which is next to the Wushu Guan, has been relandscaped, in the typical "grass, mature tree, better than God" approach. The remaining Shaolin village foundations will be removed, and the new Lord of the Landscaping will work his magic there once again.
The Wushu Guan's renovation is complete, with the exception of the hotel area, and, the new five star hotel complex that will be built with the help of an unknown Singapore corporation. The arena across from the Wushu Guan, along with all of the other land to the south of the temple road, is completely landscaped. In order to maximize the flow of visitors to the temple, a road has been built to the south of the river that runs through Shaolin valley; it is primarily for automobiles and buses. The old tree lined temple road apparently is just a walking road now.
Transportation takes you past the old temple to the south of Shaolin, to the large parking lot near the Pagoda Forest. The shopping stalls are still there, living precariously with an unknown future. The Pagoda Forest is unchanged. Shaolin temple, is not
There has been a lot of construction at Shaolin. I first saw it over a year ago, when Guanyin Hall was torn down. It had startled me at first, but, upon a subsequent visit, it had been rebuilt, identical to what was there previously. Yongxin had the thing rebuilt because the frescoes were in danger of being destroyed by the expected collapse of the building. But what is being done now, is a different story.
The four guardian statues at the second gate have been removed, repainted, and replaced. The Bell tower is undergoing renovation, as is the Drum tower. The museum area with the clay statues of the monks is still partially obliterated by the eyesore performance arena, where Yongxin has monks from his associated three Dengfeng schools perform modern wushu. And, of course, banners with his picture abound. The first main temple hall upon entering the inner gate is undergoing renovation. As for the buildings directly to the east and west of that, they're completely gone. In fact, they are being "reconstructed", not according to what was there recently, but supposedly, according to what was there in the pre-1928 times. Someone dug up old Japanese photos of the temple; these temple buildings are being rebuilt according to those photos. I saw one photo, which the temple used as an advertisement. It looks nothing like what they are building. And, if that is what they have to go buy, their architects have one hell of an imagination. God knows what will be put in these new huge buildings.
The other temples, in line with the north-south axis, are the same. Some are undergoing some minor revisions, such as painting and cleaning. Floor areas are being rebuilt. New handrail partitions have been raised. It doesn't look much different. At least, at this point.
The second major temple hall is the same, except for the fact that there are many pictures of famous Buddhist monks adorning the east and west sides. I saw no wuseng whatsoever in these pictures, at least, none that I knew.
There is a lot of major construction occurring on the east and west lateral sides of the temple grounds. Shi Su Xi's house is gone. As is Shi Su Xi. He's currently in Guangdong, doing well, or, as well as can be expected for a man with severe Parkinson's disease. The reason for his absence is unknown. No doubt the loss of his house may have something to do with that. The monk areas on the east side have been torn down also. What will go there is not known to me.
Oh, and there's a new shi bei in the stone tablet area..... (see the Shaolin Politics section: Stella! A new Shi Bei in town....)
- Written by doc
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