Located about 31 miles (50 km) southeast of Luoyang, the Shaolin Temple, or Shaolin Monastery, is one of the main Zen Buddhist temples in China. The Shaolin Temple and its Pagoda Forest were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.
Believed to have been founded in the 5th century, the Shaolin Temple consists of a complex rebuilt in the 20th century adjoined to a Pagoda Forest.
The temple complex, with its picturesque gardens, is pleasant to stroll in. While the buildings are similar to many others in China, the unique Pagoda Forest is perhaps the most interesting part of the Shaolin Temple.
The Pagoda Forest, about 0.19 miles (300 m) from the complex, was a burial ground for eminent monks in the long history of the temple. Each pagoda holds a tomb and there are so many scattered close together that the site resembles a forest.
What makes the Shaolin Temple extremely famous in China and abroad is its Shaolin Kungfu, one of the largest and best-known sects of Chinese Kungfu. This is largely due to the many books and movies depicting this kind of martial art. Today, you can still see young students and monks learning Kungfu in the scenic area.
Included in the entrance ticket, there is a fantastic Kungfu show at the temple's Martial Arts Hall. The performance lasts about 30 minutes and runs at regular times throughout the day. To avoid the long queues we recommend getting there 20 minutes before the show.
Like many temples in China, the Shaolin Temple is rather commercialized and it gets crowded, so we do not recommend visiting on weekends or during Chinese public holidays.
It takes 20 minutes walking from the check-in to the temple complex and the Pagoda Forest. If you prefer not to walk, you can opt for an electric cart at an additional cost.
No martial art is more famous in China than Shaolin Kungfu, a sport made famous by international superstars like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. For Chinese Kungfu fans, we can arrange a Shaolin Kungfu class. Depending on how in-depth you want to learn it, you may participate in a one-hour class or stay for a few days.
Many visitors tour only the Shaolin Temple and the Pagoda Forest, but for those who like nature and hiking, the Sanhuangzhai Scenic Area, next to the temple, is also worth a visit. Songshan is a UNESCO Global Geopark and one of the five sacred mountains in China, and the Sanhuangzhai Scenic Area is probably its best highlight.
From the Shaolin Pagoda Forest onward there are two cable cars. The Songshan Shaolin Cable Car takes you to the top of the mountain. From there you must hike the rest of the way. The hike is essentially done on planks along the cliffside. Along the way, you can appreciate the beautiful scenery and some fascinating rock formations.
The catwalk is wide enough for two people to walk side by side and the guardrails are safe. Visitors should wear comfortable shoes and expect climbing many steps. Depending on time and energy, visitors can stop anywhere, walk back and take the cable car down to the Shaolin Temple. Alternatively, they can hike down and leave the trail at the SanHuangZhai exit. Note that the entire trail takes about three hours to complete and there is no public transportation at the SanHuangZhai exit.
The Shaolin Temple is about a 1.5-hour drive from Luoyang or Zhengzhou. There are buses from Luoyang and Zhengzhou to the temple, but considering the distance, it's more convenient to book a tour.
Opening hours: 7:00am-6:00pm (March to November) / 7:00am-5:30pm (December to February)
Entrance fee: CNY 80/person
Electric cart: CNY 25 (round trip) / CNY 15 (one way)
Kungfu Show Times: 9:30am (summer), 10:30am, 11:30am, 2:00pm, 3:00pm, 4:00pm, 5:00pm (summer)
Cable Car to Sanhuangzhai: CNY 100 (round trip) / CNY 80 (one way)
Average time for this activity: 1/2 to 1 day