Review of the Wushu Festival! (I waited way to long to post this :( ) The festival (held Oct. 18) was absolutely amazing, so many students of martial arts you almost didn’t know where to look. The Shaolin Temple has been home to martial art enthusiasts for many years now, with hundreds of kung fu schools popping up at the foot of the mountain’s temple. Thousands of students come to train at the school, primarily local farming students who use this as perhaps their only opportunity to gain an education and some good food. For many, the training in reading and writing alone (one of the main tenants of martial arts is the ability to learn from the writings of the masters) is a great benefit of the program. The self-discipline and values it instills into them is another. To be honest, I can’t imagine very many American kids being able to go through the rigorous training these kids go through. That said, they seemed generally healthy, excited, and ready to go on Festival Day!
The Festival itself is really hard to get into. . . the cost is outrageous and you have to work your way onto one of the tour buses. Since they try to encourage a diverse group of travelers (India, Iran, USA, Russia, France, Germany, Kazakhstan. . . dozens of countries made a showing), it’s not always easy to grab a spot on the bus. Everyone (not just our group, literally EVERONE), piles onto buses that are required to meet at a certain point on the highway and form a caravan. This caravan drives the last 45 minutes or so together until they reach the foot of the mountain.
There, the schools have lined up thousands of students in row after row of various events (saber fighting, boxing, drumming, kicking) that you along the road. It’s considered the “welcoming party” and you watch as your bus passes by. This goes on for another 45 minutes – 1 hour as you drive up the mountain to reach Shaolin Temple. There, you enter the temple’s fighting grounds, watching a few major performances and then wandering around the school as you please. Thousands upon Thousands of students line the roads and practice in the larger areas to demonstrate their skills and abilities.
Kids that look like babies doing the splits in a tree, while the older boys throw each other about and contort into unbelievable poses for 30 minutes at a time. Must admit, I let there feeling part inspired in the power of humankind and part ashamed of myself for my own lack of will power. Those boys and girls were working all day long, moving from one torturous stance to another, completely ignoring the gaping onlookers wandering through. Definitely impressive!
At the end of the day, everyone returns to a large natural amphitheater set where you can see up and down the mountain valley. Once it is dark, the students begin their large musical dance, an hour of breathtaking scenes accompanied by heart-stirring melodies. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of beauty. I’ll be adding videos as soon as I can upload them. All in all the event was a massive success. . . I am absolutely returning next year, I can’t even imagine missing it!