Monkeying Around in Henan

by Nitai Deitel, Educational Programs Coordinator

This week, the Hutong Education staff set out on a research trip to re-connect with our local partners in Henan and to expand the scope of our Shaolin: Kung Fu Kids program.

Starting in one China’s eight ancient capitals, Zhengzhou, we kicked off our trip with a refresher visit to the Henan Provincial History Museum. As we all know, China has 5000 years of history and Henan is one of the cradles of Chinese civilization. This excellent museum contains artifacts dating back to the earliest eras of settlement in the region and offers a peek into the many dynasties that ruled from the banks of the Yellow River. After building up an appetite at the museum, we scuttled over to one of Zhengzhou’s most highly recommended hui mian noodle spots to introduce our palettes to this famous Henan specialty.

After lunch, we headed to Dengfeng to finalize preparations for the kung fu portions of our upcoming programs. We were delighted to meet one of XMA Master Xie’s oldest friends and peers, Can Sen, who introduced us to his students at a school Master Can established for orphan children. The students were in the midst of preparations for their annual Mid-Autumn Festival assembly, which they are excited to show us when we return in the fall. The first day ended spectacularly with a beautiful sunset hike along the ridges of the Songshan Mountains.

Day two was an early morning wake-up call as we set off for the gates of the Shaolin Temple. We were greeted with a bustle of activity as the thousands of students training along the grounds were in the midst of their morning kung fu exercises. Especially fun was watching the youngest students, some hardly older than five, practice their bow staff skills with intimidating ferocity.

We then went through our classic scavenger hunt at the temple. Already long-time favorite of students on our programs, we’re making it even better for this fall and including a greater range of challenges. Next we circumnavigated the park, exploring the Pagoda Forest, and ascending one of the farther peaks via cable car.

After a quick lunch, we began our trek up the windy mountain path to Dharma Cave. This is the same path used by young kung fu students to test their stamina and endurance and we were lucky enough to be greeted along the way by the warm smiles of students who were also climbing in the afternoon heat. The picturesque valley


landscape combined with the crystal clear skies and setting sun made for an excellent cap to a successful second day in Henan.

Keeping with our tight schedule, day three brought us to the ancient capital of Luoyang and the world-famous Longmen Grottoes. A new addition to our Henan program, we spent a thrilling afternoon traversing the thousands upon thousands of caves that lined the banks of the Yi River. What a spectacular sight to behold! Our favorite was the Locana Buddha, standing an imposing 17.1 meters tall and casting a watchful eye over the hundreds of tourists huddled around.

Our final stop was the Luoyang old town, where the maze of narrow and winding streets reminded us of the Beijing hutong that we call home. Hustling to the brand-new high-speed train station to make our evening train back to Beijing, Henan provided us with one last spectacular sunset and left us excited to return with our students groups in a few short weeks.