Our China trip also took us to Luòyáng where we visited the Longmen Grottoes (which literally means “Dragon’s Gate”). This consists of a series of caves, dug out by hand, which houses tens of thousands of statues of Buddha and his disciples. It was amazing to see cave after cave of statues, some as small as 1 inch, and others much, much larger. In fact, the biggest statue stands 57 feet tall! Albert, our guide, explained how we could distinguish the statues of the Northern Wei Dynasty from those from the Tang Dynasty. A favorite moment for many of us was when we climbed the steep steps up towards the largest Buddha. We were told that the center aisle was reserved specifically for the emperor and that, in taking that path, we were walking in the emperor’s footsteps!

After walking back to the bus along the Yi River (it was very beautiful!), we ate another hearty meal...sometimes it seems like the food never stops coming! It has been a pleasure to see the students’ sense of adventure in trying new foods!

After lunch, we drove to the Shaolin Temple. Here's a fun group shot of us.


Upon arrival, we had the pleasure of watching a demonstration of Shaolin Kung Fu. The students were very impressed with the feats they performed, which included poking a pin through a sheet of glass and popping a balloon! On our way out, we observed small children practicing Kung Fu. Our students were very impressed with their agility.

From there, we toured the Temple itself. We learned about how Buddhism came to China from India, leading to the construction of the Shaolin Temple about 1,500 years ago. It is remarkable to note that, even though the Temple has Buddhist origins, it is a place where three different belief systems (Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism) co-exist peacefully. As we walked around the Temple and explored its different courtyards, we all noticed the peacefulness of our surroundings – even when it was full of other tourists! The students were very interested to see the monks and imagine their life in the monastery.

We ended our visit with a sunset walk back to the Pagoda Forest and the buses. Our guide was very pleased to see us, as we apparently tool a little longer than planned. As he remarked, “Lord Buddha was playing a trick on you - he wanted you to stay!” Many students commented that this moment was their favorite of the trip so far, as it was so beautiful and peaceful!