Shaolin Temple, in the region of Songshan Mountain, Dengfeng City, Henan Province, is reputed to be 'the Number One Temple under Heaven'. The temple is the cradle of the Chinese Zen Buddhism and the Shaolin Martial Arts such as Shaolin Cudgel. It is only eight miles of Dengfeng and about 50 miles southwest of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province. The temple was built in 495, the 19th year of the reign of Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty. Shaolin Temple is known in and outside of China for Shaolin wushu (martial arts).
Shortly after, according to tradition, Boddhidarma, an Indian monk credited with the founding of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, came to live here, after visiting the emperor in Nanjing, then crossing the Yangtze River on a reed. At Shaolin he sat motionless for nine years facing a wall in a state of illumination. He was the first to practice what is now known as Shaolin martial arts. His limbs had become stiff from the long periods of sitting still and facing the cave wall, and he felt great discomfort. He also noticed that the monks were falling asleep during meditation and that their health was deteriorating, so he invented an exercise of eighteen movements, now known as the Eighteen Routines of Shaolin Martial Arts, imitating the pounce of the tiger, the climb of the monkey, and the jump of the leopard.
About 300 meters west of the Shaolin Temple is the Forest of Pagodas. In accordance with the Buddhist system, pagodas were built there to keep the remains of the deceased abbots and other eminent monks, and stone table inscribed with the merits and virtues of the dead were erected. It has 231 Pagodas built during the 1,200 years after 791, the eleventh year of the reign (780-805) of Emperor Dezong of the Tang Dynasty. The form and size of the pagodas bear the influences of the times and show the ranks of the dead during their lifetimes and the economic situation at the temple. The pagodas vary in appearance and are from one to seven stories high, the highest being 15 meters.