ZhengZhou and Shaolin Temple
"Chinese to the last"
Zhengzhou... what a miserable place. That is, if you don't get past the train station. I'd be willing to bet that, away from the station it's not too bad a city... and it's not horrible by the station, just very crowded, frenetically busy and dirty. But it's the stopping point on the train or long distance bus for getting to the Shaolin Temple. If you're into Kung Fu, read on. If not, it's an interesting bit of Chinese culture, so read on as well.
When we think about Kung Fu, with images of frenetic, angry-looking, half-naked people flying through the air, we don't really get a good idea of what Kung Fu is all about. There are quite a few styles of Kung Fu, based on different animals, and it is far more complex than even the best movies can really demonstrate.
All that said, enter the home of Kung Fu, introduced to China and indeed to the world, really, through the Shaolin Temple near Zhengzhou. Towering and precipitous grey mountains rise through mists of clinging clouds, their resident greenery poised as if in attack position on the cliff walls, black against the descended white, veiling the deep-blue sky from earthly beings.
From the base of the cliffs, where sits a wooden structure, its architecture perfectly blended into the surroundings, come slighty muffled shouts of thousands of monks, dressed all in grey. Their shorn heads sweat their efforts. In unison, they cut the air in precise, deadly strikes while their master, wearing white and seated in front of them, pulls his long, thin white goatee watches to find the next master.
Such is the image of Shao Lin, birthplace of Kung Fu. Now, here's the catch- none of that really exists. Well, to be honest, the massive facility hosts the original temple, which you'll often see in movies here. But the rest is of fantasy and imagination thanks to the undoing by the Chinese.
Today, you and your tour group will be treated to a theater-based showing of Wu Shu, a decidedly worthless martial art designed to look impressive with its acrobatic style, yet orchestrated by the government to be essentially lacking in much of any martial use- no more uprisings by trained monks.
You can go in on your own, of course, but it's much the same if you take any sort of transport that isn't private. Don't get sucked into any tours at the bus station, either- they'll try. As I mentioned, the newly-built concrete facility is massive, and by that I mean expansive. It covers a lot of ground, and offers little to see. I suggest the main temple area, possibly waste some time (get out of the heat) at the Wu Shu show, or avoid it all together.
In short, it's like much of Chinese sites- so over-built that it lacks any of the original magic.