First there was silence. And then it began: an all girl’s troupe commenced pounding drums with an unrelenting ferocity, infusing their fury with unexpected light touches of musical humor. In such dramatic fashion the Shaolin Temple of Los Angeles launched its annual celebration of the Chinese New Year on Sunday, January 22, 2023.
Every year the Buddhist Shaolin Temple inaugurates this holiday with a gloriously festive event filled with merriment and featuring drummers, lion dancers, opera singers, and, of course, monks.
As a culmination of this joyous occasion, a special ceremony is performed to initiate new disciples of the temple.
Following the drummers, the lion dancers came out in full regalia with brightly colored costumes representing lions. After a dazzling demonstration, the dancers sprinkled colorful confetti on the crowd, to the delight of all, especially the children.
Enter the monks to perpetrate their truly amazing mind over matter antics involving strength, agility, and sheer will. Monk after monk performed superhuman stunts such as effortlessly overcoming being hit repeatedly with metal or bamboo objects.
All this was but a prelude to the piece de resistance: one monk lies on three swords, a bed of nails is placed on his stomach and then still another monk is laid on the bed of nails after which a slab of concrete is placed on his chest. All is now in readiness for SHIFU, founder of and guiding force behind the temple: he wields a sledgehammer and breaks the slab without any damage to the monks below! Don’t try this feat at home!
Still awestruck by such a display of determination and spirit, we in attendance were next treated to a repast of delectable vegan delicacies.
Then it was time for the opera group to regale us with traditional Chinese music, which they executed with diligence and elan.
To conclude the program was the much awaited initiation ceremony for new disciples.
This was an afternoon of variegated productions, each of which provided entertainment and enlightenment and revealed the dedication and zeal of the performers. This most suitable and enjoyable of celebrations of the Chinese New Year was orchestrated by Shifu, the Honorable Shi Yan Fan, who started this temple in Los Angeles 15 years ago with the blessing of the Grand Abbot Shi Yongxin of the Shaolin Temple in China.The Los Angeles temple offers daily classes in Qigong and Tai Chi meditation and movement. It also has a program where one can become a disciple and learn the ways of Kung Fu, a practice originated by the Shaolin monks in a tradition which goes back 1,500 years.The community is invited and encouraged to participate in temple activities.
Thank you, Shifu, for your service to the temple and humanity.
Thank you, Joshua Kent Fike, for your magnificent photographs of the event.