In the beautiful sunny afternoon of Wednesday, May 25, 2011, the Venerable Abbot Shi Yongxin of China Songshan Shaolin Temple delighted the students, parents and friends of the Shaolin Temple Culture Center in Herndon, Virginia with his first visit. A jubilant and reverential procession led by Shaolin Temple USA Executive Director Master Shi Yanran greeted the Venerable Abbot with bows, applauses and colorful bouquets presented by 5 young students. Although it was a workday afternoon, a great turn out of students, families and Shaolin culture enthusiasts filled the spacious culture center to welcome the Abbot to their affluent city in the Washington, DC area.
Shaolin Temple Culture Center in Herndon is the third and newest Shaolin cultural facility established by Shaolin Temple USA, a nonprofit organization founded in 2007 with 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status. Two other Shaolin Temple USA culture centers are located in San Francisco and Fremont, California.
Master Shi Yanran opened the afternoon’s program by welcoming the Abbot to Herndon and expressing heartfelt gratitude for his mentor’s guidance in Shaolin Temple USA’s work. Master Yanran reported that since the center opened ten months ago in July 2010, over 100 students of diverse age groups and backgrounds have enrolled in various programs to study Shaolin Kung Fu and experience Shaolin Chan (Zen) culture. A Shaolin community is emerging around this new center. He further reported that since the Abbot's visit to the San Francisco Bay Area in March 2009 for the 6-day celebration of “China Songshan Shaolin Temple Day hosted by Shaolin Temple USA,” and to officially open the Shaolin Temple Culture Center in San Francisco, the two California centers have also made meaningful progress in reaching different sectors of the American public. Student enrollment has reached over 700. Shaolin Temple USA has been collaborating with mainstream institutions and community organizations such as Asian Art Museum, Stanford University and the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce in presenting Shaolin Kung Fu Chan culture to tens of thousands of diverse audiences in cultural and sports events. Shaolin Temple USA students and masters participated in the 150-year old annual San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade, receiving a silver award in 2011. Starting January 2011, Shaolin Temple USA has been offering Shaolin Kung Fu lessons at Stanford University School of Medicine under the Health Improvement Program. It is also a goal of the Herndon center to bring Shaolin Kung Fu Chan into the schools and universities in the greater Washington, DC area.
Student Wei Li welcome the Venerable Abbot on behalf of all fellow students and gave a compelling introduction on why the greater DC area is an ideal place to spread Shaolin culture. “Besides its preeminent status in national and world affairs, it is also a leading national economic, cultural, technological and diplomatic epicenter. Top 3 highest income US counties lie within its boundaries. All the major national defense agencies and contractors are headquartered here. It is dubbed the Silicon Valley of the East Coast. Home to the embassies of 178 nations in the world, opportunities are abound to introduce Shaolin culture to citizens of the world. Many of our students work in important government departments nearby. Therefore we can claim that there are Shaolin disciples in the White House, Congress and the Pentagon.”
During his address to the students, parents, “Dharma Protectors”and staff members, the Abbot recalled a conversation with Master Yanran who joined him in February 2009 in Washington, DC for the multifaith National Prayer Breakfast with President Barack Obama, when he encouraged his disciple to establish a Shaolin culture center in this great area. The culture center has materialized. He praised Master Yanran’s leadership and everyone’s hard work for the progress made by the center in 10 short months, and called on everyone to continue spreading Shaolin Culture in America.
The Abbot was delighted to review the center’s student report card in the form of a Shaolin Kung Fu recital. Fifty students from tender ages to mature years showed the Abbot the results of their training in traditional Shaolin Kung Fu at the center, with group and individual performances such as Lianhuan Fist, Xiaohong Fist, Shaolin 13 Spears, Bodhidharma Sword and Spring and Autumn Dadao. After the recital, the Abbot applauded their great efforts in the delivery of traditional Shaolin Kung Fu in spirit, form and strength. He encouraged the students to continue their diligent training in order to bring their Shaolin cultural learning to a higher level. The resident Monks put on a mesmerizing Shaolin Kung Fu and Qigong performance. Master Yanran’s Shaolin Supreme Qigong Feat Spear Tip Poking at Throat while Breaking Concrete Slab on Back, for instance, invoked many a jaw-dropping moments. Everyone felt honored, enjoyed a great time with treasured photo moments with the Venerable Abbot Shi Yongxin at this special Shaolin family gathering.