Many dynasties ruled China from the capital cities of Luoyang and Kaifeng in Henan, which along with the neighbour ring provinces of Shaanxi and Shanxi is considered the Cradle of Chinese civilization. Some of the standouts attractions include the legendary ShaolinTemple, the birthplace of a unique style of Gongfu (Kong Fu), and the magnificent Longmen Grottoes, which feature over 100,000 Buddhist images and statues carved into cliffs on the Yi River. The Longmen Grottoes, a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, contain a remarkable collection of Buddhist stone statues that have been carved into the faces of two mountains on opposing banks of the Yi River. Nearby Dengfeng, China’s best-known hotbed for martial arts, was where the style of Gongfu (Kong Fu) created by the monks of ShaolinTemple has been immortalized in Hollywood films. Celebrated in pop culture as a martial arts Mecca, ShaolinTemple is also one of the world’s most important Mahayana Buddhist monasteries and the birthplace of Zen (Chan) Buddhism. Home-grown Taoist philosophy influenced the way in which Buddhism, an import from India, was practiced in Shaolin, with emphasis placed on observing and living in harmony with nature. According to legend, the local variant of kungfu originated in 520AD when Bodhidharma, a Zen (Chan) Buddhist monk, devised a set of breathing and training exercises to help fellow monks build their inner strength and protect themselves in their harsh, remote mountain home. Over time, the monks developed these exercises into a complex fighting system that combines internal, meditation-based training and breathing with fighting techniques inspired by the movements of animals, hence their names: Praying Mantis, Tiger, Toad, Bird, Dragon, and Monkey, to name a few. A truly fascinating place to visit.