China (1,500 m) – One of the Five Sacred Mountains of China (central)
Mount Song is midmost of the Five Sacred Peaks and is also known as the “Great Central Mountain”. Despite is central location in Henan Province, it is one of the less prominent of the sacred peaks, and surprisingly isolated, at least compared to Mount Tai. It is sacred to both Taoists and Buddhists, and is held to be the birthplace of Zen Buddhism.
According to tradition, Batuo, a monk from India, arrived around the year 464 AD and introduced Buddhism to India. He founded the now world famous Shaolin Monastery, where Zen Buddhism was practiced. In later centuries it became renowned for the introduction of China’s definitive martial art, Kung Fu. After surviving periods of destruction and reconstruction, and suppression under the Communists, the Shaolin Monastery is once again active, and considered one of China’s most beloved religious sites.
Mount Song, located approximately forty miles from Zhengzhou, is both accessible and isolated at the same time. The nearest major city, Xi’an, is 200 miles to the west. Nevertheless Song attracts swarms of visitors from around the world, especially martial artists, many of whom revere the Shaolin Monastery as an important pilgrimage destination. The monastery now largely survives off of contributions from around the world.