THEY are the ultimate Buddhist warriors.
Known for amazing feats of strength, flexibility and pain endurance the Shaolin monks have been looked to for their outstanding Kung Fu skills for 1,500 years.
But now, for the first time in history, Hampshire is set to get its own Shaolin temple.
The UK Shaolin Temple will today open its doors with a bumper celebration of firecrackers, dancing dragons and martial arts demonstrations.
The Southampton temple features martial arts training and meditation rooms and the charity hopes to expand in the near future to provide Chinese language and arts classes, making the premises the UK’s only Chinese cultural centre of it’s type.
The UK Shaolin Temple was founded by 34th-generation Shaolin warrior monk Shi Yan Min in 2002 but up until now the organisation has been using schools and church halls across the south to meet and provide classes.
Now the charity has transformed a former car mechanic’s premises into a Shaolin retreat and a little piece of China in the heart of the city.
Shi Yan Min said: “I had a strong vision of what I wanted to create – an environment that would help and inspire learning and teaching, but also a retreat from the pressures of life.
“As you can appreciate we also had to have a good imagination to see the possibility of the garage, and faith in people to know its potential could be fulfilled in a short space of time with limited resources. We have received unprecedented kindness and generosity in time and resources.
“This includes our members, our extraordinary new neighbours Southampton Makerspace, and local businesses across Hampshire. The vision of this temple would not have been realised without them.”
Everyone is welcome to join in the celebrations which will begin with a dragon dance along Shirley Road in Freemantle from 11.30am.
People are asked to take photos of the dragon as it makes its way along the high street and post them to social media site Twitter using the hashtag #FollowTheDragon.
The dragon will be greeted at the temple in Liners Industrial Estate in Pitt Road at 12pm by the Mayor of Southampton Cllr Linda Norris and police and crime comissioner Simon Hayes and Ms Ma Lei and Mr Feng Xirong from the Chinese Embassy.
The Mayor will cut the ribbon officially opening the temple at 12.30pm and students will show off the martial arts skills with demonstrations from 12.45pm.
The temple, which welcomes people of all backgrounds and religions, will be the only Shaolin Buddhist temple in the south coast – with the next nearest in London and Bristol.
For more details about the temple and classes call 0845 519 6698 or visit www.ukshaolintemple.com.
Rebecca Pearson, Reporter. DAILY ECHO