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We have all seen the classic Kung Fu movies in which the world-famous Shaolin monks seem to by flying or levitating in mid-air as they pull off their amazing repertoire of Kung Fu moves and defeat the bad guys. For many of us, it is these Kung Fu movies which kick-starting our passion for martial arts.

Well, how excited would you be if you heard that the Shaolin Monks actually could fly? Because pretty soon they will be able to, and it’s all thanks to a firm of architects from, of all places, Latvia.

Kung Fu Movies Flying Shaolin Monks?

kung fu movies shaolin monks

Let me explain. The Latvians in question work for Mailitis Architects, a studio based in the Latvian capital city of Riga. Back in 2010, they were commissioned to design a new performance space to be located at the world-famous Shaolin Monastery, on Songshan Mountain in Henan Province, China.

If they might seem like an odd choice for the Shaolin monks, then there is a simple explanation. Austris Mailitis, who runs Mailitis Architects, designed the Latvian pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo, and it was here that he first met representatives of the Monastery, who appreciated his pavilion design.

It was a complicated commission for a couple of different reasons. Firstly, the Shaolin Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage site, meaning any developments are strictly regulated and needs to fit into the surrounding environment.

But perhaps more challenging was the purpose of the building. Because it was called the Shaolin Flying Monks Theatre and was intended to be a place where the monks could undertake levitating performances.

Flying Theatre for Shaolin Monks

kung fu movies shaolin monks

Six years on, and the Mailitis Architects have achieved what would, until comparatively recently, have been thought impossible. They have designed and built a Flying Theatre.

Essentially, what they have created is a giant wind tunnel, with an amphitheatre, which can seat 230 people, surrounding it. The wind tunnel technology, which underpins the main feature of the site, was actually designed and installed by Aerodium, a company which specialises in such things.

For many visitors to the Shaolin Monastery, it is the external appearance of the new building which will catch their eye first and be their lasting memory. It is located on top of the Cypress Hill and is designed with the shape of two core features of the surrounding landscape – mountains and trees – in mind. The amphitheatre forms the shape of a mountain, whilst the wind tunnel rises in the centre, like a tree sat on the summit.

The structure itself is made from a laser-cut steel superstructure but also features more traditional and local features, such as stone steps handcrafted using local quarry resources, as the architects went out of their way to blend the old and the new.

Flying Shaolin Monks in Kung Fu Movies “Dream-Come-True”

According to Austris Mailitis, the new theatre will tell the history of “Zen and Kung Fu through artistic performances and architectural image of the building itself.”

Personally, I have never been a big of creative-types detailing the thought process and inspiration behind their work. For me, what Mailitis Architects have designed is, quite simply, a very cool looking performance space.

But it is what will take place inside that I am really excited about. The theatre will host weekly performances by Shaolin Monks in which they will perform their various Kung Fu routines whilst flying high up in the air above the audience, and indeed above the theatre itself.

kung fu movies shaolin monks ninja

It promises to be a jaw-dropping spectacle and a martial arts experience like no other you have ever seen. And for those lucky enough to see it, there is no question that it will be the show, rather than the building, that stays in your mind. But the excitement doesn’t stop there because there is also a promise that the wind tunnel will also be available for the public to try out as well!

Now, I’ll admit here that I’m not that great at Kung Fu. I’m enthusiastic, but not actually very good. But the chance to try out my limited repertoire of moves whilst flying at the Shaolin Monastery is one that gives me butterflies in my stomach. It’s ‘dream-come-true’ stuff.

Like many of you, I grew up watching the flying shaolin monks in kung fu movies. Now, at last, I will be able to go and see it in person and have a go myself. And it’s all thanks to a group of Latvian architects. Who’d have thought it?

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