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SHAOLIN FLYING MONKS THEATRE, Photo courtesy of  Mailitis Architects © Ansis Starks
SHAOLIN FLYING MONKS THEATRE, Photo courtesy of Mailitis Architects © Ansis Starks
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Monks in China Are Flying in a Wind Tunnel and Here's Why

Picture of Amber C. Snider
Home & Design Editor
Updated: 13 March 2017

Mailitis Architects recently completed a stunning steel amphitheater dedicated to levitation performances on a hillside of the Songshan Mountain in Central China. Now everyone is wondering, how exactly are they flying?

SHAOLIN FLYING MONKS THEATRE, Photo courtesy of Mailitis Architects © Ansis Starks

SHAOLIN FLYING MONKS THEATRE, Photo courtesy of Mailitis Architects © Ansis Starks

Completed in 2017, The Shaolin Flying Monks Theater is situated on Cypress Hill in Central China, located near the Buddhist Shaolin Monastery. In an area known as the cradle of martial arts, the Songshan Mountain is also known as a spiritual center, and is considered the “birthplace of Zen Buddhism.”

It’s no surprise, then, that a new architectural wonder dedicated to soaring performing arts has been given an official home in these sacred mountains.

SHAOLIN FLYING MONKS THEATRE, Photo courtesy of Mailitis Architects © Ansis Starks

SHAOLIN FLYING MONKS THEATRE, Photo courtesy of Mailitis Architects © Ansis Starks

But exactly how can someone fly inside (and above) this stunning new superstructure? The secret lies in its center: it houses a powerful wind tunnel at the core.

The exterior of the building has a function that goes beyond mere aesthetics; stairs continue the “topography of the territory” and help shape the main part of the stage, which centers around the tree-like wind tunnel. According to the official release, the stairs’ surface also helps “provide the massive air flow for engines” in a building method that “combines modern and ancient technologies.”

SHAOLIN FLYING MONKS THEATRE, Photo courtesy of Mailitis Architects © Ansis Starks

SHAOLIN FLYING MONKS THEATRE, Photo courtesy of Mailitis Architects © Ansis Starks

Mailitis Architects constructed the theater in the shape of two spiritually sacred symbols: the mountain and the tree, thereby paying homage to existing cultural landscape. The amphitheater’s “architectural and conceptual” design complements the “surrounding nature and the historical heritage of the site,” according to the press release.

The entire Shaolin area is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage list and has become a popular international tourist destination, which will undoubtedly expand due to the amphitheater’s opening.

“The building method combines modern and ancient technologies – laser-cut steel superstructure supports stone steps handcrafted using local quarry resources,” states Mailitis Architects.

SHAOLIN FLYING MONKS THEATRE, Photo courtesy of Mailitis Architects © Ansis Starks

SHAOLIN FLYING MONKS THEATRE, Photo courtesy of Mailitis Architects © Ansis Starks

Local monks from the nearby monastery and tourists alike can all try their hand at flying inside the mountain-side amphitheater.

SHAOLIN FLYING MONKS THEATRE, Photo courtesy of Mailitis Architects © Ansis Starks

SHAOLIN FLYING MONKS THEATRE, Photo courtesy of Mailitis Architects © Ansis Starks