Pagoda Forest, China

Photograph by Fritz Hoffmann, National Geographic

"Gained merit in battle" reads the epitaph of two of the 231 eminent Shaolin monks honored with shrines in the Pagoda Forest. The number of layers in a shrine reflects a monk's virtue; his bones, and often those of disciples, are buried below.

See more photographs from the March 2011 feature story "Battle for the Soul of Kung Fu."