|© Steve McCurry|
By Steve McCurry
This image is of young monks training in the art of kung fu at the Shaolin Monastery in Hena, Province, China.
The original Shaolin Monastery was founded on Mount Shaoshi in the 5th Century. Though the practice of martial arts actually originated in China several hundred years before its construction, the temple has a long history associated with kung fu.
There are many thoughts as to the beginnings of Shaolin kung fu. The most common begins with a man named Bodhidharma. According to the Yijin Jing, Bodhidharma stood facing a wall in total silence for nine years. It is said that his stare created a hole in the wall. After completing this task, he wished go back west to India. The only thing he left behind was an iron chest which contained two books: the Marrow Cleansing Classic, which was taken by one of his disciples, and the Muscle Tendon Change Classic, or Yijin Jing. The story goes, that this second book was extremely coveted by all of the monks as well as the obsession for practicing the skills within. The Shaolin have garnered a wealth of fame through their fighting skill. If the stories of origin are true, the credit is due to their possession of this manuscript.
In Buddhism, there is a pervasive sense of the impermanence of life. There is a cycle. Things are born and they pass away. Having spent a great deal of time in Buddhist monasteries, I’ve gained a strong appreciation for the unique way the monks look at life. Rather than fear the certainty of aging and death, they expect and also embrace it. Wander through the monastery or talk to devotees and you will see that their priorities and the things that they care about seem more sensible and more sane than in other parts of the world.
no strangers: ancient wisdom in a modern world opens at the Annenberg Space for Photography on Saturday, November 17 and runs through February 24, 2013. Learn more about Steve McCurry's work on his official website.