Abbas • Shaolin Kung Fu School • Magnum Photos

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The Shaolin School of Kung Fu

Abbas observes the rites of the Shaolin Kung Fu school as members perform exercises for an audience

Abbas

Abbas Young monks of the Shaolin school display their Kung Fu skills in a hotel. A young monk bends a sharp-pointed spear with his neck while another hits savagely, with a heavy hammer, the slab on his b (...)
Abbas Young monks of the Shaolin school display their Kung Fu skills in a hotel. A young monk releases a sharp-pointed spear after bending it down with his neck. His self-disciplined muscles are so stro (...)
Abbas Young monks of the Shaolin school display their Kung Fu skills in a hotel. A young monk lies on sharp-pointed spears held by fellow monks. His self-disciplined muscles are so strong that he is not (...)
Abbas Young monks of the Shaolin school display their Kung Fu skills in a hotel. Henan Province, China. 2016. © Abbas | Magnum Photos
Abbas Young monks of the Shaolin school display their Kung Fu skills in a hotel. Henan Province, China. 2016. © Abbas | Magnum Photos
Abbas The Shaolin Monastery. Entrance statue. Henan Province, China. 2016. © Abbas | Magnum Photos
Abbas Young monks train for Kung Fu in the Shaolin Monastery. Henan Province, China. 2016. © Abbas | Magnum Photos
Abbas The Shaolin Monastery. Young students of the Kung Fu school train in the open ground. Henan Province, China. 2016. © Abbas | Magnum Photos
Abbas Young monks train for Kung Fu on the Shaolin Monastery grounds. They pick up the mattresses used for their exercises. Henan Province, China. 2016. © Abbas | Magnum Photos
Abbas The Shaolin Monastery. A tourist poses in front of an engraved stone. Henan Province, China. 2016. © Abbas | Magnum Photos

This year, Abbas revisited China to explore themes of religious practice. On his recent visit to Kaifeng, a city in central China’s Henan province, Abbas sought out members of the Shaolin Kung Fu school school as they performed Kung Fu techniques for audiences of tourists.

“I went to the Shaolin Kung Fu school because, when I was doing my project on Buddhism in China in 2009 I had photographed a monk who had graduated from this school who had become a TV personality in Chengdu. I could not accept his invitation to visit Shaolin with him because the monastery was too far away, so when I was in Kaifeng recently, which is only a two-hour drive to Shaolin, I could not miss the opportunity. I even took some printouts of the monk to see if someone remembered him. I could not find the monk, but in the meantime, the Shaolin monastery had become a major school with hundreds of Kung Fu students, their performances a major attraction for Chinese visitors.”