Shaolin monks, the guardians of the "vehicle to zen," are the subject of talented and determined photographer Justin Guariglia's new book, Shaolin: Temple of Zen. Having once made the two-day trip from Beijing to the birthplace of Zen Buddhism, the Shaolin Temples of central China, where Guariglia shot the series, I know these images were not easy to get. Walking the grounds as a visitor and watching demonstrations, it was understandable and very apparent that I was not experiencing anything close to authentic. Guariglia, on the other hand, befriended and gained the trust of temple inhabitants over numerous visits. As a result, for the first time in the secret society's fifteen hundred year-old history, the monograph documents the Buddhist monks dedication to preserving Kung fu.
Shaolin compiles select images shot over the past eight years in the recently-released book, capturing intimate, candid and unplanned moments that lend some humanity to these enlightened figures. Addressing the fact that Shaolin has experienced a recent boom of popularity due to the success of Kung fu movies like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," his photos often show the traditions of Shaolin culture clashing with a fast-paced contemporary China.
In celebration of the book's release there will be a special event this Friday, 12 October 2007, at the Rubin Museum of Art which will include a demonstration by Shaolin monk Shi de Chao of the 31st generation (pictured right), a book signing and a slide show. Visit Aperture for more information on the event and to purchase the book for $28. See more images here.
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