One for the Road: Shaolin – Temple of Zen

Although this book is not about a particular travel experience, it reveals an intimate look at the culture of a place that most do not see firsthand. Justin Guariglia has been studying and photographing the martial-arts monks at Shaolin Temple in Henan Province for the past eight years. He was the first photographer to get permission to photograph the monks inside the temple, and his new book, Shaolin: Temple of Zen, allows all of us an insider’s view of the stunning mastery that these warrior monks have perfected over the centuries.

These guarded monks belong to a Chinese Buddhist sect dedicated to preserving a form of kung fu known as the “vehicle of Zen.” Guariglia, a National Geographic photographer, received the blessing of the main abbot, and earned the trust and full collaboration of the Shaolin monks for his project. The result is a fascinating and valuable record of the Shaolin art forms and the individuals who consider themselves the keepers of these traditions.

The book includes an introduction by “American Shaolin” Matthew Polly and has a beautifully designed companion website. According to the Aperture Foundation website, it looks like several exhibits of the photographs are scheduled for 2008, in Los Angeles and Washington D.C.