When thinking of Shaolin, Kungfu or Kungfu Panda might the first words that pop up in one's mind.
Fang Xiang, a reputed director and photographer from Hangzhou, and his documentary Shaolin Temple in My Heart might give you some other ideas.
In the last 4 years, Fang Xiang has visited Shaolin Temple 14 times, and 4 times to the US and Europe meeting some masters from Shaolin who are living there, to take down the least known but an insider’s view of Shaolin temple and its culture.
Master Shi Yanxu, one of the top warrior monks performed in the NBA halftime show in 2006, and subsequently stayed in the USA committing to the cultural exchange of Shaolin.
In his Shaolin Cultural Center in Los Angeles, Master Yanxu teaches children and adults the history and legacy of Shaolin Temple and teaches them how to keep fit through Kungfu, Zen (meditation) and herbs.
In fact, Californians think so highly of Shaolin Temple's cultural heritage that early in 2004, its State Assembly proclaimed March 21st as China Songshan Shaolin Temple Day. Each year, this day is commemorated by over 1,000 people in Los Angles with Kungfu training and vegetarian food.
"Shaolin culture isn't mysterious," said Master Yanxu, who reminds people that Shaolin Kungfu on the other hand is not confined to the stage as a performance but a daily exercise.
Some years ago, a boxing champion named Mike threw a challenge to Master Yanxu, yet was quickly knocked down by consecutive and quick kicks in the fight. He is now a student of Master Yanxu.
In another corner of the world in Austria, Master Shi Yanliang is doing the same thing.
In the documentary, Master Yanliang once felt down on the train back to his workshop. Like this and many other times at the beginning, he was unwelcomed by the local people due to cultural misunderstandings.
Kicking, punching and blocking punches… a few years later, the Shaolin Cultural Center in Austria are packed with students who are passionate for Shaolin culture.
Even though the Pandemic hit hard on the over 60 Shaolin cultural centers overseas, the masters have faith in rebuilding the centers to spread the 1,500-year Shaolin culture.
For those who feel like digging more into the Shaolin culture, please keep an eye on the release date of the documentary Shaolin Temple in My Heart.