Deep in the heart of the Song Mountains lies an ancient monastery. For 1500 years, Shaolin has been home to the elusive Kung Fu Warrior Monks – the Chinese equivalent of American cowboys – who are rumored to have almost superhuman fighting skills.
Nowadays millions of tourists visit Shaolin to admire its architecture and manicured grounds. Most of them don’t notice the steady trickle of monks disappearing around a corner behind the temple. But if you follow them, you will stumble upon a village filled with… children. Young boys, mostly. All living in an assortment of run-down boarding schools. They are there to achieve magical powers and supreme wisdom, expressed through Shaolin Kung Fu.
It’s a Chinese Hogwarts for aspiring martial artists!
Before you pack your bags to join them…. The reality is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. They get up at 5AM each day and run for miles, then start to train. There are no ninja fighting sticks or mystical techniques – just dirt and cement and 100,000 repetitions. Meals are vegetarian and served out of buckets. They bathe and brush their teeth in an alley out back and sleep in crowded dorms. But there’s still something… magical… about this place.
Among the 20,000 students, I found one lonely foreigner. This video is the story of what it’s like to grow up at the Chinese Hogwarts for martial monks.
Author, filmmaker, and photographer Karin Muller has spent the past twenty years traveling alone to remote cultures and conflict zones to bring home stories about people and places that few Westerners will ever see.
Karin has written three highly-acclaimed books and produced international television series on the Middle East, Cuba, Vietnam, the Andes, North Africa, China, and Japan for PBS and National Geographic.