Photographer Steve McCurry took these photos from the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province. They document the rigorous and sometimes brutal training routines that monks must endure in order to elevate themselves to the higher planes of consciousness.
Shaolin monks have two aspects of training: Chan Chan (禅), which refers to the study of consciousness through Chan Buddhism, and Quan (拳), which refers to the rigorous physical exercises and knowledge in the martial arts of Shaolin. To the monks, these are not separate disciplines, and they actually strive to unify them for they believe that discipline of the body is merely a part of the expansion of the mind.
These photos are incredible; they document not only the Shaolin’s tremendous strength and dedication but also their ability to absorb mental and physical pain.