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Shaolin Exquisite Kung Fu School’s Littlest Warrior

In the Central Eastern Chinese Province of Henan lies the Shaolin Temple, home of the famous kung fu monks. Eager to take advantage of their prestige, more than 50 kung fu schools dot the surrounding countryside.

Built in 1980, Shaolin Exquisite Kung Fu School is one such place, housing 500 students ages 3 to 20. Traditionally a male pursuit, times are changing and 23 girls now call the school home.

Eight-year-old ChengWu ShuQin is the youngest of the girls. Newly arrived, she is fighting to find her place among the crowd and against homesickness. With her mother and father a 3-day bus ride away, she will probably see them only once a year.

In the densely populated country of China, competition for education is fierce. Students who don't succeed academically are often sent to kung fu schools. "She looks very clever and wise, but really she is very foolish," says her teacher.

Her parents are laborers, which makes the relatively inexpensive cost of the school an appealing option. They want their daughter to be stronger and of course, they hope that she might have the once in a lifetime chance of becoming a kung fu star.

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More About NashCO Photography

NashCO PhotographyLeah Nash (The Nash) and Christopher Onstott (The CO) are an award-winning photography & videography duo based in Portland, Oregon. They specialize in commercial, portrait, editorial, education, and travel photography. Both originally photojournalists, Leah and Christopher take a moment-driven approach, capturing authentic imagery whether in life, at work, or on set. The result is graphic, storytelling photography that is full of color, light and intimacy. Not averse to dancing (her), telling bad jokes (him) or listening intently (both), their goal is to leave their subjects a little bit better than they found them. All the while creating a wealth of images that look and feel spontaneous.

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