[By Nic Lindh on Wednesday, 04 February 2009]
American Shaolin is the story of how Matthew Polly, self-described 98-pound weakling, travels to China to study kung fu at the Shaolin Temple. It is also a description of what it was like to be a laowai—foreigner—in China during the early nineties.
Polly writes with economy and American Shaolin has a great, funny tone.
You also learn things about kung fu. I, for instance, did not know that such a thing as Iron Crotch kung fu existed, and now that I know, I feel queasy and disturbed. I also did not know that it is humanly possible to perform a two-fingered handstand. But apparently the Shaolin monks have figured out how to accomplish that feat.
American Shaolin is in parts funny, in parts informative, and always an enjoyable read. Highly recommended.
Or, as the Chinese might say, “It is good. It is good. It is good.”