Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The famous Shaolin Temple, where kung fu was born 1500 years ago, has taken on the administration of four Buddhist temples in Gudu, a tourist area near Kunming (Yunnan) in southeast China. The monks call it a cultural mission, but many believe it is a merely commercial operation.
Master Yanlu, the temple's spokesman, says that the intention is to "build a bridge between the cultures of Henan and Yunnan and increase the influence of Shaolin." They have sent out 10 monks, and expect to work there for at least 20 years, carrying out activities of charity, conservation, and the revitalization of local traditions.
Abbot Shi Yongxin also adds that "the system of advanced administration" applied in the Shaolin Temple should also be used in many temples in China, in order to spread Zen Buddhism.
But many, especially over the internet, are charging that this is only a commercial operation to exploit the fame of Shaolin for the sake of easy profits.
For years, the Shaolin Temple has been accused of being more concerned about tourism and business than about religious matters, organizing performances that are also taken on tour throughout the world, hosting film productions, with lavish profits from the visits of millions of tourists. Since May of 2007, the show "Zen Shaolin" (in the photo) has been held in the area, with famous dancers and choreographers, 500 actors, and the participation of monks from the temple. In its first 16 months, it has been seen by 300,000 people. In 2008, it offered its products on a commercial website, under the name of Shaolin - Place of Joy, selling shoes, tea, medicines, and kung fu manuals.According to the media, the local government also plans to use the name and fame of the temple for tourism initiatives. But Shi responds that "to become involved in such a highly risky business is against the spirit of Buddha."