Garment giant cannot use Shaolin Temple brand

For the Temple, it is a clear case of intellectual theft. The monastery is the birthplace of kung fu, made famous by Bruce Lee. Despite criticism, Abbot Shi Yongxin has turned the complex into a global enterprise. For the Semir Group, the charge comes on top of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The Shaolin Buddhist temple has accused a Chinese garment giant of illegally exploiting its "Shaolin Kungfu" brand.

Since August, Semir Group has been using the label for a youth clothing line. For the Temple, this constitutes intellectual theft since the company has never requested authorisation from the monastery.

Located in Henan, the Temple is known as the birthplace in 495 AD of kung fu, the martial art made world famous by Bruce Lee and actors Jackie Chan and Jet Li.

Over the past 23 years, Abbot Shi Yongxin has turned the monastery into a global enterprise the Buddhist complex with 666 registered trademarks, earning him the sobriquet of the CEO monk of Shaolin.

Shi has invested the profits into real estate properties at home and abroad; however, this has led to criticism from purists.

In 2017, Henan authorities dismissed some of the charges against him. In addition to marketing a sacred place and leading an expensive lifestyle, a group of monks have accused Shi of extorting money from them in order to pay for his mistresses, with whom he has fathered a number of children.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the temple attracted 1.5 million visitors a year. According to the China Business Journal, it earned US million in 2017 in proceeds.

The complex, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has also earned money as a location for films, and from kung fu classes and performances that take place all over the world.

For Semir, the complaint from the Shaolin Temple represents a severe blow. Due to the pandemic, the Zhejiang-based company has had to close a tenth of its 7,500 stores.

In the past six months, it has also seen its profits fall by 97 per cent over the same period last year.