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Shaolin temple will not go public
Posted on Wed, Jan 6, 2010 at 7:28 am
by IDMA News

BEIJING - The abbot of China's ancient Shaolin temple -- famous for its kungfu monks -- has refuted reports that the monastery will go public as part of a travel joint venture, the state Xinhua news agency said.

Shi Yongxin -- known as the "CEO of Shaolin" for aggressively pursuing commercial ventures since taking over as abbot a decade ago -- also said the temple would not be a shareholder in the new firm created to promote tourism.

The temple's core functions are to "organise religious activities to meet the demand of religious followers," Xinhua quoted Shi as saying at a press conference in central Henan province, in a report issued late Thursday.

The abbot added that the temple's "legal rights and interests" would not be affected by the creation of the new tourism firm.

Shi's remarks came days after the Dengfeng city government and a Hong Kong-based subsidiary of the state-owned China National Travel Service (HK) Group Corp. launched a tourism joint venture using the Shaolin name.

Earlier reports had suggested that the joint venture would handle ticket sales and operate buses servicing the temple -- effectively taking the temple public -- and would seek to list in either Hong Kong or on the mainland in 2011.

The Shaolin temple, which was established in 495 AD, is known as the birthplace of Zen Buddhism.

Shi -- who has developed commercial ventures such as kungfu shows, film production and online merchandise sales since taking over the temple -- has been repeatedly criticised for his perceived pursuit of money.

In a recent interview with AFP, he defended his efforts as a way to boost the temple's profile, not pure commercialisation.

"Believers have demands, and we must satisfy and serve them to the best of our ability -- it's a service that provides faith products," he said of the temple's online sales.

Canwest News Service

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