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Shaolin Buddha brand set to kick in Hong Kong

SHAOLIN Temple plans to invest 370 million yuan (US$54 million) to build a major training and history complex in Hong Kong, the latest step by the internationally renowned kung fu monks to expand their globally recognized "brand."

The move is also sure to fuel critics who charge that the monastery's present leadership is exploiting the Buddhist temple's time-honored reputation for commercial gain.

The branch, the biggest after the original Shaolin Temple at the Songshan Mountain in Dengfeng City, Henan Province, will feature traditional kung fu institutes, pagodas and steles along with an amusement park with a museum tracing the temple's 1,500-year history, the Henan-based Oriental Today reported yesterday.

The project is being designed to cover 50,000 square meters and is expected to take at least four years to complete, according to Shi Yanchang, a temple master who is in charge of the project. The temple is waiting for Hong Kong's approval for a plot to build the new facility.

Admission would be free, and the new branch is expected to attract 200,000 visitors a year, the newspaper quoted the master as saying. The temple in Henan now charges 100 yuan for entrance.

Shaolin plans to run martial arts classes at the Hong Kong branch, Shaolin Abbot Shi Yongxin told the paper. The temple has opened classes in its Hong Kong office, which charges 500 yuan for four lessons and 1,200 yuan for 12.

Shaolin's commercial activities have not been without controversy.

Nicknamed "the CEO monk," the 44-year-old abbot has been accused of running Shaolin more like a business than a monastery. Under his leadership, the temple built its own Website, delved into film production and sent its monks on world performance tours.

The temple plans to start marketing its own line of health drinks.

It will introduce a 20-year "trusteeship" system at four 2,000-year-old temples in Yunnan Province, with all the earnings and donations going into Shaolin's pocket.


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