By Xiong Qu | CCTV.com
December 28th, 2009
China's famous kung fu shrine has signed a deal with Hong Kong-listed China Travel International for a new tourism joint-venture in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan Province. The move is the latest in the Shaolin Temple's series of controversial commercial projects.
Under the deal, China Travel International will invest up to 1 billion yuan over three years to build various infrastructures, including elevators and a metro system at the Shaolin Song Shan tourism site.
The Shaolin Temple and the tourism agency will also spend 10 years jointly building a 140-square-kilometer cultural industrial park in the area. The park will include a martial arts center and a hotel, and will offer various services like Shaolin Kung Fu Training and martial art competitions. But does the venture mean that the venerable ancient temple is one step closer to being publicly listed?
Lv Fuyue, Press Director of Dengfeng, Henan Province said "To speak of Shaolin's listing is simply misleading."
A local government official in charge of the famous shrine confirmed that the new company will not own any part of the dozen historic sites associated with the Shaolin Temple, but will only have management rights. He refuted the complaint that the country is sacrificing state-owned assets with the deal. There have also been rumors that the way ticket revenues are shared between the local government and the temple will be amended. A senior spokesman for Shaolin's new partner described the rumors as one-sided.
Xu Muhan, Deputy GM of China Travel Int'l said "Our cooperation this time does not involve any asset transfers. So there is no point in saying that some assets have been sold too cheaply, or that the ownership of any asset has been changed. What we will do is management cooperation, simply to improve the tourism services. And the profit allocation rate is unchanged. "
The abbot of Shaolin Temple, Shi Yongxin has not appeared at Sunday's signing ceremony. He once said that no matter what else happens, the temple will always be managed by the monks themselves.
Shaolin Temple goes commercial
When people think of temples, they usually associate them with religion and culture. But China's famous kung fu shrine in Henan Province has become a hot business topic, eliciting both surprise and criticism.
The 1982 movie Shaolin Temple, starring Jet Lee, introduced the ancient temple to a modern worldwide audience. In restoring the kung fu shrine, many quickly realized its commercial value. But the fabled monastery was not a public topic until Shi Yongxin became its youngest abbot in 1999. He began to run Shaolin as a brand, including setting up a movie-making company, developing a Shaolin hygienic drink and opening an online shop.
His most recent controversial move was to act as an agent for other temples in the country. Shi Yongxin was then named by the media Shaolin Temple's CEO. The rumor that the Shaolin Temple would soon be listed first appeared in the press five years ago. The latest version, which has been denied by the local government, is that the temple will go public in 2011 in a joint-venture with China Travel Service Hong Kong.
The so-called Shaolin CEO has not commented on the reports. But one clue as to his attitude can be found in a statement he made in 2008. At the time, he said that the Shaolin Temple will never be listed, because speculative transactions violate the tenets of Buddhism, and that in any event the Shaolin Temple has enough capital.