Stock holders might soon be able to invest in Shaolin monks if reports of a new business venture in China are true. According to media outlets, the country’s famed Shaolin Temple, renowned for its kungfu, will be listed on China’s or Hong Kong’s stock market in 2011. The government entity that manages the 1,500 year-old temple was reported to have agreed on a joint venture with China Travel Service, a state-run tourism agency.
The joint venture is meant to promote tourism of the temple and the surrounding area. By listing the shares on the stock market, the venture could raise up to 1 billion Chinese yuan, or $146 million in US dollars.
ShaolinTemple, located in Dengfeng, is widely-considered to be the birthplace of Chinese martial art kung fu. The Buddhist temple is most well-known for being featured in martial-arts films displaying the Shaolin tradition of kung fu.
Another news report, however, cites the local government denying that the Shaolin Temple would be a part of the joint venture. The report added that only negotiations had been made with no formal contract signed.
At the same time, Qian Daliang, an often times spokesman for Shaolin Temple’s management, was also reported as saying: “We are against being listed and this attitude will never change.”
Nevertheless, the reports of the potential stock market listing have drawn concern from netizens. One article wrote: “The listing of ShaolinTemple on the stock market in 2011 means that from today on Shaolin Temple won’t be the public religious center it was. Instead it’ll be doing pure business.”
But this hasn’t been the first time the temple’s been criticized for selling out. The abbot Shi Yongxin has been called “CEO monk” for pursuing business projects, like online sales, kung-fu shows, and even serving as executive producer on films that focus on the temple. Shi has gained controversy for being given a luxury car as a gift, and for allegedly buying an expensive robe, all of which goes against the image of a frugal monk. Recently, Muay Thai kick boxers from Thailand even decided to challenge the monks at ShaolinTemple, saying they wanted to knock down Shi. (The temple denied their request for a challenge.)
In his defense,Shi has said he is only working to promote the Shaolin Temple and ensure that it remains prosperous. Others have noted that conditions at the temple were run-down and were in need renovations before Shi became abbot.