Town Asks Kung Fu Monks for Tourism Blessings

The New York Times writes about the town of Guandu, in Yunnan, where the commissioner of ethnic and religious affairs became discouraged when renovated Buddhist temples failed to generate tourist income:

Mr. Dou found a savior 1,200 miles away, in the Song Mountains of central China, where the warrior monks of Shaolin have mastered the art of monastery marketing. Since the early 1990s, the chief abbot, Shi Yongxin, has turned Shaolin into a lucrative draw for kung fu enthusiasts and has transformed his lithe disciples into global emissaries for the temple’s crowd-pleasing mix of Zen Buddhism and fly-kick combat.

In November, the two parties struck a straightforward deal. In exchange for managing the Guandu temples for 30 years, the monks will keep all proceeds from the donation boxes and gift shops. In a news release announcing the arrangement, Shaolin said its primary goals were to carry out charitable activities, maintain the temples and “spread the faith.”

Mr. Dou, who described himself as an atheist, sees things somewhat differently. “We’re going to use their fame to attract more business,” he said on Wednesday as he and a batch of newly arrived monks exchanged pleasantries.


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