BEIJING (AP) — China's Shaolin Temple, historically known for its martial arts traditions but which recently has gained a reputation for aggressive commercialization, is planning to build a $297 million complex in Australia that would include a temple, a hotel, a kung fu academy and a golf course.
The Shoalhaven City Council in New South Wales state said earlier this month that Shaolin Temple Foundation Australia, the developer, had finalized a land purchase at Comberton Grange for what will be known as Shaolin Village.
Mayor Joanna Gash said Saturday that the city council and the state government had both approved the concept plan for the project, which is to include a temple sanctuary with resident monks, a live-in kung fu academy, a 500-bed four-star hotel and a 27-hole golf course. Planning officials have rejected a residential component, but the developer hopes to restore it, according to media reports.
"We would like to see it happen as soon as possible," Gash said in a phone interview Saturday. "Shaolin Temple is well regarded. It will be phenomenal for us. There's a lot of interest in it."
"It's more than a temple," she said. "It's a spiritual thing. It's also tourism. And it's employment."
The temple, built in the late fifth century and located in central China's Henan province, has rapidly commercialized itself under Abbot Shi Yongxin over the past decade. Shi has defended it as a means to preserve the temple and its Buddhist cultures.
Shi made a personal trip to Shoalhaven earlier this month to present a check of more than $3 million to finalize the land acquisition, and the gesture was seen as a commitment to the project, according to a Feb. 23 public notice by the city council.
The proposal was first filed with the state government in 2008, but the lengthy planning process has had Shaolin Temple considering walking away from the project, according to a report by Fairfax Regional Media.
Shi, however, told local media that it was "destiny" that Shaolin would come to Australia.
Calls to Shaolin Temple were unanswered Saturday.