China bureau probing controversial Shaolin Temple abbot

AP News
Posted: Aug 03, 2015 9:10 AM
China bureau probing controversial Shaolin Temple abbot

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities are investigating allegations of misbehavior made online against the controversial abbot of China's famed Shaolin Temple.

The religious affairs bureau under the Denfeng city government says it was asked by the national body to look into the claims against Master Shi Yongxin.

"Our bureau takes this extremely seriously and will swiftly clarify ... and ensure a correct understanding of the matter," the bureau said in a one-sentence notice issued late last week and viewed on the city government website Monday.

The notice didn't specify any of the claims, although media reports say the accusations include that Shi fathered children with at least two women and embezzled temple funds.

Shi could not be reached for comment and calls to the temple in Henan province south of Beijing rang unanswered.

A statement posted on the temple website dismissed the claims as "untrue rumors" fabricated by people seeking to harm Zen Buddhism. It said the temple has already contacted legal authorities about bringing a libel case against those publishing the claims.

"We hope the broad masses will can respect the law, respect the reputation of others and uphold the fair and just legal social environment," the statement said.

Shi has been criticized by some for seeking to turn the temple and its famed kung fu fighting monks into a commercial enterprise.

In February he announced plans for Shaolin to build a $297 million complex in Australia that would include a temple, a hotel, a kung fu academy and a golf course.

The temple, built in the late fifth century, has defended aggressive commercialization as the best way to defend its heritage and spread its Buddhist message.