Shaolin Temple monks, most famous for boxing, are finding themselves caught up in a new kind of fight -- one to protect their temple's name.
The outside world is engaging the monks, normally considered to be far removed from worldly activities, in a "war" to prevent the name of the temple in central China's Henan Province from being abused in commercial activities.
Shaolin Temple, built at Songshan Mountain in 496 during the Northern and Southern dynasties (420-581), is considered the birthplace of the famous Shaolin Boxing, a unique combination of Buddhist and Chinese martial arts.
The militia monks of Shaolin gained fame during the early Tang Dynasty (618-907) by helping Li Shimin, the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty, to suppress a local feudal ruler who wanted to set up a separate government by force.
Shaolin Boxing has been gaining influence worldwide as actors of Chinese origin, such as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, use its stunts in a wide range of overseas films.
The current battle involves the registration of "Shaolin" or "Shaolin Temple" as tradmarks all over the world. A random survey conducted by the China Trademark and Patent Affairs Agency in 11 countries and regions on five continents shows that, except for Hong Kong, these areas have been caught up in the craze, registering 117 items with the name.
Take China itself -- more than 100 businesses, in sectors including automobiles, furniture, foods, alcoholic beverages and medicine, are churning out commodities bearing the trademark of "Shaolin." A growing abuse of Shaolin as a trademark in international commercial activities in past years have dragged the monks into a war of self defense.
Henan Shaolin Temple Industrial Development Ltd. Co. has been set up to take charge of protecting and administrating the intangible assets of Shaolin Temple in a systematic way in a bid to safeguard the legitimate rights of the temple and ban abusive use of the temple's name in commercial activities, said Shi Yongxin, abbot of Shaolin Temple.
In the meantime, the temple has made efforts to register "Shaolin" and "Shaolin Temple" as trademarks with the General Administration for Industry and Commerce of China.
By August this year, Shaolin Temple had received certificates of registration for over 43 items, according to the abbot.
Registration of Shaolin Temple as trademarks overseas has also been stepped up. "It is in the benefit of Shaolin Temple for protecting trademarks internationally," said Shi Yongxin.
After negotiations, Rainer Deyhle, a German businessman, decided to give 11 trademarks he registered in the European Union (EU) two years ago to Shaolin Temple without charge, and the latter will cooperate with the German businessman in setting up a Shaolin cultural center in Germany, where two monks from the temple will give lectures all year round.
After more than a year's effort, Shaolin Temple has also procured the rights of prior applications for five registered "Shaolin" trademarks in Australia.
"It is our unshirkable historical responsibilities to protect and rejuvenate the culture of Shaolin," added Shi Yongxin.