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Abbot envisions Shaolin branches overseas

By Zhao Yinan and Xie Yu (China Daily)

08:18, March 07, 2012

Shi Yongxin, abbot of Shaolin Temple, enters the Great Hall of the People for the opening ceremony of the Fifth Session of the 11th National People’s Congress as journalists jostle for photos and interviews on Monday. (KE XIAOJUN / CHINA NEWS SERVICE)

China's most renowned Buddhist attraction, Shaolin Temple, is planning to open overseas branches "when conditions are mature", according to the temple's abbot.

Shi Yongxin, abbot of the Shaolin Temple, said at least 1,000 overseas visitors stay at the temple every year in Central China's Henan province to practice Buddhism and Chinese kung fu, and the number has been increasing.

Another 200,000 Buddhists come from abroad to the temple annually for sightseeing, and groups of foreign practitioners are commonly seen, said Shi, who is also a deputy to the National People's Congress.

"The number is very impressive, considering that Shaolin Temple is located far from cities and visitors have to make a special trip."

Shi also said the temple's traditional Buddhist lifestyle and its palaces, which have been restored over the past three decades, contribute to its popularity.

Master Xue Cheng, vice-chairman of the China Buddhism Association, said the rational and speculative thinking of Buddhism has much in common with Western civilization and can be an effective medium for dialogue between the East and the West.

He said the World Buddhism Forum, held in Jiangsu and Taiwan in recent years, has promoted Chinese Buddhism studies worldwide and also has improved communication with other countries.

The centuries-old temple, however, came under a shadow this year when a national watchdog for tourist attractions warned that it may lose its top rating if it fails to improve its service and maintenance by the end of March.

The scenic site had 61,000 visitors during the seven-day Chinese New Year holiday, and ticket revenues had fallen 13.7 percent year-on-year, Henan-based Dahe Daily reported.

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