Authorities in Henan province have concluded that accusations against Shi Yongxin, the abbot of China’s most famous Buddhist temple, Shaolin, are false.
Shi, 51, became embroiled in a scandal in 2015 after he was accused
of extorting money from monks to pay for his mistresses and the children
he had had with them.
The monk had also been accused of turning China’s oldest Buddhist
temple (founded in 495 AD), and cradle of kung fu, into a tourist
attraction and a place of entertainment.
An investigation by local authorities and the State Administration
for Religious Affairs totally exonerated the abbot, known for his
expensive lifestyle, the Henan Daily reported on 3 February.
The investigation also dismissed claims that he fathered several
children, that he transferred to his alleged mistress Han Minjun an 80
per cent stake in Shaolin Intangible Assets Management Ltd, owner of the
Shaolin brand, worth about US$ 145,000.
According to the government inquiry, the abbot always administered the temple’s finances in the latter’s interest.
Under Chinese law, religious organisations can engage in economic activities for themselves and their community.
With respect to the claim that the monastery owned 15 luxury cars,
four imported, the report found that they were mainly for the use of the
monks and official business.
Shi Yanlu, a former kung fu coach at Shaolin, had accused the abbot
of extorting up to 7 million yuan (US$ 1 million) from him. The report
noted instead that the abbot had received only 3 million yuan as
offerings to the monastery.
It is likely that the charges against Shi Yongxin were due to envy
from monks, former monks and former employees of the monastery.
Still, the monastery’s economic rise to prominence has raised many
questions among the faithful who think that Buddhism means poverty,
asceticism, silence, and separation from the world.
To Shi’s credit, the Shaolin temple has become a successful brand,
attracting more than ten million tourists a year, according to the China Business Journal, with earnings of US$ 43 million.
Shaolin also gets revenue as a location for movies and from kung classes and performances around the world.