Shaolin temple goes global

Beijing, June 18 (IANS) The Shaolin Temple, known as the cradle of Chinese kung fu, is preparing to stage its first cultural festival in the US as part of efforts to expand its global clout.

The first North American Shaolin Cultural Festival is scheduled to be held from Oct 8 to 14 in Los Angeles, according to Shi Yongxin, abbot of the Buddhist temple in the city of Dengfeng in central China's Henan province, reported Xinhua.

The temple has successfully hosted an annual Shaolin Temple Day in California for nine consecutive years, Shi said.

He added that the temple has over a million followers in North America.

"We're working to build a platform to support exchanges between Shaolin disciples and kung fu lovers across the world," he said.

Over the last two decades, Shi and his disciples have visited more than 60 countries and regions, mainly to stage kung fu shows. The abbot regularly spends two months a year conducting overseas trips.

In September, Shi will lead a delegation to take part in an international martial music festival to be held in Russia. The "Shaolin fighting monks" will demonstrate their kung fu skills in Moscow's Red Square, according to Shi.

Shaolin kung fu has gained worldwide popularity through the success of Chinese kung fu movies, particularly those filmed in the 1970s.

Shi said training for the inheritors of Buddhism has been crucial to the 1,500-year-old temple's development.

"We encourage our young monks to travel overseas to expound scriptures and pursue their practice. We also welcome people all over the world to learn kung fu and practice Zen Buddhism," he said.

The temple, which has more than 300 locally registered monks, also has more than 40 overseas culture centres, mostly in the US and Europe.

Shi said he expects a boom in Buddhism's popularity in the west and believes that the

religion can blend well with western culture.

"Buddhism can win respect from the world because it can peacefully co-exist with other religions. It focuses on the purification of the soul," he explained.

In order to bring Shaolin martial arts to a wider audience, Shi has joined hands with a Beijing-based film company to shoot a 3D kungfu movie -- a remake of the 1982 blockbuster "Shaolin Temple".

Born in east China's Anhui province, Shi became abbot of the Shaolin Temple in 1999. He has courted controversy in recent years for developing business operations, such as profitable kung fu shows and online sales, and has subsequently been referred to as China's "CEO monk".

However, Shi said he always insists on making time to meditate, despite his tight schedule.

"How wonderful it would be if I could sit in my meditation room for dozens of days at a time," he mused.

"That's what I hope for my life from the bottom of my heart," he said.

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