Shaolin abbot: monks should learn English, computers

Xinhua, Sept 27, 2006

BEIJING, China -- Shaolin monks should study English and information technology to adapt to the modern society and spread Buddhism and Shaolin culture around the world, according to the abbot of the Shaolin temple, the birthplace of Kung Fu.

"Shaolin culture should develop as society progresses. It must not stick to the outdated thoughts and practices. Rather we should open up to the outside world," Shi Yongxin said in a interview published on China News Website.

Shi Yongxin was appointed abbot of the Shaolin temple in 1987 at the age of 22, becoming the youngest abbot in China. Since then, he has caused people to reevaluate their traditional notions about Buddhist monks with his business-oriented transformation of the temple and its arts.

He has taken Shaolin monk delegations abroad to perform Shaolin martial arts shows. In 1994, "Shaolin" and "Shaolin Temple" were established as registered trademarks.

"To protect Shaolin culture is to protect the legacy of traditional Chinese culture. I try to travel to every corner of the world to promote Shaolin culture," said Shi, whose worldwide fame has escalated in recent years.

"Over 1,500 years, Shaolin culture has developed into a system that embodies many subjects such as Zen Buddhism, martial arts and medicine," Shi said, adding "So monks should learn to have contacts with the outside world or even can study abroad if the opportunity arises."

"If I do not carry Shaolin forward, history will remember me as a sinner," Shi stressed.

It appears Shi has perfected the art of catering to tourism. The temple attracted nearly three million domestic and overseas tourists last year, earning an income of 75.5 million yuan (9.4 million U.S. dollars). The temple was even visited by Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier in the year.

Last month, Shi received a one million yuan (125,000 U.S. dollars) award for his contribution to the local tourism industry, which stirred hot debate on whether this kind of payment is appropriate.