Monks run off with $4m

Electric New Paper, Dec 3, 2004

Taipei, Taiwan -- THE money was meant to go towards making a film based on the legendary tale of a monk's 'Journey to the West'. But just as filming was about to begin, the war chests were discovered to be empty.

It seems the NT$80 million ($4.1m) that was raised by Taiwan's largest monastery, Fo Guang Shan, was allegedly pocketed by two Buddhist monks who were supposed to be the fund's guardians.

The monks' alleged misdeed was revealed to the Taiwan press by famous Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien who had been asked to direct the film.

Two monks have been accused of taking the money, and are on trial for the offence in a Taiwan court. They've reportedly been stripped of their status as monks.

Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order's founder, the Venerable Master Hsing Yun often uses modern technology to spread Buddha's teachings.

The Buddhist order is also believed to run some magazines and TV channels.

Master Hsing had planned to produce a film based on the true story of a famous Chinese monk, Xuan Zang, who travelled on foot to India, the birthplace of Buddhism, in search of the Sutra, the Buddhist holy book.

World-renowned director John Woo was said to have agreed to help in the making of this movie.