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Shaolin Temple in HK 'will boost tourism'

If the planned expansion of the Shaolin Temple works well, it may open doors for more branches worldwide, said a top temple official yesterday.


"After it is constructed on a much bigger site in Hong Kong, the Shaolin Temple is bound to attract followers from diverse countries in the region," Shi Yanchang, master of the Hong Kong Shaolin Temple, told China Daily.


"And if all goes well, there are chances that branches of the temple will come up in more countries around the world," he said.


As of now, there are about a dozen-odd overseas branches of the Shaolin Temple, known for its martial art legends, in the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia, to name a few.


"Hong Kong is the most important international metropolitan in the region. Having a major Shaolin Temple here will be good for tourism and Buddhism," Yanchang said.


The Shaolin group last Friday announced its plans to build a new temple in Hong Kong, similar in size to its headquarters located on Mt. Songshan in central China's Henan province.


The new temple, which the Buddhist group said can be constructed by 2013, is planned in an area of 50,000 sq m, and is expected to cost more than 400 million yuan ($58.5 million).


The current office of Hong Kong's Shaolin Temple, which was registered in 2000, is inside a small building, with several hidden rooms, in Tsim Sha Tsui.


Though the cost to build the new temple is not easy to generate amid the financial crisis, local sponsors have not hesitated to support the plan, Yanchang said.


"If we are sincere about building our temple, we will carry on with our pursuit as our hearts wish," he said.


Besides a monastic hall and a martial arts institution, the plan of the new temple includes a Shaolin garden and a heritage museum.


Abbot Shi Yongxin, director of the Shaolin Temple, who has been criticized for commercializing Buddism, said Shaolin has an "enormous influence across the globe".


According to Hong Kong's Travel Industry Council, the new temple may turn out to be a major tourist spot for visitors.


"A Shaolin Temple in Hong Kong will be more attractive than a temple overseas, as it is a Chinese city, which inherits the tradition," said Joseph Tung Yao-chung, the executive director of the council.


The Hong Kong Home Affairs Bureau said it was studying the land application submitted by the Buddhist group in detail.


Temple officials said it was up to the bureau to decide the location for the temple.


Meanwhile, the Shaolin group declared it had withdrawn from the Hong Kong Shaolin Wushu Culture Center, set up by the Hong Kong Culture Association Charitable Foundation, which launched martial arts classes in the city in 2006.


(China Daily February 24, 2009)