Buddhist monks from the Shaolin temple perform in Dakar, Senegal. Photo: AFP

‘What do monks need money for?’ Officials refuse to hand over revenue from Shaolin temple

A Henan provincial official has argued that a 1,500-year-old Buddhist temple – which is suing the government for allegedly breaching a revenue-sharing agreement – does not need the money.

The Shaolin Temple, famous around the world for its association with Shaolin kung fu and other Chinese martial arts, in November sued the Songshan Scenic Area Management Committee, which oversees it, for around 50 million yuan (HK$63 million) which it claims is owed the temple under a revenue-sharing agreement signed in late 2009.

The suit claims that under the agreement, the temple was guaranteed 30 yuan of every 100-yuan ticket sold by the management committee. The temple’s share would be paid monthly.

“What does a Buddhist temple need so much money for?” an official from the committee had demanded, according to Xinhua. “How much money can monks spend? When have they ever been audited while they get so much donation money?”

A spokesman for temple abbot Shi Yongxin said that the revenue-sharing agreement was the most important source of income for the temple.

He explained that the temple spends significant amounts of money on the upkeep and repair of its centuries-old buildings, promoting and developing Shaolin culture both in China and overseas, and covering monks’ daily expenses.


The case will soon go to trial after both sides refused the court’s suggestion of mediation.

The Shaolin Temple, which became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2010, has been criticised in recent years over what some see as excessive commercialism of the sacred religious site.

Dubbed the “CEO monk”, abbot Shi has been criticised for wasting temple revenues, such as in 2011 when the temple installed US$430,000 worth of luxury toilets.

In 2009, he had to backtrack on plans to raise 1 billion yuan by listing the temple on a stock exchange after widespread criticism.
Never one to shy away from media attention, he was widely mocked online last year when he told the Southern Metropolis Daily that he believed in the existence of “lots of aliens”.