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Shaolin sells 'enlightenment' gear online
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The Shaolin Temple is a world famous Buddhist pilgrimage site in Henan Province. It was built in AD 477, and has long been associated with the development of Shaolin martial arts techniques.

Recently, it began selling Kungfu "bling" online.

It authorized a company called Shaolin Huanxidi to open the store at Taobao.com, China's most popular online shopping portal.

Among the products available on the site are Zen meditation robes, Kungfu shoes, incense sticks, candlesticks, T-shirts, puppets, notebooks, teacups, postcards and watches.

The most expensive item is a book called "Secret Book of Shaolin Kungfu and Medicine," which sells for 9,999 yuan ($1440).

Gu Liying, a spokeswoman, said that the book contains a complete record of Shaolin Kungfu and medicine since the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

She said that the objective of selling these items is to promote Shaolin culture, not simply to make money.

Five percent of the company's profits before tax will be donated to charity.

At the end of each year, all the remaining goods in stock will be donated to impoverished areas.

The company has a base store right across from the gate of Shaolin Temple.

It has a souvenir shop, a vegetarian restaurant and an "experience building" for visitors to practice Zen Buddhism.

"We want visitors to the Shaolin Temple not only to have sightseeing, but also to have a firsthand experience of a monk's daily life and Shaolin culture," Gu said.

Some have criticized the online store as too "commercial," as they think Shaolin Temple is after all a Buddhist monetary.

Peng Peng, a researcher with the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences, said the opening of an online store is "quite normal."

He pointed out that it is "certain and inevitable" for the temple to be engaged in business activities, so as to meet the growing interest in Shaolin culture.

"To sell goods related to Shaolin Temple online can promote the spread of traditional Chinese culture represented by the temple," he told the Guangzhou-based Information Times.

(China Daily June 26, 2008)


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