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People Diplomacy, Shaolin Style
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Shaolin Temple monks are finding a new stage to build fame and demonstrate their influence - people-to-people diplomacy between China and Japan.

A Shaolin Temple delegation of martial arts experts and monks left Dengfeng in central China's Henan Province yesterday for a two-month visit to Japan where they will compete, offer demonstrations and try to boost relations between the two countries.

The 60-member delegation, which will also mark the 35th anniversary of the restoration of Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations, departed after a dramatic show of kung fu, dancing and singing on the temple's grounds.

Officials at the temple, in Central China's Henan Province, said some 35 experts and selected students will take part in 52 televised shows across Japan, jointly sponsored by Henan Television and Japan's Fuji Television.

"I want Shaolin Temple to help promote good relations between China and Japan," Shi Yongxin, the temple's top monk, told China Daily. "Good China-Japan relations should be based on goodwill between the two peoples."

Fuji Television will televise all the performances in Japan with a potential audience of millions.

Shi said he believes that Shaolin Temple, as the birthplace of Zen Buddhism, can play a special role in promoting the relationship.

"Buddhism spread to Japan 1,200 years ago from China," Shi said. "Today many Japanese respect Bodhidharma (founder of the temple) and Zen's wisdom."

The tour was launched amid calls by a US congressional panel and many Chinese for the Japanese government to apologize for World War II atrocities including their use of sex slaves.

Shi had some strong words to share.

"Japanese leaders dare not face reality and admit the mistakes. But I think they know in their heart those mistakes."

He also expressed concern that relations between the two nations caused a drop in tourist arrivals.

"In recent years, the number of Japanese tourists to China has evidently declined. And I think it is Japanese leaders that caused the reduction in exchanges between the two countries."

In 2005, 3.39 million Japanese visited China, a slight year-on-year increase of 1.67 percent, as compared to two digit rises during the previous years.

Hideki Shinmei, a senior manager of Tokyo-based Fighting & Entertainment Group, was among hundreds of spectators to watch the high-energy sendoff show under heavy rainfall.
"We think sports and cultural exchanges are good ways to improve relations between peoples," Shinmei said.

(China Daily July 6, 2007)

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