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Singapore president impressed at Shaolin
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Singaporean President S. R. Nathan said his visit to the Shaolin Temple in Henan province on Sunday was one of the highlights of his weeklong Olympic tour.

Abbot Yongxin (left) guides Singaporean President S. R. Nathan on a tour of the Shaolin Temple on Sunday.

Abbot Yongxin (left) guides Singaporean President S. R. Nathan on a tour of the Shaolin Temple on Sunday.  

The 84-year-old received a warm welcome at the Buddhist monastery, which is best known for being the home of the martial art kungfu.

"I'm very glad my dream finally became a reality," Nathan told Yongxin, an abbot at the temple who led a group of monks in welcoming the president, the Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday.

While at the temple, Nathan watched the monks perform their evening chants and prayers, and offered incense to the Sakyamuni Buddha.

After watching a martial arts performance, Nathan said he was very interested in kungfu and the daily lives of the Shaolin monks.

"It's not easy for them to clear their minds of mundane concerns and focus on kungfu," he said.

But what impressed him even more was how well the temple preserves the culture of Buddhism.

"That is what I appreciate the most," he said.

Despite being thousands of kilometers away, the Shaolin Temple has maintained close relations with the Buddhist community in Singapore, Yongxin said.

For example, a TV series entitled Shaolin Monks that was co-produced by the temple and a Singaporean media company will be broadcast later this year, he said.

"I hope we can deepen our ties in the future," he said.

Nathan, who flew back to Singapore yesterday, spent three days in Henan after supporting Team Singapore in Beijing.

He told the Chinese press on July 28 that he would visit the Shaolin Temple after watching the stage production Shaolin in the Wind in Singapore.

Nathan said he was considering sending his grandson, who is a fan of martial arts, to study kungfu at the temple.

Two years ago, Russian Premier Vladimir Putin also visited Shaolin.

Some reports have claimed his daughters have been trained in the ways of kungfu by a Shaolin monk.

(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily August 19, 2008)

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