The most important Shaolin Temple in northern China will leap into the modern era with a major upgrade, says abbot Shi Yongxin.
The ancient temple in Tianjin is located in Jixian county. The center, known as North Shaolin Temple, became a branch of the Shaolin Temple in 1315, during the Yuan Dynasty.
Shaolin Temple has long been revered as a seat of learning in both the martial arts and Buddhist teaching.
The building, which housed the oldest recorded branch of the Shaolin Temple, was destroyed by Japanese soldiers during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).
The rebuilding of the oldest recorded temple comes at a time when the legendary Shaolin Temple is expanding its influence worldwide. Established in 495, during the Northern Wei Dynasty, in central China's Henan province, the Shaolin Temple now has 29 branches on the Chinese mainland as well as branches in the United States, Germany and Italy.
"The plan (to rebuild the North Shaolin Temple) has been submitted to the local government for approval, but the budget has not been fixed," Shi Yongxin told China Daily in a telephone interview.
The Taipei-based United Daily News yesterday reported that the project will likely cost 2 billion yuan (293 million U.S. dollars).
Taiwan architect Ricky Liu has won the contract to rebuild the temple. His plan calls for the preservation of the temple's traditional Tang and Song dynasties-era (618-1279) outlook and will use environmentally-friendly and power-saving technology, said the report.
Beijing-based Tsinghua University will work with Liu on the restoration.
"There were 72 temples in the mountainous region of Jixian county in history, including one branch of Shaolin temple," a director of the Jixian county's cultural heritage bureau, surnamed Li, told China Daily Monday.
The only surviving part of the temple, a tower and some stone monuments inscribed during the Qing Dynasty (1636-1911), is under protection and closed to the public, Li said.
"The site of North Shaolin Temple used to cover about 500 mu (33 hectares) and our martial arts school will be one part of it after the reconstruction," said Zhu Qin, the headmaster of a martial arts vocational school in Jixian county.
The school has about 600 students and martial arts teachers who had trained in the Shaolin Temple in Henan province, she said.
There are no monks in North Shaolin temple at the moment, she added.