Perfect answer to overcrowded Shaolin Temple

By Zhu Linyong
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, August 26, 2010
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In the kungfu world there is a saying: "In the North, Shaolin holds sway; in the South, Wudang rules".

In recent years, however, Shaolin Temple and its kungfu have become better known thanks to superior marketing by its abbot Shi Yongxin.

"Shaolin kungfu is extremely popular in Australia and New Zealand," Jackie Sheargold, a massage therapist from New Zealand, says, mainly because it has had plenty of movie exposure and troupes of Shaolin warriors have performed all over the world.

Meanwhile the soft, poetic, internal kungfu style of Wudang has been relatively overlooked.

Slovenian Elizabeth Skuber Ostermaw says mass tourist visits are threatening Wudang.

 Slovenian Elizabeth Skuber Ostermaw says mass tourist visits are threatening Wudang.

"Shaolin has become the place to go for Chinese kungfu enthusiasts from around the world," says Norwegian Bjarte Simon Hiley, who intends to restore the balance a little by establishing a Wudang kungfu society in Norway.

He says he was disappointed to find on a recent trip to Shaolin Temple that the cradle for Zen Buddhism was excessively commercial and "only superficial skills were taught".

The city of Dengfeng, where Shaolin Temple is located, has become the largest training base for Chinese kungfu, with about 80 training schools and about 50,000 domestic and international students per year.

In contrast, Mount Wudang has less than 20 training schools, according to senior Wudang kungfu tutor Guan Yongxing.

Li Wei, a senior manager with the Wudang Taoist Kungfu Academy says they receive less than 1,000 students a year, although the academy is one of the largest and most influential training centers on Mount Wudang.

"Personally, I like it quiet," Sheargold says.

The local government and the Wudang Taoist Association say they are not planning to organize a Shaolin-style marketing campaign, though there have been changes, such as transforming the traditional academy building into a modern hotel.

In 1997, the Wudang Special Economic Zone was set up, combing the hillside town with the scenic Mount Wudang.

Last year, an expressway linking Mount Wudang and Xi'an was built so that it takes just two-and-a-half hours for visitors to get there after a visit to the Terracotta Warriors. Additionally, an airport is under construction and will be operating in two years, local officials say.

Meanwhile, more business facilities and hotels are being built around the mountains, a cable car going to the Golden Palace on the summit of Mount Wudang is being refurbished; new movies featuring Wudang warriors are being produced; and Wudang kungfu festivals such as the upcoming one in October have been held since 2008.

Also, Wudang kungfu, tai chi and Taoist shows are being staged daily from July to September at the Group Level Squares of the Shanghai Expo site, in the hope of attracting more visitors to Mount Wudang.

Slovenian Chinese studies expert Elizabeta Skuber Osterman, however, believes "cheap mass tourist visits to Wudang are threatening the century-old cultural heritage site".

She says visitors speaking loudly to each other and on their mobile phones, drinking alcohol, smoking and littering at the Taoist holy site should be discouraged.

"The culture of which you are so proud will soon decline, if these cheap mass tours to Wudang are to continue," Osterman says.

"It is important to develop tourist trips to Wudang where people come to be serious and humble ..." she adds.

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