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Shaolin Temple to start commercial drive amid controversy
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A conical bamboo hat, Chinese kung fu slippers and even secret martial arts instruction manuals -- all these you can already find in the Shaolin Temple's online shop with its own registered trademark.

But to realize your dream of becoming a Dragon Warrior like Poe the panda, you'd better sign up for the kung fu training courses that the legendary temple is offering.

After a series of commercial drives, the monastery in the central Henan Province, will publicize its secret practice "Yijinjing", or literally "Muscle/tendon Change Classic", a once-exclusive kung fu, by publishing books and providing training courses, according to the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post.

"We have made Yijinjing CDs and textbooks and are planning to launch training courses in the country's biggest cities first and then go to the smaller ones," Cheng Tao, a senior official with a martial arts research center affiliated to the temple, was quoted by the newspaper.

But he did not reveal the specific timetable and course price.

Sources said that Shaolin would cooperate with local fitness centers and Yoga gyms to provide Yijinjing courses but Cheng said he was not clear about that.

Yijinjing, dubbed "Chinese yoga", is expected to turn flaccid and frail sinews and tendons into strong and sturdy ones by a set of body movements and respiration controlling methods.

"We believe the practice of Yijinjing can enhance the practitioners' martial art power and build a strong body even if they are beginners," Cheng added.

He said the movements were very easy to follow.

Traditionally, kung fu masters only passed down skills to selected apprentices based on their virtues rather than on their economic conditions.

The latest commercial move has exposed Shaolin into harsh criticism, which the 1,500-year kung fu shrine is no stranger to.

Almost 90 percent of the 500 netizens who commented on Sina forum on the piece six hours after its release voiced their dissatisfaction with the over-commercialized temple.

"The temple has been degrading to a company," an anonymous netizen from central Hubei said.

Shaolin abbot Shi Yongxin declined to comment on the issue. "I am not yet clear about it," he told Xinhua.

Shi has earned the nickname of the "CEO monk", since many people have accused him of running Shaolin like a business.

Over the past years, under his leadership, Shaolin has developed business ventures include kungfu shows, film production and online selling.

But Shi's supporters said it is a good way to develop Shaolin in such a brand-oriented society because commercialized operation helps to protect and spread Chinese kung fu further.

(Xinhua News Agency September 5, 2008)

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