China Monk Media

China’s ancient Shaolin Temple seeks media directors

Commercially savvy monks looking to grow their brand

Help wanted: Ancient Buddhist temple famed for its kung fu monks seeks media directors to build brand. English and social media skills required. Not necessary to be a monk, practice martial arts or eat vegetarian.

The Shaolin temple in TK

The Shaolin temple south of Beijing

That online ad placed by China’s 1,500-year-old Shaolin temple already has drawn a brisk response, reflecting the institution’s exalted place in Chinese history and popular culture.

Chinese state media reported Friday that 300 people have already applied for the two positions available, including business executives, media professionals and recent graduates of top overseas universities. Although the temple’s monks are all male, men and women are both invited to send in their resumes, the reports said.

Calls to the temple’s publicity and assets management offices rang unanswered Friday.

The move is the latest attempt by the enterprising abbot Shi Yongxin to exploit the temple’s fame in the name of propagating Buddhist thinking and culture.

The temple, its monks and their distinctive form of kung fu have developed into a lucrative business enterprise, raising controversy among some who accuse Shi of over-commercialization. Shi says he’s just defending the temple’s reputation and promoting its values.

Located deep in the mountains of Henan province south of Beijing, Shaolin won fame for its monks’ martial exploits, including the rescue of an emperor. It has since been the subject of countless books in movies such as Steven Chow’s 2001 comedy Shaolin Soccer.

Since taking over as abbot in the 1990s, Shi has threatened to sue companies that use the temple’s name or image without permission, and served as executive producer for martial arts films centred on the temple. The temple takes in foreign students, runs monthlong executive martial arts retreats, and maintains a website in both Chinese and English.

Shi has used the income to upgrade temple facilities – installing lavish visitor restrooms equipped with uniformed cleaners and TVs. That has brought still more brickbats from traditionalist and reports said deflecting against media criticism and accusations of overexploitation will be a major part of the job for any media director.

The flexible over candidates’ requirements shows the temples desire to attract top talent, although a knowledge of and appreciation for Zen Buddhist thought and culture is desired.

Reports warned, however, that the position isn’t all glamor and glitz. While Shaolin is a high-profile name, it’s also an ancient temple where asceticism and removal from China’s fast-paced urban lifestyles and underpin daily activities, the South Metropolitan newspaper pointed out.

“If you work for Shaolin Temple, you need to be able to handle loneliness,” the paper said, quoting an unidentified person who it said worked at the temple for many years. “Most young people will find this pretty dull.”

Photography by Canadian Press (2009)
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