China media seek probe into claims against 'CEO monk'

BEIJING - Lurid allegations against the head of China's Shaolin temple - renowned as the birthplace of kung fu - must be investigated by the government, state media said Monday, after former monks accused him of philandering and corruption.

The abbot, Shi Yongxin, has long been known as the "CEO monk" for transforming the ancient Buddhist temple into a global commercial enterprise.

Former monks have accused Shi of living a luxury lifestyle complete with a fleet of fancy cars, embezzling money from a temple-run company and fathering children with two women.

"A nail sticking up gets hammered, as the saying goes, and what this monk has done has been controversial from the very beginning," the government-published China Daily said in an editorial.

Shi has been a controversial figure for more than two decades after he began developing commercial activities affiliated to the temple, but the mounting pressure may indicate he can no longer fend off critics.

"An investigation by the relevant central authorities is necessary," the paper added. "How the revenue from the temple's commercial activities has been spent needs to be made public."

So far only the local religious affairs bureau has said it will investigate the claims. The temple has denied the allegations, calling them "vicious libel".

The Shaolin temple was established in 495 AD and is known as the birthplace of Zen Buddhism and Chinese kung fu.

Shaolin warrior monks have been renowned for centuries throughout Asia, while over the last 50 years films and television have spread their reputation worldwide.

One temple project in Australia is slated to boast a house of worship, kung fu academy, hotel and golf course - and projected to cost A$380 million (S$389 million).

Shi, the first Chinese monk to earn a master's degree in business administration, has long denied the businesses are profit-motivated, insisting that the temple was satisfying an overseas infatuation with "Shaolin culture".