Western practioners of martial arts visit the famed home of Chinese kung fu. (Photo/CFP)
Over 200 American students at Shaolin Temple in central China's Henan province, famous as an ancient home of Chinese kung fu, recently received graduation certificates from its abbot Shi Yongxin.
During the recent ceremony, the American pupils led by Master Yan Deng, founder of the Shaolin martial arts league in the United States, bowed to the shrine and its head monk, speaking Buddhist mantras as an expression of the deepest respect.
"Shaolin Temple is a big family, belonging not only to China but also to the world," said Shi Yongxin. The Shaolin family now boasts members hailing from Japan, South Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US.
Born in 1965, Shi is a controversial figure sometimes known as the "CEO Monk" for his stewardship of Shaolin Temple and the way he has marketed its brand. He holds an MBA degree, carries an iPad and heads a number of companies associated with the temple.
Thanks to years of vigorous promotion on the part of Shi, the global visibility of Shaolin has increased greatly, generating handsome income for the temple and its work. During the graduation ceremony, Master Yan Deng said that the practice of Shaolin martial arts can bring inner peace, a great boon amid the adverse economic climate.
Clayton Jennings, a diver from California who was one of the graduating students, said that in the US the certificate was evidence not only of martial arts skill but also of an upright character. Jennings trained in Shaolin martial arts for four years to earn the certificate.