Little Forest – Little Honour (少林-少光)

Last Spring Festival I tossed around several travel ideas before finally settling on our trip to Haerbin. Top of the list prior to that was making our way through Shandong towards Xi'An – stopping in Songshan to visit the famous Shaolin Temple. You know the Shaolin monks, right? They're the guys that can do all that amazing kung fu like you see on TV – stopping bullets with their teeth, dodging raindrops, and kicking the crap out of homer – while spouting off prolific Taoist gems of wisdom.

A student at the time changed my mind. She informed me that she had made the pilgramage to the holiest of Holy Spin Kickedness! and was majorly let down. Basically whatever monk-like qualities the Shaolin Order had, it went the way of the negative profit margin and they are now not much but a money-mongering group of landlords that take in loads of tourists' RMB and give little or nothing back to the communities that surround them.

However, this recent incident in Chongqing has brought the pack-a-punch monks to a new low. As found at ESWN (with more photos):

At around 2pm on November 14, a photographer and a reporter from the Chongqing Morning News were walking through Jiangbei in Chongqing city. They observed a bus parked in the "no stopping" zone of a street and the traffic police was quarreling with the men.  As reporters, they naturally went ahead to find out what was going on. The traffic police officer informed the men: "This is a no-stopping zone, and so the bus should be removed."

Instead, the men surrounded him and shoved him around. Just as the photographer picked up his camera to film, one of the men: "No filming."  Then several more men went up to try to rip off his camera. The photographer attempted to run away, but he was pushed to the ground and beaten. Several uniformed and plainclothes policemen came immediately to his assistance, even as more police officers were summoned. However, the men were eventually let go.

Oh, yes, the men were "monks" who had set up (without any permits) at the pedestrian mall to do martial arts performances as well as sell medicine.

Now perhaps I'm being a bit judgmental and quick to draw the conclusion that they were actually "Shaolin" monks… maybe they were just drug selling street performers with yellow robes and sticks. Fair enough. I really can't say that I can tell the difference between one and the other. In fact, I'd like to think that perhaps the latter is the truth, as super-spiritualized monks beating reporters is a bit like learning Mother Theresa was a horrible person. It just puts a kink in your perception that the world is a groovy place to live.

3 Responses

  1. One of the deepest, most lasting impressions ever made in my travels in China was in Shaolin Temple. I entered a chamber of the temple covered in a beautiful Buddhist mural. I stared at it for a long time, taking in the art, trying to figure out what event was being portrayed. An old monk in the corner beckoned to me. I was really happy because he apparently could tell I was really interested in learning about Buddhism and wanted to tell me about it. So I went over to him, and that’s when he tried to sell me a crappy plastic bracelet.

    I was more disappointed in Shaolin Temple than I have been at any tourist destination in China.

    Lastly, that Mother Theresa article was a hoot. Disapproving with some of her sources of funding makes sense, but making the “fact” that Jesus the historical figure studied in India under the name Issa a central part of your argument is just too cute.

  2. I loved reading about the Monks beating up the journalist too. That’s Islam, Christianity and Buddhism down. Which one’s next?

  3. @John: You’ve inspired a new section to LLW – The Ten Most Overrated Sites In China. And yeah, that Issa bit is a little odd. Meh. Actually, what I was trying to find was the transcript of Penn&Teller’s Bullshit show that dealt with the issue of Mother T. Ah well.

    @不好意思: Well, I hear the Hindus are a bunch of cow lovers. Oh, I’m getting a Shiva The Destroyer kick in the pants for that one.

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