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Shaolin Monks Plan Travel Venture, Share Listing

The famed fighting monks of China's Shaolin Temple plan a foray into modern finance.

The local government entity in charge of managing the 1,500-year-old Buddhist temple's tourism-related assets plan to join with China Travel Service in a venture that will seek to raise up to 1 billion yuan ($146.4 million) in a share listing on either a mainland market or in Hong Kong, reports said Thursday.

A spokeswoman for state-owned China Travel Service (Holdings) in Hong Kong confirmed that the two sides have agreed on cooperation and said her company would be issuing an announcement later. Like many Chinese, she gave only her surname, Zhang.

Calls to Shaolin Temple and the local government in Dengfeng, in central China's Henan province, rang unanswered Thursday.

Shaolin, its monks and their distinctive form of kung fu have developed into a lucrative business enterprise, raising controversy among some who disapprove of the commercialism of the temple's business-savvy abbot, Shi Yongxin.

Since taking over as abbot in the 1990s, Shi has moved aggressively to promote and protect the Shaolin brand, threatening to sue companies that use the temple's name or image without permission and serving as executive producer for martial arts films centered on the temple.

Shaolin monks
Shaolin monks

He also has sought to upgrade temple facilities — installing lavish visitor restrooms equipped with uniformed cleaners and TVs that brought still more criticism.

The Shanghai-based newspaper Oriental Morning Post and other reports said the temple itself was not part of the negotiations between Dengfeng and China Travel Service.

That deal calls for China Travel Service to invest 100 million yuan ($14.6 million) for a 51 percent stake in a venture under the Shaolin brand name that will handle sale of admission tickets, operate its cable car, cinemas, hotels and tourist bus services in Dengfeng, the state-run newspaper China Daily reported.

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