SHAOLIN Abbot Shi Yongxin, who has plans to build a $380 million Shaolin Temple Complex at Comberton Grange at Falls Creek, is under investigation by China’s religious administration after allegations of multiple sexual relations and embezzlement.
News of the investigation by China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) has gone viral on Chinese social media, with reports also by Chinese news agency Xinhua, the South China Morning Post and even spreading to the UK, including The Guardian website and the Telegraph.
Investigations into the abbot, who is known in China as the “CEO monk” for his entrepreneurial flair and global travel habits, follow online allegations by an anonymous former monk.
The claims, posted by a former disciple at the temple using the pseudonym Shi Zhengyi, allege the abbot had actually been expelled from the famous temple in the late 1980s.
Documents provided by the former monk purport to show the abbot had embezzled money though fake receipts.
The papers purportedly showed the temple’s decision to expel the abbot after he was caught “applying for reimbursement with fake receipts” and “having serious financial problems”.
Shi was also accused of holding double identities and having sexual relations with several women and fathering several children.
The accuser produced copies of documents allegedly showing that the abbot had two national identity numbers with different birth dates.
The name on one of the identity papers accorded with the abbot’s birth name, and the photos on both papers looked highly similar.
The allegations prompted the Buddhist Association of China to say the incident “had affected the image and reputation of Chinese Buddhism” in a statement on its website.
The Shaolin Temple, which is more than 1500 years old and is known as the birthplace of Zen Buddhism and Chinese martial arts, denied all the accusations in a statement on its website, describing them as “groundless, vicious and libellous”. It had reported the matter to police, it added.
Some 30 Shaolin disciples also issued an online statement to defend their abbot. They claimed the accuser was an ousted Shaolin disciple who had resorted to “vicious libel” for revenge.
The South China Morning Post stated Shi Yongxin, who holds a Masters of Business Administration degree and is often spotted using an iPhone, was was no stranger to controversy.
He became the abbot of the Shaolin Temple in 1999 and has frequently appeared in the Chinese press, sometimes for the wrong reasons.
The delegate to the National People’s Congress and vice-chairman of the Buddhist Association of China, has previously been accused of turning the temple into a cash cow at the expense of the integrity of religious instruction, such as renting the venue to filmmakers.
In 2006, Shi came under public scrutiny after accepting a 1 million yuan (HK$1.27 million) luxury car from the local government for his contribution to tourism.
In March this year, he and the temple came under fire again for a plan to build the multi-million dollar hotel complex in the Shoalhaven.
Local controversy has raged about the proposed Shaolin Temple Complex, with a number of cheques for payment of the land bouncing.
The abbot personally came to the Shoalhaven in February to present a bank cheque to Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash for $4,162,723.99 to finalise the mortgage payments.
Mayor confident scandal won’t derail temple
SHOALHAVEN Mayor Joanna Gash believes the proposed $380 million Shaolin Temple Complex at Falls Creek will still go ahead.
“People need to understand the abbot is the abbot and the Shaolin Temple Foundation is the Shaolin Temple Foundation,” she said.
“They are separate entities, even if the abbot is the head of the foundation.
“As far as I’m concerned it changes nothing. It is not a Shaolin Foundation issue. It is a private issue for the abbot and those who are investigating it.
“I won’t comment on it. It is a private issue.”
She said it was the Shaolin Foundation that had purchased the land for the complex.
“I’m confident the Shaolin Foundation is totally separate and will be isolated,” she said.
“As far as we know it is still full steam ahead for the project.”