China's famed Shaolin temple plans big project in Australia

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese temple historically known for its martial arts traditions but which recently has gained a reputation for aggressive commercialization is planning to build a $297 million complex in Australia that will include a temple, a hotel, a kung fu academy and a golf course.

The Shoalhaven City Council in New South Wales state said earlier this month that Shaolin Temple Foundation Australia, the developer, had finalized a land purchase at Comberton Grange for what will be known as Shaolin Village.

Mayor Joanna Gash said Saturday that the city council and the state government had both approved the concept plan for the project, which is to include a temple sanctuary with resident monks, a live-in kung fu academy, a 500-bed four-star hotel, a 27-hole golf course and a residential development.

"We would like to see it happen as soon as possible," Gash said. "Shaolin Temple is well regarded. It will be phenomenal for us. There's a lot of interest in it."

"It's more than a temple," he said. "It's a spiritual thing. It's also tourism. And it's employment."

The temple, which was built in the late fifth century, has rapidly commercialized itself under Abbot Shi Yongxin in the past decade, but Shi has defended it as a means to preserve the temple and its Buddhist cultures.

Shi made a personal trip to Shoalhaven earlier this month to present a check of more than $3 million to finalize the land acquisition, and the gesture was seen as a commitment to the project, according to a Feb. 23 public notice by the city council.

The proposal was first filed with the state government in 2008.

Calls to Shaolin Temple were unanswered Saturday.