Young monks practise kung fu at the Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng in Henan Province, China. Photo: iStock
Young monks practise kung fu at the Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng in Henan Province, China. Photo: iStock

It’s more famous for the martial art kung fu than for its Buddhist teachings, and China’s famous Shaolin Temple is now exporting its soft power with a new branch in South Korea.

A new Shaolin Monastery is to open in Gangwon, South Korea, according to the Chosun Ilbo. The main temple of the Shaolin school of Buddhism will be part of an integrated cultural city with construction to start as early as the end of 2019.

China’s oldest temple with a history dating back to the fifth century will become part of the tourist area of La vie est belle, meaning life is beautiful, a 4.84 million square meter development by Kolon Corp.

Kolon signed a memorandum of understanding a week before Christmas in Beijing along with four other parties, each with equity stakes, in one of the largest cross-border public-private partnerships.

The new tourist area aims to offer a traditional village experience for the top eight Chinese cuisines with eight famous wines.

The establishment of a Shaolin Temple comes after Beijing lifted a one-year travel ban this summer which was put in place in protest against Seoul’s decision to install the US-made anti-missile system known as Thaad, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense.

Because of the travel ban, South Korea tourism suffered a heavy blow as Chinese tourism dropped 48% to 4.2 million.

The Shaolin Temple’s Asian expansion plan goes well with China’s Belt and Road initiative as Beijing tries to expand its influence in Europe, Africa and Asia.

South Korea is the latest outpost of the Shaolin Temple, which is headquartered in Dengfeng County, Henan province. In late 2000 the temple started authorizing Shaolin branches outside China.

Now there are Shaolin Temples in more than 40 cities, including London and Berlin, which are aimed at spreading the Shaolin culture and the study of Shaolin kung fu around the world.

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