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buy stock in Shaolin

Ugh. The Chinese government agency that handles tourism at the Shaolin temple, is going to take the Shaolin "brand" into the stock market.

I say again: ugh.

Shaolin is not just the setting for kung-fu dramas. It is -- or rather, was, prior to the murderous reign of Mao -- a real temple, regarded as the birthplace of Ch'an/Zen Buddhism. Legend has it that 1,500 years ago, Bodhidharma, the legendary founder of Zen, came from India (or maybe Persia) and ended up at Shaolin, where he spent several years in seated meditation, staring at the wall of a cave. He supposedly found the monks at Shaolin too weak to endure the rigors of his style of meditation, so introduced a set of exercises (presumably with some origin from yoga) that became the basis of kung fu/wushu and, later, karate, and also of qi gong and Asian bodywork therapies. (It's a good myth, but any connection to actual historical events is probably coincidental.)

Modern "Shaolin kung fu" is an impressive array of acrobatics that has fsck-all to do with Zen, wushu, or everyone's favorite red-bearded barbarian.

Pity the poor temple, ravaged decades ago by Maoism, and now by capitalism.

I say once more time: ugh.

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