Chinese capitalism has something uniquely in common with historical Maoism: atheism. Vast economic growth met with a huge demand for traditional culture has meant Chinese cultural institutions are increasingly trading in their social values for growth-based business plans. Via the Independent:
Young men spring through the air, performing elegant punches and kicks; others bound across the dirt, swords flashing through the misty air. An ancient tree has dozens of small dents, made by “finger punches” of warrior monks over the centuries.
This is the Shaolin temple complex, in the mountains of central China, where kung fu was born 1,500 years ago. Now a place of pilgrimage for martial arts enthusiasts and Zen Buddhists, thousands of young people come to study kung fu, or wushu as it is known in China, in schools around the temple.
The commercial success of the temple is obvious, even if some of the sights are jarring – the telephone kiosks with Buddhas on top, for example. It has some monks shaking their heads and fearing that its spiritual peace is threatened. One monk said he was leaving after decades at the temple to be a hermit in the mountains of eastern China.
“There are internal conflicts here, and it’s complicated. When I came here it was very shabby, and it has improved a lot. But I don’t think this is a place for religion anymore,” he says.
Many others are inspired by the Shaolin tradition. Kung fu is the epitome of martial arts, and practitioners say other fighting arts including karate originated from kung fu. There are more than a million learners of kung fu around the world and many centres of Shaolin culture globally.
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