A Chinese city looks to the “kung-fu monks” to bring in tourists:

The cluster of temples at the heart of this dusty, traffic-clogged town are picturesque reminders of China’s faded Buddhist past. On a recent day, dogs warmed themselves in the winter sun as a few toothless devotees bowed before smiling Buddhas. The only sounds were the occasional clanging of wind chimes and the splash of coins tossed into a mucky pond.

While soothing to some, the tranquillity is galling to Guandu’s city fathers, who recently spent $3 million to rebuild the four temples.

A Chinese city looks to the “kung-fu monks” to bring in tourists:

The cluster of temples at the heart of this dusty, traffic-clogged town are picturesque reminders of China’s faded Buddhist past. On a recent day, dogs warmed themselves in the winter sun as a few toothless devotees bowed before smiling Buddhas. The only sounds were the occasional clanging of wind chimes and the splash of coins tossed into a mucky pond.

While soothing to some, the tranquillity is galling to Guandu’s city fathers, who recently spent $3 million to rebuild the four temples. They had become schools and warehouses during an earlier era, when the Communist Party sought to suppress nearly all religious activity, including that by Buddhists.

Cue the kung-fu monks:

“The temples have been money losers,” grumbled Dou Weibao, the commissioner of ethnic and religious affairs in Guandu, which has long since been subsumed by the sprawl of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province.

Mr. Dou found a savior 1,200 miles away, in the Song Mountains of central China, where the warrior monks of Shaolin have mastered the art of monastery marketing. Since the early 1990s, the chief abbot, Shi Yongxin, has turned Shaolin into a lucrative draw for kung fu enthusiasts and has transformed his lithe disciples into global emissaries for the temple’s crowd-pleasing mix of Zen Buddhism and fly-kick combat.

In November, the two parties struck a straightforward deal. In exchange for managing the Guandu temples for 30 years, the monks will keep all proceeds from the donation boxes and gift shops. In a news release announcing the arrangement, Shaolin said its primary goals were to carry out charitable activities, maintain the temples and “spread the faith.”

Mr. Dou, who described himself as an atheist, sees things somewhat differently. “We’re going to use their fame to attract more business,” he said on Wednesday as he and a batch of newly arrived monks exchanged pleasantries.

The monks refused to have their pictures taken.

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