Sat, Aug 13, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Fighting Chinese monks punch through resistance

DOWNSIZED VISIT After the Mainland Affairs Council imposed strict restrictions on their visit, a group of Shaolin monks arrived in Taiwan to show off their skills

BY KO SHU-LING  /  STAFF REPORTER

Shaolin monks from the Chinese Shaolin Association showing off their skills in a press conference in Taipei yesterday for the 2005 SECOM Shaolin Martial Arts Exchange.

PHOTO: CNA

After months of haggling over the details of their visit, a group of Shaolin monks from China arrived in Taiwan to exchange skills with martial arts professionals and offer free performances of their world-famous fighting techniques to the general public.

The 19-member delegation, which arrived on Thursday and is slated to depart on Sept. 1, visited the legislature yesterday to offer a treat to the media before presenting routine performances from today through Aug. 26 in Chiayi County, Kaohsiung City, Taichung County, Hsinchu City, Ilan City and Taipei City. Admission to all of their public events is free.

Before the Shaolin monks gave their performances, six kung fu practitioners from the Taipei Chinese Kung Fu Association greeted the young guests with their own individual performances.

The event was organized by the Chinese Shaolin Association. The association had arranged for 45 monks from the Songshan Shaolin Temple in Henan Province to teach Shaolin kung fu at summer camps.

According to the original itinerary, which would have kicked off on July 25, classes were to be open to the general public and be held at public facilities such as school playgrounds and parks. The activity had attracted more than 4,000 students who had enrolled at a cost of NT$1,200 (US$37.62) each.

At the insistence of the Mainland Affairs Council, the size of the group was downsized and the schedule was pushed back. Members must also enter and leave the country as a group, and stay in one group during the visit.

Saying that summer camps did not constitute professional exchanges, the council requested the monks limit their "exchanges" to martial arts professionals and not the general public. In addition, charging for lessons was deemed illegal.

Andrew Lin (林逸士), chairman of the Chinese Shaolin Association, said that although the event sponsor, security company Taiwan SECOM (中興保全), had bailed out, he is confident that the events will be successful.

"I'm sure Buddha will be on our side and make things alright," said the 54-year-old Lin, who converted to Buddhism and became a vegetarian at the age of 36.

According to Lin, Taiwan SECOM invested about NT$10 million in sponsorship money. While the money has already been spent, primarily on publicity, they still need another NT$10 million. The estimated budget for the original schedule was NT$50 million.

Lin said that he understands the government's concern over national security and he is aware that the council is just doing their job in accordance with the law.

However, he said that he believes the invited monks would not do anything to sabotage national security.

One monk, 18-year-old Shih Yen Lu (釋延路) from the northeastern Chinese province of Shandong, said that although their days are busy at the temple, and sometimes boring, he does not regret joining the century-old martial arts center.

"I am very happy to be with my brothers, and our masters are very nice, although they can be very strict sometimes," he said.

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