Discuss the immediate geopolitical future of the Shaolin temple.
An edict was released by the central government only a few months ago (spring 2000) which declared one of two things, I'm just not sure:
* All housing, schools, commercial establishments, residences, and shops of any kind, were to be left uninhabited and "removed" within a 500 meter radius of the Shaolin Temple.
* All housing, schools, commercial establishments, residences, and shops of any kind, were to be left uninhabited and "removed" on the main road between the Shaolin Temple and the Shaolin Wushu Guan.
The purpose, it seems, was to reunite the Shaolin Temple with the Wushu Guan, by removing all the "offending" residences, schools, and businesses that lined the main road between the two. The end result of this, was to make the Shaolin valley more as it was, a calm, peaceful tree lined area that housed mainly the temple itself. But, since we now know that the wushu guan is not going to be associated with the temple (again, 2000, things change....), this is not the case.
But it is true that the edict declared that all facilities, including people's residences, businesses, schools, and shops, were to be left uninhabited so that they could eventually be razed, within a 500 meter radius of the temple; the purpose of this was to return to the temple what the temple used to have. Things like tranquility, peace, quiet, land, trees, etc; you know, all those things in life that we tend to look for. Apparently, the abbot was behind this maneuver, a maneuver, which, from what I gathered from the monks that I spoke with, was a positive thing, and, which, from what I gathered from the villagers, was not such a positive thing. It caused a lot of problems.
The main one being, the villagers had no where to go. You see, despite the fact that China is regarded as being Communist, it functions pretty much as a capitalistic society. People struggle to earn a living in any way that they can, whether it be from the sales of trinkets, food and water, or, any number of things. Leaving the temple area meant leaving the tourists (what few can be seen this year), and leaving the tourists meant leaving a source of income. No income, no money to support themselves. So, when the edict came out, the people said fine, we'll go, but you have to pay us.
The government basically said no. Just move.
The people are still there. So much for edicts. Score one for the people. And, in the popularity scorecard of life, the abbot and the temple government lost on this one. A potentially good idea, but a poor execution. Better luck next time.
UPDATE 000816: So much for better luck. Today the abbot, or somebody else in a position of power, apparently made his move. And it appears that it was door number two, contrary to popular belief. The Henan province police moved in and started evicting all businesses and residents between the Shaolin Temple and the Shaolin Wushu Guan. Buildings have been, and are being razed. Some of the largest schools in the Shaolin village have been told to move (including the Shaolin Si Wushu School, and also, one of the first Shaolin Wushu Schools in the village, the one whose headmaster's son is that dragon movie star). In an interesting turn of events, even the so-called Shaolin temple school, the one run by She De Yang, (which he operates on leased Shaolin temple land) has also been told to move. I've heard that the schools have until next year to move, but then again, I've also heard that they have until next week.
Word has it that all the villagers and students must leave by September 5th, 2000, at which time, the area will be turned directly over to, from what I've been told, Shi Yongxin. Remember, feelings are running a bit hot right now, with people's houses and businesses being torn to the ground, so, comments like "The abbot is evil" should be taken in the appropriate light.
As for the abbot, I'm told that nobody can find him. Apparently, with thousands of people and students protesting in the streets and especially, in front of the temple itself, Yongxin apparently thought that getting out of town was the wise choice. Hey, he's not the abbot for nothing you know.
And you wondered why he had that special Mercedes...
In the scorecard of life, everybody loses this week. The abbot's popularity has most definitely plunged to new time lows from what I'm told. It was a great idea, to regain the Shaolin valley for the temple, but it was most definitely a horrible execution. And with thousands of potential homeless in Shaolin village, who knows where this will end.
It is all highly reminiscent of my last night in Dengfeng, during my last and very recent visit to Shaolin, when I noticed that the three rooms directly opposite mine, in the otherwise completely empty hotel, were occupied, all night, by Chinese police. I had always thought it was a funny place for them to play cards. And why guard the elevator? Who would steal that?
No doubt there will be more to come. Stay tuned. For pictures, and more updates on this issue, please go to Destruction, in the Fugue section. And for background, make sure you read the entire Fugue section prior to the Destruction page.
UPDATE 010227: Well, it appears to have ended. For now. Shaolin village is peaceful as it once was, and the abbot, Shi Yongxin, is rarely seen. It is felt that his duties as a "people's representative", his government position, is keeping him in Zengzhou. But, a few of the buildings have been torn down, and, some of the schools have left for neighboring Dengfeng. The two lane road from Dengfeng has been largely expanded to four lanes, which is consistent with the entire road from Zengzhou to Dengfeng. It has been said that a new "gong fu city" will be erected halfway between Dengfeng and Shaolin, but at this time, there appears to be a large outgrowth of schools in Dengfeng. Needless to say, the economy in Dengfeng has improved immensely over the past five years. For more details, see the updates in the Destruction section.
UPDATE 020227: The village has largely been taken down. The people of the village have peacefully been relocated, and, from what I understand, reimbursed for their moving and housing expense. Most of the schools have been removed, within the Shaolin temple gate area. Outside the gate area, the shops and schools remain. Also remaining is the Secular Disciple Union's school, which resides up on the mountain overlooking Shaolin, primarily because it is considered to be an ancient facility. The removal of the village from the temple surroundings appears to have been a good move, as the area appears to be much more tranquil. The Shaolin temple wushu guan is in the process of undergoing a three year renovation. The current plan is to remove the rest of the structures from the Shaolin valley, within the temple gate area, and plant trees and other vegetation, in order to try to return it to a more pristine state.