China's top religious affairs regulator said on Thursday that Master Xuecheng, abbot of the Beijing-based Longquan Temple and head of the Buddhist Association of China, is under investigation after being accused in a 95-page report of various violations, including sexual harassment of several nuns.
"We've paid attention to the whistle-blowing report online, and received related materials," the State Administration for Religious Affairs said in statement. "We have begun to investigate to verify the accusations."
On Wednesday, the report spread across Chinese social media. It includes allegations by Shi Xianjia of the Longquan Temple and Shi Xianqi, a former monk there, that Master Xuecheng sexually harassed several female monks by sending them obscene messages and forcing them to have sexual relations with him.
Xuecheng was also accused of illegally expanding the scale of the temple and embezzling donations from believers.
The temple denied the allegations late on Wednesday, stating that Shi Xianjia and Shi Xianqi "forged materials, distorted facts and posted the untrue report".
It said the report had brought harm to the religion and misled the public, and asked the government to establish a team to investigate.
Master Xuecheng, who is also a national political adviser, posted the temple's response on his Sina Weibo account on Wednesday night.
According to Chinese news website ifeng.com, Fenghuangling Natural Scenic Spot, where the temple is located, had closed to the public. Staff members working there said the closure was ordered by government authorities, according to the website.
Longquan Temple in northwestern Beijing has expanded its name globally as a technology-oriented temple that attracts highly educated monks, including those from the country's top universities.
The venue became more popular with the public after its cartoon character, Xian'er, was introduced in 2015. The character was later made into a talking robot with artificial intelligence. Last year, the robot monk in a yellow robe was said to have learned English.