The hold of Zen

By Satarupa Bhattacharjya and Qi Xin ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-10-08 07:29:22

The hold of Zen

The group was founded in 1978 by Liu Baoshan. [Photo by Xiang Mingchao/China Daily]

Soft-power export

Since he visited the temple in a first by a major foreign leader in 2006, Russian President Vladimir Putin has unwittingly become an ambassador for Shaolin. His photos are displayed by vendors at the building's entrance that has a lichen-lined facade with animal figurines on the top. Of the 72 basic kung fu techniques, some mimic the movements of five animals.

Many foreigners enroll into Shaolin each year to learn kung fu at payments of around 6,600 yuan ($1,000) a month that include food and lodging for courses ranging from a few weeks to a few years. But one of Shaolin's major sources of income is tourism that provides some 250 million yuan in annual revenues.

Most foreigners tend to be in their early 20s who come with prior kung fu knowledge acquired in their native lands. And, women make up a small percentage of the foreign students. A person would need at least five years of regular training to achieve a degree of proficiency in the discipline.

Diya Chalwad, a 10-year-old schoolgirl from Mumbai city on India's west coast, says her interest in kung fu sprung from gymnastics. Proudly exhibiting what she's learning, she says she will be here through February. At a good age to begin kung fu, she is the youngest foreign trainee on an ongoing residency program in Shaolin this year.

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