Buddhist temple seeks brand builders – kung fu skills not essential

Beijing - Help wanted: ancient Buddhist temple famed for its kung fu monks seeks media directors to build brand. English and social media skills required. Not necessary to be a monk, practise martial arts or eat vegetarian.

That online ad placed by China's 1,500-year-old Shaolin temple has drawn a substantial response, reflecting the institution's exalted place in the country's history and popular culture.

Chinese state media reported on Friday that so far 300 people had applied for the two positions available, including business executives, media professionals and recent graduates of top overseas universities. Though the temple's monks are male, both men and women have been invited to send their CVs, the reports said.

The move is the latest attempt by the enterprising abbot Shi Yongxin to use the temple's fame in the name of propagating Buddhist thinking and culture.

The temple, its monks and their distinctive form of kung fu have developed into a lucrative business enterprise, raising controversy among some who accuse Shi of over-commercialisation. Shi says he is just defending the temple's reputation and promoting its values.

Located deep in the mountains of Henan province, south of Beijing, Shaolin won fame for its monks' martial exploits, including the rescue centuries ago of an emperor. It has since been the subject of numerous books in movies such as Stephen Chow's 2001 comedy Shaolin Soccer.

Since taking over as abbot in the 1990s, Shi has threatened to sue companies that use the temple's name or image without permission, and has served as executive producer for martial arts films centred on the temple. The temple takes in foreign students, runs month-long executive martial arts retreats, and maintains a website in Chinese and English.

Shi has used the income to upgrade temple facilities, installing lavish visitor restrooms equipped with uniformed cleaners and TVs. That has brought more criticism, and reports said responding to accusations of over-exploitation will be a major part of the job for any media director.

The flexibility over candidates' requirements shows the temple's desire to attract top talent, although a knowledge of and appreciation for Zen Buddhist thought and culture is desired.

Reports warned, however, that the position is not all glamour and glitz. While Shaolin is a high-profile name, it is also an ancient temple where asceticism and removal from China's fast-paced urban lifestyles underpin daily activities, the South Metropolitan newspaper said.

"If you work for Shaolin temple, you need to be able to handle loneliness," the paper said, quoting an unidentified source who worked at the temple for many years. "Most young people will find this pretty dull."