Shaolin Monastery flies China’s national flag for the first time in 1,500 years

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Shaolin Monastery, the legendary kung fu temple built 1,500 years ago at Songshan Mountain in Central China, raised the national flag for the first time as the Communist Party tightened control on religions.

The five-star red flag flew on a new built altar at a grand ceremony on Monday in front of Buddhist monks and CCP officials from the local United Front Work Department and the Dengfeng Religious Affairs Administration.

“To fly the national flag at religious sites fits Shaolin Monastery’s theme of loving the country and loving the religion,” a monastery statement read.

“This is the first time the Shaolin Temple has held a flag-raising ceremony since it was established in 495 AD,” a lay Buddhist responsible for managing the monastery website told the Global Times during the ceremony.

He said that raising the flag was consistent with the government’s requirement to “bring the Constitution, new law, socialist core values and excellent traditional Chinese culture into religious venues.”

Heads and representatives of national religious groups, including the Buddhist Association of China, the Taoist Association of China, the Islamic Association of China, and the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China proposed in July that all religious venues should raise China’s national flag to “strengthen awareness of respect for the flag and preserve the flag’s dignity.”

Shi Yongxin, the abbot of the Shaolin Monastery and vice-chairman of CCP-led China Buddhist Association, attends the flag-raising ceremony. Shi was quoted in the release as saying that Shaolin decided to actively respond to the proposal and hold the ceremony.

Earlier in 2015, the Abbot Shi Yongxin was accused of being an embezzler and womanizer with illegitimate children. Shi survived the accusations and stayed at the top job.

Not as lucky, Longquan Monastery abbot Shi Xuecheng accused of harassment was forced to step down as head of the religious body last week.

Xuecheng was accused of demanding sexual favors from numerous nuns in a 95-page statement compiled by two fellow monks at the storied center of Buddhist learning in Beijing.

Both Yongxin and Xuecheng are high-profiled figures who head the Buddhist Association of China and serve as national political advisers to the Communist government.

For over two thousand years, as a cultural tradition, sincere Buddhist followers have kept a distance from worldly etiquette.

In the year 404, Master Huiyuan, abbot and First Patriarch of the Pure Land School of Buddhism, wrote a treatise “On Why Monks Do Not Bow Down Before Kings.” This treatise symbolized his efforts to assert the political independence of Buddhist clergy from the courts of monarchic rulers.

With a move intended to cultivate patriotism and loyalty to the government, the notion “Shaolin Monastery is setting an example for all other religious groups and worshippers to follow in respecting the national flag, “ seems not a good sign for the country’s most popular religion.

Staff Editor

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