The Shaolin Temple in Central China's Henan Province on Thursday refuted a rumor that its abbot is embroiled in a sex scandal and has $3 billion in his overseas bank account, as a response to a Spanish newspaper report that has been circulating online for the past few days.
The Spanish Newspaper, El Periodico, reported on July 21 that the abbot has a mistress who is a university student in Beijing and a son living in Germany. The report also claimed that the temple has admitted that they have supported the woman financially.
"It's absolutely ridiculous to say that our abbot is in a romantic relationship with a woman, or that he has children. It is not only offensive to the abbot but also to other monks like me. We have never heard of that foreign newspaper and have never been interviewed by that reporter," Yankong, a monk from the temple, told the Global Times, adding that some 300 monks in the temple can testify as witnesses for the abbot.
Yankong said that he was shocked when hearing the news as he claimed that the abbot follows Buddhist discipline with other monks in the temple, rarely leaving the temple to travel to other places.
The abbot, Shi Yongxin, 48, has helped introduce the culture of the Shaolin Temple, a symbol of Chinese kung fu, to the world and brought in great economic revenue through tourism.
Yangkong said the abbot has also heard about the report. "He thought the report was quite funny because it made no sense."
Phone calls to the Spanish newspaper El Periodico went unanswered on Thursday.
A staff member from the temple's office, surnamed Zhang, said the report was based on rumors which may be spread by some "powerful people," whose interests were hurt by the abbot as he refused to let the temple go to initial public offering, a Chengdu-based news portal news.chengdu.cn reported on Wednesday.
Yankong confirmed Zhang's comment but declined to say who the "powerful people" were.
This is not the first time that the abbot has been caught up in such rumors.
Media reports in July said several surveillance cameras had been secretly installed in the abbot's bedroom, so the people who installed them could use what they recorded as leverage against the abbot. In 2011, the abbot was even said to have been caught soliciting a prostitute during a police raid in Henan. Both events were proven to be untrue.
Such rumors have often gone hand-in-hand with commercial disputes surrounding the temple and the delayed wages of workers and monks, media reported previously.
Zhang told the news portal that the temple hasn't ruled out the possibility of reporting the matter to police.