Last Spring Festival I tossed around several travel ideas before finally settling on our trip to Haerbin. Top of the list prior to that was making our way through Shandong towards Xi'An – stopping in Songshan to visit the famous Shaolin Temple. You know the Shaolin monks, right? They're the guys that can do all that amazing kung fu like you see on TV – stopping bullets with their teeth, dodging raindrops, and kicking the crap out of homer – while spouting off prolific Taoist gems of wisdom.
A student at the time changed my mind. She informed me that she had made the pilgramage to the holiest of Holy Spin Kickedness! and was majorly let down. Basically whatever monk-like qualities the Shaolin Order had, it went the way of the negative profit margin and they are now not much but a money-mongering group of landlords that take in loads of tourists' RMB and give little or nothing back to the communities that surround them.
However, this recent incident in Chongqing has brought the pack-a-punch monks to a new low. As found at ESWN (with more photos):
At around 2pm on November 14, a photographer and a reporter from the Chongqing Morning News were walking through Jiangbei in Chongqing city. They observed a bus parked in the "no stopping" zone of a street and the traffic police was quarreling with the men. As reporters, they naturally went ahead to find out what was going on. The traffic police officer informed the men: "This is a no-stopping zone, and so the bus should be removed."
Instead, the men surrounded him and shoved him around. Just as the photographer picked up his camera to film, one of the men: "No filming." Then several more men went up to try to rip off his camera. The photographer attempted to run away, but he was pushed to the ground and beaten. Several uniformed and plainclothes policemen came immediately to his assistance, even as more police officers were summoned. However, the men were eventually let go.
Oh, yes, the men were "monks" who had set up (without any permits) at the pedestrian mall to do martial arts performances as well as sell medicine.
Now perhaps I'm being a bit judgmental and quick to draw the conclusion that they were actually "Shaolin" monks… maybe they were just drug selling street performers with yellow robes and sticks. Fair enough. I really can't say that I can tell the difference between one and the other. In fact, I'd like to think that perhaps the latter is the truth, as super-spiritualized monks beating reporters is a bit like learning Mother Theresa was a horrible person. It just puts a kink in your perception that the world is a groovy place to live.