What happens when monks begin to love money…

Wutaishan, or Wutai mountain, is one of the four “sacred mountains” for China’s Buddhists. The mountain, which houses some 50 temples, has been an important religious site since at least the 7th century Tang Dynasty, Chinese scholars say. In recent years, however, the sacred mountains of Buddhism have become sources of attraction not only for the devout — for increasing numbers of Chinese businessmen and government officials, a trip to the mountains (usually marked by sizeable donations) has become a common ritual. (On one recent trip to Hengshan, a sacred mountain in Hunan popular among Taoists, a group of Louis Vuitton-wielding party officials was seen offering donations in the hope of securing profitable promotions).

For the faithful, the commercialisation of sacred temples has become a source of some anxiety. But for some monks, however, it has meant a windfall, as a recent investigation into Wutaishan’s temples revealed. This month, six “fake monks” were arrested and two temples on the mountain closed down, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The monks were found to have “deceived tourists into donating money, buying expensive incense and paying unreasonable amounts for ceremonies”.