TIME China

Has China’s Anti-Graft Campaign Reached Shaolin’s Kung Fu Temple?

Shi Yongxin of Shaolin Temple presides over the "Ten Thousand People Copy Confucian Classics" launching ceremony on Dragon Heads-raising Day on March 21, 2015 in Zhengzhou, Henan province of China.
ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images Shi Yongxin of Shaolin Temple presides over the "Ten Thousand People Copy Confucian Classics" launching ceremony on Dragon Heads-raising Day on March 21, 2015 in Zhengzhou, Henan province of China.

Shi Yongxin is currently involved in constructing a $400 million Kung Fu theme park in Australia

Has the iPhone-touting, laptop-savvy MBA grad who runs the ‘Kung Fu’ temple at Shaolin become the latest victim of China’s anti-corruption drive?

Speculation over the fate of Shi Yongxin, who has turned China’s most famous temple into a multi-million dollar brand in his 16 years as abbot, has intensified since he failed to make a scheduled appearance at an international meeting of Buddhists in Thailand, according to The Financial Times.

The “CEO Monk” has disappeared from public view after a week in which he was denounced online (albeit anonymously) for having children by prostitutes and embezzling monastery funds. A one-sentence statement released Monday by the authorities of the city of Denfeng, near Shaolin, confirmed it was investigating the allegations, saying: “Our bureau takes this extremely seriously and will swiftly clarify…and ensure a correct understanding of the matter.”

It could be a sticky end for the monk who has angered some in China by his ruthless commercialization of Shaolin, the birthplace of Chinese martial arts and Zen Buddhism, by renting it out for reality TV shows and computer games among other things. Shi is on the verge of what would be a crowning achievement for internationalizing the brand: the construction of a $400 million Kung Fu theme park in New South Wales, Australia (naturally including a hotel and golf course.)

An open letter published under the name ‘Shi Zhengyi’ last week accused the abbot of living the kind of dissolute double life that has become distinctly unfashionable under President Xi Jinping. The author is thought to be a disaffected former disciple of Shaolin, but the name is most likely a pseudonym since it translates (according to CNN) as ‘interpreting justice’.

The letter, headed–“Who is to inspect this Big Tiger?”–consciously channeled Xi’s promise to go after both ‘flies and tigers’ in cleaning up China’s leadership. Shi is perhaps an unlikely target for action by state agencies, which have focused so far on corrupt Communist Party officials like former Chongqing governor Bo Xilai. However, the abbot is also member of China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress. He’s also a vice-chairman of the state-backed national Buddhist association, which collaborates with the State Administration for Religious Affairs in monitoring all of China’s recognized religions. And 16 years as abbot makes him part of the Establishment, whichever way you cut it.

‘Shi Zhengyi”s letter, which went viral across China, accused Shi of having been expelled from the monastery in the past for the distinctly non-Zen practice of fiddling his expenses (what would Blind Master Po have said?) Once reinstated and having risen to the rank of abbot, Shi then entertained prostitutes at the monastery, going so far as to keep them there as mistresses and even fathering their children (another viral post claimed to show the birth certificate of one of them), according to the claims.

The monastery has denied the allegations as “malicious insults”, while Shi last week said he had nothing to hide.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME weather

The Strongest Typhoon This Year Is Heading Toward Taiwan, Japan and China

It is expected to weaken as it nears Taiwan, however

Supertyphoon Soudelor has rapidly strengthened into a Category 5 storm in the northwest Pacific, with peak sustained wind speeds of 180 m.p.h., the Weather Channel reports. That makes it the strongest tropical cyclone recorded this year.

On Sunday, Soudelor, which made landfall as a Category 2 storm, slammed into the Northern Mariana Islands, causing “extensive” damage on Saipan. The storm brought down power lines, toppled roofs and flooded the island’s power plant. Hundreds of Saipan’s residents sought shelter until Monday afternoon.

Saipan’s acting governor Ralph D.L.G. Torres declared “a state of disaster and significant emergency” for the island, reports the Pacific Daily News.

According to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, the supertyphoon is expected to continue on its path northwestward across the Pacific Ocean over the next few days but will weaken as it nears Taiwan, China and Japan’s southwestern Ryukyu islands by Friday.

The name Soudelor comes from the Federated States of Micronesia and is a Pohnpeaian word for a legendary chief or ruler.

[Weather Channel]


Oil Prices Hit 6-Month Low

Operations Inside A KazMunaiGas National Co. Oil Refinery
Bloomberg via Getty Images A worker walks along the top of a tank wagon as it is filled with petroleum ahead of shipping by rail at the Atyrau oil refinery, operated by KazMunaiGas National Co., in Atyrau, Kazakhstan, on Thursday, July 2, 2015. Kazakhstan is the former Soviet Union's second-largest oil producer.

"Economic weakness has set the tone," said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData, a New York-based energy database.

Oil prices lurched 5% lower on Monday to their lowest since January, taking global benchmark Brent below $50 a barrel as weak factory activity in China deepened a commodity-wide rout.

Growing concerns over excess global oil supplies, heavy selling in pumped-up gasoline futures and technically driven momentum trading knocked prices to within a few dollars of the six-year lows touched at the start of this year.

U.S. crude had already fallen 21% in July, its worst month since 2008 amid mounting evidence of an expanding global glut and a stock market collapse in China, the world’s largest energy consumer.

On Monday, the rout deepened after data showed Chinese manufacturing growth unexpectedly stalled in July and U.S. consumer spending advanced at its slowest pace in four months in June as demand for automobiles softened.

Brent, the global benchmark for crude, settled down $2.69, or 5.2%, at $49.52 a barrel. Brent’s session bottom of $49.36 was within striking range of its 2015 low of $49.19.

U.S. crude settled down $1.95, or 4.1%, at $45.17, just about $3 above its 2015 bottom.

“Economic weakness has set the tone,” said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData, a New York-based energy database.

“But the gasoline crack spread is also unraveling,” Smith said, referring to the difference between gasoline and U.S. crude prices, which sets the profit margin for refiners.

Gasoline’s front-month continuation contract settled down almost 9% from Friday’s close, its most in a day since October 2012, Reuters data showed. The gasoline crack, or spread with U.S. crude, narrowed to below $26, its lowest in more than a week.

“The chart is looking anything but constructive,” said Fawad Razaqzada, technical analyst in London for forex.com, who expects both benchmarks to set new lows for the year soon.

Oil hasn’t been falling alone. The 19-commodity Thomson Reuters/Core Commodity CRB Index, a global benchmark, hit its lowest since 2003, erasing almost all the gains of the decade-long commodities “super-cycle” fueled by China.

A Reuters survey last week showed oil output by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) reached the highest monthly level in recent history in July, reinforcing the idea that Saudi Arabia and other key OPEC members are focused on defending market share.

Hedge funds and other speculators have cut their bullish exposure to U.S. crude to a near 5-year low, trade data showed on Friday, as local drillers added rigs and pumped at full throttle despite the global oil glut.

Large investors in Brent also cut their holdings last week by the most in percentage terms since September 2014.

–Additional reporting by Amanda Cooper in London and Florence Tan in Singapore

TIME Music

Is This New Winter Olympics Song a ‘Let It Go’ Rip-Off?

An official song of the Winter Olympics gets a chilly reception online

Beijing won its bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics on Friday, but now it’s involved in a controversy of Disney princess-sized proportions.

“The Snow and Ice Dance,” one of 10 official theme songs for the games unveiled earlier this year, sounds a lot like the song “Let It Go,” the hit song from Disney’s 2013 animated musical Frozen, the New York Times reports.

According to one Chinese magazine’s website, both ballads begin with an eight-beat piano intro, have very similar tempos and use the same chords in some parts. Multiple comments on the song’s YouTube page have also pointed out the comparison.

When reached for comment by the Times, a spokesperson for the city’s Olympic organizing committee said she did not have the authority to comment and asked that questions be submitted through fax, though answers were not returned.

Maybe Beijing could use some of Elsa’s magic—northern China’s dry winters mean most of the snow and ice will need to be artificially created for the games.


TIME China

What Is Happening to China’s Stock Market?

Here's what to know

After climbing by 150% in the last year, China’s stock market has taken a tumultuous turn. The market has fallen by 30% over the past month, sparking worries amongst investors across the globe.

What happened to the Chinese stock market, and how did it take such a steep plunge? Watch the video above to find out.

TIME China

After Three Grim Accidents in a Week, Is It Even Safe to Ride on a Chinese Escalator?

A woman walks next to escalators at a department store in Shanghai
© Aly Song / Reuters—REUTERS A woman walks next to escalators at a department store in Shanghai, March 8, 2015.

Experts warn of poorly maintained, aging equipment and not enough inspectors

A 35-year-old employee of a shopping mall in Shanghai had to have his left leg amputated on Saturday after a part of the escalator he was cleaning collapsed underneath him, according to state-linked newspaper Global Times. It was the third such mishap in China within a week.

Exactly a week earlier, video of 30-year-old mother Xian Liujuan went around the world after the escalator she was traveling on, in a department store in the central province of Hubei, suddenly gave way. She was able to push her young son before being sucked into the machinery and killed. On Friday, a toddler’s arm got caught in an escalator, this time at a mall in the southern Guangxi region, when he tripped after wandering away from his parents. His mangled arm was pulled out 30 minutes later.

These three accidents have led to heightened concerns and scrutiny of the country’s aging escalators and elevators, many of which are not up to acceptable safety standards. A report by the country’s Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), cited by the state Xinhua news agency, found that more than 110,000 escalators have potential safety issues of which over 26,000 have not yet been repaired.

The AQSIQ said there were 49 escalator accidents in 2014 that claimed 37 lives, the Global Times said, citing Xinhua. The accidents were generally caused by poor design, the use of substandard materials, installation and maintenance, China Elevator Association official Zhang Lexiang told the Global Times.

According to the website china.org.cn — a government portal run by the State Council Information Office — figures from the China Elevator Association show that more than half of all accidents involving elevators and escalators are connected to maintenance and repair neglect.

Zhang Huaiji, an engineer with the Shenzhen Institute of Special Equipment Inspection and Testing, told the site that there were not enough inspectors for China’s many escalators and elevators, and added that low wages and long hours were leading many maintenance workers to leave the field.

The central government has ordered all its provincial authorities to ensure that escalators in every mall are functioning properly by Aug. 10. Chinese citizens are meanwhile taking no chances. Images and videos of their ways of dealing with escalator-phobia, being shared on Chinese social media (and excerpted here by BuzzFeed), range from practical to hilarious to risky.

TIME On Our Radar

Inside the Life of China’s Most Famous Actress

This American photographer was the English tutor of the most celebrated Chinese actress, Fan Bingbing

It was 2008 when Californian photographer Rian Dundon, while working as a freelance editorial photographer in Beijing, learned about an unexpected job opportunity: tutor Chinese actress and pop singer, Fan Bingbing.

Fan is well accustomed to being in the spotlight since her teenage years. Now 33, she regularly stars in China’s highest-grossing movies and has represented international fashion powerhouses like Louis Vuitton. Still, the ability to speak fluent English was instrumental to advance Fan’s career – with the potential to help her land Hollywood roles, Dundon says.

But Dundon, who had been living in China since 2005, had no idea how grandiose Fan’s fame was, until the day he accompanied her to a live performance in the coastal city of Qingdao in northeastern China. “I was just impressed by the fanaticism, the number of people that were there to see her, the big crowds of college students chasing us down the road, swarming our car as we arrived,” Dundon recalls.

For the next nine months, Dundon joined Fan’s entourage of assistants and traveled frequently in China and Southeast Asia. During the tour, he met celebrities such as prolific American director Oliver Stone and Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan. “It was exciting definitely at first to be traveling, staying at fancy hotels, eating a lot of really good, expensive meals,” Dundon tells TIME.

But soon the excitement wore off, as the photographer often had to put his life on hold to accommodate Fan’s taxing schedule. “I was the last to know when we were making moves,” Dundon says. “Often I would get a call in the middle of the night that said, ‘Be at the airport in a few hours,’ the next thing I knew [we] would be gone for two months filming a movie or a soap opera somewhere.”

Despite the grind, the job gave Dundon the unprecedented opportunity to document the actress’s life, capturing the spontaneous yet intimate moments that largely remained unknown to Chinese tabloids, in which Fan was portrayed as arrogant and pompous.

Modes Vu

In one photo, we see the starlet eating out of Styrofoam takeout boxes, minding no one. In another, we see her sitting unaccompanied at a big round dining table, eyes fixed on her phone. Shorn of makeup and designer clothes, Fan is just like any ordinary girl. “After all of the fame, beauty and wealth, she’s a pretty approachable and down-to-earth person actually,” Dundon says.

Although Fan didn’t have editorial control over Dundon’s photographs, he’s well aware of the intent of Fan’s image-conscious management team. “They sought the opportunity to have this foreign, more journalistic, candid perspective on her world that might be more telling,” he says.

After Dundon moved back to the U.S., he was approached by independent publisher Modes Vu, who employs a print-on-demand model that ships books right off the printer to the readers. After 10 book dummies came Dundon’s latest monograph, Fan, in which the photographs of the starlet’s public and private lives as well as the urban landscape in China are seamlessly weaved together.

Modes Vu

“I wanted to bring it in to a broader vision of celebrity and entertainment production in the context of urban China at the time,” Dundon says. The book, which resembles a low-cost paperback with a cheap sticker price, reflects the disposability of fame, he says.

He purposefully left out captions, leaving viewers to ponder “when it’s a performance, when it’s on set or when it’s real life.” In one photograph, Fan is seen staring into the camera with two strips of tears sliding down her cheek. The emotion seems genuine but her meticulously groomed hair hints otherwise. “She was crying for a scene in a film,” Dundon says. “It’s real tears but not necessarily real crying.”

Images like these, Dundon says, play with the line between fact and fiction, and ultimately pose the question of whether pictures of celebrity can ever be authentic or unposed. “Everything is curated, for the audience, for the media, for the fans,” Dundon tells TIME.

Although marketing the book in China seems to be a logical idea, Dundon says that it isn’t his intent to sell Fan back to her established audience. “I think part of the intrigue being a Westerner or non-Chinese reader of this book is that you don’t recognize her. You recognize fame and the structure of fame and celebrity. To me, it’s almost more interesting if you don’t know who she is.”

Rian Dundon is an American photojournalist and documentary photographer. Fan is published by Modes Vu.

Mikko Takkunen, who edited this photo gallery, is an associate photo editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

Ye Ming is a freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter @yemingphoto and Instagram.

TIME Food & Drink

Chinese Distillers Accused of Spiking Alcohol With Viagra

Viagra Alcohol China
Raupach/ullstein bild—Getty Images

Erectile dysfunction drugs added to "health-preserving" liquor

Two distillers are under investigation in China for allegedly spiking their alcohol with the anti-impotence drug Viagra, officials said on Saturday.

Chinese investigators discovered over 5,300 bottles suspected of being tainted with sildenafil, the chemical name for Viagra, during a routine inspection of the two distilleries in the southern city of Liuzhou, BBC reports.

According to the city’s food and drug administration, the powdery white drug was added into three different types of “health-preserving” baijiu, a popular spirit analogous to vodka. Some bottles also contained naproxen and indomethacin, which are anti-inflammatory drugs, and tadafil, which is a different erectile dysfunction drug sold as Cialis or Adcirca.

Food safety remains a top public health concern in China, with a scandal involving 100,000 tons of rotting meat making headlines just weeks ago.


TIME Huawei

This Chinese Giant Just Surpassed Microsoft

Latest Electronics Products On Display At The CEATEC Exhibition
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A Huawei phone.

The U.S. company is no longer the third-largest phone maker

Huawei is now the third-largest mobile phone maker in the world, beating out Microsoft for the number of items shipped in the second quarter of 2015, according to Strategy Analytics.

Engadget reported Friday that Huawei shipped over 30 million phones during the year’s second quarter, which is roughly a 50% increase from the same period in 2014. Microsoft, meanwhile, sold 27.8 million phones worldwide in the quarter.

According to the publication, Huawei now has a 7% global market share, which trails Apple’s 10%, and Samsung’s 20%.

“Huawei is rising fast in all regions of the world, particularly China where its 4G models, such as the Mate7, are proving wildly popular,” Ken Hyers, director at Strategy Analytics, told Engadget.

Neil Mawston, the executive director at Strategy Analytics, added that “Microsoft’s 6 percent global mobile phone marketshare is sitting near an all-time low.”

TIME United Kingdom

U.K. Government Grants Ai Weiwei 6-Month Visa

Christof Stache–AFP/Getty Images Chinese artist Ai Weiwei leaves the Franz-Josef-Strauss airport in Munich, southern Germany, after his arrival from China on July 30, 2015.

The British government reportedly apologized to Ai in writing "for the inconvenience caused"

(LONDON) — Britain says it is granting dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei a six-month visa, apologizing for rejecting his application over an alleged criminal conviction.

On Thursday Ai disclosed that the British embassy in Beijing had turned down his request for a business visa, saying he had failed to disclose a criminal conviction. It gave him a visit for 20 days instead.

Ai was jailed for almost three months in 2011 amid a crackdown on dissent. His company was later accused of tax evasion and ordered to pay $2.4 million. Ai’s lawyer said that was not a criminal case.

Britain’s Home Office said Friday that Home Secretary Theresa May had told officials to grant the six-month visa. It said it had written to Ai “apologizing for the inconvenience caused.”

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