Millionaire Monks: Why Chinese Businessmen Rush to Buy Temples

A monk counting "donations." (WeChat)
A monk counting "donations." (WeChat)

After his death, the abbot of Ling Zhao Temple in Yunnan was found to have over 4 million yuan (about $646,000), and his children decided to sue the temple, according to Weixin.com.

This considerable income is a major reason why Chinese businessmen invest in temples, and an abbot’s respected position is another factor.

Fake monks can earn money through selling tickets, charging tourists to burn incense for Buddha worship, and asking for “donations.” The charge for burning a stick of incense ranges from 600 yuan to 100,000 yuan ($100 -$16,000).

The most expensive incense is in Bao Guang Temple on Mount Emei, Sichuan Province, at 990,000 yuan ($160,000) per stick. Don’t have enough cash? No worries, the monks have credit card machines!

Another way to generate money is to ask for “donations.” When approached by tourists, monks mention auspicious numbers, saying: “Up to you; three, six, or nine will work,” meaning 300, 600, 900 yuan, or even 3,000, 6,000, or 9,000 yuan.

A "monk" buying bras for his girlfriend, and hanging out with her after shopping. (WeChat)

A “monk” buying bras for his girlfriend, and hanging out with her after shopping. (WeChat)

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