The sex scandal of Shaolin Temple abbot, Shi Yongxin, escalated on Tuesday after a self-proclaimed follower disclosed more evidence to support his allegation.
Shi Zhengyi, the whistle-blower who claims to be a former follower of the Shaolin Temple in Central China's Henan Province, posted an article on various online forums on Saturday, saying that the abbot maintains sexual relations with several women and has illegitimate children.
Shi Zhengyi further disclosed identifications on Tuesday to prove the abbot was expelled from the Shaolin Temple in 1988, and gave information about the identity of one woman who is allegedly the mother of Shi Yongxin's illegitimate child.
"With all these hard evidences presented, could Shi Yongxin come forward to take a parentage identification test?" Shi Zhengyi was quoted by the media.
The sex scandal not only concerns the Shaolin Temple, which posted a statement to refute the allegation, but also triggers discussions over the role of religion in people's life.
The abbot, Shi Yongxin, is referred to by the media as the "CEO monk" and has courted controversy in the past for overly commercializing the Shaolin Temple by promoting lucrative kung fu shows and expanding the temple globally.
This is not the first time the 50-year-old monk has faced attacks on his public image. A Spanish newspaper, El Periodico, reported in July 2013 that he had a mistress who was a university student in Beijing and a son living in Germany. The temple has denied that report.
Shi Zhengyi named the abbot as a "tiger" in his article, a word which is often used for a corrupt senior official. He said the abbot's daughters and grandchildren live with Shi Yongxin's mother in Anhui Province.
The Shaolin Temple posted a statement on its official website saying that the "groundless" and "maliciously false" rumor has damaged the abbot's and temple's reputation, and urged authorities to deal with the case immediately since Shi Zhengyi's behavior could be regarded as defamation.
"Everything is just fine with the abbot and we have reported the incident to the authorities and will make no further comments," Zou Xiang, a lay Buddhist at the Shaolin Temple and a follower of Shi Yongxin, told the Global Times.
"No matter the accusation is true or not, the scandal will affect the reputation of the Shaolin Temple and shake the belief of some of Shi Yongxin's followers," Xia Xueluan, a sociology professor at Peking University, told the Global Times.
The numerous cases of allegations against so-called "spiritual masters" and religious leaders reflected the decline of Chinese people's faith in a country that is undergoing social transition, which makes it easier for people to use religion for personal benefit, said Xia.
The alleged cult leader of Huazangzongmen or Huazang Dharma, Wu Zeheng was charged of organizing a cult group, raping female disciples and making and swindling money, the Xinhua News Agency reported on July 15.
"Some people followed these so-called masters out of religious belief, but others are pursuing personal gains by associating with officials or celebrities through the religious leaders or so-called masters," Li Anping, deputy general-secretary of the China Anti-cult Association, told the Global Times.
A self-proclaimed Qigong master, Wang Lin, from Jiangxi Province was arrested for alleged involvement in the murder of a disciple on July 16. Wang gained huge fame and fortune by claiming to have saved "thousands of lives" through his magic Tai Chi practice and boasted to have close ties with senior officials and celebrities. "Religion has a great influence on the public. Religious leaders should behave themselves by not deifying themselves or taking advantage of their followers," said Li.
"Authorities should strengthen supervision on religion affairs and urge religious leaders to promote their faith in accordance with laws. Anyone who tries to use religion to gain money or personal fame should be cracked down," Duan Qiming, an expert who worked for the State Administration for Religion Affairs, told the Global Times.