Beijing: Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of kung fu and famous home of the fighting monks, has raised the Chinese national flag for the first time in its 1500-year history.
A flag raising ceremony on Monday was attended by officials from the United Front Work Department, which oversees religious groups in China because of the Communist Party's fear they may be a threat to its rule.
A new rule requiring religious venues to raise the Chinese flag at religious festivals was introduced on July 31. Shaolin Temple abbott Shi Yongxin said Shaolin should "take the lead", and held the ceremony at its gate on Songshan Mountain, a statement said.
Photographs showed a dozen monks marching from the temple to the gate carrying the flag.
The national flag would bring socialist core values into religious venues and "enhance national awareness" the temple said.
Shaolin monks are well-known in Australia for a stage show that has toured internationally for 10 years, generating income for the temple.
The Shaolin Temple was the subject of a 1982 film starring Jet Li, that spurred western martial arts students to travel to Henan province to seek training in "wushu". "Foreign disciples" also attended the flag raising ceremony.
Religion is viewed with suspicion by the Communist Party. Disciplinary rules for Communist Party members released on Monday restated that members of religious faith who don't change after "ideological education" should be urged to leave the party.
Wang Yang, one of China's top leaders, toured Tibet at the weekend and called for Buddhist temples there to "battle separatist elements", a reference to the exiled Dalai Lama.