Shaolin Monk Suicide Shocks New York Chinese Community

Sing Tao Daily, News Digest, Joe Xia and Crystal Feng, Translation by Eugenia Chien Posted: Dec 01, 2006

NEW YORK – The suicide of a Shaolin temple monk has shocked the Chinese community in New York, who are now questioning the treatment of monks by their temples.

Heng Shan, a 27-year-old Buddhist monk, hung himself in the backyard of a New York residence on Nov. 24. Heng Shan had been ill and fell into depression when he lost his legal status in the United States. The New York Police Department 109th Precinct has ruled Heng Shan’s death as suicide.

Heng Shan immigrated to the United States in 2003 on an H1 work visa sponsored by the New York Shaolin Temple Abbot Guo Lin in Flushing to teach martial arts. But like many monks, Heng Shan received no pay or spending money from the temple, which provided the monks with room and board.

Heng Shan’s death stunned the Buddhist community, some of whom hold Abbot Guo Lin responsible, according to Abbot Heng Lin of the Queens Shaolin Temple. She told the Sing Tao Daily that though Abbot Guo Lin sponsored H1 work visas for monks like Heng Shan, the temple did not continue filing the paperwork required for the monks to legally stay in the United States. Monks like Heng Shan came to the United States legally but became undocumented immigrants when the temples fail to file their paperwork.

The Shaolin monastery is the only Buddhist temple combining martial arts and Buddhism. It is one of the most famous schools of martial arts in the world. Monks in the Shaolin temples traditionally go through strict training and meditation. But as branches of the Shaolin Monastery developed throughout the world, people attempted to make profit from the school. The Shaolin temple has become controversial as some practitioners criticize that Buddhist discipline has been lost and others fight for the claim of being the authentic Shaolin monastery.

A woman who had donated money to the Flushing Shaolin Temple said that she had offered to help Heng Shan apply for Medicaid, which would be available even to undocumented immigrants. But Abbot Guo Lin stopped her because he felt it might attract too much trouble. She said that Abbot Guo Lin never paid the monks, who lived in poverty. With no money, family, or legal documentation, the monks could not survive outside the temples. She said that nearby residents would sometimes give the monks money so that they can send money home at the end of the year. She asked the Sing Tao Daily to withhold her name.

In response to the community’s criticism, Abbot Guo Lin said that Heng Shan was important to the temple and that the temple had been nurturing his potential. He said that he wouldn’t mistreat one of his favorite pupils and that the public should not believe rumors. At a press conference on Nov. 28, Abbot Guo Lin said that the temple does not owe Heng Shan back pay. He said that the temple had offered to mail money to Heng Shan’s parents but Heng Shan refused the offer.

According to the Sing Tao Daily, the New York Shaolin temple is registered as a non-profit organization. As a non-profit organization, the temple is bound by U.S. labor laws when it hired martial monks to teach martial arts at its temples. Immigration lawyer Zhang Zhong-yuan told the Sing Tao Daily that as an employer, the temple must honor its agreement with the monks. But Abbot Guo Lin said that monks typically are not paid by their temples, but that the Shaolin temple provided food, shelter, and medical expenses.

Zhang said that food and shelter can account for only a part of the monks’ pay. He said that payment dispute between employers and employees is prevalent in the Chinese community. If the government pursues the situation, Zhang said, there is a high possibility that employers will be sued.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in New York said that the embassy has contacted Heng Shan’s parents in Anhui province but they have not made plans to come to the United States for funeral arrangements. New York Citycouncilman John Liu said that his office has received many letters about the monk’s death, but it is still too early to say whether anyone was at fault or whether a crime has been committed.

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User Comments

S. Wong on Jan 29, 2007 at 06:24:34 said:

Stop trying to protect this murderer Guo Lin.
This man has lost his virtue as a monk by secretly marrying, having children and owning a home in Syosset. And he destroyed Heng Shan's life and 2 others whom he also returned to China penniless and in poor health.

What this man did is no different than slave owners and snakeheads. I hope the authorities and the FBI look into this and grant justice to those poor souls. Burn in hell Guo Lin.

Jay V on Jan 17, 2007 at 04:41:20 said:

i have lived in NY my entire life - 36 years, not so long. Ive also practiced qi gong for 10 years - the da mo style.

For someone coming from a sheltered existance as I would suspect a monk would lead all his life and then come to NY where there are so many energy patterns - many of them negative - the culture shock on the energy level of your being must be very severe. I cant think of a greater strain on someones spirit than thrusting them unprotected and unprepared in the vastness of NY's vortexing energy.

Im not going to comment on anything else.

George Lu on Dec 19, 2006 at 06:49:14 said:

I’m a Kung Fu instructor and I’ve known Master Guolin for over thirteen years. Over the years I’ve visited him, ever since he started his first Shaolin Temple, back when it used to be next door to an auto shop.

Every time I go visit him, I always see happy and hard working Kung Fu students. At the end of the day, all the monks go upstairs to sleep, and Master Guolin goes upstairs also, just like every other monk there.

My aunt is a very active Buddhist, which means she volunteers for everything! She knows Master Guolin very well and has frequently visited Master Guolin’s temple over the years. She says she stands by Master Guolin one hundred percent.

A good friend of mine who I trained with for about five years moved to New York for film school, and she has trained at Master Guolin’s Temple for about three years. Her day-to-day instructor was Master Heng Shan, she said the rumors are false and she stands by Master Guolin. She will post her experiences soon.

I personally have witnessed Master Guolin staying true to his Buddhist training, and continuing to promote and pass on authentic Shaolin Kung Fu. As a Martial Artist, Master Guolin is an inspiration for all of us.

What has happened is a tragedy, but Master Guolin is nothing like what I am seeing him described as—an evil person and just for profit. He’s still the same happy, kind, jolly monk that I met thirteen years ago. I stand by Master Guolin.

George Lu

Tang Jie Sheng on Dec 05, 2006 at 08:52:43 said:

As a temple, monks don't normally get paid. By definition, monks are not supposed to have worldly possessions and live a very austere life. I'm not sure what the specific procedures are with the overseas Shaolin Temple in Queens but this is an important point.

It's too bad something was not done after Heng Shan made his first suicide attempt. Jumping from a 2nd floor is 'survivable'- I think it was a cry for help.

I studied under Shi Guo Lin for 3 years and I can personally stand up for his character. I absolutely do not believe in my heart that he could have such evil intentions. I don't know the circumstances of this tragedy but I feel it is too easy to make Shi Guo Lin the scapegoat for our grief.

I wish all people involved to realize their Buddha nature. - Amituo Fo

Shi Yan Cheng on Dec 04, 2006 at 21:26:28 said:

We think about the family and our feeling with them.

Omitofo, Shi Yan Cheng

Sanxin on Dec 04, 2006 at 12:46:37 said:

Shaolin Martial Arts Instructor Hanged Himself. He worked for “Shaolin Monk” Guolin Shi in New York for three years, never got any salary, Shi Guolin made him illegal and didn’t tell him….

-- See news nov.26 to 30 on, china press, world jounal, or typing shi heng shan in Chinese on line --

Jimei Wang (Buddist Name Shi Hengshan), 27 years old, a Chinese Kung Fu instructor of Shaolin Temple Overseas Headquarter (a Buddhist Temple and Martial Arts Center) at 41st Ave, Flushing, hanged himself around 12:40 pm on Friday, Nov. 24, 2006 in the backyard of an old couples near Flushing Botanical Garden. He was found by the couple when they threw the garbage. He was took to the emergency room in New York City Queens Hospital. He was pronounced dead at around five o’clock. ( Please check with hospital record and check police’s record-Police Branch 109)

Jimei Wang was hired as a Chinese Martial Arts Instructor with H1B1 Visa from China, by Guolin Shi, the president of Shaolin Temple Overseas Headquarter at 41st Ave, Flushing. He worked for Guolin Shi for three years, but didn’t get any salary from him. He was sick many times, and Guolin Shi didn’t help him to get medical insurance to see the doctor, because he didn't want to get in "trouble". In September, 2006, he was seriously injured at work. Guolin Shi didn’t give him money to see the doctor, but just kicked him out and told Wang that he didn’t extend Wang’s visa and his working visa is expired and told Wang that he is no longer legal in USA. Shi Guolin kicked him out, and didn’t want to give Wang his passport. “Why he didn’t want to give me my passport?” "Tell me is that true I am illegal now?" Hengshan told to his friend. Wang told friends that he doesn’t have his passport and money to go back to China, and he couldn’t even work in USA, because he is illegal now. He believed Guolin Shi will extend visa for him, but he was told when he got kick out from Guolin that he didn’t extend visa for him. "Yea, don't go back to China, I am afraid I will kill my parents as well." He told his friend.(See the tragedy of other instructor mentioned below.)

At around 12:00 pm at noon, just before he commit suicides, he told friends, “I have an appointment with my God-mom (Ms Tsia) and Xiao Lung(Shi Xiao Lung), I want to get my passport back. buy a ticket, and go back to China, and find a place to become a Buddhist Monk.” (His God-mom is actually Guolin’s friend and supporter. ) At 12:50 the police called his friend, he is in New York Queens Hosptial.

During the time he got kicked out from Shaolin Temple, he asked friends to let him stay. One of his Kungfu brothers says “Hengshan pointed at the calendar and said that wherever he went and whatever he did, Guolin always knows”. Friends knew that he already had serious mental illness and disorder.

Yuguo Song was another tragedy from Guolin’s Shaolin Temple. He was hired by Guolin Shi in 2002. He jumped from the second floor inside of Shaolin Temple and tried to kill himself. He was survived, but he was seriously injured and became disabled. He was sent back to China in 2003. He became mental disordered and killed his wife and son. His son was survived, but the wife was dead. He is now in the Mental Disordered Center in Henan, China.

Guolin Shi used the same ways to control both of them and even more people, He told Yuguo Song and Jimei Wang to “dress like a Buddist monk”, and act like a monk, chanting in front of people. Using the name of Shaolin Buddhism, he can make more money. “We saw them getting mental illed and disordered, but we have no ways to help him get out of that fantasy and illusion” His Kungfu teacher from China said. The way Guolin controls and kills people is not by knife, medicine, or physical force, but by mind. He used about 4 kung fu instructors for the past 10 years to help him to grow up the martial arts school, but never paid salary to the instructors. He used those talent martial artist as his slaves, and simply made them became his disciples, and told them to be a Buddhist (not materialism, following the rules…). He also told everybody, including the reporters that Shaolin Temple is non-profit organization, and has no money, that’s why the instructors agree not to get money from him. But lots of Chinese people say he has houses, wife , and children (Hengshan sometimes help him to take care of his children)..

Hengshan's Friend

Notes: To reporters: Please use your words to rewrite the story and tragedy, and please report this news for the justice and human’s rights. Please do more research. We don’t want to see more people and great talents killed by the fake religious evil. Thank you very much. The police office has the record, the time and location. And please seeking and exploring for more evil things going on in this temple.




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