September 3, 2007 - 12:34PM
China's Shaolin Temple has demanded and received a public apology from an internet user who posted a comment on an online forum claiming a Japanese ninja beat its kung fu-practising monks in a showdown.
An open letter from the temple posted on the internet late last week denied the fight ever took place and called on the person who posted the claim to apologise to the temple's martial arts masters.
Monks from the temple, nestled in the Songshan Mountains of central China's Henan province, said they will consider legal action if the person doesn't make a public apology.
The posting last week on the "Iron Blood Bulletin Board Community" - by someone calling themselves "Five Minutes Every Day" - described a ninja who challenged the monks of the Shaolin Temple to a fight in August after practising boxing at a Japanese mountain retreat for five years.
The internet user claimed the monks accepted the challenge and the ninja won, proving the monks are trained to perform rather than fight.
Ninjas - professional assassins trained in martial arts - date back to mediaeval Japan.
The Shaolin Temple's letter said the posting was "evil" and "a pure fabrication." It said the account of the ninja's victory had been widely commented on and distributed, especially in Japan.
"This extremely irresponsible behaviour not only impacts the Shaolin temple and its monks, but also the whole martial arts community and the Chinese people," it said.
According to some reports, the ninja-booster, Five Minutes, later posted an apology.
"What I wrote was fiction. I apologise to Shaolin Temple and all my readers," he wrote. "I hope that the Shaolin masters will exercise their Buddhist compassion and virtue, and forgive me."
The incident comes amid lingering tensions between China and Japan over World War II atrocities. China is highly sensitive to anything that smacks of Japanese militarism, particularly because many believe Tokyo has yet to show adequate remorse for its wartime actions in China.
Last year, some ten thousand Chinese protesters staged a demonstration inside an online game after a motif resembling a Hinomaru or "rising sun" Japanese flag was used in The Fantasy of the Journey West - a popular game set in the Tang dynasty period (618 - 907).
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