Google and Apple Meet Shaolin Kung Fu


The Venerable Abbot Shi Yongxin leading China Songshan Shaolin Temple Delegation visited Google on March 19 and Apple on March 20. Although the technology world is vastly different from the Kung Fu and Zen of the Shaolin Temple, when the two worlds meet, Shi Yongxin said he saw similarities between working at Google and practicing Kung Fu, and the Apple products have a touch of Zen.

In the Headquarter of Google, the activities include touring office, experiencing products demonstration, giving speech and Shaolin monks Kung Fu performance. Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, welcomed the Shaolin Temple Delegation, and expressed interests in embedding Shaolin Culture into the Google Culture.

Shi Yongxin gave a half hour speech. He introduced the history and culture of the Shaolin Temple and highly praised the contribution of Google in the development of Internet. He said Google has greatly helped connect people and places, share knowledge and make life more convenient, and the mission of Google in promoting freedom of information shares similarities with the concept of equality in Zen. He was impressed by the relaxing and pleasant working environment of Google and compared it to the fun of practicing Kung Fu. In the question and answer session, Shi Yongxin said the advancement in communications is welcomed in Shaolin Temple to help spread the Zen and Kung Fu to a wider audience.

The speech was in Chinese and the temporary translator struggled multiple times in translating specific Buddhism concepts and scripts. If a translator with Buddhism background can be found, it may help the audience understand the speech better. Nevertheless the speech was well received. This mismatch in translation reminds Chinese people of the movie The Grandmaster of 2013, in which the English translations were considered disappointing as the wisdom, the complexity and the connections in Chinese language were often lost.

The Shaolin Kung Fu performance in Google, to everyone’s surprise, used music from the soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean, while employees in Apple missed out on the authentic Kung Fu as it was not part of the meeting there.

In Apple, Shi Yongxin was welcomed by Tim Cook and they had a discussion on apple products and Zen. Tim Cook said he is practicing Zen by meditating 15 to 20 minutes every day to sustain the inner peace. Shi Yongxin praised the simplicity and purity of Apple, and its minimalist approach and cleanness is like Zen. Mr. Cook expressed concern over the air pollution in China and said he is willing to provide as much help as possible. Shi Yongxin replied that high-tech communications nowadays can help reduce driving trips thus reduce tailpipe pollution.

Mr. Cook also demonstrated the capacity of iTunes in creating lessons and Shi Yongxin expressed interests and considered it would be a helpful tool in spreading the Shaolin Culture. Mr. Cook hoped iTunes can be used by Shaolin Temple and there would be further cooperation between Apple and Shaolin Temple. Mr. Cook asked if there is Wi-Fi coverage and Shi Yongxin said yes and the coverage will increase to the whole temple area soon.

Established in 495 AD, Songshan Shaolin Temple in China is the birthplace of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, which has played a decisive role in the history of Chinese Buddhism and the history of culture of China. Shaolin Kung Fu, considered the origin of all Kung Fu, is actually the unity of Chan and Martial Arts. But most people only think Kung Fu equals martial arts.

The Shaolin Temple Delegation came to U.S. to attend series of celebration of “China Songshan Shaolin Temple Day” on March 21, which was established ten years ago under the effort of California Senator Dr. Leland Yee. This year the celebration is between March 18 and March 23. Shaolin Kung Fu and Shi Yongxin are considered as celebrity to be invited to meet Google and Apple, showing an increasing appreciation of China cultures and Chan Buddhism. Other activities on the delegation’s itinerary includes visiting Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, performing Kung Fu San Francisco and meeting government officials.

By Tina Zhang


Tencent (In Chinese)
China Daily (In Chinese)
TechWeb (In Chinese)
Shaolin Temple