The American giant Starbucks has caused heated discussion in China over whether it is appropriate for the world's largest Western coffee shop to set up in the Lingyin Temple, a Buddhist monastery in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province.
The Sina Weibo account of the company's stores in Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces announced Friday that it would open a shop in the monastery on Saturday. The news was reposted over 4,000 times with many biting comments about the odd combination of the modern commercial shops being set up in ancient temples.
A Weibo user said it creates an odd juxtaposition to drink coffee in a setting meant for meditation, as Starbucks symbolizes foreign culture and Lingyin represents traditional Chinese culture.
Another user complained that even religious sites are not immune from the invasion of foreign culture.
"The new coffee shop is located outside of the central scenic area requiring a 20-minute walk," a staff member surnamed Wang with the management office of the temple told the Global Times, adding that Starbucks has met all the strict requirements the management office sets for commercial establishments.
"The shop also aims to cater to the demand of increasing numbers of foreign and younger Chinese tourists," Wang added.
"This is only a coffee shop to me," Guan Lixin, a Hangzhou resident, told the Global Times, adding that his mother is strongly against the American brand's presence in the traditional religious site.
Mao Yibo, general manager of Starbucks' operating company in Shanghai, refused to comment when reached by the Global Times Sunday.
"The scenic spot's management office should do its research before opening a foreign brand store at a cultural heritage site," Zhang Yiwu, professor with the Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Peking University, told the Global Times, adding that finding a balance between Chinese culture and commercialism is critical.
Starbucks was the center of a debate in 2007, when Rui Chenggang, a CCTV anchor, pointed out that the company's shop at the Forbidden City in Beijing was against traditional culture and should be expelled. Starbucks soon closed the shop.