China: Temples to get 'authenticity certificates'

Monks hold a ceremony at a temple on Wutai Mountain Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Visitors flock to China's sacred temples, and now they'll be able to avoid any fakes

Temples in China will be given certificates to show they're legitimate, in an attempt to stop worshippers from being scammed, it's reported.

Religious authorities are handing out the documents to real Buddhist and Taoist temples to differentiate them from fake ones, the official Xinhua news agency reports. The move aims to prevent con-artists posing as monks from ripping off visitors at sacred sites, officials say. "There have been some non-religious sites employing fake monks who tricked tourists into donating money or buying expensive incenses," Liu Wei, from the State Administration of Religious Affairs, tells the agency. Religious sites are encouraged to hang the official documents outside so visitors can see them. Two temples in Beijing have already been granted a certificate, but the system is due to be rolled out nationwide.

Profiteering from religious activities of any kind is prohibited in China, according to Xinhua, after the authorities cracked down on the "over-commercialisation" of religious sites. In 2013, two temples were shut down on China's Mount Wutai, a Unesco World Heritage site, for hiring fake monks to fleece tourists of their cash. The two sites - one of which was called the Temple of the God of Wealth - were apparently charging too much for ceremonies and tricking people into making donations.

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