A Chinese abbot’s immense wealth has been under scrutiny after his flamboyant son was allegedly kidnapped in Canada in March after showing off his supercars and designer clothing on social media.
The high-profile monk, who used to be a businessman, is said to be so rich he spent 375 million yuan (£42.6 million) having a massive temple complex built on a tropical resort island.
The controversial religious leader has also splurged 2.6 million yuan (£300,000) on an ‘online girlfriend’ after chatting with her for 20 days, according to investigation by Chinese media.
Taoist abbot Lu Wenrong (pictured) has sparked controversy in China for his enormous wealth
In an interview in 2018, he said he spent his life savings, 375 million yuan (£42.6 million), building Yuchan Palace (pictured) on the touristy tropical island of Hainan in southern China
Abbot Lu Wenrong is the deputy director of the Chinese Taoism Association and the director of Hainan Taosim Association.
He was pushed into spotlight in March after reports claimed he was the father of Lu Wanzhen, a 22-year-old student who was abducted in Ontario.
Lu Wenrong’s son, Lu Wanzhen (pictured), was allegedly kidnapped in Canada in March after showing off his wealth online
The monk has also drawn controversy for leading a lavish lifestyle, including having a wife and eating meat which are frowned upon or banned depending on the school of Taoism.
An article from Beijing News last week confirmed the relation between the two for the first time.
In another report from Btime.com, a spokesperson from Hainan Taosim Association also confirmed the allegations, but claimed Wenrong and his family members’ wealth had nothing to do with his religious activities.
In China, monks are expected to live a simple, thrifty and low-profile life.
Wenrong’s son Wanzhen was said to be tasered and dragged into the back of a van by an armed gang of four in his car park in the city of Markham before being found alive four days later.
The young heir, a business administration student at Yorkville University, allegedly has four luxury cars, including a Ferrari 488 GTB, a Lamborghini Huracan, a Rolls Royce Wraith and a Land Rover Range Rover Velar.
He was said to be wearing a Gucci coat and Givenchy shoes when he was taken.
He also owns an apartment in Canada which he bought for nearly C$583,000 (£341,000) in cash in 2018, according to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
China media have linked Wanzhen’s kidnap with his posts on social media. Canadian police have not revealed the motives of the suspects, but said a ransom demand was made.
Wenrong owns the Yuchan Palace (pictured), a temple with more than 20 structures on Wenbi Peak. He claimed in an interview last week the temple cost 60 million yuan (£6.8 million)
Hainan (pictured) is a tropical island in southern China renowned for its beaches and resorts
According to a screen grab, Wanzhen apparently flaunted his high-end clothing and expensive cars in his Instagram account. The post have since been removed.
His father Wenrong owns the Yuchan Palace, a temple with more than 20 structures on Wenbi Peak in a tourist-packed Hainan island.
In an interview with the Hainan religious authority in 2018, Wenrong said he spent his life savings, 375 million yuan, building the monastery.
He said construction took place between 2003 and 2006, and the temple was built to promote the southern-style Taoism and the Chinese culture.
In an interview with Beijing News last week, Wenrong denied the allegations that his son had been showing off.
He argued that it was cheap to rent luxury cars in the West. He was quoted saying: ‘You just pay a few hundred Canadian dollars a month.’
An Instagram screen shot circulating by media appears to show Wanzhen’s lavish lifestyle before he was allegedly kidnapped. His Instagram posts have since been removed
Wenrong also defended himself by saying the school of Taoism he belongs to allows followers to eat meat and having romantic relationships.
Different from his own claims last year, he said in the Beijing News interview that his temple only cost 60 million yuan (£6.8 million) because ‘land was cheap in 1993’ when he bought the plot.
He revealed that his original intention was to build a zoo for exotic animals from Africa, instead of a temple.
Wenrong was born into a less-fortunate family in Hubei and later became a businessman.
It is unclear how he became a monk and what made him to do so.
But one version suggested by Beijing News said he made the switch after failing to answer questions about classical Chinese literature, including Tao Te Ching, from a local during a trip to South Africa in 1995.
It is said that Wenrong felt humiliated and decided to dedicate himself to Taoism.
The report said Yuchan Palace could attract more than 20,000 people during the Chinese New Year holidays and bring millions of yuan to Wenrong and his family in admission every year.
Hainan Taosim Association told the press they had launched an investigation into the source of Wenrong’s wealth.
Canadian police are still investigating Wanzhen’s case.