Chinese filmmakers have shot many movies and TV shows based on stories about the famed monks of the Shaolin Temple.
But now the temple has decided to take a lead role in telling its own story, according to sources at the 1,500-year-old religious institution.
The Shaolin Cultural Broadcast Co, which is affiliated with the temple, is planning to spend several hundred million yuan to develop three sets of films and related TV series.
The first installment of the three twin bills is entitled "Legends of the Monk Warriors from Shaolin Temple."
Shi Yongxin, the temple's Abbot, is the chief producer.
The film plan, which has been in development for five years, has been approved by the State Administration of Religious Affairs and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, according to the broadcast company.
The Shaolin Temple, located in central China's Henan Province, has long been famous for its martial arts, or kung fu. The temple was built in 495 and abounds in legendary stories of martial-arts monks.
The story that will be adapted for the first film and TV series is set in 1520, when the country was ruled by Emperor Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
At that time, 30 kung fu monks, led by Yuekong, were sent by the temple to join the emperor's army in the fight against pirates who were raiding the coast in southeast China. Most of the monks sent to help out died in battle.
The temple made the final decisions in theme selection, script writing and the description of Zen, a form of Buddhism.
Shaolin monks also acted in the film.
The production company said it will partner with film studios from home and abroad to shoot the movie. World-class filmmakers and actors will be invited to join the production as well.
Backed by an investment of 200 million yuan (US$24.7 million), the shooting is scheduled to start in the second half of next year, and a global premiere is slated for early 2008, the company said.
The Shaolin company also wants to team up top-notch domestic filmmakers and invite popular action stars to participate in the TV series. The first series is expected to be aired by the spring of 2007.
The following two segments will be called "Kung Fu Legends of Shaolin Temple" and "Rebirth of Shaolin Temple from the Flames."
The TV series alone will cost about 100 million yuan, according to the company.