A new Starbucks outpost in Hangzhou, China has caused a stir since it opened this week a 20-minute walk away from Lingyin Temple, a famed Buddhist shrine in eastern China.
Critics in China have called the store opening a "cultural invasion," according to government news portal China.org.cn.
Some compared the new cafe to the contentious installation of a Starbucks store in close proximity to Beijing's Forbidden Palace in 2001. (That location closed in 2007, amidst strong outcry.) Some have already called for the Starbucks Lingyin Temple location's closure.
Others, though, note that the area around the Lingyin Temple has been drifting towards capitalism for some time, pointing out that a KFC has been open in the same commercial strip as the new Starbucks for about six months. Some critics were incensed over the weekend by reports on social media outlets that the location was inside the temple, and that it was called the "Starbucks Lingyin Temple," but a Starbucks representative told The Huffington Post that these reports were erroneous.
"Over the past 13 years since our entry to China, Starbucks has maintained deep respects for China’s cultural and historical heritage," the spokesperson added in a statement. "Our stores have become a neighborhood gathering place, a part of our local customers’ daily coffee routine and we could not be happier about it."
The store has become a flash point because Lingyin Temple has an ancient history and deep cultural significance. The monastery associated with was originally founded in 328 AD, and the building has been a major destination for pilgrims for at least the past 1200 years. The Chinese name of the temple literally translates as "Temple of the Soul's Retreat," so many of these pilgrims probably come in search of peace and quiet. But if Starbucks elects to keep its neighboring location open, it must be banking on the idea that some of them want an experience less restful than energizing.
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