BENEATH a lustrous 33-metre bronze statue of Guanyin, the Buddhist bodhisattva of mercy, a young monk on Mount Putuo tallies the cash donated by visiting faithful: “Daily, anywhere between tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of yuan,” he says (100,000 yuan is a little under $16,000). Over 8m trips are made yearly to the tiny islet in Zhoushan city, about a four-hour drive from Shanghai (11m visited Shanghai Disneyland in its first year, after it opened in 2016). When it comes to temple fundraising, the monk is resolute. “The traditional way is the best way,” he says.
The Putuoshan Tourism Development Company has other ideas. A state-owned enterprise whose biggest shareholder is controlled by the government of Zhoushan and some state asset-management firms, it manages tourist facilities in the location, such as ferries, cable cars and joss-stick shops. Since 2012 it has mulled an initial public offering (IPO) of these services on Shanghai’s stock exchange; last year it...Continue reading