Starbucks near temple stirs controversy in China

US coffee chain Starbucks has stirred controversy once again after opening a new store outside a Buddhist temple, reports China Daily.

The store, which opened last week in the city of Hangzhou, sparked an online buzz over a cultural invasion of China, with many questioning whether it was appropriate to open a Western store next to the ancient Lingyin Temple, known to be a meditation retreat.

One Sina Weibo commentator said, "The smell of the combination of coffee beans and burning incense must be the fragrant smell of money,” while another wrote that “Starbucks turned to the Buddha after it had ‘entered’ the Imperial Palace”.

The city’s municipal authorities have defended Starbucks. "Actually, the coffeehouse is a long distance from the temple. It is located in the tourist service area on Lingyin Road outside of the temple, as part of the supporting facilities," Wang Shan, deputy director of the Lingyin Administration of the West Lake Administration in Hangzhou told Xinhua news agency Monday.

Starbucks China has backed down and responded to the debate by removing the word ‘temple’ from the outlet’s name, renaming it ‘Lingyin Starbucks’. The company added in a statement via Sina Weibo that the coffee shop was actually a 20-minute walk from Lingyin Temple's entrance.

This is not the first time Starbucks China is at the center of a heated debate about a clash of cultures. In 2007, an outlet operating in Beijing’s Forbidden City was shut down after the public expressed unhappiness over the Western chain’s presence in the grounds of the symbol of the nation.

The fear of a Western cultural invasion also reared its head earlier this year when Chinese linguistic purists signed a petition calling for the removal of English words from a popular Chinese dictionary.