Chinese tradition, ceremony,culture


Hendrik_2000

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While Mr. Xi’s government has tightened restrictions on Christianity and Islam, it has allowed Fo Guang Shan to open cultural centers in four cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. The organization’s students include government officials, who don gray tunics and trousers and live like monks or nuns for several days, reciting the sutras and learning about Master Hsing Yun’s philosophy.

But unlike in Taiwan, where it held special services during national crises and encouraged members to participate in public affairs, Fo Guang Shan avoids politics in China. There is no mention of civic activism, and it never criticizes the party.

“We can keep the religion secondary but introduce the ideas of Buddhism into society,” said Venerable Miaoyuan, the nun who runs the library in Yangzhou. She describes the group’s work as “cultural exchange.”

“The mainland continues the ideology of ancient emperors — you can only operate there when you are firmly under its control,” said Chiang Tsan-teng, a professor at Taipei City University of Science and Technology who studies Buddhism in the region. “Fo Guang Shan can never be its own boss in the mainland.”

Photo
Nuns singing during a class at the Temple of Great Awakening. CreditGilles Sabrié for The New York Times

That limits its influence, but many Chinese express understanding given the reality of one-party rule.

“It certainly cannot promote social service and create associations,” said Hu Jia, a prominent dissident who is Buddhist. “The party certainly would not allow it, so Fo Guang Shan makes compromises. But it is still promoting Buddhism.”

A ‘Moral Standard’

Carved into two valleys of lush bamboo forest, the temple on the outskirts of Yixing features giant friezes that tell the story of Buddha, a 15-story pagoda and a gargantuan 68,000 square-foot worship hall.

Since construction started in 2006, Fo Guang Shan has spent more than $150 million on the facility, known as the Temple of Great Awakening. On a nearby hill, track hoes hack away at trees to make way for a new lecture hall and a shrine to the goddess of mercy, Guanyin. There, the group plans to feature a moving, talking, three-dimensional hologram of the deity.

Unlike most temples in China, it bans hawkers and fortunetellers, and it does not charge an entrance fee. The atmosphere is reflective and solemn, with quiet reading rooms offering books, newspapers, spaces to practice calligraphy, and tea. A stream of visitors from Yixing come for lectures, meals and camaraderie.

Last autumn, Fo Guang Shan welcomed 2,000 pilgrims at the temple to celebrate China’s National Day. Over the course of a long afternoon, they walked along a road to the temple in a slow, dignified procession: taking three steps and kowtowing, three steps and kowtowing, on and on for about two hours.

Photo
The National Day procession along a road to the temple, a two-hour event. CreditGilles Sabrié for The New York Times

Mrs. Shen said that when she took over the tea shop she had a hard time understanding what being a good Buddhist meant. At first, she admitted, she wanted to make more money for the temple by using low-grade cooking oil.

But her husband objected. China is rife with scandals about restaurants using unsafe or cheap ingredients, and he argued that good Buddhists should set a better example.

“This made me realize that faith gives you a minimum moral standard,” Ms. Shen told me. “It helps you treat others as your equals.”

Many followers say they want a cleaner, fairer society and believe they can make a difference by changing their own lives.

Yang Jianwei, 44, a kitchenware exporter who embraced Fo Guang Shan, said he stopped attending the boozy late-night dinners that seem an unavoidable part of doing business in China. “I realize that you might lose some business this way, but it’s a better way to live,” he said.

This idealism is why the authorities support Fo Guang Shan, said Jin Xinhua, an official who helped the group secure the land for the new temple.

“Through its work, Fo Guang Shan is helping the masses,” he said. “We need that sort of thing today.”
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A nun beating a drum to announce the beginning of a morning class at the temple.CreditGilles Sabrie for The New York Times
 

Equation

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Overall this is a good article but being American he can't help himself advocating for regime change of evil communist. Unfortunately Buddhist in China is not interested in regime change or politic
But only interested in fostering good traditional Chinese value of Honesty, righteousness, and compassion. Not that different from Christianity

Is a Buddhist Group Changing China? Or Is China Changing It?


By
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JUNE 24, 2017

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’s economic rise in this small city in the Yangtze River Valley, and she found a foothold in the new middle class, running a convenience store in a strip mall. Yet prosperity felt hollow.

She worried about losing her shop if she didn’t wine and dine and pay off the right officials. Recurring scandals about unsafe food or tainted infant formula made by once-reputable companies upset her. She recalled the values her father had tried to instill in her — honesty, thrift, righteousness — but she said there seemed no way to live by them in China today.

“You just feel disappointed at some of the dishonest conduct in society,” she said.
Then, five years ago, a Buddhist organization from Taiwan called Fo Guang Shan, or Buddha’s Light Mountain, began building a temple in the outskirts of her city, Yixing. She began attending its meetings and studying its texts — and it changed her life.

She and her husband, a successful businessman, started living more simply. They gave up luxury goods and made donations to support poor children. And before the temple opened last year, she left her convenience store to manage a tea shop near the temple, pledging the proceeds to charity.

Across China, millions of people like Ms. Shen have begun participating in faith-based organizations like Fo Guang Shan. They aim to fill what they see as a moral vacuum left by attacks on traditional values over the past century, especially under Mao, and the nation’s embrace of a cutthroat form of capitalism.

Many want to change their country — to make it more compassionate, more civil and more just. But unlike political dissidents or other activists suppressed by the Communist Party, they hope to change Chinese society through personal piety and by working with the government instead of against it. And for the most part, the authorities have left them alone.

Pilgrims and nuns during a National Day procession last fall. CreditGilles Sabrié for The New York Times

Fo Guang Shan is perhaps the most successful of these groups. Since coming to China more than a decade ago, it has set up cultural centers and libraries in major Chinese cities and printed and distributed millions of volumes of its books through state-controlled publishers. While the government has tightened controls on most other foreign religious organizations, Fo Guang Shan has flourished, spreading a powerful message that individual acts of charity can reshape China.

It has done so, however, by making compromises. The Chinese government is wary of spiritual activity it does not control — the Falun Gong an example — and prohibits mixing religion and politics. That has led Fo Guang Shan to play down its message of social change and even its religious content, focusing instead on promoting knowledge of traditional culture and values.

The approach has won it high-level support; President
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is one of its backers. But its relationship with the party raises a key question: Can it still change China?

Avoiding Politics

Fo Guang Shan is led by one of modern China’s most famous religious figures,
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. I met him late last year at the temple in Yixing, in a bright room filled with his calligraphy and photos of senior Chinese leaders who have received him in Beijing. He wore tannish golden robes, and his shaved head was set off by thick eyebrows and sharp, impish lips.

At age 89, he is nearly blind, and a nun often had to repeat my questions so he could hear them. But his mind was quick, and he nimbly parried questions that the Chinese authorities might consider objectionable. When I asked him what he hoped to accomplish by spreading Buddhism — proselytizing is illegal in China — his eyebrows arched in mock amusement.

“I don’t want to promote Buddhism!” he said. “I only promote Chinese culture to cleanse humanity.”As for the Communist Party, he was unequivocal: “We Buddhists uphold whoever is in charge. Buddhists don’t get involved in politics.”

That has not been true for most of Master Hsing Yun’s life. Born outside the eastern city of Yangzhou in 1927, he was 10 when he joined a monastery that he and his mother passed by while searching for his father, who disappeared during the Japanese invasion of China.

There, he was influenced by the ideas of Humanistic Buddhism, a movement that aimed to save China through spiritual renewal. It argued that religion should be focused on this world, instead of the afterworld. It also encouraged clergy to take up the concerns of the living, and urged adherents to help change society through fairness and compassion.

After fleeing the Communist Revolution, Master Hsing Yun took that message to Taiwan and founded Fo Guang Shan in the southern port of Kaohsiung in 1967. He sought to make Buddhism more accessible to ordinary people by updating its fusty image and embracing mass-market tactics. In sports stadiums, he held lectures that owed more to Billy Graham than the sound of one hand clapping. He built a theme park with multimedia shows and slot machines that displayed dioramas of Buddhist saints.

The approach had a profound impact in Taiwan, which then resembled mainland China today: an industrializing society that worried it had cast off traditional values in its rush to modernize. Fo Guang Shan became part of a popular embrace of religious life. Many scholars say it also helped lay the foundation for the self-governing island’s evolution into a vibrant democracy by fostering a political culture committed to equality, civility and social progress.

Fo Guang Shan expanded rapidly, spending more than $1 billion on universities, community colleges, kindergartens, a publishing arm, a daily newspaper and a television station. It now counts more than 1,000 monks and nuns, and more than one million followers in 50 countries, including the United States.
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Photo


Learning to pray at the Temple of Great Awakening in Yixing. Fo Guang Shan has spent more than $150 million on the facility. CreditGilles Sabrié for The New York Times

Government Support

But the group declines to offer an estimate of its following in China, where the government initially viewed it with suspicion. In 1989, an official fleeing the Tiananmen massacre took refuge in its temple in Los Angeles. China retaliated by barring Master Hsing Yun from the mainland.

More than a decade later, though, Beijing began looking at Master Hsing Yun differently. Like many in Taiwan of his generation born on the mainland, he favored unification of China and the island — a priority for Communist leaders.

In 2003, they allowed him to visit his hometown, Yangzhou. He pledged to build a library, and followed through a few years later with a 100-acre facility that now holds nearly two million books, including a 100,000-volume collection of Buddhist scriptures, one of the largest in China.

Under President Xi, who started a campaign to promote traditional Chinese faiths, especially Buddhism, as part of his program for “the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” the government’s support has grown. He has met with Master Hsing Yun four times since 2012, telling him in one meeting: “I’ve read all the books that master sent me.”
ALL ignorant self righteous "American" wants to see China regime changing. They just can't accept that the CPC are doing better than their own church or government. I'm sorry but that is a fact.

No Christianity does get involved in politics these days. Just go ask the many oppressed LGBT community and women rights to an abortion.
 

AssassinsMace

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The irony of that title to the NY Times article... Is there something wrong when they make Jesus Christ out to a blond European man? If Jesus Christ were alive today he would most likely be labeled a communist by many in the right. So does Christianity influence politics or do politics influence Christianity. Remember how they say Beijing denies Christians in China from declaring loyalty to the Pope. Remember how people like Sarah Palin criticizes the present Pope and his policies as if she knows better than the Pope? Does that mean Chinese Christians must declare their allegiance to Sarah Palin since she seems to think she has authority above the Pope? See how they get to question and ignore the Pope any time they wish but not any Chinese even if they're not Christian.

And the West gets to interpret what Buddhism is? Maybe Myanmar's Nazi-like Buddhism has it correct since the West doesn't criticize it. Just because Buddhists in China don't hate everything Chinese like the West does, there must be something wrong with them. Do we get to declare Christianity a failure since Americans are devoid of values, materialistic, and petty? Just listen to Christian evangelists when China is no where in the discussion. So they get to dictate to the Chinese when they haven't figured it out themselves?
 

siegecrossbow

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Overall this is a good article but being American he can't help himself advocating for regime change of evil communist. Unfortunately Buddhist in China is not interested in regime change or politic
But only interested in fostering good traditional Chinese value of Honesty, righteousness, and compassion. Not that different from Christianity
China need to reacquainted with their traditional believe to give themselves moral bearing and compass

Is a Buddhist Group Changing China? Or Is China Changing It?
Many Buddhists in China don't strictly practice the Buddhist religion. Some also pray to Taoist, Shamanist, or even Christian deities when the situation demands it. They are similar to the pre-Christian Romans in that particular regard.
 
Many Buddhists in China don't strictly practice the Buddhist religion. Some also pray to Taoist, Shamanist, or even Christian deities when the situation demands it. They are similar to the pre-Christian Romans in that particular regard.
"Doesn't matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice" applies to religions and deities as well, practical and inclusive. Let's not forget folk religion and ancestor worship.
 

solarz

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"Doesn't matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice" applies to religions and deities as well, practical and inclusive. Let's not forget folk religion and ancestor worship.
I've read that ancestor worship is the only real religion in China. Indeed, Chinese can claim to be atheist or belong to this or that religion, but we will all practice ancestor worship in one form or another.
 

Lethe

Senior Member
While on the subject of religion and culture, I would be interested to hear East Asian responses to Martin Scorcese's recent film Silence, particularly concerning the adaptability of religion to other cultural contexts.

Trailer for those who haven't seen it:

 
While on the subject of religion and culture, I would be interested to hear East Asian responses to Martin Scorcese's recent film Silence, particularly concerning the adaptability of religion to other cultural contexts.

Trailer for those who haven't seen it:

Note that this is fiction set in Japan.
 

Hendrik_2000

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While on the subject of religion and culture, I would be interested to hear East Asian responses to Martin Scorcese's recent film Silence, particularly concerning the adaptability of religion to other cultural contexts.

Trailer for those who haven't seen it:

I know and read the prosecution of Japanese Catholic under Tokugawa It is cruel and savages prosecution. But the community survives to this day there is catholic villages in small island off the Nagasaki

But having said that the irony is Japan maintain their culture and prosper until today Were the conversion successful Japan will become another fail state like Philippine
 

Lethe

Senior Member
There is also a brief scene set in Macau, where the Jesuit priests secure transport to Japan.

The most interesting scenes in the film, from my perspective, occur when Andrew Garfield's character meets Liam Neeson's. The latter has renounced his Christian faith and now lives as a Japanese. He argues with Garfield's character that his efforts to teach Christianity are misguided because Japan is an alien culture, and that the Japanese who have converted to Christianity have done so not by understanding Jesus and the word of God as Garfield's character understands them, but by interpreting Garfield's teachings in the context of their pre-existing, culturally Japanese beliefs. Essentially, Neeson's character argues that what Garfield is teaching is not what his Japanese converts have been learning.

But having said that the irony is Japan maintain their culture and prosper until today Were the conversion successful Japan will become another fail state like Philippine
Do you really think that Christianity is the source of problems in the Philippines, and the lack of it the reason for the success of Japan? I suspect that the differences in histories of religious assimilation, differences in histories of colonisation, and differences in modern development paths, are all shaped by internal characteristics, e.g. degree of political and cultural unity prior to contact with European civilisations.
 
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