Buddhism Thrives As China Relaxes Religious Policy

July 7, 2009

Author: Robert J. Saiget

Source: The Buddhist Channel

Wire Service: AFP


Temples thrive, monks travel far and wide in search of enlightenment, the faithful fill the halls of worship -- after decades of atheist policies, Buddhism is making a huge comeback in China.

Nowhere is this revival more apparent than at Wutaishan, the most important of China's four holy mountains and home to a sprawling complex of temples, 300 kilometres (180 miles) southwest of Beijing.

"I have come to study at Wutaishan because Zen Buddhism, Han Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, all the different schools from different places, are represented here and mixed together," itinerant monk Master Shi told AFP.

"This is the Buddhist holy land. Buddhist monks and nuns from all over China want to come here to study."

Shi, sporting a shaved head and wearing a grey robe, has visited temples throughout China in search of Buddhist knowledge, repeating a pilgrimage undertaken by generations of monks before him.

Besides studying Tibetan Buddhism in Lhasa, he has visited the Hongfa Temple in Guangdong, south China, and been to the White Horse Temple -- China's oldest Buddhist place of worship -- in Henan province in the center of the country.

Interest in Buddhism has grown dramatically since the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution, a period when religion was largely banned, the clergy persecuted and many temples and monasteries destroyed.

In stark contrast to this era, during the opening and reform era of the last 30 years, the state has largely allowed religion to develop, albeit within strict parameters.