Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Wenzhou region is replete with Chan Temples

As I had previously mentioned, this year I'm going to spend a near two weeks in China, visiting my wife's family, among other things, in China. My wife comes from Wenzhou, which, as Wikipedia describes it:

Wenzhou, also known as Yongjia (or Yung-chia,永嘉) has a history which goes back to about 2000 BC, when it became known for its pottery production. In the 2nd century BC it was called the Kingdom of Dong'ou. Under the Tang Dynasty, it was promoted to prefecture status and given its current name in 675 AD.

Throughout its history, Wenzhou's traditional economic role has been as a port giving access to the mountainous interior of southern Zhejiang Province. In 1876 Wenzhou was opened to the foreign tea trade, but no foreign settlement was ever established there. Between 1937 and 1942, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, Wenzhou achieved importance as one of the few ports still under Chinese control. It declined in the later years of the war, but began to recover after coastal trade along the Zhejiang coast was re-established in 1955...

Wenzhou is also the birthplace of China’s Mercantilism. From the Southern Song Dynasty, in contrasted to the Confucianism represented by Zhu Xi and Lu Jiuyuan in China urging people to study to be officials in the future, the theory of Wenzhou’s Yongjia School represented by Ye Shi, emphasized the importance of business. The theory has an enduring impact on the mindset of Wenzhou natives and has become the “cultural gene” in the economic development of Wenzhou ever since.

Renowned as the cradle of mathematicians in China, the city has teemed with over 200 mathematic professors in the recent 100 years, among whom Su Buqing, Gu Chaohao, Jiang Lifu and other mathematicians have enjoyed great fame both at home and abroad. Furthermore, Wenzhou is also reputed as the “Home of Swimming in China”, “City of Chess” and “City of Poetry in China”.

They speak a rather unusual dialect/language

Anyway, I've been there a few times before, and whether it's an improvement in Google maps, an improvement in the opening up of China or what-not, it seems now that there are many more Chan temples in Wenzhou than I'd been able to find before. I do hope to visit at least one of them, as I have when I went to Tianjin and Xi'an, to talk to the monks, and perhaps find an afternoon for practice at a temple.

That last part might be difficult, since it is difficult for a layman to actually spend time practicing at a Chinese Chan temple, for the moment at least. But then again, my darling wife is one heck of a negotiator...but then again, we're talking theA-list of top seeded world class negotiators when we're talking about Wenzhou, as the rest of the Wikipedia entry would imply.  These are the folks who basically started China's upward climb to economic dominance.

(Click on the link below and it has 3 links at the lower left, with increasing radius.)

View Larger Map

And oh...they have a Shangri-La Hotel there now! Considering that it's only slightly more expensive than the Shiloh Inn in Long Beach Washington  (and substantially cheaper than anything 3 steps down in comfort and quality from its price equivalent in any major American city)...and this is the finest hotel chain I've stayed at in Asia...well...I gotta do some negotiating on my own...maybe I'll bring them for the breakfast at least. You can't beat a Shangri-La breakfast...


Transient and Permanent said...

It would be unusual for a layperson, especially a foreigner, to gain access to meditation and similar practices at most Chan temples. You'd have a much better chance of practicing at a Pure Land temple, since they're far more lay-oriented. But with so many Chan temples in the region, at least your chances are higher, you might get lucky. Even if you can't do the practice you want, at least you can visit many temples, which is great.

Mumon said...

I've been to the city a number of times, and yes, I have been to a Pure Land temple there near my mother-in-law's place.

But in my experience the barrier in Chan temples is access to the actual Chan hall.

J said...

Well, the development of mathematics in China came from the west mainly. (though obviously they are adept students)--not from joss sticks and Boodha, who did not IIRC leave a treatise on the integral. That came much later, from a catholic Oppressor --Leibniz.

Actually buddhism, even the hip "chan" sort, is still considered decadent and superstitious in many areas of Asia.

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