Saturday, October 19, 2013

Huguosi (護国寺), "Protect the Nation Temple" - Emerging Buddhism?

On my recent trip to China I stopped off in Wenzhou.  I had a chance to visit 護国寺.  Evidently there used to be a 護国寺 in Beijing, but it was destroyed in the 1950s. So originally 護国寺 was about protecting the nation in imperial times. You can read into the name of the temple now all kinds of cynical things about the government, but about my visit there, well, it's clear the people going there don't seem particularly cynical about it.  Like many temples this one seems brand spanking new; in fact construction is still going on there.  It's evidently a Pure Land temple - no 禅堂 to be seen, but typically the schools of Buddhism tend to mix.

In the main hall (2nd picture down) there was a chanting service going on with lots of lay people being led in chanting by a monk, on a Saturday mid-afternoon.

I saw a bunch of blue collar guys - in their 20s- entering the temple smoking cigarettes, and having a regular Chinese bro early fall afternoon, laughing loudly.  A few minutes later  a monk was showing these guys how to offer incense, which they reverently did.

Say what you will about China and religion, but on this day, 護国寺 was bringing people calmness and tranquility and peace, and yes, compassion.   You might say China is trying to co-opt Buddhism, but I might point out it seems to be the other way around as well.  Wenzhou tends to have a high population of Christians (yeah, there's brand spanking new Christian churches there too) but it's clear that there's a resurgence of Buddhism amongst people here.

So just to let you know, there's more forms of emerging Buddhism than you can shake a stick at, which of course you can't.


Neti said...

That seems to be Budai in the second image ... out of curiosity, is this the most common representation of Buddha you encountered in China?

Mumon K said...


No, it's not "the most common" representation of the Buddha.

It's a representation of Maritreya/Mela, the Buddha to come.