Yangzhou is home to a famous Buddhist temple and monastery. We were able to visit one afternoon just as the monks and their lay followers were chanting their evening prayers. The small Buddhist community in China continues the traditions of a religion that was relatively widespread in the past. Although many temples and other religious structures were either destroyed or turned into museums during the communist era, this sanctuary in our partner city of Yangzhou is a true oasis of dedication to the spiritual path. The teacher who accompanied us informed the group that many business professional who find success come to this temple for extended retreats. She said that for many people in China “when they become rich, they discover they are empty inside.” On retreats, people live as the monks do eating simple vegetarian food that they grow themselves, wearing robes, and spending time in contemplative meditation. The simultaneous lack of religion and quest for spirituality is very complex in China. This visit only furthered our recognition of the seeming contractions that exist, and added more nuance to how we attempt to understand life in China.


  

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