Jade Buddha & the Practical North Korea

Since the Democratic (sic) Republic of North Korea, as well as its relations with its big brother, China,  is in the news a lot these days, I thought it worth while to highlight this story, a true one:  “Delegation.”  The events related here took place in the summer of 2005, during my first trip to China.

 

Main Entrance, The Forbidden City. Beijing. 2005.

Following the excerpt below, please see a couple of photos from the Jade Buddha temple of Anshan.

Excerpt from “Delegation:

The new temple, the Jade Buddha, the new jade mall, none of this was bad.  But the whole scene had a decidedly contrived, Epcot-esque feel to it.  I halfway expected to find a log flume ride behind the temple’s main hall.  Yet the locals were trying.  And jade had, indeed, been an important and venerated area resource and commodity since time out of mind.  Credit should be given where it’s due.  The Very Important Officials, these people who shepherded us to the temple and who proudly showed off their Jade Buddha and who took us to the nearby jade mall, were kind-hearted and enthused about the new leaf their hands were collectively turning over.  They wanted us to feel welcome and to return home and say nice things about their city.  And I was happy to oblige.  They also wanted Chinese tourists, who would certainly make up the vast majority of visitors browsing through all of jade jewelry, boxes, bowls, 3-D landscapes, dragons, Guanyins, Hoteis and various other figures from history and legend and Faith; carvings large and small, bulky and delicate, made to impress visitors, to intrigue and entice them, and, ultimately, to turn them into buyers.

Back at the temple, I had seen something more poignant when I watched the resident priests, just outside the main hall which housed the Jade Buddha, instruct the many Chinese tourists on how to light their long, red votive candles and offer-up prayers.  These were people who had grown up in a country where religion had been frowned upon at least, and persecuted at most.  So in their forties and fifties and even older, they were being taught how to go through rudimentary devotional motions that their Buddhist brothers and sisters in other Asian countries had learned as toddlers.  I wish them all, the city, its leaders, its residents, its visitors, the best of luck with all of this. . . .

 

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Prayers Offered at the Temple of the Jade Buddha. July 2005.

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The Jade Buddha of Anshan.

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