From revo­lu­tion to religion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By TANG YUE

Iwas sad­dened by the news that Master Mingxue, ab­bot of Lingyan­shan Tem­ple in Suzhou, Jiangsu prov­ince, had passed away on Dec 2 at the age of 93.

In Au­gust, I vis­ited the 1,700-year-old tem­ple to write a story about the nurs­ing home it has op­er­ated since 2012 which is home to more than 60 lay Bud­dhists, most of them age 75 or older.

Dur­ing the “cul­tural revo­lu­tion” (1966-76), the land on which the nurs­ing home stands was a State farm, and Master Mingxue, then-man­ager of the monastery, and the other monks worked the land for a decade.

By the end of last year, there were 222 mil­lion peo­ple age 60 and older in China. Of the more than 40,000 nurs­ing homes across the coun­try, 474 — about 1 per­cent — are run by reli­gious in­sti­tu­tions.

Dur­ing my visit to the tem­ple, I met Master Mingxue, one of China’s most re­spected monks.

His voice was weak, but he was spritely.

He told me that be­cause the pop­u­la­tion is ag­ing rapidly, Bud­dhist tem­ples have a big role to play in deal­ing with the is­sue.

Be­sides their dis­tinc­tive veg­e­tar­ian diet and de­vo­tional habits, such as chant­ing for sev­eral hours a day, Bud­dhist nurs­ing homes are rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from the sec­u­lar in­sti­tu­tions that of­fer reg­u­lar hospice care.

For ex­am­ple, as part of the reli­gious prac­tices at the home, chants and prayers are of­fered up for those approaching death.

It was good to be in­formed by Jin Hongzhan, vice-pres­i­dent of the nurs­ing home, that Master Mingxue was at peace in his fi­nal mo­ments as the monks and lay Bud­dhists chanted for him.

I hope all the res­i­dents en­joy happy lives at the home, and that their pass­ing from this world is as peace­ful as Master Mingxue’s.

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