Decapitated Buddha

nanjing buddha cave10 really many

The Thousand Buddha Cliff, at Qixia Shan outside Nanjing in central-eastern China, was empty when we went. It’s an active center of learning — there were lots of middle-aged Chinese laypeople studying in a study hall down below, then having quiet lunch in rows of tables facing forward. But up on the mountain, Qixia Shan (“Chisha” Shan) was really no one — and the sad sight of headless Buddhas in these many caves.

nanjing buddha cave 4

They go back, in some cases, to 500 AD. Others date to the Ming and Qing (500 years ago and less). During the Seecond World War, when Nanking (and nearby areas’) residents were fleeing the “Rape of Nanking” during the awful period of Japanese invasion, many took shelter here. The caves are among the oldest in China so damage goes back to many period, for many reasons. Some damage, however, must date to the Cultural Revolution. Research in English is sparse.

nanjing buddhacave headless

nanjing buddha cave 11

Buddha cavesĀ  were sites for meditation, initiating new monks / nuns, and veneration of Buddha.

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They were put in mountains where the beauty and peace of nature made the places right for spirituality. Many were also on trade routes, for easy access — and to encourage patronage by wealthy traders passing by.

Qixia Shan, near Nanjing, Jiangsu province

Qixia Shan, near Nanjing, Jiangsu province

The caves provide vivid testimony of faith, and of political turmoil in China.
nanjing buddha caves by building

By the way, there are only 250 caves on the Thousand-Buddha Cliff, but…who’s counting.
nanjing budha closeup 5 headles

Little Monks

Little Buddhist monk, SW China’s Yunnan province

I’m disturbed by little monks. Yes, it takes a lifetime to learn scripture; I read an interview in National Geo with an old Tibetan monk who talked about his happy willingness to enter monastic life, at an uncle’s urging, at age 6 or 7. In Kathmandu years ago, I remember the armies of adorable tiny monks playing ball (soccer fever among little-boy monks being the subject of the film “The Cup,” 1999). Many little Tibetan monks have a much more materially comfortable life in the monastery than they’d have at home. Maybe more spiritually comfortable. Their families are passionate about religious life and they’re honored to join early. But I’m disturbed. They’re cloistered long before they can maturely consent. China has rightly banned the practice before age 15 or 16, but the law goes unenforced.

Playing with our boys. Baisha, Yunnan.

Our boys have played with little monks, whenever they’ve meet them. Basketball, pingpong, tag. This shouldn’t be taken as me implying that these little monks are victims of sexual abuse. Although the BBC out of Colombo, Sri Lanka covered a terrible story this month, hundreds of sexually abused Buddhist monk boys, and we know from many accounts this happened, happens. And of course we’ve seen sexual abuse in Western religious educational settings. I’m by no means pointing to Buddhism (Chinese, Tibetan, Sri Lankan) as uniquely guilty, and this isn’t the main point of my case, as it is for religiouschildabuse.org, an atheist organization that despises religion and uses child abuse as a bludgeon.

I’m saying, we’ve seen a lot of baby monks. And just as it’s disturbing that little Chinese athletes, say, are removed from home and family and friends to training schools from a tender age, as it’s wrong that children anywhere be controlled by large, forceful institutions of any kind, it’s wrong for baby monks to still tolerated here, in 2012.

Monks cleanup, Kanding, Western Sichuan

Hangin’ at a Hanging Monastery

By Ethan Coplan

Seen from below.

I really enjoyed the hanging monasteries because it looked really scary from the very top.

Whaaaaaa!

I really liked the view from different spots.

Filing through the cliff dwelling.

Since it was so freezing, people were wearing big green Chairman Mao army coats. It was really cold there because of the high altitude. We paid 20 kuai (about $3) to rent them. It was the best 20 kuai my mom ever spent.

The Xuankong Si hanging off Mount Hengshan was built in 491. We heard Taoist monks lived here until a few hundred years ago. Fall has arrived.

Water Wheel

By Ethan Coplan

In Shanghai I went inside this kind of weird thing that spun around on water that was hollow in the middle and on the sides were two holes big enough that you could fit in. You kind of ran inside it like a hamster. Me and Kenny went in one. When Kenny kept running, I would flip over on top of him.
And in Shanghai, I went up the Pearl Tower and I was the bravest, I stayed on the glass floor. It looked you were about to go crashing down like 80 floors. And I went up a tower the World Financial Center) that looked like a beer opener. It had a glass floor also but you saw part of the building under you, so it didn’t make it as scary as on the Pearl Tower.

Shanghai Pearl transmission tower


The Bund at night

The Bund is really cool. There was an island in the river with all the tall buildings. It kind of looked like the circle with the tall buildings was New YOrk, and where we were was London.

Lambie Goes to Shanghai

Lambie (Ethan’s favorite puppet, formely Kenny’s favorite puppet but we won’t discuss that) has been enjoying China. During this national holiday week commemorating the founding of the Republic, she took the bullet train to Shanghai. It went pretty fast, about 200 m.p.h. We’re pretty sure it used maglev (magnetic levitation–almost no-friction, using less energy, which Ethan studied for a Bradford Science Fair project) but Lambie has some questions as to whether every bullet is maglev, or whether it’s using maglev all the time. Lambie is looking into it.
Lambie enjoyed two of China’s most famous gardens, built by Ming dynasty officials who retired to Shanghai and Suzhou, another city an hour away: the Yuyuan in old Shanghai, and the Lingering Garden in Suzhou. They were similar, full of mazes made of rock. Lambie climbed around and noted the balance of four elements: rocks, plants, buildings and water.

Later Ethan and Kenny and I will write more about Shanghai. (Some French Concession architecture was sort of Parisian and the new skyscrapers in Pudong have fanciful Jetson’s flourishes. Nearby water towns, like Venice, had so much commerce, as canals ferried wealth to the emperor, they were richer. To commemorate riches, the boys bought silk pajamas.)
Finally Lambie enjoyed hearing people sing national songs, in casual groups in Fuxing Park to celebrate the holiday.

She can’t sing, but she joined the little children doing arts and crafts.