Saturday, 30 August 2008

befriending the local Taoist monks

Yesterday, me and some other English teachers went for a day out in the local Qingdao countryside. The first place we went was Xiao Long Shan, which is a small combined Taoist/Buddhist temple, just outside our local town of Chengyang. One of the teachers, Justin, speaks much better Chinese than me and we started chatting to a taoist guy there, who then took us to meet the head monk and several other monks and drink tea with them. So we sat down in an air-conditioned room with comfy sofas and a big TV in the back of the temple and drank tea and smoked cigarettes with the monks (well, I didnt smoke).
We chatted about several things for a couple of hours, with the help of a dictionary and then they showed us around the temple and blessed us in several different shrines. The monks explained that the reason the temple has taoist and buddhist monks and shrines is that they are both paths leading to the same goal. Noah, who is another teacher, is Christian, and so didnt want to bow to the shrines, which is understandable. The monks told us that all religions are equally great as they teach us to be better people and they all come from the same origin, which is Dao, the great unchanging Way, that guides the universe and regulates the balance of Yin and Yang. In essence this is the same idea as God, it only differs in that the Christian God seems to take a personal interest in you, whereas Dao is just a force.
Outside the shrine to Buddha was doves, one black and one white, just calmly sat either side of the entrance. They didnt fly away when we got close to them and inside was a buddhist monk reading scriptures and a mouse sat sitting on the floor. The mouse was not scared of people at all and the taoist monk said the mouse was "an jing" meaning "at peace". They were definitely both auspicious signs!
We then left the temple and the monks asked us to come and visit again and then we went to visit Mashan, which is a very small mountain with a couple of temples and a mysterious cave full of buddhist statues, which was also pretty cool.

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