Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Spent a remarkable afternoon and evening at Longhua Temple, courtesy of my undergraduate friend J. We were there because this week is the 水陆法会 shuilufahui festival but I got to see so much more of the temple and its life that it feels like I've spent a much longer time there. The key was the fact that J volunteers there, and so I got to see Shanghai's biggest and oldest Buddhist temple from the "volunteer's eye view" - though we also got to see things that it takes a foreign visitor to Fudan University to see, too. We were shown around by one of the volunteer leaders, and later met the monk who, in just six or seven years, has built a vibrant world of 150 volunteers (who mingle on WeChat!). The former showed us places young volunteers like J usually don't see - the inside of the bell and drum towers at the temple entrance, and the hall, festooned in red, where the monks do their most important chanting for the occasion. The monk, whom we met in the room where volunteers come to relax after their duties, gave us the remote for a big flat screen where we could see pictures of volunteer activities... it was a lot of pictures (if there was a procession of thirty monks, each with two volunteer attendants bearing banners and lamps, there were sixty pictures) but they showed the variety of volunteer activities (including several how-to sequences). By the time we attended part of the ritual I was aware of the many overlapping communities working together to make it all happen. Photos soon! For now, our vegetarian noodles; monks with a volunteer.

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