Monks and Nuns in southern China’s inland city of Nanchang have protested to local authorities over what they called an “arbitrary” closure of two monasteries and nunnery as part of a plan to merge them into one single religious institute.
The plan jointly drawn up by the city’s Buddhist association and its development and planning authorities was meant to integrate the three separate institutions into one large replication of a thousand-year-old temple. The initiative was intended to make it into an iconic cultural and religious building that would promote local tourism.
But part of the plan that involved the demolition and relocation of three smaller pre-existing Buddhist temples has drawn protests from Buddhists as well as local residents, local media reported.
“Monks and nun must not live under one roof, it has been this way since ancient times”, abbess Hui Ren, who is firmly opposed to the merger, told the South Metropolitan Daily. The Jingye Nunnery under her administration has been torn down as part of the plan. A compensation payment of some 3 million yuan (HK$3.8 million) for the nunnery is available towards the finance construction of the new building.
Ren also lashed out at the government, saying they should have built the new temple before shutting down her nunnery. She and her nuns are currently located in an abandoned elementary school in a village nearby until construction of the new temple is complete.
Abbott Kuan Xing of monastery Shiligusi claimed the authorities had compelled him to sign a document consenting to move his monastery. Most of the monastery, except for the façade, has already been torn down to make way for a bridge and road. “I am bearing a great sin for letting the monastery [go] to ruin on my hand,” he was cited as saying.
Abbott Can Chi’s Xiguan Monastery is the only one of the three religious institutions involved that remains standing, and he has been fighting hard to preserve the temple’s title. “My master has passed away. With the temple gone, how can I ever face him,” Chi was quoted as saying by the Beijing Times.
The Nanchang Urban Planning Bureau that overseas the city’s property development projects said on Thursday they acknowledged the plan had stirred discontent and “are co-ordinating with all parties for alternative proposals,” but its spokesman declined to elaborate.
Neither the Nanchang Buddhist Association, that developed the “3-into-1” merger plan, or the Municipal Commission of Development and Reform that approved it could be reached for comment on Thursday.