Robo-monk: Buddhist temple in Beijing rolls out chatty robot hero from homegrown cartoon series to tap internet-savvy youth

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 October, 2015, 6:13pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 5:01pm

In order to promote Buddhism among the growing hordes of tech-savvy young Chinese, Longquan (Dragon Spring) Temple in Beijing now has a new house guest: a cute-looking robot that resembles a Buddhist monk called Xian'er.

Standing about 50cm and dressed in a yellow robe, the AI-enabled robot is able to sense his surroundings and engage in basic Q&A-based discussions about Buddhism, according to China’s state news agency Xinhua.

The temple publishes its own cartoon series called Trouble, You Seek for Yourself  that dispenses little nuggets of Buddhist wisdom in a way that laypeople can easily understand and the well fed-looking robot is modelled on its chief protagonist. 

He even has his own account on Weibo, a leading microblogging service in China.

More Buddhist temples in the country are moving online or adopting technological innovations to connect to their audience and promote themselves. 

In March, Donghua Zen Temple in Guangdong province, a 1,500-year-old Buddhist temple in southern China, became a hit online after its recruitment drive for new media personnel attracted over 1 million clicks and 4,000 applications in five days. 

The online ad called for work experience in new media and interest in both Shaolin temple and traditional Chinese culture. It featured cartoons, homophonic catchphrases and background music, which resonated with younger people.