Atheist China allows Buddha relics exhibition

via published on June 24, 2009

BEIJING: The officially atheist government of China has given itself a new cause, which is to promote the country’s image as an important centre of
Buddhism. This is evident in several decisions include the latest one involving two relics that are said to be from the body of the Sakyamuni.

The government on Tuesday decided to make public the relics that had been kept out of public gaze in an underground vault of the Capital Museum in Beijing. The relics have been returned to the Beijing Yunju Temple, where they were found in the first place.

The government has also given permission to the temple to exhibit the relics till July 2. This is a significant move because the government has kept them away from public view since they were discovered in a cave inside the 5th century temple in 1981.

Chinese authorities have taken several other measures of similar nature in recent months. In early June, it ordered restoration of a thousand-year-old site called the “Caves of a Thousand Buddhas”, near the city of Turpan in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. This is the biggest effort to renovate the site since 1949 when the atheist state of the People’s Republic of China was established

Communist leaders have also promoted a World Buddhism Conference for two successive years with the dual purpose to attracting the attention of Buddhists across the world to China while trying to establish that Tibetan Buddhism can stand on its own without the need of the Dalai Lama. This is why it has been encouraging the Panchan Lama, who was handpicked by China, to play an important role in these conferences.

“I hope the traditional culture can be passed on through viewing the Buddha relics. I hope people’s hearts can be purified,” the official media quoted Master Chuan Yin, a senior monk at the Beijing Yunju Temple as saying after performing the ceremony for receiving the relics from the government-run museum.

The local media said that the “corn-shaped red Buddha body relics” are seen as one of the three precious” sets of relics in China. The others are Buddha teeth relics in Beijing’s Lingguang Monastery and Buddha figure relics in the Famen Temple in Xi’an.

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