Longhua Buddhist Temple, Buddha’s Nirvana Day in Shanghai; and Perhaps a Message from Buddha

Many helping hands of Buddha

Devotees offer incense to Buddha on the anniversary of his death, "Nirvana Day"

Women preparing flower offerings for the temple

“Nirvana Day,” the anniversary date of Buddha’s passing fell on  March 7  this year.  We were included in a celebration, so we got to see the Longhua Buddhist Temple and Monastery, the oldest and largest active Buddhist temple in Shanghai.  It was first built in 242 AD in the style of the Song Dynasty.  Since then, it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times.  The nearby Longhua Pagoda was built in the 10th century.

Protector of ???

This statue is a representation of the Eastern King of Protection for Buddhist territory in heaven and earth.  He is holding a pipa, a four-stringed Chinese lute, and protecting all living creatures.

Longhua Temple entrance and Pagoda, which holds the remains of important deceased monks

Barry and I had been invited  by Dean Mao, the very friendly and jovial head of the SHNU Financial College, to eat lunch there at the temple which we knew would have vegetarian meals.  We expected a bowl of humble, but tasty, noodles.

Barry and Dean Mao at the Jen Dow vegetarian buffet

Laura, our terrific Shanghai Normal University contact, came too.

Wonderful Laura

And two 20-year-old Italian visitors from Florence were part of our luncheon group.

Niccolo, whose father often teaches in the SHNU Economics Department, and Carra, on semester break from their university

Instead of humble noodles, which were available outside for a little more than a dollar, we got to have a spectacular vegetarian buffet with about 200 choices.

JenDow tasty vegetarian selections

Inside the JenDow Vegetarian Restaurant--not the humble Buddhist lunch we expected

Even the fake meats and seafood, which aren’t usually very good, were flavorful and beautifully presented.  For example the Japanese baked eel, in terms of look, texture, and taste seemed like genuine fine and fresh seafood.  We were surprised and impressed–and had fun trying many dishes.

JenDow desserts plus we had Häagen-Dazs ice cream

JenDow photos from: http://meatlessinshanghai.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/all-you-can-eat-jendow-vegetarian-buffe/

Although Dean Mao had to leave for a meeting, the rest of us stayed to talk–and continue eating, of course.  We learned more about Laura and her family, and the Italian students told us about their concerns in getting future jobs.

As we were there chatting, a Chinese woman came and  sat down at the end of our table.  She said something, but I didn’t understand, and at first I thought that because the restaurant was crowded, she just needed a place to sit since the table with her group was too crowded.  That wasn’t it.

She must have been hungry.  She took Carra’s chopsticks that were on the table, wiped them off with a napkin,  and gathering all our mainly empty plates in front of her, began eating all our leftovers!   We continued talking to one another.

The woman  was middle-aged and dressed O.K.; she was a little round, so she wasn’t starving, and she definitely knew how to take care of herself.  When she was finished with our dishes, she got up without fanfare and left.  However, a few minutes later, she was back.  She had picked out her own dessert and sat to eat it too.

We think Buddha would have approved of her actions.  And she is much smarter than the Chinese man we saw in McDonald’s on the Bund.  He was clearing tables and eating the leftover food there; he did not look healthy.

It’s easy for us to have a segued view of China.  Barry and I are surrounded by Chinese students who have families that can send them to university.  Zhejiang Province is forested and has good farm land and economically strong cities like Hangzhou and Shanghai.  Although we’ve seen humble dwellings and the no heat in public buildings south of the Yangtze River seems harsh to us, we haven’t really seen poverty.  In fact, we’ve seen people who work very hard and are excited about their growing opportunities.

We have so much that it is easy to forget that many  people in the world suffer; some suffer in ways we can not comprehend.   That also seems a message from Buddha that we got on the anniversary of his Nirvana Day.

Compassionate Buddha

Aloha and zaì jiàn, Renée

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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

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