Buddhism in Shenzhen

Located in Fairy Lake Botanical Park, Hongfa Temple was the first Buddhist Temple built in the reform era. The temple has been very active in spreading the dharma, and more interestingly, the Shenzhen government has permitted public events at the Cultural Industries Trade Fair and in the City sports stadium.

Several days ago, Hongfa held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new zen temple, Ten Thousand Buddhas Temple (万佛寺). Of note, was the list of attending dignitaries, which show the extent to which Buddhism is accepted in official Shenzhen. According to the website press release, Shenzhen vice mayor, Chen Gaiqi (陈改户) attended. Also, retired Shenzhen standing committee member, Li Yizhen (李意珍), Head of the Shenzhen People’s Congress Economic Committee, Wu Zijun (吴子俊), Vice Chief of the Shenzhen Committee of the United Front Department, Zhong Yinteng (钟荫腾), former Luohu District Party Secretary, Liu Xueqiang (刘学强), and Vice Chief of the Shenzhen Urban Administration Bureau, Song Jianchun (宋建春), Luohu District Standing member. Other minor officials also attended.

I’ve heard from Chinese anthropologists that in other cities, officials do not let religious organizations be as publicly active as Hongfa, for fear of creating oppositional groups, such as Falungong. Indeed, the link between religion and social protest has a deep history in China and is one of the reasons for the Party’s longstanding fear of the Dalai Lama and the loyalty he inspires. (See Elizabeth Perry’s Challenging the Mandate of Heaven, for example.)

At the moment, I’m not quite sure how to think the level of support Hongfa seems to enjoy, no doubt because I have no idea what the Temple actually teaches. Nevertheless, I would appreciate any stories or experiences that might help clarify what is happening between Hongfa and the Shenzhen Municipal Government.

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