I love Buddhist nuns. Maybe it’s not the nunnishness, maybe it’s just their shaved heads and simple gray clothes that put everything to notice in their faces. I suppose if you watched with care there’d be body language, expressive gestures and the like but for me everything rests in those faces. The Ji Ming Si was filled with nuns. Most of them young. One with big eyebrows who reminded me of my cousin Corina was taking donations and giving out small pins or other trinkets. She was very deliberate, sucking her lower lip back in concentration before smiling.
There were a couple of nuns in the expensive Buddhist trinket shop. Both were young and they were examining prayer bead bracelets and the like. Working in the shop were dozens of young Chinese girls who did not seem to be nuns what with their red uniforms and long hair. Right next to each other each in service to inscrutable ends. I doubt many friendships are made across those professional lines.
It was a tall temple, loads of vertical and attached to the city wall. Many halls were built in the ’80s and ’90s. There were loads of security guards in the temple’s upper levels where the crowds were burning their incense everyone received upon entry. I never spend a lot of time inside Buddhist temples. Unless it’s raining. There are only so many Buddhas and bodhisattvas and arhats and dancing black bearded man statues one can take in without real knowledge of the details to make them interesting.
For me, in China at least) temples are all about the pilgrims and the monks/nuns/functionaries. Loads of red armbanded people inthis temple, keeping an eye on things? And all the sweeping was done by middle aged women in sweaters of maroon. Parishioners maybe? Dedicated volunteers? I would think keeping the temple clean would be the work of the nuns/monks who lived there. Sweeping meditation and such. There were nuns helping people fill out their prayer notes in the sun. My pictures of them didn’t really turn out which is too bad so sad.
Before Ji Ming Si I took the subway out to the Kong Zi temple. There I didn’t go in because it was so expensive and gaudied up (for the Olympics it seemed, oddly) with pink and yellow streamers and dragons and such. The whole area was a huge shopping pavilion filled with the touristy junk shops you find in Beijing and Shanghai. You could tell this was a major stop for tourbuses. Why they’d need to go shopping at a Metersbowne here instead of one the outlets on every major street in every town in China beats me.
There’s a canal with bridges over it and you could rent boats to drink tea in by the hour. On the dragon screen wall facing the temple from across the canal the two yellow dragons were bright plastic. I’m sure at night they’d light up very festively but it all seemed a cartoonish parody of an old city, even down to the rickshaw men in their yellow silk suits. I took pictures of them at work or at least waiting for work. One saw me and came over to drag me around the district “very cheap.” He wore a fedora-ish hat and spoke no English. He drew out the looping route we’d take on his palm and grabbed my wrist, but I shook him off.
Soon after, I left that part of the square and found a place to read in the Examination School garden (where the schools were demolished to make way for shops). Out in front there were bronze statues of what I assume were famous students who passed their exams there. The early ones wore the boxy little hats, then robes and hair in long queues. The last one wore glasses and a western suit. One guy was getting his girlfriend to take a picture of him between two of them. I wonder if he hoped some of the studiousness would rub off on him. In the shops around, there was tiny octopus on a stick. I didn’t feel like eating any but it was somehow comforting that tourist trap food is the same across China.buddhist ji ming si kong zi temple nanjing nuns rickshaw temple the hangman tourist trap