Dharma Dispatch, 14-25 May 2018: China’s Robot Monk Upgrade, Sino-Japanese Ecumenical Dialogue, and Pollution on the Roof of the World

Good morning! Two tech companies in China have been brought on board to upgrade Xian’er, a robot monk who can follow simple instructions, recite scriptures, and play Buddhist music, with a more modern feature set. Xian’er is the diminutive robotic member of Longquan monastery’s sangha in the outskirts of Beijing. He became an instant hit following his introduction some three years ago.

A delegation of Buddhists from mainland China and Taiwan recently visited several Japanese Buddhist institutions as part of a series of ecumenical meetings with Japanese Buddhist leaders. The delegation was led by Ven. Zhan Ru, vice president of the Buddhist Association of China, and Ven. Ci Rong, chairman of the United Association of Humanistic Buddhism. They were joined by other major Chinese Buddhist leaders, including Ven. Ming Hai, another vice president of the Buddhist Association of China, and Kuomintang politician Steven Huang Shu-wei. The 130-strong delegation visited Toshodai-ji, Manpuku-ji, and Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera on 17 April, and Hyakumanben Chion-ji, Shokoku-ji, and Myoshin-ji on 18 April. The visit marked a milestone as it was the first in the history of Sino-Japanese Buddhist relations with a delegation consisting of Chinese Buddhists (han chuan fo jiao) from both mainland China and Taiwan.

The once-pristine high-altitude reaches of the Tibetan Plateau are rapidly falling victim to that most modern of scourges, growing mountains of manmade garbage that are polluting the Himalayan plains and grasslands, and recent reports suggest the situation is rapidly approaching a crisis point. According to an analysis published by the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), as few as 20 years ago, garbage was not a major issue on the expansive Tibet Plateau, and a significant proportion of domestic waste was managed and processed into manure for agricultural use. More recently, however, rampant littering is becoming widespread.

Dharma Dispatch is a weekly curated summary of the most important Buddhist news. See all our briefings here

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