Hong Kong’s Buddhists Plug into the Belt and Road Initiative

By Arun Kumar Yadav

Over the past few years, several major Buddhist institutions in Hong Kong, including the famous Chan monastery of Po Lin, have expressed their interest in participating in China’s monumental Belt and Road Initiative. Another such group is the Institute of Maitreya Studies, a non-governmental organization based in Hong Kong. On its 15th anniversary, the Institute held its Second International Academic Forum on Maitreya Studies and the First Maitreya Youth Forum from 28 to 31 March in Hong Kong.

The twin forum invited an elite group of international experts, Buddhist masters, and Buddhist youth leaders from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Thailand, Malaysia, and Europe. Their objectives were to exchange ideas on the Belt and Road Initiative, promote the spirit, dignity, and importance of Master Xuanzang, and spread Chinese culture and promote Maitreya studies through academic papers in Chinese, English, and Japanese.

This twin forum officially started on 29 March in the presence of important figures in the Chinese Buddhist community and Hong Kong political circles. Among them were:

  • Shen Chong, member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC);
  • Chen Lin, director-general of the Department of Youth Affairs the central government’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong;
  • Song Wei, deputy director-general of the Coordination Department at the Liaison Office;
  • K. W. Lau JP, secretary for home affairs;
  • Christine Choi JP, under-secretary for education;
  • Ven. Hong Ming, executive vice-president of the Hong Kong Buddhist Association;
  • M. K. Otani, advisor to India’s Ministry of Culture, and chairman of the Vikramshila Research Foundation; and
  • Andrew L. C. Wang, chairman of the Maitreya Culture and Education Foundation Ltd. and mentor at the Institute of Maitreya Studies Hong Kong
Speakers at the Maitreya twin forum.

The forum began with keynote speeches that recalled two millennia of Buddhism’s rich history in China. They emphasized core ideas of Buddhism such as peace, compassion, and awareness. The speakers said that these values are still embedded in the hearts of Chinese people thanks to centuries of cultural influence. The speakers also emphasized the importance of the Belt and Road Initiative and encouraged listeners to organize more of these academic events so that the world could understand the multifaceted aspects of this Eurasian economic and cultural renaissance.

As the conference unfolded, the Institute announced that it would publish selected editions of teaching materials in the form of a new “Chinese Buddhist Canon Project.” The Institute will invite experts of Buddhist Studies and the Chinese language to select and prepare the explanatory notes on important sutras and shastras of the Chinese Tripitaka, proofread different versiona, making footnotes and translating the classical texts into contemporary Chinese. The final version will first be uploaded for internal students of Maitreya studies, before being uploaded online for the general public. The Institute of Maitreya Studies has also announced the English version of those contemporary Chinese texts as the next phase of the project.

This year’s Maitreya twin forum also witnessed the launch of two journals on Maitreya studies, a Chinese calligraphy session, a Chinese painting exhibition, and cultural and artistic performances including the singing of the Heart Sutra in Sanskrit.

Aiming to promote Maitreya studies across the globe, the Institute has extended an open invitation to celebrate the 10th Foundation Day of the Maitreya Cultural and Educational Foundation. Students of universities and high schools in the Guangdong region and graduate students of “Belt and Road” regions, as well as teachers, have been invited to attend an article writing competition in Chinese and English. The main topic of the article competition is “Compassion.”

Winning participants from outside Hong Kong will be provided free transportation and accommodation to receive the award. The deadline for the submission of articles is 4 February, 2019 and the date of the announcement of the award is 4 May, 2019.

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