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  • Guoying Stacy Zhang

Rebuilding a Buddhist Monastery in Contemporary China: Venerable Master Miaojiang and the Great Sage

Throughout the history of Chinese Buddhism, monasteries have played an instrumental role in spreading Buddhist Dharma. A monastery not only provides learning and sadhana (practice) facilities for the sangha, but also serves as a sacred space for public worship, as Buddhist devotees take refuge in the Three Jewels of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. That is why the Buddhist community has invested so many resources in renovating and rebuilding monasteries. This phenomenon is particularly common in China in the past two decades, since the country has experienced dramatic economic growth and resurging popularity in Buddhism.

Since 1997, Venerable Miaojiang (妙江), director of the Buddhist Association of Shanxi Province and deputy director of the Buddhist Association of China, has been working on the reconstruction of the Great Sage Monastery of Bamboo Grove (大聖竹林寺) on Mount Wutai. As the Bodhimanda (seat of awakening) of Bodhisattva Manjusri, Mount Wutai has been a major pilgrimage destination for Buddhists from the Chinese, Tibetan, and Mongolian traditions for more than a thousand years. There are about 50 functioning Buddhist monasteries and many more sacred sites on Mount Wutai. While many of monasteries and sites have been admired for their ancient architecture and art, or historical association with the imperial court, the Great Sage Monastery of Bamboo Grove had almost faded into oblivion when Venerable Miaojiang first went there in 1988. As a young monastic, he was appointed by the Buddhist Association of Shanxi Province to manage the monastery. However, at his arrival, he only found a white pagoda from the Ming dynasty, a few rundown buildings, and two residing monks. Nevertheless, he stayed.

Ven. Miaojiang at the Great Sage Monastery of Bamboo Grove. Photographed by Fu Yiqun

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