Ah, I’ve been having such troubles getting beyond the confines of the Internet that China likes and on to my blogs or social media. I’ve said this before and it’s getting more and more aggravating if that’s possible.
Enough whinging as my Aussie friends would say and on to my Beijing weekend of May 19 – 22.
I had a great few days. On Friday I took a walking tour led by an American historian who’s been in China for 16 years. He’s written for The Atlantic, The Economist and other publications. I’d seen both the Confucian Temple and Lama Temple (which is a Tibetan temple) a couple times before, but I’d barely scratched the surface, I know I’d walked by rooms and artwork with a glance, unaware of the real significance.
(The tour was with The Hutong group, which offered a lovely tour of a traditional market that I took a few years back. The do cooking classes as well.)
I learned a lot about Confucius and relationship and history between Tibetan Buddhism and China’s view of it.
According to our guide, Confucius was one of many philosophers and was particularly popular when he was alive. Legalism was promoted by the rulers then, but when that regime was ousted the new leaders sought some sort of unifying belief system and heard about Confucianism. They settled on spreading Confucianism and then learned that Confucius didn’t write any books and that the previous regime had burned the most of books his earlier followers wrote and they also killed a good many of those followers. So the new regime scrounged up what they could and patched together a book, The Analetics resulted.
As for the Lama Temple, it was a prince’s palace. He became emperor but kept this palace as a retreat (yet it’s not far from the Forbidden City so it must have been for the earliest “staycations” in history.) After he died, there was a problem of what to do with this palace. You couldn’t sell it. Other people, i.e. mere mortals can’t live where a past emperor lived. Eventually it was given to a sect of Tibetan Buddhist that like the Lutherans broke from the main faith. The prince had been friends since childhood with a man from this sect and he’d had a fondness for Tibet.
We learned that this sect is the one headed by the world famous D.L. (the term our guide used as he explained some of the history). When we were standing by a chair that should be reserved for The D.L. but has someone else’s photo on it, a Chinese man tried to listen in. He was pretty conspicuous and it was rather awkward so the guide moved us away from him. The guide describes the current D.L. as more like John Paul Ii than Pope Francis because he’s rather conservative. He believes when this D.L. dies China will choose a successor and so will the Tibetans in exile and things can get heated.