News at Tipitaka Network
Boy monks keep ethnic culture alive
by Deng Shasha, China View, Monday, November 16, 2009
(KUNMING, Yunnan) At 6:30 a.m., Yan Guanghan has finished chanting his daily sutras for an hour. It's time for the 10-year-old to go to school.
Yan and 16 other monks his age attend a primary school five minutes walk from the temple. After school, they have a mission -- keeping alive the culture of Dai ethnic group in south China's Yunnan (云南) Province.
Yunnan's Dai Autonomous Prefecture of Xishuangbanna (西双版纳傣族自治州) has 4,000 monks who are also students at primary and middle schools. In addition to the standard curriculum, they have to study Buddhism, Dai culture and language.
In addition to the morning sutras, Yan and his fellow boy monks must chant for another hour after school. Then they spend two hours revising or doing homework. At weekends, they study Dai language and Buddhist scriptures.
"The monks are under much greater stress than others their age. They have to study almost twice as hard," says Yan Le, deputy director of the Ethnic and Religion Bureau of Dai Autonomous Prefecture of Xishuangbanna.
"Without modern education, these children would not have a bright future. But if we give up traditional education, our culture will die."
Traditionally, all boys are required to become monks and live in monasteries from the age of 10. These days they have the right to refuse.
"He agreed to become a monk, so we sent him there," says Yan's mother, Mi Mehuan. "Dai girls like knowledgeable boys. Those who know little about Buddhism, our culture or language will have a hard time finding girlfriends."
Yan is contented with the dual education system. "We are not homesick or under pressure. We have very regular living and studying habits."
The child monks can resume their secular lives after four years in the temple, but Yan wants to remain a monk for longer.
"We can go home once or twice a week, but cannot stay home for the night," said Yan who washes his own clothes and does his own cleaning.
He enjoys reading the Buttra* Leaf Scripture. "Master says it has all the great things of our culture. I like the book although I don't understand much of it."
"Buttra Leaf Scripture is more than a Buddhist classic," says Yan's master, Du Wenjiao. "It is known as the encyclopedia of the Dai ethnic group, covering a whole spectrum of Dai culture such as history, medicine and literature."
"My brother is studying in the Buddhism College of Xishuangbanna and my family is very proud of him. I want to be like him," says another boy monk, Tie Lingda.
A total of 1.26 million Dai people live in Yunnan. Their culture is deeply interwined with Buddhism.
"To understand Dai culture, one has to study in the temples," Du says. "Every year, boys come to our temple to study. As long as the young people keep learning it, they can pass on Dai culture from generation to generation."
* Tipitaka Network: Sanskrit "Pattra" (貝多羅).
Buddhist News Features:
Wednesday, May 26, 2021 Vesak Extra!
Thursday, May 7, 2020 Vesak Extra!
Sunday, May 19, 2019 Vesak Extra!
Sulak Sivaraksa: Thich Nhat Hanh – My friend and my teacher
Vaishali: World`s first republic was in India, and a turning point in history
Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women held first virtual conference
Buddhists leaders, centers respond to death of Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh on life, war and happiness
Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh, founder of Plum Village and peace activist, dies at 95
Sri Lankans celebrate Buddha’s first visit to the island
Hundreds of monks flee temples in eastern Myanmar as violence escalates
Buddhist monks fight to protect mountain home
New South Wales (Australia)
This show is one of the most beautiful presentations of 2022
Lao Buddhist temple will completely relax you
New South Wales (Australia)
New abbot annointed at Bonnyrigg temple
Bhikkhu Bodhi to give live-streamed dharma talk EST 9am, Sunday 16 January
Thai monk inspires with 1,500-kilometer barefoot pilgrimage
Archaeologists stunned by ancient Myanmar monument that `defies gravity`
Majestic stupa images in rock art point to a flourishing Buddhist past
How a Vietnam War veteran became a Zen Buddhist monk
Plum Village offers a new year prayer to Mother Earth
Sri Lanka launches Buddhist information system
The Kalama Sutta: The first rationalist Buddhist text?
Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammāsambuddhassa.
Buddha sāsana.m cira.m ti.t.thatu.