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 10, 2017 Vesak Extra!
Saturday, May 21, 2016 Vesak Extra!
Monday, June 1, 2015 Vesak Extra!
Devotees start the New Year by offering alms to monks
A meditation on interconnection, with Sharon Salzberg
Buddhist statues gleaming again at Yakushiji temple in Nara
Mindfulness to overcome pain
Buddhist priests rehearse tolling monster bell in Kyoto
Greek toga and Buddhist robe - Links and cultural significance
Bodh Gaya: A spiritual hub, place to find love, and plenty of business
Vermonter irradiates winter blues with inner light
3D printing technology used to create replicas of historic Buddhist statues in China
Myanmar`s child monks become royalty for a day
Three faces of Wat Tampa
Remains of world’s oldest sleeping Buddha statue unveiled in Pakistan
German Dharmaduta Society statement on the death of the former Ambassador to Germany the late Mr. Karunatilaka Amunugama
Amaravati Buddhist art to finally be seen in full glory at British Museum
Buddhists condemn Rohingya persecution
60th anniversary of Sri Bodhiraja Dhamma School
Ven. Dhammapiya elected new Secretary General of Intl Buddhist Confederation
Gangodawila Soma Thera: An illustrious and inspirational life
Korean bloggers, media companies visit Borobudur Temple
Abbot urges return to Buddhist basics
Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammāsambuddhassa.
Buddha sāsana.m cira.m ti.t.thatu.