The Lingyin Temple’s main gate should be opened only for emperors. It was opened for war criminal Bashar al-Assad.
by Jiang Tao
There are few certainties among Chinese Buddhists in these days. One was that the central gate of historical Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, should remain closed. The 1,700-year-old temple opens its main gate for emperors only, and there is no emperor today in China. The last time the main gate of Lingyin Temple was opened was for the Kangxi Emperor from the Qing dynasty, who reigned from 1661 to 1722.
One can speculate that in fact there is an emperor in China today, and his name is Xi Jinping. Local Buddhists in Hangzhou reported to “Bitter Winter” that there were rumors that since he will visit the city to open the 19th Asian Games, the gate will be opened to allow Xi to enter Lingyin temple and offer incense.
This did not happen, however. Instead, the main gate was opened, and a huge red carpet was laid to welcome Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, also in town to attend the grand opening of the 19th Asian Games and meet Xi. Assad was greeted by the abbot, who is a local dignitary of the government-controlled China Buddhist Association, and by cheering monks.
“It is a huge scandal, a local Buddhist believer said. Assad is not an emperor and is not even a Buddhist. It is clear that the crowd was composed of hired extras, not by genuine Buddhist devotees. Some of them even touched Assad’s wife and made very un-Buddhist remarks on how beautiful she is.”
There is worse. Assad is not just any foreign leader friendly to Xi Jinping and with a good-looking wife. He is widely regarded as a war criminal responsible for crimes against humanity in the Syrian civil war, including extermination and bombing of civilians, torture, rape by government’s troops, and extra-judicial killings. That the abbot of the Lingyin Temple and other leaders of the China Buddhist Association literally welcomed such a tyrant with a red carper and hailed him as a “man of peace” was indeed a huge scandal.