Things That Puzzle Me (No. 1) – What’s Going On In the Temple?

I list here things that I have not yet found answers for. I have encountered many new things. My approach has been: I ask strangers on the street. Speaking with ordinary people has that touch that Wikipedia or Britannica simply don’t have.  If any of you know the answer or want to make a guess, please feel free to comment. If I find an answer, I’ll add below the posting.

There is this small temple around the corner of our street that I walk by every day.  It is so small that I didn’t notice it the first few times I walked by. 

Fenghuang Temple around the corner

The other day, it put on a big ceremony for the Ghost Month. Big plastic sheets normally used for scaffolding enclosed a small area in front of the temple. The intersection was blocked. There were red banners, red lanterns, incense and paper money burning, chants could be heard several streets down, and a whole pig was set on the table in center front, its legs spread and gold foil wrapped around its little ankles, and plates with heaping baked goods and fruits adorn the altar. 

I didn’t have my camera with me. Even if I did, I wouldn’t have dared to take pictures. There were people bowing and praying amidst of the smoke made by the burner. 

Later that day, I passed by again. The scaffolding sheets were gone, chants were no longer heard. Mopads zoomed by the intersection like they do every day. A man was cutting up a big chunk of meat, two women looked on and chatted happily with him. They looked more like neighbors than temple goers. I so very much wanted to ask whether that was the pig with god foil on its ankles, and what would happen next.  But I didn’t dare.

Yesterday, I passed by again. The front center of the temple where the pig was displayed was replaced by a table with a big flat screen TV. Plastic buckets, pots and pans, chairs were next to it. Laundry was hanging on the cloth line. The space looked more like someone’s living room than a temple. A man was sitting several feet away, watching TV and drinking tea. I didn’t dare to ask how this could be.

Today, I passed by again. The temple’s double doors were closed.  No one was in there, no movement at all. The sun shone on the roof, hot as usual.

My hometown was known for Buddhist temples. The courtyard and temple front were swept constantly by the monks. They wore cloth of washed gray color and white lining. They never spoke. They just swept. That’s what I remember. I have never seen such a temple that transforms. One day it is a temple, the next day it is someone’s living quarter. The temples in my hometown didn’t close, either. There were there for people who needed help and that could happen at any given hour. That made sense to me. 

What’s going on with this temple on our street? Who are those people living in there?

    • Irene Ke
    • September 10th, 2010

    This is very odd, even to me. I don’t have a clue, Xin! But I’m sure one of my brothers will have an answer. I’ll see if I can figure it out from him.

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