I spent the past weekend in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province. Since my daughter hasn’t been to Lingyin Temple before, my friends suggested we visit the temple Saturday, as it happened to be the Laba Festival, which celebrates the day Shakyamuni Buddha gained enlightenment.
Friends told me that we were lucky, as we would be able to enjoy free Laba porridge handed out by the temple.
The porridge itself was said to bring good luck to whoever ate it, but historically speaking, the practice was an act of charity in which temples sought to give hot food to comfort poor people on cold winter days.
Lingyin Temple is a popular scenic spot in the city. Every day, thousands of Buddhist devotees turn out in flocks to burn incense and pray to Buddha for blessings. Saturday saw many more people because of the exemption of temple tickets and the free “good luck” porridge.
It’s no exaggeration to describe the scene as a sea of people. We saw long queues everywhere since arriving at about 11 am.
When people burn joss sticks, they usually pay respect to Heaven in the four directions of east, south, west and north. However that day at Lingyin Temple, one could often see that two people looked as if they were paying respects to each other since they were praying directly face to face. It resembled the traditional marriage ceremony of worshipping heaven and earth when the bride and groom bow to each other.
At about 3 pm, we joined the long queue for the “good luck” porridge. Security guards were maintaining order, and people were excited.
There were some minor conflicts between people in the line when some complained about others jumping the queue. But this was to be expected, considering the large number of people.
Notices everywhere said, “one person can have at most two bowls of free porridge.” But when it was our turn to get our porridge, we found that there were not many people behind us.
At the same time, there were still lots of boxes of porridge ready to be distributed, so the staff and volunteers just asked us to take more. My daughter and I got four boxes each – What a harvest!
We had a good day at the temple, but on returning to the hotel, I found that the top news that day on major news portal websites turned out to be the “chaos” at various temples in Hangzhou, including the Lingyin Temple, where free porridge was given out.
A lot of comments could be found on the forums, and the prevailing tone was that of Chinese people’s lack of civilized behavior.
My happiness was swept away upon reading the comments, and I wondered why such a benevolent practice was described in such a negative way.
I was a witness. But before I could say anything, a conclusion had already been drawn.
The conclusion was, unfortunately, drawn by those who sit on their couches staring at their computer or mobile phone screens, getting excited at any topic in which they can indulge in exaggeration.
They just focus on an eye-catching headline that may not be accurate and can be quoted out of context to suit their purposes. They just want to stir the public with claptrap.
We can find many such online commentators. Quite a few of them even have a large number of followers, and to some extent, they are opinion leaders. But I do hope that they lead the public in a more balanced and impersonal way, or at least do some basic research before telling the public or their followers their conclusions.
Let’s go back to check some facts. In total, there were 400,000 bowls of porridge given out at Lingyin Temple alone. Besides Lingyin, there were other temples in Hangzhou and other cities also participating in the charity event.
Although no detailed figures were published, we can assume it was a huge number. It’s unavoidable that some chaos happened here and there. It’s unfair to stereotype the Chinese people as uncivilized. Anywhere else in the world, it would be forgivable.
On the whole, the porridge distribution was still a successful and happy event.
Why should the focus just be on a very small negative part while neglecting the whole situation? The mass media and individual opinion leaders should cherish their right to online speech. They should never mislead the public through subjective arguments.
Respecting the facts should be an abiding principle. The mass media should conduct more firsthand interviews instead of blindly forwarding news or information that they haven’t checked. This will ruin their reputation, which is something that is definitely not in their interests.
Source: Global Times