Off to Monastic School
by Sarah Perelstein
Location : Tibet
Program : East China Normal University, Fall 2006
Description : On our way to the Mount Everest Base Camp, we stopped for lunch at a monastery near Shigatse, Tibet. Unlike many of the other Buddhist monasteries we had visited in Tibet, this one was a monastic school, and was home to both boys and girls as young as four years old. Because they were all adorned in the same monastic garb and had shaved their heads, it was hard to tell the boys apart from the girls. After lunch, we used the opportunity to practice our Mandarin by striking up conversations with some of these students who were our peers, yet who led inconceivably different lives. Though the monks were not allowed to touch us, our curiosity about each other led us to become engaged in conversation. Apparently, we provided too much of a distraction from their monastic studies. Right in the midst of our conversations, a commotion broke out, and the young monks abruptly took off for their schoolhouse. We suddenly discovered why they were running: because their teachers had arrived and began hitting those who stayed behind! That was certainly an effective way of getting them to leave the foreigners and return to class!
by Tianhe Yang
Location : Kyoto, Japan
Program : Keio University, Yagami Campus, NanoJapan, 2006
Description : Tengu are a type of supernatural spirit characterized by their long noses and avian features, and can be found in Japanese folklore, art, and literature. They are considered to be watchful protectors of the forests but very dangerous, due to their skill in combat and agility. Depicted here are metal slippers that are offered to the Tengu of a hilly forest park in Kyoto.
The trip to Kyoto was one of a few cultural excursions provided by the NanoJapan program. The trips revealed that Japan is still a diverse country with regard to the landscape, architecture, and art, despite its size.
by Alex Stoll
Location : Beijing, China
Program : The Hong Kong University of Science and Tech, Fall 2006
Description : Monks chant in a dim hall of Beijing's Yonghe Temple (the Lama Temple), one of the largest and most important Tibetan Buddhist (Lamaist) monasteries in the world and once the Lama administrative center for China. In the last of its five halls stands an impressive sixty-foot-high statue of Maitreya Buddha carved from a single piece of sandalwood and imported from Tibet, which complements many murals, figurines, and statues combining Chinese and Tibetan styles that inhabit the complex. The temple, in northeast Beijing, began in the late seventeenth century as an imperial mansion, becoming a lamasery (a Lamaist temple) forty years later.
by Tiffany Yeh
Location : Nikko, Japan
Program : NanoJapan, 2006
Description : There is a saying in Japan that goes “you can't say kekko (enough!) until you've seen Nikko.” And how true that was of the small city at the foot of Nikko National Park. The hills were filled with elaborate shrines that overwhelmed my vision with delicate carvings and explosion of bold colors rarely seen in the formal and conservative buildings of Japan. En route to one of the main shrines at the foot of the mountain, I spotted this line of little Buddhas along a ledge. As if echoing the grandeur of the three Buddhist manifestations of Nikko's three mountain kami (gods), they numbered well over fifty and were lined up perfectly next to each other, silent sentinels peacefully welcoming visitors to the place of worship.