I have been occupied by several other commitments in the past two weeks, including teaching a fiction workshop for the
Yesterday, however, a blogger friend sent me a link to a post in CDT titled "Thousand Year Old Temple to be Demolished, Luxury ‘Bathhouse’ to Take its Place." Upon reading it, I could no longer sit steadily minding my own business. The Hot Spring Temple, 1586 years old, is located in my birth town, Beibei, a suburban district of Chongqing, and in my childhood that temple and the north hot spring were my family's regular weekend retreat.
I began to search my
From the Chinese blog post translated by CDT, it is unclear what exactly is happening, other than the fact that the monks and local worshippers are very angry at, and frustrated by, the developer's activity around the temple. Though the word 毁 – "destroy" – is used in the post, no demolition plan is mentioned.
Following a link provided by the Chinese post, I found a blog written by an abbot of the Hot Spring Temple, in which he complained about the media's dismissive attitude toward their appeals for help. (One strange thing is that the blog uses a propaganda image of Lei Feng as its header. There must be some reason for this but for now I don't have time to research that.)
In his April 25 (yesterday) post, the abbot blogger said he received a call from
But a big crowd of the Chinese netizens are; the monks' appeal has been circulated and echoed on major web portals. Probably because of the internet anger, some reporters did take notice. China Economic Times (run by the
The developer, Yunnan's 柏联集团, was actually found and appointed by the Beibei district government, and they signed an agreement to build a giant spa center surrounding the Hot Spring Temple, using the hot spring and the temple as attractions for the spa business. The developer felt wrongly accused of "destroying" the ancient temple. "A vast cursing voice on the internet, we've been treated too unfairly!" A company executive cried to the reporters. He said he couldn't understand, "[The project] should be beneficial and a big promotion for both sides, why do things have to be like this?"
From the monks' perspective, however, a modern spa center encircling the temple breaks the tranquil Buddhist environment and atmosphere, and the massive view of exposed bathers is unacceptable to worshippers. To date, the chaotic construction activities have already damaged some cultural relics and interrupted the temple's religious affairs. Since the construction began, worshipers have been prohibited from entering the temple, the joss sticks and candles stopped burning.
In negotiation, the temple has proposed that the developer builds a wall around the temple's property, in order to block the unsightly entertainment scene in the spa and leave the temple in peace. The managing abbot also wanted to block vehicles from passing through the temple. However the developer rejected those ideas, threatening to withdraw the investment if the temple insists on its position.
The report mentions that the blogger abbot was beaten up by a mob last week and suffered many injuries. But it does not say who the mobs were and how the beating happened.
The report also answers my question about the temple's property rights: It still belongs to a government agency. Even though urban residents in
Though it turns out that the CDT post has an inaccurate title and it's not a demolition case, I felt little relief. It appears to me this is another serious clash between cultural and commercial interests, and clashes like this have been happening in
A small comfort brought by the report is that an official from
I will continue to watch the case and report back developments as I can. Meanwhile, dear readers, if you have connections in Chongqing, please do something to help the Hot Spring Temple 温泉寺.