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Thứ Ba, tháng 10 24, 2006

No. 1197 (Hạt Cát dịch)

Buddhist monastery born in woods of Marlboro

October 23, 2006


MARLBORO — The story of how an old studio down a dirt road in the woods of this rural Windham County town is being transformed into a Buddhist monastery is one of chance.

Or maybe fate.

Several months ago members of the Thosum Gephelling Institute, a new Buddhist group that formed three years ago under the teachings of a Tibetan monk, began searching for a permanent location to meditate, study and teach.

Jamkar, one of the members of the institute, walked into the Gallery in the Woods retail store in downtown Brattleboro to ask owner Dante Corsano for advice.

"He offered us this place," Jamkar explained on Sunday, motioning to the two-story home deep in the woods of Marlboro. "We were looking for a place and he was the first person I talked with."

But that's not where the good luck ended.

During a recent walk through the campus of nearby Marlboro College, Jamkar met Ryan Dolan, a student originally from Chicago studying philosophy and religion at the school. Jamkar told him about the new monastery, located about a 15-minute car drive away.

Dolan, who spent a week assisting in clean-up and construction following Hurricane Katrina, offered to help prepare the building. And on Sunday he brought six other college students and friends to help as well.

"This just sounded like a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon," Dolan said.

The building that will house the Buddhist center was once the studio and retail space for Gallery in the Woods, a business run by Dante and Suzanne Corsano that sells "visionary, surreal and world folk art," according to their Web site.

Dante Corsano said the building, which he occasionally also used throughout the years for yoga and meditation, has been empty since he shut down the retail store to focus on the Brattleboro operations. He was pleased to see the space so quickly find a use.

"When they came here to check it out they meditated inside for a while," he said. "They needed to see if the area had the right vibe and if the space had good karma."

Geshe Ngawang Singey, a Tibetan monk since he was 16 years old, said he accepted the building because he felt at peace there. He will be the full-time resident teacher at the facility and holds a Geshe degree, the highest obtainable level in the religion.

"This is the right place because it is very peaceful," he said through an interpreter on Sunday. "It is very quiet and clear here and perfect for meditating."

No. 1196

A Show of Zen
(China Daily October 23, 2006)

The audience was sitting on the mat-like hassocks that monks use for meditation. The crowd was dazzled by shining stars and a moon in the sky actually made of small electronic lights. They delighted in the special stunt work, such as swordplay in the treetops and creative kung fu.

In the distance stood a temple specially constructed for the show, in which monks could be seen doing their daily duties. Nearer was a bridge where most of the show's plots unfolded. Closest to the audience were five monks who sat meditating throughout the show.

The show, entitled "Zen Shaolin," was staged as a pilot on October 16 in the Daixiangou Valley of the Songshan Mountain, 7 kilometres from the Shaolin Temple in Central China's Henan Province. There, the audience can appreciate the performance set against the background of mountains, trees and stars.

Shaolin Temple, located in Dengfeng of Henan Province, is famous for its martial arts and attracts large amount of tourists. However, since the Shaolin Temple closes at 5 pm, few tourists stay in Dengfeng overnight, with most of them heading for Luoyang or Zhengzhou after their visit.

The show is part of an effort to get people to stick around after hours and to boost the local economy, said Mei Shuaiyuan, producer and script-writer of "Zen Shaolin." When the show opens in March 2007 near the Shaolin Temple, he expects a daily audience of 1,500 will attend, and many of them will stay in Dengfeng overnight.

Mei has reasons to be confident. The last show he produced, "Impression Liu Sanjie," which premiered in 2004 in Yangshuo of South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, attracts a daily audience of 2,500, Mei said.

Both "Impression Liu Sanjie" and "Zen Shaolin" are shows performed on original sites, and both sites are hot tourist attractions, but there is also a star-studded crew to entice audiences.

"Impression Liu Sanjie" is directed by famous director Zhang Yimou, while "Zen Shaolin" features Tan Dun, who is not only the composer of the show's music, but also the artistic director of the entire performance.

"Zen Shaolin" also features other established artists such as choreographer Huang Doudou who is also a pop dancer, set designer Zeng Li and lighting designer Yi Liming.

"If scenes of 'Impression Liu Sanjie' can be compared to a widescreen, then scenes of 'Zen Shaolin' are like the vertical scrolls of Chinese painting," Mei said.

It was in Shaolin Temple that the 28th patriarch of the Buddhist Bodhidharma founded the Zen school of Buddhism in the 6th century. It is said that Bodhidharma meditated for nine years in Shaolin Temple, and he used to practise martial arts to ensure his health for meditation.

"Zen and martial arts are two important features of the Shaolin Temple, but most people know much less about Zen than about martial arts," said Shi Yongxin, abbot of Shaolin Temple and cultural consultant of "Zen Shaolin."

"Zen is a kind of creativity and wisdom and it is very beneficial to the people who learn it."

As an artist, Tan has a different explanation of Zen.

"Zen is something hard to explain. It's like when you are not sure whether a person loves you or not, when you don't know how to speak about it and you'd rather not speak about it," Tan said. "Probably, Zen is something that can be better explained through music, lighting and movements rather than verbal language."

In the five scenes of "Zen Shaolin" "Water Music," "Wood Music," "Wind Music," "Lighting Music" and "Stone Music" Tan tries to integrate music with natural elements to create something he calls "organic music."

He also adopts pieces of traditional music Buddhist and secular including the Buddhist chant "Incantation of Great Mercy" (Da Bei Zhou) and Henan's local music "Hua Liushui," which is said to be the origin of the classical Chinese musical work "High Mountain, Flowing Water" (Gaoshan Liushui).

Tan explained that Zen was not a solely Buddhist doctrine in China, but rather, was always interrelated with other elements of Chinese culture.

The show of "Zen Shaolin" covers an area of 3 square kilometres, and the highest point of the performance is at an altitude of about 1,400 metres above sea level.

"In this natural environment, our ideas often come from the weather, wind and natural sounds," said choreographer Huang. "I experienced many things for the first time while choreographing for the show."

The show runs for 70 minutes long and involves some 600 actors, most of whom are students from martial arts schools in Dengfeng. After March 2007, it will be performed nightly except for a hiatus spanning the chilly months from November to February. If it rains, organizers will provide raincoats for the audience.

"I hope 'Zen Shaolin' will be a successful project and contribute to the local economy," said Shi Yongxin.

How much the show will contribute to the local economy will only be known after March, but the project has already involved a great amount of local labour. Mei said one-fourth of the actors were farmers from the four nearby villagers.

The staff of "Zen Shaolin" are still revising the work, while Mei is already preparing for two new shows on original sites, one in Dujiangyan in Southwest China's Sichuan Province and the other in Halong Bay of Viet Nam.

In addition to "Impression Liu Sanjie," Mei is anticipating four of his works will be performed daily in different places in the future.

He is also planning to build a temple-style hotel near the Shaolin Temple, where audiences of "Zen Shaolin" can stay and practise Zen meditation.

According to Mei, 80 million yuan (US$9.86 million) has been invested in "Zen Shaolin," and his plan to create a tourist area, which will include the performance and hotel, will cost a total of 350 million yuan (US$43 million).

No. 1195 ( Upekha dịch)

TV drama set at Buddhist grottoes

Source: CCTV.com
10-23-2006 08:04
The Dunhuang grottoes are a dreamland, both for Buddhists and art-lovers from across the world. A new T-V series, chronicling the history of the site, and its sculptures, begins on CCTV next month. It's the first-ever television drama, to focus on the awe-inspiring stone gallery.

Cast members gathered to promote the 46 episode drama, "Dunhuang". It tells of the grotto's early significance, as a hiding place for Buddhist scriptures, about one thousand years ago; and of its chance re-discovery at the turn of the 19th century. At every tumultuous turning point in history, devoted souls protected the trove from being looted or destroyed.

Lead actress Chen Hao says she became a flying Apsaras, from a pattern found on the Dunhuang murals.

Chen Hao said:"When people mention Dunhuang, you think of the 'flying Apsaras'. I was lucky to be chosen for the dance. The last shot, being flung from the cliff, was very beautiful - like flying to heaven."

Not so lucky as Chen Hao, actor Huang Haibing got buried alive.

Actor Huang Haibing said:"We dug a huge hole in the desert, and the sand kept flowing in. I was getting smothered. My eyes, ears and nose were full of sand. I was pulling sand out from everywhere, the whole night."

With an intricate plot, and spectacular scenery, Dunhuang is sure to captivate the TV audience.