Finding their Zen in sports

Updated: 2013-06-19 03:08

(China Daily)

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Finding their Zen in sports

Monks from the temple cheer for their team during a national badminton tournament. Li Zhong / For China Daily

Many of China's renowned badminton players have tutored the team, such as Chen Gang, a formal national team player who now coaches the national team of South Korea.

Li Xiang, secretary-general of the Hangzhou Badminton Association, is currently the team's coach.

"They called and earnestly invited me to tutor them," Li says. "They are passionate about the sport and very talented."

His daughter, Li-Wang Jingzi, became the partner of Yan Kong in the mixed doubles competition, as the team lacked a female player. "I feel they are easygoing and do not care much about success or failure," says the sophomore of Zhejiang University.

Badminton is not the only star sport of the temple. Zhi Zhong, the monk in charge of the temple's media, says that basketball and ping-pong are also embraced by monks. The temple hosts a weiqi, or go, contest every year and even sends monks abroad to show their skills with the 2,000-year-old Chinese board game.

"Physical practice is not contradictory with religious life," says Zhi Zhong.

For many monks, the passion for sports can be traced back to the time when they were young.

Yan Kong became a monk in 1998 and attended the Minnan Buddhist College in Xiamen of Fujian province. He recalls that many of his classmates would go to neighboring Xiamen University to play basketball, ping-pong or tennis. Later, the hobbies were naturally brought to temples.

"Maybe the life of monks has been thought to be mysterious or stereotyped as secluded meditation," he says. "Actually, we also participate in social activities."

In the past, when agriculture was the pillar of the social economy, Buddhist temples had farmland and monks had to feed themselves by doing strenuous farm work. Then, farm work played the same important role as Zen meditation, according to Yan Kong.

And that's why a founding father of Zen had a famous saying that carrying water, hauling firewood, eating and putting on clothing are all part of Zen for Buddhist monks.

Now, temples in cities do not need to cultivate farmland, so monks can turn to sports and social activities, which help to enrich their lives and their meditation, Yan Kong says.

Jiang Yinan in Shanghai contributed to the story.

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