Monks and Nuns

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Following the Buddha and the Dharma (teaching), the community of Buddhist monks and nuns, or sangha, constitute the third of the Threefold Refuge, a basic creed of Buddhism. Their behavior is strictly disciplined by the sacred canon. These monks and nuns adopt distinctive styles of appearance and behavior.




In viewing this section it is important to note that what see here is only a small sample of the incredible diversity existing among various schools of Buddhism. In addition, customs and rituals continue to evolve. 



To the left is a picture showing the abbot from a monastery in Shanghai leading a religious service.



What do you notice about the architectural space? Do you think it is an appropriate space for a religious service? Why or why not?

Religious service in Shanghai                                           source



The photograph at the left shows Buddhist nuns circling the Buddha's shrine in celebration of his birth date.


What does the shape of the shrine remind you of?

Nuns at Kaifu Nunnery, Changsha, Hunan province               source




To the right are nuns praying before mid-day meal.



What do you notice about the seating arrangement? Why do you think they would sit in this arrangement during a meal?

Nuns at Tongjian temple in Beijing                                      source



To the left, monks at the Jiuhua Monastery in Anhui Province return to their living quarters after a religious service.



What do you notice about the way in which they proceed to their living quarters? Note the position of their hands; can you guess what this might mean?

Monks at Jiuhua Monastery                                            source


Traditionally, children often joined monasteries and nunneries because their parents gave them to the church to fulfill a religious vow. These children lived within the monastery until they were able to become novices and prepare for  their ordination.

Here are novices at Longchang Monastery on Mount Baohua kneeling in the temple courtyard for an ordination ceremony.


How does the last row of novices differ from the others, and why might this difference exist?

Ordination Ceremony at Longchang Monastery               source


Music and sound are important aspects of life in a Buddhist monastery. Bells, cymbals and other percussive instruments signal transitions between daily activities. They also accompany sessions of chanting that have a singing quality. These chants produce a distinctive, impressive sound and can last for hours.



To the right are monks reciting sutras at Shaolin Monastery (Henan province).


Can you locate two percussive instruments in this photo?


Monks at Shaolin Monastery                                                           source


Today, greater ease of travel has facilitated international exchange for monks and nuns. The monks below are attending a ceremony to celebrate the commemoration of a stele inscription. 


What do you notice about this delegation of monks? What do you think the two monks in the back are carrying?


Monks attending a ceremony                                                           source





Buddhism was imported into Tibet from India during the Tang period. Combining with the native religions, Tibetan Buddhism has emerged as an important branch of Buddhism, bearing distinctive characteristics of its own. The pictures that follow are mostly about monks from the Taer Temple (Qinghai Province), one of the six biggest Tibetan Buddhist temples in China.


To the right is a picture of a Tibetan Buddhist monk from Ningxia Province spinning the prayer wheels.


What do you think the symbols on the wheels are?

Tibetan Buddhist monk                                    source


To the left shows Tibetan Buddhist monks praying.



What do you notice about the prayer hall?

Tibetan Buddhist monks at Taer Temple                                    source


Below is a picture showing an outdoor religious service.


Why do you think the monks’ robes are in different colors?

Religious service organized by Taer Temple                                                         source


Monks at Taer Temple print sutras.


Look at this picture and the one below. 


Why do you think sutras are still printed this way rather than with modern machinery?

Printing sutras                                    source


What do you think is the relationship between these two monks?

Tibetan Buddhist monks                                          source




What do you think this Taer Temple monk is doing?



Tibetan Lamist Buddhism was patronized by the Manchu rulers of the Qing dynasty and found a following in some areas of China Proper, including the long-established Buddhist pilgrimage center at  Mount Wutai (Shanxi Province) 


To the right is a picture of monks at Jixiang Monastery  on Mount Wutai listening to a lecture by the abbot.


What aspects of the abbot's appearance are used to denote his position?

Abbot lecturing at Jixiang Monastery                                    source


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