Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Happy Birthday Buddha!

In China, Buddha's birthday is celebrated on the 8th day of the 4th month, which, this year, falls on May 17th. It is known as the Buddha Bathing Festival.

Giant Buddha in Leshan City, Sichuan province
Begun in 713, the statue took 90 years to carve
It is the largest carved stone Buddha in the world
It is 71 meters high and has 3 meter long fingers
Photo Credit: Phil Parsons
According to legend, when Buddha was born, nine dragons sprayed the baby with water to bathe him. Today, across Buddhist temples in China, devotees pay their respects to Buddha by bathing statues of him in bowls of water. They burn incense and bring food offerings to the monks, they chant and they pray. 

Photo Credit: Mayu Shimizu
Devotees also eat bitter, green cookies. They are intentionally unpleasant, representing the Buddhist principle of living through hardship to enjoy better things.

Buddhist Monks
Photo Credit: Eye See
Buddhism came to China 500 years after it began in India. Many of the monasteries and statues were destroyed during the cultural revolution, however since the reforms of the 1980s, much has been restored. There are an estimated 100 million followers of Buddhism in China.

Monastery of Ten Thousand Buddhas
Photo Credit: Simon Whitaker
The foundation of Buddhism are the Four Noble Truths:

  1. The truth of suffering 
  2. The truth of the cause of suffering 
  3. The truth of the end of suffering 
  4. The truth of the path that frees us from suffering 

You can find more information about Buddhism at United Religions Initiative

What can your family do to celebrate Buddha's birthday? 

* You can read about Buddha's life with this book by Demi
* You can make lucky ''Peace'' steamed buns with this recipe
* You can cook up vegetarian Buddha's Delight with this recipe
* You can paint a lotus flower, the Buddhist symbol of purity 

Giant Buddha at the Po Lin Monastery in Hong Kong
Photo Credit: Michael Hansen

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