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Japan mulls lending statue of famed Chinese Zen master to China

  • November 2, 2021
  • , Kyodo News , 2:12 p.m.
  • English Press

BEIJING – Japan is considering temporarily lending a statue of a famous Chinese Zen master to China in a goodwill gesture as next year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.


The move is intended to help improve Sino-Japanese relations through cultural exchanges, at a time when the two nations have been at odds over several issues including Taiwan and China’s alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang.


The Japanese Embassy in Beijing is pushing the project as a “homecoming” of Zen master Yinyuan Longqi (1592-1673) , known as Ingen in Japan, from Obaku-san Manpuku-ji, a Buddhist temple in Japan’s Kyoto Prefecture, to Wanfu Temple in China’s southeastern Fujian Province, according to the sources.


Ingen served as chief priest at Wanfu Temple before leaving China. After arriving in Japan in 1645, he founded the Obaku sect of Zen Buddhism and is known for having brought to the country a kind of bean called “Ingen-mame.”


The 1.6-meter wooden statue was created in 1663 using his hair and beard, according to Obaku-san Manpuku-ji. The temple said it would positively consider lending the statue if Japan’s Foreign Ministry makes every effort to have the artifact returned from China.


Besides the bean, Ingen introduced a number of things to Japan, such as art, medicine, architecture, music, history, literature, printing, green tea and Buddhist cuisine, according to the temple. He strongly influenced the culture of the Edo Era (1603-1868).

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