Chinese Buddhist Ritual to be Performed at U.Va. Rite
Of Universal Liberation Eases Suffering Of Hungry Ghosts
22 , 2002-- Over the past 1,000
years, Chinese Buddhists have created an enchanting and colorful
public meditative rite to ease the suffering of "hungry ghosts."
supernatural beings are believed to be tortured by emotional and
spiritual hunger, said Hun Lye, a doctoral candidate in religious
studies at the University of Virginia. The "Rite of Universal
Liberation" is thought to ease physical, mental and emotional
anguish and heal the troubled spirits of ghosts and people alike.
ritual, rarely seen in the West, will be performed by Chinese Buddhist
monks and nuns for the first time at an American university, according
to Lye, on Saturday, March 30, in the University of Virginias
Newcomb Hall Ballroom. The performance will be in two segments,
the first beginning at 10 a.m. and the second at 1:30 p.m. PowerPoint
slides will explain the significance of each element of the ritual
as it is performed.
is free, but seating is limited to 200. Audience members are asked
to take their seats at least 15 minutes before the beginning of
rite developed in China under the influence of Confucian and Taoist
traditions, but has textual roots in ancient India and reveals Tibetan
influences dating to the 13th century, according to Lye
[pronounced "lie"], whose dissertation is on the history,
culture and development of the rite.
Buddhists have culled ritual texts, oral traditions, meditative
techniques and opera performance styles for nearly a millennium
to create a colorful, complex and enchanting Chinese Buddhist meditative
rite that is still performed today," Lye said. "Performers
of the rite play a variety of percussion instruments and employ
a wide range of oral delivery styles. The musical aspect of this
rite is one of its distinctive features."
the rite is much prized, few Chinese monks and nuns are trained
to perform it. The advent of communism in China and the mass destruction
of Chinese Buddhist monasteries during the Cultural Revolution severely
diminished the number of qualified celebrants. But in recent years,
there has been a revival in interest and training in the rite both
in China and in Chinese communities abroad.
Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order, which is one of the largest Chinese
Buddhist organizations in the world, has revived this rite in more
than 100 monasteries and chapters around the world. Lye arranged
the U.Va. performance last summer during a research trip to Asia
when he met the Venerable Shih Hsinting, the abbot of Fo Guang Shan
Buddhist Monastery in Taiwan. Hsinting, an authority on the rite,
generously offered to send a delegation this spring to perform it.
arranged the performance to showcase the cultural and spiritual
heritage of Chinese Buddhism. "By bringing this performance
to U.Va., I hope to expose the University community and others to
a fascinating but little-known aspect of Chinese culture and religion
that is still a vital presence among Chinese communities around
the world," he said.
conjunction with the performance, Dan Stevenson, an associate professor
of religious studies at the University of Kansas who specializes
in the history and development of Chinese Buddhist rituals and liturgies,
will give a talk, "Troublesome Crossings: The Chinese Buddhist
Rite of Water and Land and Distribution to Hungry Ghosts,"
at 3 p.m., March 29, in U.Va.s Campbell Hall 158.
events are sponsored by the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order, the North
Carolina and New York chapters of the Buddhas Light International
Association, the U.Va. East Asia Center, the U.Va. Department of
Religious Studies and the Red Carpet Inn (Charlottesville).
addition, organizers have arranged a two-day exhibit, March 29-30,
of an exquisite set of 60 hand-painted scrolls, normally seen only
in a rarely performed Chinese Buddhist rite known as the Shuilu
(Water and Land) Rite. This set, painted by contemporary Chinese
artists, is based on a famous 15th century set kept at
Baoning Monastery in China. The Shuilu Rite paintings are on loan
from a private collector in Northern Virginia.
Shuilu Rite is a seven-day Chinese Buddhist rite performed for the
liberation of "all the souls of the dead inhabiting the land and
sea." The hall where the Shuilu Rite is performed is usually decorated
with painted scrolls depicting all enlightened and unenlightened
of these 8-foot by 3-foot painted scrolls will be on exhibit at
the March 29 lecture on the Shuilu Rite. A larger number will be
on display March 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Newcomb Hall Ballroom
and during the performance of "The Rite of Universal Liberation."
Others can be viewed in Alderman Librarys McGregor Room March
30-31 as part of the University Library's celebration of the future
Stanley and Lucie Weinstein Buddhist and Asian Studies Library.
ritual performance, lecture and art exhibit coincide with the celebration
of the future Stanley and Lucie Weinstein Buddhist and Asian Studies
Library at the University. A year ago, the Weinsteins announced
their decision to bequeath their collection of more than 10,600
volumes to the University. Their collection focuses on Buddhism
in China and Japan and includes holdings on Buddhist art. The bequest
is expected to create one of the most significant collections for
the study of Buddhism in the United States.
Charlotte Crystal, (434) 924-6858