The sound of silence is the height of seclusion
Updated: 2012-03-29 09:35
By Cui Jia and Lu Hongyan (China Daily)
Qing's ideals are supported by his wife, who works in a school in Xi'an.
Qing used to own a successful business. To seal deals he had to attend banquets almost every evening. "One day I realized that what I was doing was absolutely meaningless, because neither me nor my family were happy."
He then planned to emigrate, so he traveled around Europe for a year trying to find a place that would bring joy to him and his family. Eventually, he abandoned the quest. "I realized that you can't find happiness and peace anywhere but in your heart," he said.
So he gave away his business to a friend and moved to the mountains: "I don't encourage people to become a hermit like me, but I would love to give them advice if they have doubts."
Letting go of wealth
The hermit culture has been associated with the mountain for so long that the local authorities and people are very supportive towards those setting up their mao peng.
The authorities even allow hermits to live in an abandoned village located higher up the mountain. The villagers moved out in the 1990s as a part of a poverty alleviation program. The village accommodates about 16 hermits, and although they live close to each other, they rarely talk.
"Not everyone can cope with the hardship and loneliness on the mountain, especially lay practitioners. I have seen many quit within weeks because there is always something they can't let go, such as wealth or even the Internet," Li said. "People should realize that it is not a getaway holiday. Being a hermit is a serious lifestyle choice."
A person can only be truly called a hermit if he stays on the mountain for at least three years, said Li.
Kong Gu, a Taoist priest, says that spending time alone on the mountain helps him concentrate. He moved to the abandoned village about one and half years ago from a Taoist temple in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. "The temple isn't quiet enough and there are too many distractions with the other practitioners around," he said. "Here I can focus on practicing, because I am completely on my own with nature," said the 40-year-old.
Like the other hermits, Kong lives on collections from villagers and his family. "I spent about 800 yuan ($127) last year and that was enough for my body and brain to survive. That's all I need."