Sutras, serenity and senior citizens

Updated: 2016-08-15 08:02

By Tang Yue in Suzhou(China Daily)

Sutras, serenity and senior citizens

A resident collects a portion of fruit after lunch at the home.[Photo by Gao Erqiang/China Daily]

Long waiting list

Jin Hongzhan, the home's vice-president, said residents paid a flat fee of 500 yuan ($75) a month until July, when Master Mingxue decided to abolish the charge and fund the home directly through donations to the temple.

Unsurprisingly, there is a long waiting list, but that doesn't discourage new applicants. "In July alone, we received 70 applications," Jin said.

While a small number of nursing homes run by Buddhist temples welcome elderly non-believers, Jin said the Lingyanshan home remains exclusive to those with faith, and prospective residents have to pass religious knowledge tests to gain admittance.

"It has never been an ordinary nursing home. It is fundamentally a place to study and practice Buddhism," he said. "Non-religious people would not fit in here. It would be impossible to have some residents chanting the sutras while others were doing a square dance."

He recalled that when the home opened, the management organized a group of local volunteers to clean the rooms. The idea was abandoned, though, because the elderly residents felt that as beings seeking merit, they should always attend to their own duties.

According to Chen Zongrong, vice-director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, only about one-third of the homes run by religious institutions have registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, which oversees the sector, and many of them are small and lack professional management.