The Lumbini Project: China’s $3bn for Buddhism

For Al Jazeera, Melissa Chan reports on the Lumbini Project, for which the Chinese government is contributing US$3 billion to develop the borth place of Prince Gautama Siddhartha, who later became the Buddha, into the “premier place of pilgrimage for Buddhists from around the world”:

The organization behind the project is called the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF), a quasi-governmental non-governmental organisation. Its executive vice president, Xiao Wunan, is a member of the Communist Party and holds a position at the National Development and Reform Commission, a state agency.

On Friday, APECF held a signing ceremony for the project with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

With the backing of the UN, Xiao has said he hopes Lumbini will bring together all three schools of the faith: the Mahayana as practised in China, Japan, and South Korea; the Hinayana as practiced in Southeast Asia; and Tibetan Buddhism.

Indeed, the APECF says it has already received full support from Buddhists representing all three schools. With one exception. Apparently, no one from the Lumbini project has reached out to the Dalai Lama’s office.

The Dalai Lama, head of the Gelug, or “Yellow Hat” branch of Buddhism, is spiritual leader to millions of Buddhists around the world. This would make him a top candidate for involvement in the Lumbini project. But he’s also China’s enemy. Is it even fathomable that China would allow the Dalai Lama to traipse around Lumbini’s grounds after building the place at a cost of $3bn?

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