Written by Roger Casas.
While not enjoying the popularity of other sites in Yunnan Province such as Lijiang or Dali, Xishuangbanna (西双版纳) is today a favourite destination among national tourists as a ‘little Thailand’ within China. A popular topic for the cameras of visitors to the region, as can be seen in web travelogues, is that of Buddhist novices playing basketball, in fact a frequent sight not only in the urban temples of the capital Jinghong City, but also in monasteries in the rural countryside. These young novice monks belong to the largest group of Theravada Buddhists in China, and are included in the Dai minzu (民族, ‘ethnic group’). For most Han Chinese and Western travellers, the view of boys in robes jumping around may be little more than an anecdote, a feature of the ‘ethnic peculiarity’ (民族特色, minzu tese) of the Dai. For visitors from countries where Buddhism is an essential part of the national culture (particularly Thailand), as well as for concerned locals, the topic is a sensitive one, as in most of those countries playing sports is an activity considered inappropriate or outright unacceptable for monastics. Continue reading “Buddhism and Basketball: The Dai Monks of Yunnan”