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Celebrate the Year of the Horse with nature-friendly incense

January 29, 2014:

As Chinese communities around the world prepare to celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Horse on January 31, 2014, Chinese Buddhist and Daoist community leaders have used a joint press conference in Beijing to call for environmentally friendly approaches to burning incense. Burning incense is a tradition of the two religions, especially during the Spring Festival holiday, in which Chinese people visit sacred sites to pray for blessings in the year ahead.

As China gets richer, people tend to go to the temples to burn more incense and paper – some to give thanks for their wealth, others to ask for more. But all that smoke can pollute the air around temples and, in some cases, birds and animals have even had to leave the sanctuary normally offered at such holy places because they can’t breathe.

Since 2008 ARC has been working with both religious communities on ways to reduce the number of incense sticks burned, and how to make those sticks less environmentally damaging.

Qin Chengshui, a Daoist priest at the Palace of the Eight Gods and Goddesses in Xi'an in northwest China, told the press conference that theirs was the first Daoist temple to use environmentally friendly incense. The temple also refuses to burn wax, paper or allow firecrackers to be set off.

Since December 2013, the Buddhist Lama Temple in Beijing has provided environmentally friendly incense free of charge -- and does not let visitors bring their own incense.

After the temple began to provide incense for free, its total incense consumption was cut in half, and incense ashes decreased by two-thirds, according to the abbot, Hu Xuefeng. He said environmental protection is the common mission of mankind, so religious figures should also contribute to curbing smog.

"The air quality in the temple has improved significantly, and so has visitors' environmental awareness," he added.

In other temples, including Louguantai Daoist temple near Xian (where the Dao De Jing scripture is said to have been written), a policy of “three sticks is enough” has been promoted for several years. One stick for Heaven, one for Earth, and one for oneself.


Other Useful Links

Outline of the main principles of Daoist Ecology

Outline of the main principles of Buddhist Ecology

More information about other ARC partner projects in China

A fuller description of the Green Pilgrimage developments at Louguantai Daoist Temple

Read the Daoist Eight-year Plan for Generational Change on the Environment here

Read the Buddhist Eight-year Plan for Generational Change on the Environment here.

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