Temple keepers

Time: 2015. 11. 13

Place: Sanshan, Guangzhou

People: Wu Tingting, Liu Jiaqi

There are few layers in the temple, a man with crew-cut hair and a green coat on his shoulder came over in front of the turtle pond at the main temple and handed over a plate with dimes and cents coins: “throw!” We shook our heads to refuse, he then put the iron plate next to our hands: “throw turtle!”


“Dose it cost money?”,the girl with me asked prudently. He shook his head and pushed the iron plate towards us. We still refused and walked away in the spirit of self-righteous vigilance of urban people. But he kept leaning at the rim of the pond and stared at us with his head tilted.

Walking to the side temple, I saw two old women chatting neighborhood gossips. Being so curious about the chatty old women in such a solemn temple, we went close to them and sit down to audit the conversation impolitely.

Unexpectedly, the crew-cut also followed us there and kept staring at us. When the old women saw him, they glared and shouted at him to send him away. I complained to the old women: “He gave us a plate of coins to throw at the turtles, saying that it’s free! Is it free?”

The old women glanced at me once and said: “you shall not take the coins even if it’s free. Throwing at the turtles is to make your own wishes, why would you use other’s money?” I was momentarily speechless. My heart did hesitate when being offered with this “free pie”. Did he perceive my greedy thought with his small eyes and therefore keep following us? The crew-cut in this temple is so shrewd!

I asked again thick-skinned: “ What is he doing there?”

“Cheat money! He has problem here, fool!” she pointed to her head.

“Why didn’t anybody throw him out?” I was very surprised and asked again.

She asked me back a little impatiently: “This is temple, people with hands and feet can all come inside, why can you come inside then?” I was unable to response.

Budda says: “ All Wheat and Lives Being Equal.” But people like us who come from cities where law of jungle applies have formed this opinion long time ago: worship the strong ones and expel the weak ones. We watched the politicians talking about citizen equality, read the books conveying the sense of equality and wrote on Weibo refusing discrimination. We keep saying that people should respect the sexual orientation, but still throw peeking looks at homosexuals when spotting them. We speak out loud that we need equality but walk firmly towards inequality. We are all even not as honest and bright as this old lady in this ancient temple.

 “You’ve read a lot of books but you do not know as much as I do on these things!” She mocked me as if she had seen through my thought.

The next day the girl went to the temple with me showed me photos taken in front of the turtle pond. I saw that the man with green coat was watching behind the bamboo leaves quietly towards the camera, it sent chills up to my spine. The ancient temple is grand with melodious chanting, but the fool in the temple is so shrewd and the elderlies are cunning and bluff with insight, it feels like an eccentric Utopia. 

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