The Lives of Young Buddhist Monks

March 6, 2017 2017年3月6日

Ottmar Wu is a photographer from Shanghai, China. His most recent photo series documents the lives of young Buddhist monks at the Geerdi Temple in the town of Langmusi. Below, he shares with us the story of his journey.


“In the town of Langmusi in Sichuan Province, there are two temples that sit on the two sides of the Bailong River: the Geerdi Temple and the Langmu Temple. Most people are more familiar with the latter, but the Geerdi Temple’s lack of fame can be viewed as a blessing in disguise, as it maintains the purity of the temple.”


“I stood on the north side of river, looking over at the Geerdi Temple and seeing mountain patterns that resemble the Danxia rainbow-colored landforms in their majestic stillness. At the break of dawn, the sunrise paints the mountains red as the Bailong River flows below. The mystical landscape has given birth to many legends.”

“我站在河的北岸,看着对岸的格尔底寺和山脉。 山的纹理是像彩虹线条般的丹霞地貌,既庄严又平静。日出的时候,山体发红,白龙江从下流过。这样神秘的地方流传了很多传说。”

“At first glance, the surroundings of the Geerdi Temple aren’t as stunning as the Danxia landforms, but the blooming flowers of the summer was a beautiful sight. It was in this atmosphere where I encountered the young monks of the temple. Their childhood innocence was something that echoed my own youth, although lacking the experience of living in these unperturbed natural surroundings. The purity of these young monks had nothing to do with religion, self-interest, or rural naiveté, but expressed the very essence of childhood.”


“Their lives are full of texture. It’s more than just hiking in the mountains or wrestling with each other. When they see strangers, they might laugh or shy behind a doorway. They’ll feel uncomfortable or anxious about the unfamiliar. The smile in the photo above captured the surprise of encountering a stranger with a camera. In the next photo, I didn’t dare walk any closer, fearing that I would further disturb this young monk. They would play games in the water; on the shores of the creek, they would gather around to chat; they left their footprints in the grass and their kites flapped around in the sky.”


“Having to study is a nightmare for many youth, but these young monks are content within the confines of the temple, with the monastery walls etched into the landscape. Classes and religious studies are an indispensable part of their lives. Outside of the temple, devotees are sewing fabrics. Inside of the temple, there are no spectacles or fireworks, and believers are solemn in their unwavering faith.”


“As parts of the old Geerdi Temple decay, new temple buildings are erected at the foot of the mountains. The temple builds itself out of its natural surroundings; its pine roofs providing shelter and warmth to aspirants. The extravagance of the temple architecture feels much more luxurious than the destitute living quarters of these young monks.”


“The charms of the Tibetan culture and landscape are enticing to all photographers and seem like an inexhaustible well of source material. But most of these photographs highlight the ritual or ceremonial aspects of the culture. We explore a foreign culture with curiosity, but does that mean we have nothing in common? The lives of these young monks are the same as those of any other child – full of color and vibrance. They have fun, and also experience sadness. What cannot be ignored is the contrast between the beauty of the natural landscape, and the destitute conditions of the people living there.”


Instagram: @ottmarwu


Contributor: George Zhi Zhao

Instagram: @ottmarwu


供稿人: George Zhi Zhao

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