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Buddhist temple offers e-blessing service

By Guo Rui and Li Yao (China Daily)

09:00, February 09, 2012

Tens of thousands of people go to pray and burn incense at Yonghe Lama Temple in Beijing during Lantern Festival, which fell on Monday this year. (China Daily / Cui Meng)

China Mobile, monks offer text-messaged prayers for fee

WUHAN - A famous Buddhist temple in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, encourages people to send text messages rather than burn incense to say their prayers.

"This go-green initiative is the first of its kind among Buddhist temples in China. It helps reduce the size of crowds during peak seasons and lowers the risk of stampedes and fires," said Han Xue, a lay Buddhist who works at Guiyuan Temple in Wuhan, which has hundreds of thousands of visitors during Spring Festival.

Guiyuan Temple, built in 1658, is in an urban part of Hanyang district surrounded by residential blocks.

In the past two weeks, the crowds of visitors grew, peaking at 360,000 on Jan 27, the fifth day of the first month in China's lunar calendar, celebrated as the birthday of the God of Fortune, when people traditionally worship at temples and pray.

In 2010 during that celebration, 600,000 people went to the temple, and Wuhan authorities dispatched 4,000 police officers in case of fires, stampedes and traffic jams.

This year, although the ticket price had doubled from 10 yuan ($1.60) a person to 20 yuan during Spring Festival, masses of visitors kept pouring in.

Li Xiaobo, 31, came with his wife from Guizhou province to see relatives in Jingzhou, a city in Hubei about 220 km from Wuhan. They heard of Guiyuan Temple and wanted to see it for themselves.

The temple, in cooperation with the Hubei branch of China Mobile, a leading Chinese telecom operator, offers a service of blessings sent by text messaging.

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