After a fascinating hour or so exploring the temples, inhaling incense smoke, trying out the knee cushions, and sipping tepid tea, we finally decide to explore the temple’s gift shop.
The little gift shop is proof that tourists are more than welcome here. Idly, I browse the merchandise, glossing over the typical orientalia kitsch of souvenir keychains, bagua mirrors, car hangings, jade bracelets, ceramic cats.
On a middle shelf though, I gasp when I see all these little buddhas reclining, as if in the midst of a particularly involving chat fest. If I may be so irreverent, I think they’re very cute. A buddha posse was all shiny smiles and pink cheeks.
One was even chugging a gourd of wine (I assume), another had a fan in hand, all had rotund bellies and gleaming pates. All were adorable.
There were buddhas of all sizes, some with their plump arms raised to present gold containers, presumably to stand for wealth. I remember a friend telling me once about rubbing the buddha’s tummy for good luck. Sounds about right, don’t you think?
I’ve always been fascinated by Buddhism, it seems to engender a very zen and tranquil outlook in life. Come to think of it, that must be why I’ve never seen a cross-looking buddha. They’re always the same, with the happy pink-cheeked smiles, the seemingly contented swell to the belly, the peaceful, tolerant expression.
My cousin shook his head at my squeals of delight, thinking they were not at all temple-appropriate. He then asked me if I’m buying any of the buddhas. I was sorely tempted, and for a long time, my hand wanted to grab the chubby little fellow who was guzzling wine like there was no tomorrow.
In the end though, reason won out and since I know I cannot honor Buddha with my faith, I chose to leave the adorable figurines for the truly devout.
I went home instead, with a pretty blue-and-yellow teacup with strainer—like the crass, commercialized, faithless little tourist that I am.