Thursday, December 13, 2018

China, the birthplace of fake meat

As meat substitutes take off in the West, Fuchsia Dunlop lifts the lid on the ancient art of imitation

Fuchsia Dunlop | August/September 2018
The grand centrepiece of our lunch is a bowl of paddy eels in a sea of spicy oil thick with scorched chillies and Sichuan pepper. Around it lie a pot of red-braised beef and bamboo shoots, a deep-fried fish in chilli-bean sauce, stir-fried bacon with green peppers and several other local specialities. It looks like a typical Sichuanese meal, and it is – except that the food is entirely vegan. The “eels” are strips of shiitake mushroom that look and even feel in the mouth like the real thing; the brisketty slow-braised “beef” is fashioned from wheat gluten; the “fish” is a package of mashed potato in a tofu skin. It’s a satisfying and ingenious lunch, served in a restaurant at the Buddhist Temple of Divine Light just outside Chengdu, capital of the western province of Sichuan.
In the last few years there has been a rush in demand for vegan and vegetarian foods in Western countries. Much of it is coming from flexitarians – people who have not renounced meat completely but want to cut their consumption. To satisfy them, companies are developing products that look, taste and feel as close as possible to meat and dairy dishes – most famously a plant-based burger made by Impossible Foods that appears to bleed like a rare beef patty.

Amid this flurry of innovation in the West, it’s worth remembering that the Chinese have been using plant-based foods to mimic meat for hundreds of years. In the time of the Tang dynasty (AD618-907), an official hosted a banquet at which he served convincing replicas of pork and mutton dishes made from vegetables; in the 13th century, diners in the capital of the southern Song dynasty (Lin’an, now Hangzhou), had a wide choice of meat-free restaurants, including those that specialised in Buddhist vegetarian cuisine.

The tradition is still alive in contemporary China. In Shanghai, most delicatessens sell rolled-tofu “chicken” and roast “duck” made from layered tofu skin. Restaurants offer stir-fried “crabmeat”, a strikingly convincing simulacrum of the original made from mashed carrot and potato flavoured with rice vinegar and ginger. Elsewhere, Chinese food manufacturers produce a range of imitation meat and seafood products, including slithery “chicken’s feet” concocted from konnyaku yam and “shark’s fin” made from translucent strands of bean-thread noodle.

Such dishes are in part a reflection of a sophisticated food culture in which wit and playfulness have always been prized. Just as Heston Blumenthal, a British experimental chef, amused guests with a dessert that resembles an English breakfast, China has a tradition of dishes that pretend to be something they are not, such as edible calligraphy brushes, or a facsimile of tofu made from finely minced chicken breast and egg whites. In the Song dynasty, restaurants served not only vegetarian temple food, but imitations of pufferfish, soft-shelled turtle and roasted venison made from other ingredients that were not necessarily meat-free.

This elaborate trickery is found throughout Chinese society, but it is most strongly associated with Buddhist monasteries. Buddhist monks tend to live on a simple diet of grains, tofu and vegetables, but many larger institutions run vegetarian restaurants that cater for visitors. At weekend lunchtimes, the restaurant at the Temple of Divine Light is a clamour of customers tucking into a vegetarian homage to traditional Sichuan cooking.

In a private room hung with calligraphic artworks, a group of male friends (none of them vegetarian) were enjoying their meat-free Sunday lunch when I visited. “Before China’s reform and opening up, people couldn’t even eat their fill, so of course when meat became more widely available we wanted to gorge on it,” says businessman Chen Mingqing. “But after this period of indulging in rich food, China has reached a new level of culture and development. People want to eat more healthily and prolong their lives, so vegetarian eating is becoming more popular.” The temple’s restaurant, once frequented mainly by elderly Buddhists, now attracts a mixed crowd including many young people.

The restaurant’s imitation-meat ingredients are mostly concocted from konnyaku yam, gluten and various bean products, says head chef Du Mingxue, who stopped cooking meat 13 years ago. Some, like the sliced “bacon” (appropriately pink and white and umami-delicious) are laborious to make, so the restaurant buys them from specialist producers; others, like the eels, are made in situ. “Vegetarian cooking is actually more complicated than meat cooking,” says Du, “because we have to work harder to create umami tastes. Here, we make flavouring powders from dried mushrooms and stocks from peanuts, soybeans, potatoes and tomatoes.”

Because this is a Buddhist restaurant, the food is not only free of animal products, but also of the “five pungent vegetables” (wuhun) traditionally shunned by Buddhist monks because they are thought to inflame carnal passions. These include garlic and spring onions, though, happily for the Sichuanese, chillies and Sichuan pepper are alright.

There was no explicit prohibition on meat-eating in early Buddhism. In the religion’s early days in India, mendicant monks were expected to eat anything that was put into their begging bowls, as long as they didn’t suspect an animal had been slaughtered for their benefit. After Buddhism spread to China, however, abstention from meat became the norm in monasteries, especially under the influence of the 6th-century Emperor Wudi, a devout Buddhist who became a vegetarian on compassionate grounds. Although monks had no need to make their own vegetarian dishes resemble meat, Buddhist institutions had to entertain patrons and pilgrims who normally ate meat, so they devised creative vegetarian versions of classic banquet dishes such as roast meats and Dongpo pork.

Outside Buddhist monasteries, strict ideological vegetarianism (sushi zhuyi) or veganism is rare in China, but a more flexible, intermittent vegetarian eating (sushi) is deeply entrenched in Chinese food culture. Until recently, most Chinese people couldn’t afford to eat much meat anyway – and, with a few exceptions, dairy foods have been largely absent from Chinese diets. Although meat is adored and a feast without it is almost unthinkable, Chinese people typically eat far more vegetables and much less meat than is usual in the West. Meat, lard or stock are used in small quantities to enrich dishes that are otherwise vegetable-led. Tofu has never been stigmatised as a mere substitute for meat and is a central part of Chinese diets. Fermented bean products such as soy sauce can lend rich savoury tastes to vegetable dishes.

The Chinese have an intellectual tradition that favours vegetable eating as a wise and healthy counterpart to eating meat. Gluttonous consumption of meat has always been regarded as unhealthy. Men of letters have traditionally viewed carnivorous excess as vulgar or even depraved; Confucius is said to have eaten meat only in moderation. In the 17th century Li Yu, a writer, suggested that eating vegetables brought people closer to a state of nature: “When I speak of the Tao of eating and drinking, finely minced meat is not as good as meat in its natural state, and such meat is not as good as vegetables in terms of the closeness of each to nature.” A preference for wild foods, vegetables and modest consumption of meat has long been understood as a sign of cultivation.

A new generation of vegetarian restaurants is sprouting up outside monastic settings to feed the appetite for such cuisine. One of the most successful is Wujie (No Boundaries), a chain run by Y.B. Song, a Taiwanese businessman and vegetarian Buddhist who moved to Shanghai 25 years ago. He opened his first branch in 2011; his most glamorous restaurant, on the Shanghai Bund, has just won a Michelin star.

“I gave up meat 20 years ago as a religious offering when my mother fell ill with cancer,” says Song. “If you come to the realisation that your own life is connected to nature and to the lives of animals, you will naturally want to eat vegetarian food.” He reckons health concerns are the driving force behind the new fashion for vegetarian eating in China, rather than concerns about the environment or animal cruelty. Wujie’s nine branches run at different price points: the luxurious Shanghai Bund branch offers vegetarian banquets for around £60 to £70 per head ($80-$90).

“Many people think vegetarian food is bland,” says Song, “I want to surprise them with a really delicious food experience. I also want to show them that eating vegetarian food can be a positive and fashionable choice, not one born out of poverty.” His Bund branch offers several imitation-meat dishes, including a version of a Sichuanese classic “man-and-wife offal slices”, glossy with chilli oil and made with slices of king oyster and elm ear mushrooms that perfectly evoke the appearance and texture of the tripe and ox meat in the original dish. Song, however, has broken with Buddhist temple tradition by avoiding any reference to meat on the menu: this dish, for example, is just called “Sichuanese man-and-wife”.

“If the food is seriously delicious”, says Song, “you don’t have to pretend that it’s meat. But I don’t want to judge people for wanting to eat vegetarian food that resembles meat. Trying to broaden acceptance of vegetarian food is like jumping over a high wall: you have to do it in steps, and one step is to give people delicious and familiar dishes that just happen to be vegetarian.”

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Top Chinese Buddhist monk Xuecheng quits amid sex probe

Xuecheng stepped down from his post as president of the Buddhist Association of China. He is accused of sending explicit text messages to at least six women, threatening or cajoling them to have sex with him.PHOTO: REUTERS 

Aug 15, 2018, 2:01 pm SGT 

BEIJING (AFP) - The head of China's government-run Buddhist association quit his post on Wednesday (Aug 15) amid an investigation into allegations that he coerced several nuns into having sex with him.
Xuecheng, a Communist Party member and abbot of the Beijing Longquan Monastery, is one of the most prominent figures to face accusations in China's growing #MeToo movement.
In a 95-page report that circulated online late last month, two monks accused 51-year-old Xuecheng of sending explicit text messages to at least six women, threatening or cajoling them to have sex with him.
China's top religious authority launched an investigation shortly after the allegations were made public.
Xuecheng stepped down at a meeting of the Buddhist Association of China on Wednesday.
"The council accepted Xuecheng's resignation as president of the Buddhist Association of China," said a statement posted on Wednesday on the association's website.
It was tucked into a long report detailing a council meeting which neither elaborated on the abbot's reasons for quitting nor referred to the recent probe.
The same statement was also posted by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the government body overseeing religious groups.
A prominent personality in Chinese Buddhist life with a social media following of millions, Xuecheng's Twitter-like Weibo account has been silent since Aug 1, when he posted a statement rejecting allegations of sexual misconduct.
In their report, the two monks, who are no longer members of the monastery, said four women gave in to Xuecheng's demands.
One of the authors said on social media that he was compelled to speak out after the victims were ignored by the authorities, who said they could not investigate the matter.
The report and posts about it have been taken down or censored on social media.
There is no legal definition of sexual harassment in China and no national regulations on how to handle sexual assault cases in schools and workplaces.
The #MeToo movement ignited in China earlier this year, with more women starting to open up about sexual assaults, especially on university campuses.
Unlike in the West, where #MeToo has forced resignations and sparked widespread public debate, the authorities in China have sought to control the discussion, sometimes allowing and at other times censoring social media commentary.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Bring home a blessed Medicine Buddha

Medicine Buddha is the Buddha of healing and medicine in Mahayana Buddhism.
The practice of Medicine Buddha is a powerful method for healing and an antidote for overcoming all sickness and sufferings caused by greed, hatred and delusion..
The Medicine Buddha Sutra states:
“Wherever there are sentient beings who hold fast to the name of the Medicine Buddha and respectfully make offerings to him, whether in villages, towns, kingdoms or in the wilderness, we, the Twelve Generals, will all protect them. We will release them from all suffering and calamities and see to it that all their wishes are fulfilled.”



Medicine Buddha Statue 供奉药师琉璃光如来
Offering Payable 每尊: $108 数量有限, 欢迎预订
Reservation: Front Office | 6849 5333 | 9.00 am – 4 pm daily
Enquiry: Reception Office Tel: 6849 5300 | 8.30 am – 4.30 pm daily

Saturday, January 20, 2018

旺狗贺岁 欢乐祥瑞

闻钟声 烦恼轻 智慧长 菩提生

闻钟声 烦恼轻 智慧长 菩提生


                                               聆听新年钟声  祈祷世界和平  祝福合家安康

旺狗贺岁 欢乐祥瑞
询问:6849 5300 消灾祈福法会 | 海报
* 本寺将于除夕夜,晚上10时30分至初一下午2时提供面线汤享用

Sunday, December 31, 2017

CNY Vegetarian Steamboat and Yusheng

Usher in an auspicious year of the Dog at KMSPKS!
Let us extend our compassion and love for all beings by celebrating this festive period with healthy and delectable vegetarian dishes.
Our yummy vegetarian steamboat and Yusheng will be available from 10th February onwards.

Ru Yi Vegetarian Yusheng
Dates: 10 Feb ~ 2 Mar 2018
Time: 9.30 am – 2.30 pm
A: $48.00  For 8 to 10 pax
B: $30.00  For 4 to 6 pax
Takeaway available
Venue: Ven Hong Choon Memorial Hall | Level 2 | (Dining Hall)
Enquiry / Reservation Hotline: 6849 5333 | Poster
Reservations are on a first-come-first-served basis. Please book in advance at our Front Office.

Ji Xiang Vegetarian Steamboat
Dates: 10 Feb ~ 2 Mar 2018
Due to monastery events, reservation will not be accepted on the following days:
• 12 Feb* Only for Vegetarian Yusheng takeaway )
• 18 Feb
• 25 Feb
• 10.30am ~ 12.00pm
• 12.30pm ~ 02.00pm
Cost: $168 Vegetarian Steamboat & Yusheng – each table can accommodate up to 8 persons.
Venue: Ven Hong Choon Memorial Hall | Level 2 | (Dining Hall)
Enquiry / Reservation Hotline: 6849 5333 | Poster
Reservations are on a first-come-first-served basis. Please book in advance at our Front Office.

Lunar New Year Wish-fulfilling Lanterns 2018

Light a Wish-fulfilling Lantern and usher in the Year of the Dog with blessings of health and prosperity for you and your family!

Wish-Fulfilling Lanterns
Date: 15 Feb ~ 2 Mar 2018
Lantern Categories:
Company/Family: $ 3 3 8 (per lantern)
Displayed at the Hall of Universal Brilliance
Individual/ Family: $ 5 0 (per lantern)
Displayed at the Hall of Great Compassion
Wish-fulfilling Lantern Blessing Session for Donors:
Date: 22 Feb 2018
Time: 10am ~ 11.30am
Venue: Hall of Great Compassion
To Register:
• From 1 Dec 2017 onwards
• Front Office @ KMSPKS | 9.00am – 4.00pm
Enquiry: 6849 5333 | Poster

Usher in 2018 with the annual 108 “Bell Resonance”

Kick-start 2018 on a virtuous and auspicious note!
Join us in our prayers and offerings with wholesome aspirations for the new year.
Welcome the new year in a heightened state of mindfulness, as you calm and purify your mind by listening to the 108 deep resonance of the bell.
By the blessing of the Triple Gem, may the hearts and minds of all beings be attuned to the sublime Dharma.

31.12.2017 (Sunday)
Aspiration Lamp Offering
Behind Hall of Great Compassion | 10 pm
Bell Resonance 108 Times
Behind Hall of Great Compassion | 12 am (New Year’s Day)
Recitation of The 88 Great Buddha Names & The Great Repentance Ceremony
Hall of Great Compassion | 12.30 am (New Year’s Day)

01.01.2018 (Monday)
Offering to the Heavenly Realms | Hall of Great Compassion | 6 am
Alms Offering to the Sangha | Hall of Great Compassion | 8 am
The Grand Diamond Gem Repentance Ceremony | Hall of Great Compassion | 1:30 pm
2015 Alms Offering to the SanghaAlms Offering to the Sangha
Dining Hall | 11.30 am

Enquiry: 6849 5300 | POSTER

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

2018 Alms & Sangha’s Offering

According to the Sutra of Generosity, one grows in beauty, strength, longevity, happiness and eloquence by making offerings to the Triple Gem. Offering alms to the Sangha is a meritorious act as it allows the monastics to concentrate on their learning, practising and sharing of the Buddha’s teachings.
You can choose from various offering packages or make monetary donations at our Front Office. All donations will be utilised for the building and funding of the Buddhist College of Singapore.

Alms Offering
Date: 1st January 2018 | Monday
Time: 8.00 am – 10.00 am
Venue: Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery | Hall Of Great Compassion
Sangha’s Offering
Date: 1st January 2018 | Monday
Time: 11.30am – 12.00pm
Venue: Venerable Hong Choon Memorial Hall | Level 2 | Dining Hall
Enquiries: 6849 5333 | Poster
Alms Offering to the Sangha 2013
The Meaning of Alms Offering to the Sangha
The Meaning of Alms Offering to the Sangha

Packages of Alms & Sangha’s Offering
Offering Details
    (Food and Medication)
Redemption of Alms Offerings:
1st January 2018 | 6:30 am – 9:00 am


Ven Hong Choon Memorial Hall | Level 1 & Level 4 (Hall of No Form)
Redemption of Sangha’s Offerings:
1st January 2018 | 9:00 am – 10:30 am


Ven Hong Choon Memorial Hall | Level 2 | (Dining Hall)
    (Daily Necessities)
Redemption of Sangha’s Offerings:
1st January 2018 | 9:00 am – 10:30 am


Ven Hong Choon Memorial Hall | Level 2 | (Dining Hall)
Kindly register and purchase the listed packages at our Front Office. Please produce your official receipt on 1 Jan 2018 to redeem the purchased packages at the stated time and venue.
Please call 6849 5333 should you have further inquiries.

NEWS (Straits Times): 28 Nov 2017

Prominent monk sued by devotee seeking return of A$240,000 'study grant'

Venerable Guojun (pictured, in 2016), the former abbot of Mahabodhi Monastery, is being sued over a sum of money given to him by a businessman.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO 
Nov 28, 2017, 7:07 pm SGT

SINGAPORE - A Buddhist devotee told the High Court on Tuesday (Nov 28) that he gave A$240,000 to a prominent monk in 2010 to pursue a doctoral degree but Venerable Guojun used part of the money to buy property in Australia instead.

Ven Guojun, the former abbot of Mahabodhi Monastery, bought a A$545,000 one-bedroom apartment in Sydney, two months after businessman Lee Boon Teow made full payment of the "study grant". The property was sold in June (2017) for A$810,000.

Mr Lee, who is also a trustee and a former management committee member of the monastery in Bukit Timah, was testifying on the second day of a trial that started on Monday.

He has sued Ven Guojun for the return of the A$240,000, contending that he had advanced the money to the monk to study for a doctorate in Australia.

As the monk never pursued doctoral studies, he was entitled to get back his money, argued Mr Lee, who is represented by lawyer William Koh Hai Keong.

"We trusted him because as a man (who has) renounced all worldly possessions, integrity forms the basic principle of his life. We gave him money for studies so he must use that money for that purpose," Mr Lee said when cross-examined by Ven Guojun's lawyer, Mr Joseph Liow.

Mr Lee said he was unhappy with the monk for his "integrity issues".

"You can't be a monk in the day and a metrosexual at night," he said in Mandarin, in a reference to photographs taken last year of Ven Guojun in sports attire at the Marina Bay Sands hotel with a friend.

In his lawsuit, Mr Lee said Ven Guojun had asked him for the money in 2010 to enable him to obtain his PhD.

Mr Lee said he first handed over A$40,000 in cash, followed by a transfer of A$200,000 to the monk's bank account in Australia in April 2010.

He said he found out in June 2015 that Ven Guojun had bought an apartment in Sydney. The sale was completed in June 2010, shortly after the bank transfer.

Mr Lee said based on the monk's bank statements, the money he had transferred was ultimately used to purchase the property.

From the bank statements provided by Ven Guojun, Mr Lee concluded that the monk had amassed a fortune of at least A$3 million by 2009. This figure was derived from calculations based on dividend payments credited into the account.

Ven Guojun acknowledges that he had received A$199,979 from Mr Lee but denies he had agreed to use the money solely for the the purpose of doctoral studies.

The monk contends that the money had been given to him as a gift for his own use, in a Buddhist practice known as "dana". Ven Guojun contends that Mr Lee had given him the money to thank him for blessing his construction business and for marriage counselling.

But Mr Lee counters that he was not facing any marital crisis that required marriage counselling; neither did his business "turn around" as a result of Ven Guojun's prayers, as the monk claims.

Mr Lee is calling his wife as a witness to testify on the marriage counselling claims.

The president of the Singapore Buddhist Federation is lined up to testify for Mr Lee on various issues including the meaning of dana and a monk's attitudes towards worldly possessions. Venerable Kwang Phing is expected to take the stand on Wednesday (Nov 29).

This is the second of three legal disputes brought by Mr Lee against Ven Guojun. A defamation suit arising from a Buddhist sculpture was settled last month. Another defamation suit is pending.