A temple mascot is catching the eye and the hearts of both young and old temple goers in Longquan Temple, Beijing, China.
The 60-centimeter (or two feet) tall Xian'er is developed by Master Xianfan, with the help of a team of volunteers. Master Xianfan said he wants to use the robot to reach the younger generation and introduce Buddhism. He wants to show that Buddhism and science can coexist.
Xian'er is dressed in a yellow robe, resembling a Buddhist monk. He has been programmed to answer at least 100 questions. He has been an Internet sensation ever since its debut at the Ghuangzhou Animation Festival on Oct 4, 2015.
Master Xianxun, another Buddhist monk at the temple admits that Xian'er attracts attention because of its novelty. He pointed out that it encouraging people to get connected to Buddhism using a white sheet of paper takes time. In order to introduce people, "they need to get interested in the first place."
Visitors from all around the country wanted to buy one Xian'er, but Xianfan says that there is only one robot monk in the temple and they don't have any plans on commercializing it.
The creation of Xian'er is just one of the efforts of the temple to promote Buddhism to the technology-loving youth. Longquan Temple also released cartoon series starring Xian'er titled "Trouble, you seek for yourself" in Oct. 2015. So far, the incorporation of technology and Buddhism is doing a good job.
The cartoon series have attracted over hundred million views on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform.
Another initiative is the release of comic books with the same brand of wisdom as Xian'er.
It is quite surprising that the monks in the temple are educated, having backgrounds in aerospace, technology, mathematics, engineering, finance and medical science. Perhaps it is a strong move to convert some of China, a largely atheist country, into Buddhism.