Ageing monk's devotion leaves deep mark on temple

Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:32pm EST
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By Max Duncan

TONGREN, China (Reuters Life!) - Dawn has yet to break over a small temple in a Tibetan region of western China, but monk Hua Chi is already finishing an arduous daily ritual that has left its mark on both the man and the shrine.

Hua, also a doctor of traditional medicine who believes he is about 70 years old, has been performing a strict daily ritual at this temple in the monastery town of Tongren, in Qinghai province, for nearly 20 years.

He has knelt in prayer so many times that his footprints remain deeply, perfectly ingrained on the temple's wooden floor.

Every day before sunrise, he arrives at the temple steps, places his feet in his footprints and bends down to pray a few thousand times before walking around the temple.

The footprints are three centimeters (1.2 inches) deep where the balls of his feet have pressed into the wood.

But the years are beginning to make their own mark on his body.

"During the first years I would pray 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. But I have grown older, so in recent years I have only done around 1,000 each day," he said, adding sheepishly that he could sometimes only manage around 500 in the cold of winter.

The ritual started with no specific aim, but with time it has turned into a project of self-salvation, said Hua, who hopes his dedication will be noticed and guarantee his soul a smooth transition to the afterlife.   Continued...

<p>The feet of monk Hua Chi are seen close to the footprints made by him by praying at the same spot for decades, at a monastery near Tongren, Qinghai province February 25, 2009. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause</p>