Robot monk helps spread Buddhism in China

He too wears a golden robe and sings chants.

Standing at just over half a metre tall, Xian’er is the product of a collaboration between Longquan temple on the outskirts of Beijing, a technology company and local universities specializing in artificial intelligence.

The robot is based on a character first designed by artists at the temple’s Comic Center for a 2014 Buddhist comic book series entitled ‘Troubles Are Self-Made’.

The idea is to help spread Buddhist teachings says its creator, Master Xianfan.

“This was originally the product of a combination of Buddhism and science. It shows that science and Buddhism are not opposites, but can be combined and are mutually compatible.”

Xian’er can move on command and hold simple conversations, answering questions like ‘What is love?’ and ‘‘What’s the meaning of life?’.

Introduced to the public last October, the robot already has quite a following on social media where he provides homilies and advice.

Visitors to the temple are under the charm.

“Traditionally, a temple is seen as a very serious place. But he comes in a very cute form, and it’s quite a contrast. It’s a cute contrast,” says one tourist.

“He looks really cute and adorable,” says another. “He’ll spread Buddhism to more people since they will think he’s very interesting, and he’ll make them really want to understand Buddhism.”

A new, smarter model is now in development, which the temple says will have a more diverse range of functions.


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