A Buddhist temple on the outskirts of Beijing has decided to ditch traditional ways and use technology to attract followers.
Longquan temple says it has developed a robot monk that can chant Buddhist mantras, move via voice command, and hold a simple conversation.
Named Xian’er, the 60-cm (2-foot) tall robot resembles a cartoon-like novice monk in yellow robes with a shaven head, holding a touch screen on his chest.
Xian’er can hold a conversation by answering about 20 simple questions about Buddhism and daily life, listed on his screen, and perform seven types of motions on his wheels.
Master Xianfan, Xian’er’s creator, said the robot monk was the perfect vessel for spreading the wisdom of Buddhism in China, through the fusion of science and Buddhism.
“Science and Buddhism are not opposing nor contradicting, and can be combined and mutually compatible,” said Xianfan.
Under the careful watch of China’s officially atheist Communist Party, religion has slowly crept back into daily life since reforms got going several decades ago.
Xianfan said Buddhism filled a gap for people in a fast-changing, smart-phone dominated society.
“Buddhism is something that attaches much importance to inner heart, and pays attention to the individual’s spiritual world,” he has told International media channel Reuters.
“It is a kind of elevated culture. Speaking from this perspective, I think it can satisfy the needs of many people.”
The little robot monk was developed as a joint project between a technology company and artificial intelligence experts from some of China’s top universities.