临时抱佛脚

Pronounced: línshí bào fó jiǎo
Literally: “to clasp the Buddha’s feet in one’s hour of need.”
Means: professing devotion only when in trouble; to desperately plea for help at the last minute; to make a frantic last minute effort (in lieu of proper preparation); what a lot of Chinese high school seniors (and their parents) are doing today and tomorrow as millions of Chinese students take the all-important gāokǎo (高考) — the college entrance examination. These are the two days of reckoning for which Chinese children sacrifice their childhoods to their studies.

“…parents were streaming into the vermilion gates of the temples, to burn incense and pray for good scores. (One friend told me today about a fellow mother who is so crazed that she has been visiting Catholic churches as well, just for good measure.) The city itself even got into the spirit, ordering drivers to avoid honking, which might disturb students, and, in some places, closing down Internet cafes in the days before, to encourage studying.”

See: Why Does China Go Nuts Over a Test? and Two Stressful Days for China’s College Hopefuls

3 thoughts on “临时抱佛脚”

  1. I’m afraid how Buddhism is now practiced in China has little to do with Buddhism as taught by the Buddha. The Buddha was a teacher not a God and if he has achieved Nirvana as is claimed, he nop longer exists as an entity that can help or save anyone. The Buddha taught how to overcome suffering and that the cause of suffering was desire and the way beyond suffering was to exstinguish the flames of desire. Basically, the Buddha’s teaching whether its taught in Tibet, Thailand, China and elsewhere is concerned with acheiving Buddhahood (Nirvana. In Chinese Buddhism, the Bodhisattavs are supposed to be able to help you as they have not yet achieved Nirvana and work to help all sentient beings are enlightened. So Chinese Buddhist might get help from Kwan Yin or Mi Lo Fo. As many Christians know, there religion is also seen by the ordinary Chinese follower as mainly a way of getting things rather than seeking a higher spiritual goal.

  2. Sounds like a common religious practice regardless of one’s profession (been there, done that). So much easier to rub the magic lamp than to surrender one’s whole life and maintain relationship. Far less reward though.

  3. The Chinese Buddhism we usually encounter seems a whole lot more Chinese than Buddhist; like it’s Chinese folk religion with some Buddhist window dressing. Then again, I’m not the authority on what is and isn’t “real” Buddhism. In Taibei I’d often ask my Taiwanese boss about the public religious practices we’d see every day (funerals, temple events, sidewalk offerings, etc.), whether they were Daoist or Buddhist, and he’d usually reply, “They don’t even know.”

    Apparently 10 million students took the gāokǎo this year. I’ve been reading that stat for the last couple days and my first reaction was “that’s all?” 10 million seems like such an insignificant number in China. And then I realized that’s about 1/3 the population of Canada! Can you imagine 1/3 of all Canadians doing something all at the same time (like voting, maybe)? 10 million is a lot of people! You can see some of the exam questions here, if your internet isn’t blocked.

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