Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Buddha Box

A friend from America recently asked me to get him a Buddha Box. What a cool name, in Chinese it's called a prayer reading machine, and that's just what it is: a cheap plastic device that plays out one of several Buddist chants through an internal speaker or headphone jack. Here's a ten second video of the song one of them plays:

The Buddha boxes are for sale alongside Changde Lu, a little north of Beijing Lu, they cost from one to four dollars. There's a Buddhist Monastery there, although it's generally closed for visitors.

I remember there's also a lot of religious shops near the Jade Buddha Temple. There aren't these kind of shops right near Jing'an Si, though, maybe it just doesn't fit the image. Plastic Buddha icons take up most of the store, the Buddha Boxes are in a shelf on the right.

There's other stores nearby that have cooler Buddha Boxes. But I did like this other blue Buddha Box, mostly because it's cheap and about the size of a pager (remember those?).

It all sounds pretty inoffensive and maybe even interesting, until one realizes these walkman-like machines only have a few loops that are only about a minute long, or even a few seconds! To wit, the lady who lives upstairs from me used to just blast the music out. It was definitely annoying, but she would quit it after fifteen minutes or so, and I just laughed it off.

Then one fateful day she had been listening for a long time, and I was having a lingo teacher come over to my apartment. I went up to complain, it was an old lady, she only spoke Shanghai dialect - Shangainese is about as related to Mandarin as Spanish is to French. While I'm an incredibly kind person, I think the experience intimidated her a little, and I haven't heard her play the chanting since then. I feel kind of bad, it's probably not doing her karma any good.

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