[photopress:travel_urumqi_1.jpg,full,alignright]On March 24 we ran a story on the BuddhaBus going from London to Urumqi in Xinjiang province. We queried at the time whether the name might cause offence to people of that religion.
An immediate response from Jack Phillips who runs the company. He said, inter alia,
I am the director of BuddhaBus Ltd. The company was featured on your website on Monday 10th March.
I am writing to inform you that we have responded to suggestions that the company name is inappropriate and insensitive. On reflection it seems shocking that none of us, nor any friends or family, were able to see this. With immediate effect we are changing the name of the company to ButterflyBus.
Our website is currently under development, and will relaunch this Wednesday, 12th March. We would like to apologise unreservedly for any offense caused by our use of the name. This was not our intention.
Which is the way to do it. See a problem, fix it and apologize.
The Guardian’s article by Benji Lanyado in response to this action is peculiar. Note that he may not be full time at The Guardian for he runs a blog which is called Benji’s Balls.
In The Guardian he wrote:
When Jack Phillips decided to name a new London to China bus The BuddhaBus, it appears that a line had been crossed. According to the China Economic Review, the name is ‘somewhat unfortunate (and possibly religiously offensive)’
Strangely, other ventures running within China itself seem not to care about the associations of branding Buddha within a country that is home to at least 100m Buddhists, or anywhere from 8% to 80% of the population, according to different sources. China-based duo FM3 juxtaposed ‘Buddha’ with the even more unlikely ‘Machine’ — The Buddha Machine is a small musical loop player launched last year. Elsewhere in the world, Buddha Bar is a swanky franchise, with branches in Paris, Dubai, Vienna, and a particularly popular one in, yes, Shanghai.
If a journalist cannot find a reasonable figure for the number of Buddhists in China there is something amiss. For The Guardian to run a story written by one of its travel journalists which says ‘anywhere from 8% to 80% of the population, according to different sources’ is Buddhist is pretty amazing and makes me weep for my profession.
A conservative estimate, based upon partial returns, makes the number of monks about 400,000 and that of nuns about 10,000. The impression among the Buddhists is that the number of monks is increasing. That is quite probable in view of the rebuilding and repairing which is now in progress. 1
The difficulty assessing how many Buddhists are living in China comes from the fact that many followers also follow other religions simultaneously.
A Chinese Buddhist forum (bskk.com) currently has over 30,000 registered members and almost 1 million posts, which is about triple the amount of the largest English language Buddhist forum.
From which we can take it there are a lot of Buddhists in China and a reasonable estimate would be in the several million.
Then there is the question of distance. The bus goes from London and terminates in Urumqi and this was clearly stated in the original story. What is acceptable in Shanghai may not be acceptable in other parts of the country.
The distance from Urumqi to Shanghai is 2,041 miles or 3,284 kilometers or roughly London to St Petersburg.
Urumqi is the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and the most ‘inland’ city in the world. Latest figures are that the population of Urumqi is 2,081,834 (now probably much higher) of which 70% are Han Chinese and, yes, a substantial proportion of them are Buddhists but will also follow other religions.
[photopress:travel_buddha_bar.jpg,full,alignleft]Finally Benji Lanyado is correct in writing there is a Buddha Bar in Shanghai. It is at 172 Maoming South Lu, near Fuxing Lu but, no, he is wrong, it is not part of a franchise. The picture on the left is of a customer doing her thing. And it is two thousand miles away from where the BuddhaBus (now the ButterflyBus) is going to stop and attitudes in the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai are very different from those in Urumqi.
The writer is not a Buddhist because he cannot accept the fact that in most versions of the religion women are born at a lower level than men. But he believes, with some certainty, that Benji Lanyado’s next incarnation will be as a flea in the anus of a dog.
Source of the Guardian bit