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Sacred Toothbone Travels for Friendship
A sacred Buddha toothbone left Beijing yesterday as part of a 76-day trip for worship in Thailand.

The temporary enshrinement is to celebrate the 75th birthday of the Thai king and will last till March 1, making it the first country to which both the toothbone and a sacred fingerbone -- enshrined in the northwestern Chinese city of Xi'an -- have traveled.

The toothbone was moved from its permanent shrine in the Lingguang Temple in Beijing's western suburbs yesterday morning, witnessed by reverential monks and Buddhists chanting the sutra.

"In the some 1,500 years that the sacred tooth has been enshrined, it has only been worshipped by Buddhists in foreign countries five times," said Shenghui, vice-chairman of the Buddhist Association of China.

"There is what we call in Buddhism 'karma' between the people of China and Thailand."

He said the temporary enshrinement will further promote friendship between the two countries.

The sacred toothbone is from the founder of Buddhism, Sakyamuni, after his nirvana. Apart from the toothbone enshrined in Beijing, the other is kept in Sri Lanka.

Prior to Thailand, the bone had traveled to Myanmar three times, Sri Lanka and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

"The temporary enshrinement in Thailand of the sacred toothbone is a significant event for the friendly co-operation between the Chinese and the Thai governments and for Buddhist exchanges between the two countries," said Ye Xiaowen, director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs when meeting the press after signing an agreement with Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai on the temporary enshrinement on Saturday.

He was enthusiastically echoed by Surakiart, who was in Beijing to escort the sacred bone to Bangkok on the Thai prime minister's plane.

"No other event can leave a deeper impression on the people in Thailand of the friendship between the two countries than the temporary enshrinement of the sacred toothbone," Surakiart said.

According to Surakiart, a large-scale welcoming ceremony was scheduled at the airport that would be broadcast live on television. He also expected thousands of ardent Thai Buddhists to flank the road while the bone was being transported.

Encouraged by the enthusiastic response from Thai Buddhists, Ye, who also accompanied the bone to Thailand, said the visit would certainly not be the last for Sakyamuni's relics.

(China Daily December 16, 2002)

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