“7 Days in Bailin Temple”
7 Days in Bailin Temple is a 40-minute documentary about five young students’ soul-changing experience while participating in a Zen group training program.
The story takes place in Bailin Temple, one of the foremost Zen temples in China with over 1,700 years of history. For the past 23 years, every summer there has been a Life Zen Camp, where hundreds of college students from around the world receive seven days of Life Zen training.
The documentary starts with the troubles of five students.
23-year-old Liu Shuai, as his name suggests (“shuai” means “handsome” in Mandarin Chinese), is an attractive young man. He just graduated from the University of Oxford with a Master's degree in Finance and has found an enviable job in the UK. It’s hard to imagine any worries would occur with the seemingly successful Liu Shuai.
Li Shuang is a top student at the prestigious Beijing Foreign Studies University. Her career goal is to become a diplomat, even the interpreter for the Premier. When her sweet first love met her mother's strong opposition, she suffered for 3 years, having to choose either love or family kinship.
Beautiful 26-year-old female, PhD candidate, Shi Chenxi, has succumbed to anxiety due to the monotony of lab research. She feels guilty for her emotional state, often taking her anger out on her mother; another girl, Chen Huan, is deeply depressed because of the confrontational relationship between her and her father.
Just like everyone in life, students who come to the Life Zen Camp have their own troubles and conundrums. They are eager to find answers through Zen training.
At Bailin Temple, the students experience the monastic life of the monks. Waking at 4am, it’s a sixteen hour day, during which they attend classes, chant, meditate, and listen to scriptures. Routine participation in dish washing and manual labor is a prerequisite. And here, mobile phones and internet access are a no-no; it’s almost total isolation.
Seven days, for most people is just an ordinary week. However, for these students, it is a rebirth experience. What happens during these seven days that their hearts experience such regeneration?
“7 Days in Bailin Temple” is the unique expression from five students who travel through a process of transformation, from confusion to the consciousness of the conscious process of change, highlighting the wisdom of Zen. Meanwhile, this documentary also reflects the spiritual circumstances of young Chinese people, as well as their perspective on religious beliefs.
In China, where religion is not totally open, this story presents a rarely seen, hidden-from-view, insight into the minds of China’s young people. “7 Days in Bailin Temple” provides audiences exclusive footage into the world of Chinese modern-day spirituality.
"7 Days in Bailin Temple" is presented by China Publishing Group Kunlun Media and BON Group. Both companies are leading media networks in China.
The "Life Zen Summer Camp" is a noteworthy event. It takes place in Bailin Temple, an ancestral hall of Zen Buddhism. The event has been carried out for twenty-three consecutive years. Each summer, hundreds of young students come here from all over the world for seven days of Zen training. The mindsets of many have been changed ever since.
Although Buddhism is historically one of the central pillars of the traditional Chinese culture and value system, in today's China, religious beliefs remain distant, and even a taboo to many. The spirit of Buddhism does not play its due role here. Reflecting on this situation, the esteemed contemporary monk, Master Jing Hui, first proposed the "Life Zen" concept in the early nineties of the last century. In this way, he tries to introduce highbrow Zen practice into the daily lives of the everyday people, therefore imparting the practice of Zen wisdom using common language in an accessible manner. This is what Master Jing Hui phrased as “Zen in daily life, and daily life in Zen.”
Master Jing Hui founded the Life Zen Summer Camp in Bailin Temple in 1993 and strives to instill a Zen life among college students. The event has been held non-stop for twenty-three years. Following the steps of Master Jing Hui, his successor, Master Ming Hai, the current Abbot of Bailin Temple, continues to unswervingly promote the Life Zen Summer Camp.
Many college students have become enlightened at the Life Zen Summer Camp. Some realized the true meaning of life; some found the destination of their soul; with the ability and wisdom achieved, some managed to solve their concerns and troubles in work and life. These stories are worth being shared more widely.
In a fast-changing era with dichotomous thinking and complicated social problems, many young people, and even some middle-aged and elderly people, are often caught in mental dilemmas, experiencing confusion, frustration, anxiety, and fear... In a country where Buddhism was once prevalent, faith called for by many has quietly returned to the hearts of some Chinese people.
The producers of this documentary try to tap the practical significance of the Life Zen Summer Camp. However, it does not introduce the Life Zen Summer Camp directly. Instead it shows the practical effects of Life Zen by telling the stories of a few students and displaying the changes happening to them through seven days of Zen practice.
The documentary has followed and recorded the whole process of the innermost changes the five students experienced in seven days. They became conscious of their concerns, desired to seek relief, practiced Zen meditation, and finally awakened to their true selves. The film does not aim for pretentious novelty, or playing to the gallery. It purely focuses on the common concerns or problems anyone may encounter, thus resonating with the audience and inspiring more people to think about life and seek enlightenment. The producers also hope that this video can be distributed to help more people understand Life Zen. In this way, the wisdom of Zen, accumulated over more than two thousand years, can reach sentient beings more widely.