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Chinese Culture Around New York City

Essay by   •  February 12, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  3,965 Words (16 Pages)  •  1,909 Views

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As a New Yorker, it is very difficult for one to avoid the reality that we are indeed surrounded by Chinese culture. From Chinese take-out restaurants serving delicious Chinese food to entire Chinese communities such as the one in Chinatown, Chinese culture is all over the place. Chinese art, cuisine, religion, festivals, and more can all be experienced in one place. This is why New York is considered to be the cultural center of the world. People from all walks of life come to New York for various different reasons. In an attempt to experience Chinese culture first-hand, three places in the New York area come to mind.

First, there is the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET). It is located on 5th Avenue and 82nd Street, in the heart of Central Park. The MET exhibits collections of art from a variety of different cultures at different time periods. This includes a gallery of Asian art that displays Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and other types of Asian artwork from numerous time periods. The types of artwork that can be found in the museum include paintings, sculptures, antiques, scrolls and many other varieties.

The New York Chinese Scholar's Garden is another site that is filled with Chinese culture. Here, the visitor gets a great sense of Chinese architecture as they take a tour of a traditional Scholar's Garden that once existed as far back as 2,000 years ago in China. The New York Chinese Scholar's Garden is located within the Staten Island Botanical Gardens in Staten Island, New York.

The third location is a Chinese Buddhist Temple. There is an abundant amount of Buddhist Temples all across the five boroughs of New York City. A visit to a Chinese Buddhist Temple will expose the visitor to the essentials of Chinese religion. Buddhism spread into China during the Han Dynasty in year 1 A.D. and this lead to the development of Buddhist Temples in China.

The Mahayana Buddhist Temple

The best place to find Chinese Buddhist Temples in New York City would be in Chinatown. New York City's version of Chinatown is home to the largest concentration of Chinese people in the United States as well as the entire western hemisphere. There are many temples located in Chinatown. Some of the more popular temples include the Trans World Buddhist Association located on East Broadway, the Eastern States Buddhist Temple of America located on Mott Street, and the Mahayana Temple Buddhist Association located on Canal Street. The temple that I visited was the Mahayana Temple on Canal Street. I visited this temple as opposed to the other ones because of its outer architecture as well as its location. The Mahayana Temple is situated right off the Manhattan Bridge on the busy intersection of Canal and Bowery Street. It was the first temple I noticed as I drove through the Manhattan Bridge into Chinatown. The temple is easily noticeable because of its vibrant yellow outer coloring with doorways that are painted red and a balcony that can be seen from afar. From the outside, one can also see the writings on the upper-wall that says 'Mahayana Buddhist Temple' in English as well as in Chinese characters. These characters are painted in red over the yellow wall. There is also a green rooftop reminiscent of ancient Chinese rooftops that hover over the balcony underneath the inscriptions.

As I approached the temple, I saw a sculpture of a lion towards the left and the right of the doorway. The lion looked pretty intimidating. I think the lion was a symbol of protection. It served as a protector of the temple. Just as churches have gargoyles, the temple has a lion that can stand guard in front of the door and ward off evil spirits. As I walked passed the lion, the entrance into the temple becomes visible. The door was red with brass-like round objects placed symmetrically on the door. The doorknob was also brass-like and it maintains a long cylinder shape. There was also a red carpet on the floor just as you walk through the door.

After I walked through the door and into the temple, I felt very strange especially because it was my first time visiting a temple. But, the temple staff was standing right by the doorway and she greeted me in a warm and friendly manner. She told me to come in and make myself at home. I told her I needed to write about the artwork in the temple for a paper I had to do. In response, she said I was welcome to walk around and take a look. As I walked further inside passed the second set of doors, I had no idea what to expect. Inside the temple, there was a dim setting. The walls were unfurnished and painted in a light yellowish tint. I also noticed that there was a donation box towards the entrance of the temple. I was told that if I made a donation, I would receive a fortune in return. Further inside the temple, I saw an area with red cushions on the floor. The red cushions were positioned in rows. The cushions were used as a form of support for people to kneel down on and pray. In the front of the room, there was a statue of the Buddha. The Buddha looked like she was in the form of a woman. The Buddha was sitting positioned in a way where she had one knee pointing upwards while her other leg went underneath her knee. A few inches away from the Buddha, there was a jar. The jar had Chinese inscriptions written on it. After worshippers finished praying, they would walk up to the jar and place incense inside it and the jar would be used to burn the incense. It was called an incense jar. I guess this was why I smelled the aroma of incense when I entered the temple. Besides the statue of Buddha and the jars, there were also fruits and red envelopes in the surrounding area.

My visit to a Buddhist temple was a very pleasant and memorable experience especially because it was my first time walking into a Buddhist temple. I must admit that I was actually very timid about going inside because I was afraid that the people inside were going to force me to pray or do things that I was not accustomed to doing. The temple staff encouraged me to come in and I guess that eased my nervousness about going inside the temple.

The New York Chinese Scholar's Garden

The New York Chinese Scholar's Garden opened only a few years ago during the summer of 1999. The garden is the only authentic traditional Chinese garden to be built in the United States. The garden was constructed through the use of numerous architectural components. These architectural components include rocks, wood, doors, windows, bridges, columns, panels and an assortment of other materials. To preserve the authenticity of the garden, these materials were either taken or built in the Chinese city Suzhou and then shipped over to the United States. Today, the only scholar's garden in the United



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