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— by Ian Johnson: At night, a spotlight illuminates four huge characters on the front of the Great Temple of Promoting Goodness in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province in northwestern China: mi zang zong feng, “The Esoteric Repository of the Faith’s Traditions.” Twelve centuries ago, during China’s Tang dynasty, the temple was a center for spreading foreign ideas. Buddhist missionaries from India lived there, translating texts from Sanskrit into Chinese and advising emperors on their faith’s new ideas about life and society.
Today the temple is a tourist site. During the day visitors snap selfies and pray for good fortune; in the evening, it is dark except for the spot-lit characters. Across the street, though, the third-floor windows of a nondescript commercial building burn brightly, lighting up a sign with five English words: “I Know I Know Nothing.” …
Image courtesy of Magnum Photos/Sim Chi Yin
April 19, 2019