Daniel Paul, Shanghaiist: The future has landed in the form of a chubby robot monk unveiled at Beijing’s Dragon Spring Temple earlier this week. Developed with the help of artificial intelligence experts, “Xian’er” is able to sense his surroundings and answer deep questions about Buddhism.
He is already known as the young and affable main protagonist of an animated cartoon series developed by Longquan Comic and Animation Group. The short stories he stars in are created by monks and volunteers and dispense little nuggets of Buddhist wisdom in an easy to understand and relatable way.
Their aim is to engage with new and contemporary audiences, continuing a trend by the Longquan Temple to take a modern approach to promoting Buddhism, including through social media. The temple’s Master Xuecheng was the first monk on the Chinese mainland to start a blog, and in a similar fashion the tech savvy Xian’er has done away with traditional educational materials, clutching a snazzy iPad-like device instead (albeit with a slightly bewildered expression).
Already in China, robots are being used to serve customers at restaurants and apologize for Japan’s misdeeds, it was only a matter of time before they began to ponder human religion and meaning.
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