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Did a buddhist monk help invent Wechat?

Longquan Temple's monks are not masters of kung fu but PhDs in computer science

01·03·2014

When one thinks of temples, one thinks of ancient history, rich religious traditions, beautiful architecture and, of course, monks. The Longquan Temple (Dragon Spring Temple) in Beijing, however, is probably the world’s most high-tech temple and it certainly has some of the world’s most tech-savvy monks. Chinese media Caijing reported on this geeky yet legendary temple, and even attributed the creation of the popular app WeChat to help from one of the monks.

The Longquan temple is located in northwest Beijing’s Haidian District and was founded in the Liao Dynasty. With over a thousand years of history, the temple is the stuff of legend. So legendary in fact, that they may have even helped invent WeChat. As an author from iheima wrote:

It is said that several years ago, the father of WeChat Zhang Xiaolong went to Longquan Temple in Beijing for a break, because questions concerning his idea for WeChat had long weighed on his heart. Bored, Zhang Xiaolong started chatting with the monk who swept in the temple, and discovered that he was knowledgeable about technology and product. After some chatting in depth, Zhao Xiaolong was astounded by the monk’s talent and knowledge, and modestly asked for his guidance. After seven days of retreat, Zhang returned to Shenzhen, and WeChat was finally born.”

This sounds incredible. But the credentials of some of the temple’s top monks are astounding: a PhD at the Institute of Biophysics of Chinese Academy of Sciences, a PhD of nuclear energy and thermal energy at Tsinghua University, a gold medal winner in the International Mathematical Olympiad. The cutting-edge monks at Longquan temple have embraced technology on all levels. The temple has a team that is dedicated to Information Technology, which develops software, engages in IT training, not to mention laboring in organic farms and going hiking. One of the monks, Master Xianxing is also a master of Linux and Mongodb, and manages all temple affairs digitally. The temple even has a database system that digitized all of its scriptures and books. When meditating, the monks are said to use electronic tablets instead of regular prayer books.

It is unclear why Master Xianxing decided to become a monk after graduating with a degree in Computer Science. After a few years working as a programmer, Master Xianxing became a monk in 2009, and single-handedly created the temple’s electronic reservation system for guest stays.

The information technology team at Longquan Temple also has a Weibo account, whose signature says: 穿越技术人生 探索终极价值 (going through tech life, in search ultimate value). The Temple also organizes an animation festival, and its Monastery Translation Centre co-hosts seminars for translators and interpreters.

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