China's late leader Chairman
Mao is a legend with many legendary tells, one of them
was told by himself to his most trusted chief of security
guards, Li Yinqiao (李銀橋), on 9 April 1948, and later it
was recorded in Li's memoir published in 1989.
It is said that on a summer day in 1917 when Mao was just
a 24-year old student in Changsha, the capital of Mao's home
province Hunan, he took a bush walk with his friend Xiao
(蕭子升) and entered a Buddhist
temple on their way. During the visit, Mao intoned: "He
who can found pleasure in the hardship will be able to accomplish
great tasks. The ancient said before a Heavenly mandate falls
on the shoulder of a man, he will be put to various test
to see if he can endue spiritual torments and physical ordeals
When the abbot of
the temple heard what Mao intoned, he was quite taken and
closed his eyes to contemplate for a while. After he reopened
his eyes, the abbot urged Mao's friend Xiao to be immediately
ordained as a Buddhist
monk. Xiao refused. He had a high aspiration for life
and believed he had a mission for China.
The monk shook his head in pity, and said, "I'm afraid
if you don't find yourself a place in the monastery today,
you may find no place for you in China."
The monk then turned to Mao, "I have a question for
you. Please tell me why the Buddhism is
able to prosper in China for over two thousand years?"
"Because it has a large number of followers," replied
"Your answer is over simplistic." The monk wasn't
impressed by Mao's response. "The truth is, firstly,
it has provided an integrated philosophical system to explain
human conditions on earth and all occurrences in the universe;
and secondly, most Chinese
emperors in history had an inborn urge for probing into
deep spiritual meanings of life."
Mao snubbed. "I don't think that is their inborn urge,
but a realistic measure to serve their political objectives."
"Not so," the monk insisted. "Take the emperors
of Tang Dynasty: they honoured Confucian as
the king of all scholars,
crowned Laozi as the founder of Daoism and
sent Xuanzhuang to Indian to learn authentic
Buddhism. In doing so they've fostered an environment
that allows all three major teachings in China to coexist peacefully,
which is quite different from many other countries where
people suffer from constant and endless religious
Mao thought of that, and said, "Well, peaceful coexistence
for all teachings, which is not a bad thing for the nation."
"O Mi Tuo Fo," prayed the abbot, looking steadily
in the eye of Mao. "I hope you won't forget what you
Mao was puzzled. "What do you mean by that?"
The abbot lowed his eyes and returned to his meditation.
He said no more.
15 years later, Xiao fled China when he was charged with
crimes of stealing treasures from the Forbidden City and
died overseas; 32 years later, Mao became the supreme leader
Mysterious Number (1)