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Buddhist temple offers e-blessing service in China

Cashing on the rapid spread of internet, a famous Buddhist temple in China has started offering e-blessing service to avoid lengthy queues.

Guiyuan Temple in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, encourages people to send text messages rather than burn incense to say their prayers, state-run China Daily reported.

The temple, in cooperation with the Hubei branch of China Mobile, a leading Chinese telecom operator, offers a service of blessings sent by text messaging. The sender writes the text of the blessing and includes the cell phone number of the receiver. China Mobile forwards the blessing to the receiver.

From 8 am to 5 pm, local time, the messages are shown on an LED board at the southwest corner of the temple. Monks later chant prayers for the senders and receivers.

Guiyuan Temple, built in 1658, is in an urban part of Hanyang district surrounded by residential blocks. In the past two weeks, the crowds of visitors grew, peaking at 360,000 on January 27 during the Chinese New Year.

In 2010 during the same celebration, six lakh people visited the temple. Over 4000 policemen have to be deployed to control them.

This year, although the ticket price had doubled from 10 yuan (USD 1.60) a person to 20 yuan during Spring Festival, masses of visitors kept pouring in.

"This go-green initiative is the first of its kind among Buddhist temples in China. It helps reduce the size of crowds during peak seasons and lowers the risk of stampedes and fires," Han Xue, a Buddhist who works at Guiyuan Temple said. A message with eight or fewer characters costs 3 yuan, and longer ones of up to 20 characters cost 10 yuan.

Normally, text messages cost no more than 0.15 yuan. More than 30,000 people have already tried the service. The only roadblock is that they have to be China Mobile subscribers with phone numbers in Hubei province to avail the services.

Yang Guo, an employee at the Hubei branch of China Mobile who oversees the service, said more than 1,000 text messages were sent each day in the past two weeks, adding that the service will remain available after Spring Festival.

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