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Cover

Kung Fu Panda? No! Meet Xian'er - a 60 centimeter robot monk. An ancient Chinese Buddhist temple is taking his help to disseminate wisdom.

Buddhism is about 2500 years old, but the religion seems to be adapting quite well to the modern era. The Longquan Temple in Beijing is spreading Buddhist teachings with the help of a cute, two-foot-tall monk. His purpose is to reach out to people who are more connected to their smartphones than their inner being.

Xian'er can chant mantras, answer 20 questions about the faith, and moves in seven different ways through voice command. It carries a small touch screen on its chest and can serve as a new way to connect with current and prospective Buddhists. The robot was developed by a tech company and artificial intelligence experts from a few of China's top universities, but the character of Xian'er was first designed by artists at the Comic Center for a 2014 Buddhist comic book series, whose first title was "Troubles Are Self-Made." The series has sold well in Chinese bookstores, and an English-language edition is due out soon.

Master Xianfan, Xian'er's creator said the robot monk was the perfect vessel for spreading the wisdom of Buddhism in China, through the fusion of science and Buddhism. The temple is already developing a new model of Xian'er, which it says will have a more diverse range of functions.

May 1, 2016 Living photo: Profimedia

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