WTF Fun Fact 12899 – China Bans Reincarnation

According to the Chinese government, any Tibetan monk needs government permission to reincarnate. The goal of this law, according to foreign policy and religious experts alike is to ensure that the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, reincarnates inside of China’s borders so they can control his actions.

How did China ban reincarnation?

The current Dalai Lama is considered a threat to the Chinese government and its claim to Tibet. Despite the fact that the Chinese government is atheist by nature and its officials are not allowed to practice religion, they still want to regulate what they consider to be Tibetan “separatists” in the form of Buddhist monks. So they rubber-stamped legislation that tries to interfere with the spiritual leadership of the region.

In 2007, the legislation insisted that monks must have “recognition from the religious world and the temple” to reincarnate. “The selection of reincarnates must preserve national unity and solidarity of all ethnic groups, and the selection process cannot be influenced by any group or individual from outside the country,” it says.

That might sound non-controversial at first glance, but the Chinese government has published an official registry of “licensed Buddhas” (monks who have achieved the highest place in the Buddhist religion) along with their recognized temple and an ID card number. The goal is to use the database to recognize only certain monks who tow the party line. The Chinese government says that “fake living Buddhas” are the reason behind the action.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, and other Tibetan Buddhist monks pose a threat to the government with their desire for an autonomous Tibet, so they are not on the list.

In other words, if the Dalai Lama wants to reincarnate, he’ll have to do it within Chinese borders and be on the list in order to be recognized as the new, reigning Dalai Lama. Of course, the current Dalai Lama has refused to be reincarnated within Chinese borders, so we’ll likely see two Dalai Lamas when Tenzin Gyatso passes away – one recognized by China and one recognized by most of the rest of the world.

The reaction to the reincarnation law

In 2011, the Dalai Lama called the country’s reincarnation laws “outrageous” and “disgraceful,” saying “The enforcement of various inappropriate methods for recognizing reincarnations to eradicate our unique Tibetan cultural traditions is doing damage that will be difficult to repair.”

The Dalai Lama currently can’t return to Tibet or China and monks have protested this for decades. According to the LA Times (cited below): “More than 140 people in Tibet and neighboring provinces have burned themselves to death since 2009 as a grim protest against Chinese rule; many have called for the Dalai Lama’s return as they went up in flames.”

The newspaper also noted that, in 2016, “Baima Chilin, deputy Communist Party chief of the region, said that the Dalai Lama was ‘no longer a religious leader’ after he left Tibet in 1959. ‘If the Dalai Lama wants to return to China, he must give up ‘Tibet independence,’ and must publicly acknowledge Tibet and Taiwan are inseparable parts of China and that the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government.'”

There’s no chance of that happening.  WTF fun facts

Source: “In China, the state decides who can come back from the dead” — LA Times

WTF Fun Fact 12725 – Ancient Stone Pillows

It’s hard to find a good pillow. And while some of us like our pillow firm, it would take a major adjustment to sleep like ancient Mesopotamians and Egyptians (well, in more ways than one, I suppose).

Here’s one of the most famous pillows in history, brought to you from Egypt King Tut’s tomb:

One of 8 headrests found in Tutankhamun’s tomb. The god of air, Shu, is carved in ivory. The piece resides in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

It’s beautiful, but it lacks the kind of functionality we typically look for today.

Until the Industrial Revolution, pillows weren’t even a household object. Yes, some ancient Greeks and Romans did stuff straw in cloth to lay their heads on, but a pillow is also a symbol of having excess lying around to use for more practical purposes. However, we can credit the Greeks with bringing us closer to the era of the soft pillow.

However, in ancient Mesopotamia, China, and Egypt, wealthy people would elevate their heads on “pillow” made of stone (or ivory – or another luxury material). They were designed to keep insects out of their ears, noses, and mouths – and probably to maintain a good hairstyle every now and then.

We’ve also found some pillows that are beautifully engraved with messages about keeping away bad spirits as well, but it’s unclear how those would be fooled by an elevated head. Still, it gives us a good idea of what ancient people were concerned about when they laid down their heads at night.  WTF fun facts


WTF Fun Fact 12685 – A Pristine Forest In A Sinkhole

But there are 30 giant sinkholes throughout China, and explorers who rappelled down into one of them in May of 2022 discovered that nature was hiding something from us – a pristine, ancient forest. In fact, we know so little about this ecosystem that it would very well harbor wildlife we’re never seen before!

The sinkhole is 630 feet deep, 1,004 feet long, and 492 feet wide. Some of the trees inside the sinkhole are 130 feet tall!

While he was not involved in the expedition, George Veni, the executive director of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI) in the U.S, told Live Science more about these features:

“The discovery is no surprise, Veni told Live Science, because southern China is home to karst topography, a landscape prone to dramatic sinkholes and otherworldly caves. Karst landscapes are formed primarily by the dissolution of bedrock, Veni said. Rainwater, which is slightly acidic, picks up carbon dioxide as it runs through the soil, becoming more acidic. It then trickles, rushes and flows through cracks in the bedrock, slowly widening them into tunnels and voids. Over time, if a cave chamber gets large enough, the ceiling can gradually collapse, opening up huge sinkholes.”

He also said China was an ideal place to find sinkholes with something worthwhile inside: “So in China you have this incredibly visually spectacular karst with enormous sinkholes and giant cave entrances and so forth. In other parts of the world you walk out on the karst and you really don’t notice anything. Sinkholes might be quite subdued, only a meter or two in diameter. Cave entrances might be very small, so you have to squeeze your way into them.” 

The sinkhole is located in a UNESCO world heritage location in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, near Ping’e village in the county of Leye.

While we don’t usually think of sinkholes as harboring anything special, this one surely did. These giant sinkholes are called a “tiankeng” in Mandarin, meaning “heavenly pit.” –  WTF fun fact

Source: “Giant sinkhole with a forest inside found in China” — Live Science