The Chinese Culture of releasing life or releasing animals (Fang Sheng) has a long history.
The Chinese Emperor Tang Suzhong was the first emperor to practice the releasing of animals in a large scale.
He ordered the creations of ponds and lakes for the purpose of releasing animals. He designated a total of 81 ponds and lakes in the country for the sole purpose of releasing life.
Emperor Tang Suzhong lived about 1,300 years ago.
This culture became an established culture in the Ming dynasty. People bought land, dug ponds for the sake of releasing fish and other animals.
They believed that if they didit regularly enough, miracles would happen.
As with all Chinese cultures, folk lore about the kind deeds resulting in heavenly blessing started to circulate.
There was no way of authenticate the stories. Anyway, people rather believed in happy ending than to spend time investigating the source of the folk lore.
How did the Chinese Culture of releasing animals come about?
It started after Buddhism became widespread in the country. That happened around the Tang Dynasty.
Prior to the introduction of Buddhism, the Chinese believed in animal sacrifices to appease the Heaven and the numerous gods in heaven.
This particular culture is based on the interpretation of Buddhism teaching.
The Buddhist believes in reincarnation. That means you are likely to reborn as a fish, a mosquito, an ant, a cow, a human being, a hungry ghost, a god or other life form.
The same with all the persons you have known in this life.
That means there is a possibility of your grandparents reborn as the fish or prawn in the ocean.
When you buy the fish or prawn, and eat them, you are unknowingly eating your grandparents.
Between the teaching of vegetarian, and saving life, Buddhism values the act of saving life more than abstaining from meat.
The act of saving life is proactive.
Why is there a need to reevaluate the Chinese Culture of Releasing animals?
In ancient China, the pious people released the animals and the fishes so that the animals would not end up as dinner.
That was the real act of saving a life.
Without the act of releasing life, the animals would definitely lose their life.
In modern context, the Chinese culture of releasing animals has become a widespread act of cruelty.
The pious persons believe that they are doing a kind deed to save the animals. However, the merchants make use of the Releasing Ceremony to make profits.
They capture the animals from the wild, or breed the captive birds and fishes, for the purpose of selling them to the pious persons.
They transport the poor animals, fishes and birds, across long distance.
In many cases,the released animals and fishes do not know how to fend for themselves. They are more likely to die than to enjoy the freedom.
In this case, the kind deed of releasing life becomes an act of cruelty. It is better to buy the animals, the birds and the fishes, and keep them as pets.
At least you are giving them a home, and providing food for them.
However, that is not to say that the Chinese Culture of releasing life is wrong.
Many fish shop sells breeder fish for the hobbyists to feed the predator fish. If you buy the feeder fish, and keep them as your pet fish, you are saving lives.
If the fish is a native fish, and you release them into nature, you are saving life. That is a form of life saving act which will produce good karma for you.
The same concept for buying the worms, and releasing them into the garden. That is a form of releasing life, even when you are not participating in any ceremony.
Many people still believe in the power of releasing life. There are modern stories circulating about how terminal illness patients getting cured after embracing the Buddhist way of life, including vegetarian diet, releasing lives everyday, and practice meditation.
These stories come from desperate patients. Their doctors give up hope on them, saying that modern medicine cannot cure their illness.
When their cancer cells miraculously disappeared, they give powerful testimonials about the practices of Buddhism.
This provides fuel for the continuation of Chinese Culture of Releasing Animals.
Scheng1 is a passionate blogger from Singapore. Rich in every sense reveals my deep desire in enjoying life, and be rich in every possible ways. Personal Finance is about money, from making money to investing money. Retirement in Asia contains resources on retirement planning.