Abbot of Beijing Longquan Temple denies sexual abuse allegations

Society & Culture

The abbot of Longquan Temple in Beijing, Xuecheng 学诚, is the latest public figure to be accused of sexual misconduct in China. The “Venerable Master” of Longquan, one of the highest-profiled monasteries in the country, has called the allegations “false” and “misleading.”

In a 95-page expose titled “Report on important matters,” which was shared on WeChat on July 31 and instantly went viral, two former masters at Longquan Temple, Xianjia 贤佳 and Xianqi 贤启, said Xuecheng has been preying on bhikkhunis (ordained female monastics) for years, specifically that he has had sex with multiple nuns by persuading them they could be “purified” through physical contact. (Celibacy is one of the tenets of Buddhist monasticism.)

Included in the document are extensive records of explicit text messages sent by Xuecheng, showing how he emotionally manipulated his victims by denying them communication with the outside world, and a personal essay written by bhikkhuni Xianjia 贤甲, one of Xuecheng’s alleged victims, who says that during her two-month stay at Longquan in 2018, Xuecheng kept sending her messages containing vulgar language and making unwanted advances on her. “My belief system almost collapsed,” Xianjia writes. “I even considered giving up Buddhism and returning to secular life.”

Xuecheng issued a formal denial (in Chinese) on Weibo on Wednesday. Signed by the temple, the article accuses the two former masters, Xianjia and Xianqi, of “collecting and fabricating material, distorting facts, spreading false reports, defaming the great virtue of Buddhism, and misleading the public.” The statement says the temple is seeking legal action against the accusers and asks relevant departments to open an investigation into the case, and to consider the complicity of a group of “ill-intended individuals who attempted to damage the reputation of Xuecheng and Longquan.”

The denial left many Chinese internet users unconvinced. “Compared to the expose, which is about 100 pages long and reads like a well-argued doctoral dissertation with abundant evidence, this one feels flimsy,” one Weibo user wrote (in Chinese).

Meanwhile, on WeChat, where the case first attracted attention, the original document — which is in PDF form — has been banned from sharing. (Sending the PDF to other users will result in the sender believing the message went through, but the receiver never actually getting any message.) Discussions regarding the scandal are censored on all social media platforms, though comments underneath stories denying the rumor — such as Xuecheng’s statement — are untouched.

Xuecheng is president of the Chinese Buddhist Association — the youngest person to ever hold an executive post in the administration — as well as a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

UPDATE: Xuecheng resigned on Wednesday.