Vidyaraja wrote: To those who say it is impossible or illegal to become a monk in China or stay for extended periods, what do we make of Edward Burger who filmed Amongst White Clouds? In the film stated he was in China for 5 years, and since the first film he has made other films dealing with Buddhist monks in China and is working on another, so I assume he has been there for much longer.
If I recall correctly, I did preface the statement with something along the lines of "from what understand". During my time in China, I spent a bit of time reading the various laws with regard religion and particularly religious education. (This was because I was helping supervise the building of a library within a Buddhist College in Yangzhou, ie. the Jian Zhen Library.) Again, if I recall correctly, there was explicit mention that foreign nationals could not study at such colleges, nor ordain. Even to live in a monastery, by law one cannot simply live in the same quarters as other monastics -- this is related to huji issues, rather a complex matter. (I myself had slightly separate quarters to get around this, and had numerous visits from SARA authorities to check.) I have also known a number of non-Chinese nationals / citizens, who also faced such problems. Some of them had the express permission of the local abbot or Buddhist college head, only to have SARA come in and cite the law, meaning that they could not study / ordain. This is my experience and what I've seen, over 10+ years. I may be wrong, but this is how I understand the situation. It may have recently changed, but I haven't heard anything.
I don't know about Mr. Edward Burger and his filming. Was he ordained as a monastic in China? I can't find any info on the 'net to say that he was. Obviously his being there or filming is a separate matter from the topic at hand. I have also known non-national monastics to stay and practice in the PRoC -- just not study at the colleges or ordain. So, I am not sure how Mr. Burger's situation actually proves that ordination is possible. (Sorry, I haven't seen his movie -- does this include an example of someone who has?) Photos online seem to show a lay cameraman, though I am not sure if this is Burger or not.
And, as I also mentioned, there are always ways around these laws (if there are such laws). It depends on who you are and who you know. Hence my mention of a red envelope -- though really I should have also added, if one has the right guanxi.
Finally, I would be happy to be proved wrong. It would be wonderful to see opportunities to legally ordain, study and train in the Dharma in the PRoC. I'll ask some of my friends who are PRoC monastics if they can fill in any details for me.
As for stay for extended periods -- this is certainly possible. Have done so myself. So, I agree with you there.