I’d read about the vegetarian lunch ceremony at the Aidao Monastery before arriving into Chengdu and was keen to check it out. It wasn’t something I’d usually do, and I’m usually not so great with throwing myself into situations like this on my own but I thought I’d give it a go…I arrived at 11.40 and had no idea where to go or what to do (and no one speaks English in China!) but read on another blog that the food hall was to the back, so headed in that direction. I soon saw a couple of people in a small outdoor kitchen, grabbing bowls and chopsticks and heading to the right, into another building called the ‘Five Vision Hall’. I copied the locals and took two small bowls and a pair of chopsticks with me to the food hall.
There were rows of benches with long tables in the middle and quite a few people already sat down. I wandered towards the back, hoping to tuck myself out the way! An older lady caught my eye, smiled and motioned for me to sit next to her. It was a short wait (in complete silence) until the ceremony started. A gong sounded and the monks began to chant, with some of the diners joining in. A couple of minutes later, two ladies started making their rounds with different dishes. Learning from my new friend next to me, I nodded to the dishes I liked the look of and silently shook my head ‘no’ for those I didn’t want or for when I was too full to eat anymore! They continually came around with about eight different dishes, plus rice, and I was well and truly stuffed by the end! The dishes were all vegan and involved a bunch of different veggies and tofu, some mild, some spicy. It was all delicious. As for paying, I can’t actually remember if the money was dealt with before or after we ate, but everyone had their money out on the benches and one of the ladies came around to collect. It cost a measly 5RMB (£0.58/ US$0.72!).
Once the meal had finished, there was another round of singing/ chanting before people started to leave. Following the others, I headed back to the kitchenette with my bowls and chopsticks and queued to wash them up before stacking them in a nearby cupboard.
I didn’t get any photos inside as it felt very rude to whack my camera out in the middle of what felt like quite a special ceremony! There was a wide range of people inside and it was lovely to see everyone coming together to share a veggie lunch. It was an experience I’d definitely recommend – you don’t need to book anything, just turn up around 11.40am.