Meet Xian’er, a Robotic Monk Designed to Teach People About Buddhism


Buddhism is about 2500 years old, but the religion seems to be adapting quite well to the modern era. The Longquan temple on the outskirts of Beijing has implemented a new recruit in the form of a robotic monk named Xian’er.

The bot is two feet tall, wears yellow "robes," sports a bald head, and carries a small touch screen on its chest. It can chant mantras, answer 20 questions about the faith, and moves in seven different ways through voice command. The temple hopes Xian’er can serve as a new way to connect with current and prospective Buddhists who are more accustomed than ever before to interacting with devices.

While Xian’er might seem incongruous with spiritual practice, creator and Longquan monk Master Xianfian, told Reuters, “Science and Buddhism are not opposing nor contradicting, and can be combined and mutually compatible."

Xian’er was inspired by a character from Xianfan's 2013 cartoon series, Trouble, You Seek for Yourself. The temple has produced books and merchandise featuring the robo-monk, all in an effort to marry Buddhist philosophy with current culture. The robot was developed by a tech company and artificial intelligence experts from a few of China’s top universities, and while Xian’er was just unveiled in October, a new model with even more functionality is already being developed.

International Business Times reports that Xian’er has 300,000 followers on Chinese social media site Weibo, and while that might indicate a certain amount of celebrity clout, the robot reportedly spends much of his days "meditating" in the temple’s office.

To see more of Xian’er, check out the video from Vocativ above.

[h/t Vocativ]

Banner image via Vocativ // YouTube.