Shi Zhen Shan is the lone Buddhist monk at Tai Ping Temple in Hunan Province, and she hasn't left since her arrival ten years ago. She sleeps in the temple attic, above the three meter tall golden Buddha and shrine room. She has a catch basin to collect water, an ample supply of rice, and she grows her own peppers and vegetables. While she tries to be as self sufficient as possible it is necessary to buy charcoal and additional items from local farmers, but usually this only happens once a month. With this she proudly shows me her new tennis shoes.

At her parents insistence Shi Zhen Shan became a monk more than twenty years ago to escape a "bad" husband, and despite my questions she does not want to elaborate. I do however discover that she has two children, though she has not seen them in over fifteen years. Her world now is Tai Ping Temple and she wants nor desires nothing else. Walking at a normal pace I find that I can circle the grounds in less than a minute.

As we sit at the temple entrance Shi Zhen Shan tells me that she is pleased to talk to Tina and I about her life, but please don't take her photo with the Buddha.

"It would dishonor Buddha having me in the photo".

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