HuaChi, a simple monk from China, has achieved something that only few are able to – he has left a mark in this world, quite literally. The pious man has knelt to pray in the exact same spot for nearly 20 years now. He’s performed the ritual so many times that his footprints are deeply ingrained in the wooden floor of his temple, in the monastery town of Tongren, in Qinghai Province.
The highly disciplined monk follows a never-changing routine – he arrives at the temple steps every day before sunrise, places his feet on the footprints and prostrates a few thousand times in prayer. Having done this for two decades, the wood beneath his feet has softened considerably, transforming into perfect footprints that are 1.2 inches deep.
When Hua Chi was younger, he would prostrate 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. “But I have grown older, so in recent years I have only done around 1,000 each day,” he said. Sometimes, during winter he can only manage 500. But even that is seriously impressive; I couldn’t imagine doing a handful of prostrations without exhausting myself. After completing his prayers, he walks around the temple as well.
70-year-old Hua Chi hopes that his dedication and commitment towards his prayers will help him achieve a smooth transition to the afterlife. According to Tibetan Buddhist beliefs, the spirit goes through a process after death that determines it’s future – either nirvana or a return for rebirth. “I reconstructed this temple and have prayed and walked around the temple all these times so that after my death my spirit will not suffer,” said Hua Chi, who is also a doctor of traditional medicine.
His devotion is now a source of inspiration to the younger monks at the temple, which is located inside Rongwo Gonchen Gompa, an important Tibetan monastery in Tongren. The monastery is centuries old; it dates back to the year 1301. It is home to hundreds of monks who study Buddhist scriptures.
29-year-old monk Genden Darji is one of Hua Chi’s most ardent followers. He has spent several days admiring the older monk’s determination and wishes to carry forth the tradition by stepping into his footprints some day. “Every day I come here and every day I look at the piece of wood, and it has inspired me to continue to make the footprints myself,” said Darji.