Buddha relic upsets Chinese

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The Independent Online
ADDING a strange twist to its rivalry with Taiwan, China claimed yesterday that a holy tooth, which Taiwan hopes will improve its fortunes, may not be special after all.

However, China's attempt to discredit the authenticity of the tooth, believed to have come from the mouth of Buddha, appears motivated more by politics than by religion.

The 2,000-year-old tooth was given to Taiwan by Buddhist monks in India who say it was taken from a temple in Tibet in 1968, when China was in the throes of the Cultural Revolution.

But China's state-run Xinhua News Agency yesterday quoted the Chinese Buddhist Association as saying there was no record that a tooth of the Buddha had ever been in Tibet.

Buddhists outside China say the relic is one of three teeth found after the Buddha was cremated. But the Chinese are insisting historical texts showed only two teeth were found: one now in Peking and the other in Sri Lanka. Those teeth had both been proved authentic but the "so-called third Buddha tooth" has not, a Chinese spokesman said.

Taiwanese politicians say they hope the tooth will restore tranquillity to Taiwan, ending disruptions caused by murders, corruption scandals and aviation disasters. President Lee Teng-hui will attend a prayer ceremony for the tooth on Saturday. - AP, Peking