A rural temple in China houses the elderly for free
Canadian photographer Kevin Frayer travelled to Fujian to see the one-of-a-kind nursing home
CBC News Posted: Mar 27, 2016 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 27, 2016 5:00 AM ET
Ji Xiang Temple provides sanctuary for the aged, for free.
Ji Xiang Temple has since the year 2000 functioned as a nursing home charged with caring for otherwise homeless seniors.
Neng Qing, an 81-year-old Chinese Buddhist nun, is one of the facility's founders. Here he is on March 18 hugging Luo Yudi, also 81, who suffered a stroke.
A Canadian in China took these photographs.
Canadian photographer Kevin Frayer, who lives in China and recently won two World Press Photo awards for his work there, travelled to rural Fujian province to visit the sanctuary. That's 51-year-old Chinese Buddhist monk Dao Yuan standing in front of the temple's Buddha statue.
A revered elderly monk promised care and compassion.
The monks and nuns who live at the temple have kept their forebears' promise. According to local officials, Ji Xiang Temple is the only one in China offering sanctuary at no cost to people like Wu Yuanhe, 85, who turn up at its doorstep.
Local villagers support the nursing home with donations of food.
It also receives some government funding to ensure shelter and limited medical care.
Elderly residents wear robes and take part in daily prayers and chants.
The seniors who call the temple home often have no family to turn to.
Many of China's elderly — the country's fastest-growing demographic — are left in a grey zone when it comes to care after their children migrate to major cities for work.
China's rapidly aging population poses a demographic challenge.
In China, the number of people over 60 is expected to reach nearly half a billion in the next 30 years. The increased pressure on the social safety net to support the elderly is complicated by a low national birth rate.
China's decades-long one-child policy ended this year.
China's one-child policy, which formally became the two-child policy on Jan. 1, began in the late 1970s as a means to curb its once out-of-control birth rate. Since then, China has gone from having one of the highest rates of fertility in the world to among the lowest.
*At the start of the one-child policy, the fertility rate in China averaged six births per woman. Now, it is down to around 1.7, according to UN census data published by the World Bank.
The home for abandoned seniors fills a growing niche.
Chen Guoqing, 67, is blind but walks the grounds of Ji Xiang unaided. Ageing parents are traditionally the responsibility of their children, but times are changing in China and now more than ever the elderly in the world's most populous country are forced to fend for themselves.
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