In Sichuan, a woman from Nanjing is believed to have released hundreds of snakes back into the wild in a mountainous area that happens to be very near to a village.
The woman’s apparent intention was to perform a Buddhist ritual known as “fangsheng” (release life), which demonstrates spiritual compassion and piety by releasing captive animals back into nature. The act is supposed to wash away the sins of practitioners and reward them with some good karma.
However, reports online claim that the just-released snakes quickly found their way into a nearby village outside of Dujiangyan city, where they were caught by the dozen and beaten to death by fearful villagers.
Villagers said that they have had a few restless nights in the last week, thanks to the slithering invasion on their village. For instance, one anxious villager surnamed Lei couldn’t help but circle around his house once every hour to make sure it was clear of snakes.
By looking at pictures of the captured snakes, the Chengdu Wildlife Services Department were able to identify some of the serpents as venomous, Chengdu Economic Daily reports.
The woman fanaticism in releasing animals back into the wild is evident from her Weibo posts, which show many of her previous efforts at “fang sheng,” including her most recent one in which she claimed to have gathered 900 snakes to be released in an unspecified location.
Investigative netizens cite her post as evidence of her responsibility for the incident in Dujiangyan; however, the woman later made further posts denying having released snakes anywhere near that area.
Nanjing police voiced their concern over the incident on their Weibo account. The post cites forestry specialists who said that this act would disrupt the ecological balance of the forest and is certainly illegal.
“You must have done some pretty bad stuff to be so desperate for good karma,” said one Weibo user.
Poorly planned instances of “fangsheng” have made the news in the past. A similar religious act went horribly astray in 2013 in Jinan when a group of people released over 800 captive carp in a river only for the fish to be immediately swooped up in nets 100 yards down stream. The same thing happened the next year, only in a local lake, with residents “releasing life” right into waiting fishermen’s nets.
Meanwhile, businessmen in Hanan have seen the light, realizing that they could make a lot of money by exploiting this spiritual practice.
By Victor Fung
[Images via People’s Daily / Chengdu Economic Daily]