Thu, May 18, 2006 - Page 1 News List

`Buddhist' bikini contest report premature: official

By Jean Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

After local media reported that a Nantou County bikini contest would be held on the grounds of a Buddhist temple, County Commis-sioner Lee Chao-ching (李朝卿) yesterday clarified that a final decision had not been made on the venue for the event.

The Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) and CTI-TV, among other media outlets, reported yesterday that the Miss Bikini World 2006 finals were going to be held on the grounds of the Chung Tai Chan Monastery, with the hope of promoting the county's local culture and luring tourists.

Lee said in a press conference on Tuesday that the contest should be held at the monastery because the temple there was a "marvel" that contestants -- who will arrive from many countries for the swimwear spectacular -- should see. He said holding the event at the monastery would help put Nantou County on the map, according to yesterday's reports.

Lee contacted the temple last week and gave them three days to mull over the idea, the reports said. Later he visited Master Weijue (惟覺老和尚), the founder and abbot of the monastery, who gave him the green light to hold the contest at the temple, the reports said.

But Lee said yesterday during a press conference that although Weijue had agreed to host the bikini competition, the nation's Miss Bikini World 2006 Committee had not made a decision on where the event will be held.

Chen Chi-han (陳季函), the committee's executive director, said that the committee has been looking for suitable grounds for the contest throughout various cities and counties in Taiwan.

The committee won't officially announce its final decision until Aug. 12, Chen said.

Lee said that he hoped to promote tourism in the area, and that the pageant could be held at Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) and Puli Township in addition to the monastery.

"If bikinis are not appropriate for the monastery, then the category in which contestants wear traditional outfits from their countries can be held at the temple, while the bikini segment can be held at Sun Moon Lake," Lee said.

At first Weijue did not think it was a good idea to host a beauty pageant, since the Buddhist faith preaches against vanity, the Liberty Times reported.

But he then agreed that the contest could be held at the Pu Tai Elementary and Junior High School grounds, situated next to the monastery.

Master Chienyun (見允法師), deputy head of the monastery, said that Lee was pleased with the school grounds and facilities during a visit earlier this month, and therefore wanted to use the site for international activities and events, according to the Liberty Times.

Chienyun acknowledged that some might be scandalized at the monastery's decision to allow a bikini contest on the temple grounds, but he stressed that the school where the contest would be held is separate from the dojo -- a hall where Buddhists practice meditation, the report said.

Also, the school was built with public contributions, so lending the ground to the county for activities was a way for the monastery to give back to the public, he said.

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