SATURDAY, APRIL 28: The most auspicious of Buddhist days comes to China today, in a trifold event now remembered as Vesakha Puja. Together, Buddhists mark the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death today; most commonly, however, Vesak is known to as “Buddha’s birthday.” In the darkness before sunrise, devotees gather in temples to raise the Buddhist flag, sing and meditate. (Read more at Wikipedia.) The day is spent avoiding killing of any kind—large-scale vegetarian meals are often shared—and listening to monks recite Buddha’s quotes. Uniquely, Buddhists don’t mourn over Buddha’s death, but rather rejoice in the Dhamma he preached. Buddha himself instructed his followers to realize that while all compounded things must disintegrate, the truths he preached are eternal. (Learn more from BuddhaNet.)
Vesak first became an official birthday celebration for Buddhists in 1950, following decisions from the first Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists.
It’s believed Buddhism was brought to China sometime between 206 BCE and 220 CE; Mahayana Buddhism then profoundly impacted the Chinese civilization. (Wikipedia has details.) Today, China holds some of Buddhism’s tallest statues, and hosts the biannual World Buddhist Forum. The Chinese Government also paid respect to Buddhism when it banned mining on Buddhist sacred mountains in 2007.
China observes Vesak first this year, according to the Chinese lunar calendar. Other Buddhist countries, such as Singapore, Laos, Nepal and Thailand, mark Vesakha Puja in May and June.