Planet China

Spiritual standard

Since it was introduced in 1987 over one million organisations have been certified as ISO 9001 compliant – indicating they have acceptable quality management systems in place. The latest entity to achieve the certification is a bit more unusual: it’s a Buddhist temple in the Chinese city of Hangzhou. This month the Lingyin Temple announced it was China’s first Buddhist place of worship to achieve the ISO 9001 standard.

Chinese netizens were near unanimous in ridiculing why a 1,700 year-old spiritual hub had embraced the sort of scientific management principles more normally associated with industrial firms. One asked: “Is it possible to effectively monitor the chances and numbers of the divine manifestations of Buddha?” Another queried: “Has the satisfaction questionnaire been sent to Buddha?”

According to KDnet, however, the reason for the ISO application had to do with porridge. Specifically that Lingyin has become a very large manufacturer and distributor of the food. It began making Laba porridge in 2008, giving it to worshippers usually in exchange for donations. However, the scale of operation had tripled in size in recent years to 300,000 meals and in order to standardise the quality of the Laba porridge modern management methods were introduced by the monks for on-site cooking, packaging and dispensing in 2015. It was for these processes that Lingyin applied for ISO 9001, much like a food factory might. China has the highest number of ISO 9001 certificates in the world: around 393,000 in 2017 – based on the most recent official data – versus just 35 in 1993.

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