Taipei businessman retreats to mountains and meditates on wooden coffin planks

United Daily News, March 25, 2005

Taipei, Taiwan -- Lee You-fu has long been an entrepreneur who lives in Taipei. A number of years ago, he built a "house of shame" in a mountainous area of Hualian County. He would sleep on planks of wood from a coffin. In addition, the walls of the structure would be filled with drawings in the shape of caskets. Lee said, "Once people complete their life, they should lie down. By that point, there is really nothing to get worked up over."

The 56-year-old Lee at one time was the owner of a fashion shop in Taipei, where he enjoyed quite a prosperous life. However, over 20 years ago, his business went sour and he ended up in enormous debt. Friends and family sought to distance themselves from him, making him feel that people are not so nice. Several years later, he discovered Buddhism; this turned his life and outlook around.

Lee has established a place of worship in Taipei where he often gives lectures; presently nearly 500 people belong to his sect in Taiwan. In September 2001, one worshipper from Hungyeh Village of Wanjung Township in Hualian County donated a three-hectare parcel of land in the mountains to the temple. It was here that Lee built his structure.

The retreat is located at an altitude of 300 meters above sea level and is full of plum, pomello and Michelia formosana trees. The environment is beautiful and traveling there, one has a feeling of entering Eden. Moreover, there are over 20 figurines of Sakyamuni among the trees as well as slogans put around to ward off unfriendly spirits.

In addition to the statues of Sakyamuni and those of various Buddhist disciples, there is a large statue of the goddess Kuanyin. Under the trees, there are all sorts of umbrellas that look like mosquito nets. Lee said that people who study Buddhism go everywhere. As long as they have their umbrella with them, they can meditate and read scriptures wherever they go, he said.

In a forested area there is a mysterious site where Taoist or Buddhist rituals are held. People in neighboring villages and towns rarely go to this area. Lee said that the spot does not have fancy buildings. Rather, wooden planks are used to build simple wooden structures. People who are destined to find the area will do so, he said.

The most interesting part of the group of buildings is the "house of shame." Lee said that the simple structure and the facilities of his building are better than other's. And for this he feels a sense of shame. It is because of this that he named the structure as he did.

He said that the floor of the structure is comprised of wooden planks of the type used in coffins. In addition, there are coffin shapes on the walls. He said this is where he meditates, recites Buddhist scripture and where he sleeps. Lee said that sleeping on the planks of a coffin does not bother him. He said it serves as a constant reminder to not be haughty or arrogant, as a humble attitude is better.