Shi Minjie: Abandoned as a Baby, Now Enrolled in College


October 11, 2010


"The snow came early that winter when I first saw her. She was wrapped in a bamboo basket and there were ice blocks on top of her blankets."

There is a mountain in the village of Tongcheng city, and halfway up the mountain there's a nunnery. Shi Yinxuan came to the monastery when she was 12 years old and has been there for 28 years. The “she” in the story above is Shi Minjie, the abandoned girl in the bamboo basket from 17 years ago that Shi Yinxuan discovered.  Shi Minjie is now attending Anhui's Agricultural University.


Baby Girl in a Bamboo Basket


In 1992, the Lunar calendar date of October 22:  On this day, heavy snow fell from the skies. Shi Yinxuan went to Tongcheng area Ruyi'an monastery.  After finishing her tasks, she was ready to trek back to Bai Yun Temple. There was a vegetable market near Ruyi'an monastery, when Yinxuan passed by, she found a crowd of people, all craning their necks to look, as if there were some sort of treasure in the center. Yinxuan could not help being curious and also went to look.


"Where is the treasure? Clearly this is an ordinary bamboo basket," Shi Yinxuan thought. The basket appeared veryordinary, stuffed with an old quilt. Yinxuan wanted to continue on her journey but at that moment someone opened a little corner of the quilt, and Yinxuan's breath caught in her throat.  Hidden under the quilt was an infant who was too frozen to even make a sound!


Yinxuan went up to the basket and carefully peeled back the blankets and saw a child, wrapped in a blanket, whose tears have frozen and whose ears had changed colors from the cold.  Her  throat was so hoarse from crying that she could barely make a sound, but her eyes were exceptionally bright and alert, eyeing the surrounding people.


At this moment, Shi Yinxuan's heart was moved.


A Bold Decision


Shi Yinxuan picked up the bamboobasket, dispersed the crowd and went straight towards the hospital. "This child has been freezing for so long, I don't know if she'll be able to function normally." The doctor listened to Yinxuan's description and immediately conducted a check on the baby.  Due to being in the cold for so long and not being fed for so long, the baby was on the door steps of death. After the doctor gave the child an IV, Shi Yinxuan stayed by the baby's bedside.  Miraculously, few days later, the baby's condition improved!


The baby continued to rest in the hospital and took 40 days to recover. Meanwhile, in addition to caring for the baby all these days, Shi Yinxuan made a bold decision: to adopt the child and take her back to Bai Yun temple. After the civil and religious departments’ careful consultation, Yinxuan's wish was fulfilled.

On the day that the baby was discharged from the hospital, Shi Yinxuan gently put the child into a basket. At that moment, the baby smiled and joyfully waved her hands.  Yinxuan touched the child's face and went back up the mountains to Bai Yun temple.


Adopting a child into the monastery?  This was very shocking, even unthinkable. When the baby's crying sound at night reached the village through the jungle, what must people have whispered in secret?  However, Shi Yinxuan did not care.  Looking at the sleeping baby, she gave the child a name: "I hope she will not get upset about anything in the future, could thoroughly understand anything.  The word for clarity, ming, would do for her name." Since then, the baby has her own name -- Shi Minjie.


At that time Shi Yinxuan was only 22 years old.  She did not know the complexities of raising a starving child, and had no experience.  In desperation, Yinxuan had to turn to her mother for help and brought the baby to her mother in the village until the baby was four years old.


A Muddy Path


At four years old, Minjie was a very energetic, charming and lovely child.  One day, Shi Yinxuan's mother took Minjie up to the mountains and told her daughter: "You have adopted the child and she must be returned to the monastery." From then on, little Minjie began to call Shi Yinxuan, "Master," and Yinxuan's pupil, Shi Zhongxue, "Teacher", and the three of them lived together for the next 14 years in Bai Yun temple.


Perhaps due to the cold conditions when she was abandoned, Minjie at an early age had cramps, sometimes so severe that her hands and feet were deformed.  This happened mostly at night and as a result, local people often saw Yinxuan hurrying down the mountain with just one flashlight to run to the hospitals. When Minjie grew older, Yinxuan took her to Beijing for therapy and Minjie gradually recovered.


Although unable to find her birth parents, Minjie had a carefree life similar to children her same age. When Minjie was 100 days old, Yinxuan took her to the city's photo studio to get a 100-day-old portrait taken.  On Lunar calendar date of October 22 every year, Yinxuan would give Minjie a gift.  When Minjie went to kindergarten, everyday at dismissals when other children's parents came to pick them up, Minjie would run to Yinxuan's waiting arms.


The mountain was not connected with the village and the mountain road was washed out when heavy rain fell.  At these times, Minjie and Yinxuan would be stuck at the temple for a period until the water subsided.  When thunderstorms rang over the mountains, the power would go out in the temple, and Minjie and Yinxuan would each hold a book and read under the stars. Sometimes, Minjie would read aloud and study English while Yinxuan would chant her mantras.


A Stubborn Heart


Although Bai Yun temple has a long history, because of its remote location there are not many pilgrims who support the temple financially. In addition to receiving 70 yuan from the civil affairs department for living expenses, half of Minjie's tuition came from pilgrims so this small trio could not afford any luxuries and even clothes would have to be worn over and over again.


The pilgrims who saw Minjie for the first time would curiously ask: “Why is there a child in the monastery?" Sometimes Minjie would rush to answer: "She was picked up by the side of the road!"   After learning about her circumstances, Minjie'sschool teachers would take care of her and sometimes called her to their house to eat.  One day, after just coming out of the teacher's home from dinner, Minjie ran into a classmate who asked her, "How could you go to the teacher's house to eat? Children from the monastery have no right to eat at other people's homes."  Minjie was confounded for a moment and then bowed her head in silence and walked away…


The owner of a company, who was also a pilgrim to the temple, learned about Minjie's story and brought a special camcorder.  He said that Minjie's situation should be published onto the Internet to allow everyone to help her.  Shi Yinxuan said that when the company owner was chatting with Yinxuan about this endeavor, Minjie rushed in, shouting, "I can quit school, if we don't have money than it is not a big deal for me to go and work."

Having such a high pride, Minjie would not take people's pity.  The name behind this special girl hides a stubborn heart.


Bright New World


While she never received extra schooling or ever asked for private tutors, Minjie's academic records were extremely excellent.  Three years ago, Minjie was admitted to the best local high school. Wishing to take care of her, Yinxuan volunteered to go with Minjie to the city to live in an old abandoned temple.


At one corner of the abandoned temple is Minjie's personal "study."  Although the college entrance examination has ended, a variety of reference books are still on the old table, a pile full to the brim.  In the drawer are neatly arranged IDs, diplomas and even junior high school cards. All this Shi Yinxuan cleans lovingly and methodically.


"Minjie should have been able to have scored even better, but my apprentice was sick and had to have a surgery.  I had to rush to the hospital, and Minjie was worried about my apprentice,” Shi Yinxuan said.  In last year's college entrance examination, Minjie had an excellent score of 557 points and was admitted to Anhui Agricultural University.


"I want to go to college, graduate and get a job that will provide my “Master” and her apprentice with a good life," said 18-year-old Shi Minjie. University for her will be a bright new world.