Snakes Released in Buddhist Ritual Terrorize Guangzhou Residents

By Jocelyn Richards, July 6, 2017

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Snake sightings are becoming a biweekly occurrence at one Guangzhou residential district, where two to three are spotted every month, according to a property management representative there.

Earlier this week, a video of a meter-long green snake slithering into a drain made the rounds on Chinese social media, where commenters took turns judging whether or not it was poisonous (the consensus was ‘not’). snake-liwan-guangzhou-gifAllegedly filmed outside of Nan’an Lu, a residential area in Liwan District that’s about a five-minute walk from the Pearl River, the video is but one of many recent sightings that have frightened local residents enough to keep them from venturing outside – especially at night.

According to Li, a property management representative at Nan’an Lu, there has been a sudden increase in snake sightings over the last few months, but none of those captured thus far have been poisonous – most are innocuous water snakes.

READ MORE: Venomous Snake Bites: What to Do When Disaster Strikes

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He says the snakes are either coming from the wild or from ‘mercy releases,’ an ancient practice in which Buddhists free captive animals to generate positive karma.

In Guangzhou, where snakes are a popular ingredient in Cantonese soups, ‘fang sheng’ (放生) or ‘mercy releases’ see groups of Buddhists buying snakes at local wet markets before setting them free in the Pearl River.

Li explains that such snakes often find their way back onto land, however, and gravitate towards green spaces in the city – usually verdant residential areas.

“I really don’t understand these people who buy snakes and set them free,” read a top-voted comment under the Tencent News article. “There are many ways to do good, but isn’t this destroying the ecological balance?”

Perhaps predictably, another netizen wanted to know if the snake was edible (“能吃不?”).

green-snake-sightings-guangzhou

To put residents at ease, Li claims his management team will actively address the problem. They have already placed snake repellent powder in the parking lot and outside various apartment buildings, and will post notices around the complex in the near future indicating which areas to avoid. 

Furthermore, Li says he hopes riverside Buddhist 'mercy releases' will be monitored more closely going forward.

READ MORE: Poisonous Snake Bites Toddler in Shenzhen

[Photos via Tencent News]

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