BUDDHISM. The two major ethnic groups that have preserved Buddhist culture in Cleveland are the JAPANESE and the CHINESE. Each of these groups has its own temple. The largest, the Buddhist Temple of Cleveland, founded in 1944, is located at E. 214th St. and Euclid Ave. and is attended by approx. 90 families. Between 60-70% are second- and third-generation Japanese, 30% are American-Caucasian who practice Zen Buddhism and use the temple twice a week to meditate, and the remainder are Chinese and Korean. In addition, 15-20 of Cleveland's approx. 500 Vietnamese Buddhists use the temple when a Vietnamese Buddhist priest visits. The Buddhist Church of America is the most liberal of Buddhist branches, representing the Jodo Shinshu sect.
The Cleveland temple was organized by Japanese-American evacuees from World War II concentration camps. In the years following the war, Greater Cleveland's Japanese population swelled from only a few dozen (pre-World War II) to approx. 3,500. Services were originally held at a Unitarian church at 82nd St. and Euclid Ave., conducted first by Rev. Kono from Chicago on a temporary basis and later by Rev. Onoyama and Rev. Tsufura. In 1955 a building was purchased on E. 81st St. in Hough, then the heart of Cleveland's Japanese community, and the temple was moved. During the HOUGH RIOTS of July 1966, it was firebombed and repeatedly vandalized; the new priest, Rev. Taniguchi, lived there to safeguard it. Shortly thereafter, the congregation acquired the present (1995) location on Euclid Ave., and the temple and priest's residence were completed in 1970. The building that houses the temple is simple and square, of white brick. Inside, a large vat used for burning incense stands before a gold-plated image of the Amida Buddha, which rests on the altar.
The Buddhist Temple of Cleveland has helped preserve ethnic ties, sponsoring community activities such as the annual Bon Odori festival, as well as providing spiritual solace. In April the birthday of Buddha is celebrated, an event called Hanna Matsuri. Organizations such as the Japanese American Citizens' League cooperate with the temple in various activities.
The Chinese have a temple on the upper floor of a building owned by the ON LEONG TONG. Erected when the building was built in 1927, it is on Rockwell Ave. NE at E. 21st St. It is open a few hours a week for worship and is used more often for community meetings. Only during the celebration of Chinese New Year is the public allowed inside the temple to witness the traditional ceremony. The large room is decorated to resemble a Chinese Joss House, with gold leaf, carvings, and silk wall hangings. The golden deity is Kwan Kung, a god of loyalty, and before him are three giant unburned joss sticks. Two friendly looking pottery temple dogs flank the god. The Chinese of Cleveland celebrate a number of other festivals, such as the summertime Festival of the Ghost, when homage is paid to the dead, and the August Moon festival, when the Chinese exchange moon cakes.
In the 1990s, Cleveland Buddhists were also represented in the Vietnamese Buddhist Assn. and the Kampuchean and Laotian community.
Nicholas J. Zentos
Lorain County Community College
Cuyahoga Community College
Choi, Ching Yan. "Minority Status and Anomia: A Study of the Chinese in Metropolitan Cleveland" (Master's thesis, Western Reserve Univ., 1962).
Ishida, Eiko. "An Application of Gordan's Assimilation Theory: The Japanese-Americans in Cleveland, Ohio" (Master's thesis, Kent State Univ., 1969).
Works Projects Admin. The Peoples of Cleveland (1942).