Buddhism was brought to Eastern United States first in New York, and the first person to bring Chinese Mahayana Buddhism into New York City was Mrs. Annie Jin Ying.
Born in 1915 in a devout Buddhist family in Wuxi, China, Mrs. Annie Jin Ying was a Buddhist from a young age who had taken Dharma refuge with both Changkya Khutukhtu and Venerable Nan-ting. Annie married businessman Mr. James Ying in 1940. They lived in Shanghai happily until 1949 when intensified war made them decide to move to Taiwan with their 8-year-old son Nelson Ying. While in Taiwan, Mrs. Ying’s was passionately invloved in local Buddhist community. Together with the wife of General Sun Li-jen, Mrs. Sun Zhangqingyang who was a highly respected Buddhist, the two devout Buddhists led Dharma study group for local women.
In 1955, the Ying family immigrated to New York City. When they first arrived, Mrs. Ying noticed that all religions were practiced in the city, but no Chinese Buddhist temple could be found, even though there was a large Chinese Buddhist community in New York. With a pure heart wanting to serve the Buddhist community, Mrs. Ying vowed to establish a Chinese Buddhist temple, where people can share the joy of Dharma together. After eight years of hard working of both Mr. and Mrs. Ying, in 1962, the first official Chinese Buddhist Association, Eastern States Buddhist Temple, was finally established. In order to enhance the temple, Mrs. Ying worked tirelessly to import, through great difficuIty and devotion, a large Thousand-arm Guanyin statue from Taiwan.
In the following decade, the Buddhist community in New York grew rapidly and several Buddhist temples were built in New York City. As most of the city temples had limited space, a quiet and spacious temple outside of the city was called for. In the late 1960s , Mr. and Mrs. Ying purchased 114 acres of land in Catskill, New York and started to build Mahayana Temple Retreat. In order to complete this temple, Mrs. Ying had her hand in every step of the process, even moving to the mountains to oversee the construction of the temple. Inspired by her unparalleled commitment and dedication, many people joined the project by volunteering their precious time or generous donations. Through a collaborative effort, the main hall at Mahayana Temple Retreat opened to the public in 1971. Driven by Mrs.Ying’s effort and support, many Chinese Buddhist temples soon appeared in New York as well as the Eastern United States, starting a new chapter for the development of Buddhism in the United States.