Monday, July 28, 2014

Feiyin Tongrong's 费隐通容 calligraphy

Feiyin's Calligraphy: "Eyeball of a Blind Donkey" 瞎驴眼 at Manpukuji ©Jiang Wu 2014
Yinyuan's immediate dharma teacher is Feiyin Tongrong. We know him because he was defeated in a famous lawsuit about dharma transmission and his book was burnt as the result. However, little known is that he was also an excellent calligrapher. We can still see samples of his work at Manpukuji. I heard one of the Japanese tourists besides me was marveled at the calligraphy: 

すごい, she said.

Mr. Tanaka Chisei told me that Feiyin's calligraphy was unique because he actually wrote in his left hand. His right hand was chopped by bandits during the turbulent Ming-Qing transition. I never read any references in his biography about this accident. However, Tanaka san pointed to his portrait, in which his right hand is not shown, but hides inside the long sleeve.
Feiyin Tongrong's Portrait at Manpukuji

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Yinyuan and His teacher Miyun Yuanwu 密云圆悟

When Yinyuan was young, he traveled to Zhejiang and visited Putuo Island. At that time, he did not know about Chan Buddhism at all. All he wanted was to become a monk at Putuo Island. Although he was later ordained in Huangbo monastery in his hometown Fuqing, he went to Zhejiang again and became Miyun Yuanwu's student.

Portrait of Miyun Yuanwu at Manpukuji
Reading Ming and Qing Buddhist sources, you can't miss Miyun Yuanwu. Many eminent Chan teachers in the Qing period can trace their dharma transmissions to him. He was the fountain head of dharma transmission on the Linji side. 

Portrait of Miyun Yuanwu in Jiaxing Canon
I have discussed him extensively in my previous book Enlightenment in Dispute. Here, in this new book, I examined his relationship with Yinyuan. My conclusion is that Yinyuan absolutely wanted Miyun's transmission but Miyun did not give him. He only offered to 12 people in his whole life. But according to Yinyuan, he experienced enlightenment under Miyun and was greatly influenced by him.

There is very few thing to talk about his teaching though. Miyun's trick was to do beating and shouting: he hit people really hard. I came across several cases when students were hurt severely. His first dharma heir is Poshan Haiming 破山海明. Because he returned to Sichuan shortly after he received dharma transmission, he was not known very well in South China. However, his dharma heirs spread all over southwest China, especially in Chengdu region. This is perhaps why we can still see his statue erected in Baoguang monastery in Chengdu. The spread of Miyun's transmission in Southwest China is going to be a really interesting subject.

Statue of Miyun Yuanwu at Baoguang Monastery in Chengdu

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Official Publication Date for Leaving for the Rising Sun

Recently, I have been working on copy editing and just finished answering the final queries sent by copy editor. The whole production job has been undertaken by a company in India and so far I am very satisfied with the production process.

I have been told the official publication date is going to be Dec. 12, 2014. But the book should be available at this year's AAR for sale.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Why is Yinyuan important?

Sanmon of Manpukuji ©Jiang Wu 2014
Although Yinyuan is somehow important, he is just ordinary if compared with many famous monks in Tang and Song. Then why study him? Here is the need to do some more research into the specific time period he lived in. In contrast to the common view about him, my book reveals he is extraordinary in several areas:

First, he lived at the end of the Ming and early Qing, thus witnessing the significant social and cultural changes in China.

Second, he not only successful landed in Japan, but also went beyond Nagasaki, where Chinese were confined.

Third, the high status the Japanese bakufu gave to Yinyuan and his Obaku tradition is unprecedented.

Finally, the transformation of Japanese Zen and the rise of Hakuin only occurred after Yinyuan's arrival.

All these seem to have suggested that he was very important during his time. We can only reveal his significance when we put him back in the complicated religious, cultural, and political situation in the seventeenth century.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

How to deal with "garbage sources" 垃圾史料 in Ming-Qing Chinese Buddhism?

Some books were born with important topics and self-evidently significant sources. Readers will know that. The field expects the book and acclaims its contribution. The authors were lucky to work on them, mostly likely at the suggestion of their mentors or some wise people.

Unfortunately, the sources I worked with, for both of my books, can not be said to have any real significance at the first glance. And for the most time of my research, I didn't know what I was arguing for. Even the topics were blurring......religion? intellectual history? political history? I genuinely did not know until the very last moment of research and book making.

My first book Enlightenment in Dispute (Oxford, 2008) deals with Buddhist polemics in the seventeenth century. The sources are polemical essays written by monks. I will not recommend these sources to any one, including my students, because they are very dry, tedious, and tasteless, full of personal attacks and senseless accusations. Of course, the prominent Chinese historian Chen Yuan had worked on these sources. But the truth is that after he wrote his book Qingchu sengzheng ji 清初僧诤记, no one wrote anything significant on the topics and the sources and the knowledge and figures he introduced were so obscured that a Japanese scholar had to write an annotated translation of his book in the eightieth. This tells you how unattractive these sources are. Also, his grandson Prof. Chen Zhichao told me that when his grandfather wrote the book, he had an assistant going to the Forbidden City to copy for him the sources in Jiaxing Canon 嘉兴藏 which was stored there. (This edition is still there.)

My second book deals with a prominent Zen teacher whose collected work amounts to twelve volumes in modern binding. I confess I read all of them. But I have to say there are not of the best of a Zen collection. He was a poet and wrote about 5,000 poems. However, not all of them are of the high quality and clerical writing was always not well received in literary circles in China.

I finally realize that in the study of Chinese religion, history, culture there exist a large number of "garbage sources," especially in the area of religion. The same might be said about Korean and Japanese studies. Basically, they are numerous, boring, repetitive and we don't know how to make sense of them. No one what to touch them. One example is the first fascicle of local gazetteer which usually starts with "star constellation field" 星野. Another example in literature is the collection of "imperial decrees" in the beginning of hanlin literati's wenji collections. Most of them had been the officers 制诰 to draft these imperial documents. But a lot of them had lost their context and their meaning became obscure. In Chinese Buddhism, there are a lot of scriptural commentaries 注疏科判 awaiting for further exploration. If you want to find more, go the Chinese Buddhist canon 汉文大藏经, which is another topic I am working on, for "garbage." (A collection of essays co-edited by Lucille Chia and me will be published from Columbia University Press very soon.)

If you are the one of the unlucky researcher who happen to work on these "garbage sources," the tricky part is going to be how to read them and make sense of them. I believe that a selective reading of sources only with obvious significance might have obscured our understanding of history. Without fully processing these garbage sources, it is hardly true that we have a fair and objective view of the past.

Why most people know about Yinyuan but do not think he was important?

I am perhaps one of the few researchers who always think the subject matter I am studying is not that important.

Chinese style railing overseeing Soindo in Manpukuji © Jiang Wu 2014

One of the reasons is that in my research I always deal with marginal figures in obscure time and place about which a lot of "garbage sources" 垃圾史料 exist. Of course, Yinyuan has founded a new tradition in Japan. But so what? 

First of all, he is not an original thinker and all the teaching and practice he advocated had already been there since the Song time. He merely regurgitated those slogans such as the joint practice of Chan and Pure Land, or animal releasing ritual.

Second, in China, he hailed from a monastery in Fuqing, Fujian province which has no major role in Buddhist history, except the temple name was associated with Huangbo Xiyun. 

Third, even in Japan, the Obaku tradition is the smallest among all Zen sects. During its heydays, Obaku had about a thousand and seven hundreds temples in Japan and now only four hundred. This is significantly lower than a sub-tradition in some temple systems such as the Myoshinji lineage. Its influence in nowadays Japanese Buddhism is not discernible.

Some may wonder that calling it the third tradition in Japanese Zen might be a misnomer because this tradition is in fact part of Rinzai. All in all, there is nothing special about Yinyuan and his tradition.

But this is exactly what intrigues me.......