A Late Sixteenth-Century Chinese Buddhist Fellowship: Spiritual Ambitions, Intellectual Debates, and Epistolary Connections 9004308458, 9789004308459

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A Late Sixteenth-Century Chinese Buddhist Fellowship: Spiritual Ambitions, Intellectual Debates, and Epistolary Connections
 9004308458, 9789004308459

Table of contents :
Contents
Acknowledgments
Abbreviations and Explanation of Footnote Citations
List of Figures
Introduction
Epistolary versus Other Sources
Relational Arenas: The Formation of Networks and Solidary Groups
Personalizing Religious Culture
Final Remarks
Chapter 1
The Fellowship and Its Relations, Epistolary Sources, and Religious Identity
Situating Zhuhong: Interactions between Monks and Lay Disciples
Epistolary Sources Analyzed
The Familiar Letter
Ritualized Letters in Letter-Writing Manuals and in Household Encyclopedias
Manuscript Letters and Woodblock Reprints
Zhuhong’s Epistolary Collection and Wenda-style Texts
Quasi-Private Letter Circulation and Letter Delivery
Religious Identities: Multiple Affiliations
The Lexicon of Buddhist Affiliations
Desiring Monkhood: Family Men Take the Tonsure
Conclusion
Chapter 2
Mind Cultivation: Theoretical and Practical Considerations
Zhou Rudeng’s Confucian and Buddhist Activities
The Forum for Spiritual Exploration
Liangzhi and Mind Cultivation
Zhuhong’s Reaction to Liangzhi
An Attempt to Fuse Buddhist and Confucian Conceptions of the Mind
Mind Cultivation: Spiritual Exercises
Dissenting Views: Objections to Zhou Rudeng’s Methods
Conclusion
Chapter 3
Ethical Dilemmas: Can Good Buddhists Eat Meat?
Interpreting the First Precept: Karmic Tales
Buddhist Doctrinal Misgivings about Saving Animals
Philosophical Compatibility: Buddhist-Confucian Tensions
Monastic Contributions to the Debate
Animal Sacrifice: Resistance and Accommodation
Degrees of Accommodation: Steps toward a Meat-free Diet
Zhuhong’s Precept Advice
Zhou Rudeng’s Rejection of a Meat-free Diet
Conclusion
Chapter 4
Releasing-Life Societies: Communal Practices and Shared Concerns
Geographically Rooted Inspiration: Yongming Yanshou and the West Lake
Releasing-Life Societies
Regulating Meetings, Establishing Rituals
Meritorious Benefits of Releasing Life
Environmental Concerns
Silk or Cotton: What to Wear?
Military and Judicial Affairs: Pacifying the Country
Conclusion
Chapter 5
Family Practice: Pure Land Recitation
Rebirth Biographies
Female Recitation Practice and Pure Land Rebirths
Male Recitation Practice and Pure Land Rebirths
Servants and Tenants
A Doctrinal Justification: Zhuhong’s Commentary
The Practice of Recitation and Its Potency
Conclusion
Chapter 6
The Struggle for Attainment: How to Cultivate the Mind
Using Pure Land and Chan Techniques
Laboring to Clear the Mind
How to Recite the Name
Definitions and Controversies: Critical Phrase Techniques
Practical Matters: Trying the Technique
Zhuhong and Encounter Dialogue
The Fellowship and Encounter Dialogue
Time, Place, and Postures Conducive to Mind Cultivation
Conclusion
Chapter 7
Evaluating Attainment: Hearsay, Judgment, Consensus
Epistolary Hearsay
Variance and Consensus: Assessing Yu Chunxi
A Protracted Search: Tao Wangling
Held in High Esteem: Wang Erkang
Conclusion
Concluding Remarks
From Vision to Realization: Grappling with the Self, Grappling with Tradition
Network to Fellowship: The Relational Arena
Epistolary Connections
Appendix A: Members of the Fellowship
Prominent Fellowship Members
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview



A Late Sixteenth-Century Chinese Buddhist Fellowship

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi 10.1163/9789004308459_001

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Sinica Leidensia Edited by Barend J. ter Haar Maghiel van Crevel In co-operation with P.K. Bol, D.R. Knechtges, E.S. Rawski, W.L. Idema, H.T. Zurndorfer

VOLUME 127

The titles published in this series are listed at brill.com/sinl





A Late Sixteenth-Century Chinese Buddhist Fellowship Spiritual Ambitions, Intellectual Debates, and Epistolary Connections By

Jennifer Eichman

LEIDEN | BOSTON

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This publication has been supported by a grant from The Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange. Cover illustration: Bridging Two Worlds: The single-minded pursuit of rebirth in Amitābha Buddha’s Pure Land. A 1749 reprint of a 1597 woodblock cut illustration of Zhuhong’s Commentary and Its Subcommentary to the Amitābha Sūtra. Reprinted with permission from The East Asian Library and the Gest Collection, Princeton University. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Eichman, Jennifer Lynn, 1960- author. Title: A late sixteenth-century Chinese Buddhist fellowship : spiritual ambitions, intellectual debates, and epistolary connections / By Jennifer Eichman. Description: Boston : Brill, 2016. | Series: Sinica Leidensia ; VOLUME 127 | Includes bibliographical references and index. | Description based on print version record and CIP data provided by publisher; resource not viewed. Identifiers: LCCN 2015045071 (print) | LCCN 2015040126 (ebook) | ISBN 9789004308459 (E-book) | ISBN 9789004305137 (hardback : alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Buddhism--China--History--960-1644. | Religious thought--China--16th century. | Zhuhong, 1535-1615. | Zhou, Rudeng, 1547-1629. | Letter writing--China--History--16th century. | Social networks--China--History--16th century. Classification: LCC BQ641 (print) | LCC BQ641 .E38 2016 (ebook) | DDC 294.30951/09031--dc23 LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2015045071 Want or need Open Access? Brill Open offers you the choice to make your research freely accessible online in exchange for a publication charge. Review your various options on brill.com/brill-open. Typeface for the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic scripts: “Brill”. See and download: brill.com/brill-typeface. issn 0169-9563 isbn 978-90-04-30513-7 (hardback) isbn 978-90-04-30845-9 (e-book) Copyright 2016 by Koninklijke Brill nv, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Brill Hes & De Graaf, Brill Nijhoff, Brill Rodopi and Hotei Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill nv provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers, ma 01923, usa. Fees are subject to change. This book is printed on acid-free paper and produced in a sustainable manner.

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This book is dedicated to the taxi drivers of Taiwan who somehow just knew and to everyone in Taiwan who made me feel at home



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Contents Contents

Contents Acknowledgments xi Abbreviations and Explanation of Footnote Citations xiii List of Figures xv Introduction 1 a) Epistolary versus Other Sources 3 b) Relational Arenas: The Formation of Networks and Solidary Groups 5 c) Personalizing Religious Culture 11 d) Final Remarks 20 1 The Fellowship and Its Relations, Epistolary Sources, and Religious Identity 23 a) Situating Zhuhong: Interactions between Monks and Lay Disciples 25 b) Epistolary Sources Analyzed 30 c) The Familiar Letter 32 d) Ritualized Letters in Letter-Writing Manuals and in Household Encyclopedias 35 e) Manuscript Letters and Woodblock Reprints 37 f) Zhuhong’s Epistolary Collection and Wenda-Style Texts 40 h) Quasi-Private Letter Circulation and Letter Delivery 42 h) Religious Identities: Multiple Affiliations 46 i) The Lexicon of Buddhist Affiliations 53 j) Desiring Monkhood: Family Men Take the Tonsure 60 k) Conclusion 66 2 Mind Cultivation: Theoretical and Practical Considerations 69 a) Zhou Rudeng’s Confucian and Buddhist Activities 71 b) The Forum for Spiritual Exploration 76 c) Liangzhi and Mind Cultivation 82 d) Zhuhong’s Reaction to Liangzhi 90 e) An Attempt to Fuse Buddhist and Confucian Conceptions of the Mind 95 f) Mind Cultivation: Spiritual Exercises 98 g) Dissenting Views: Objections to Zhou Rudeng’s Methods 104 h) Conclusion 113

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3 Ethical Dilemmas: Can Good Buddhists Eat Meat? 115 a) Interpreting the First Precept: Karmic Tales 118 b) Buddhist Doctrinal Misgivings about Saving Animals 131 c) Philosophical Compatibility: Buddhist-Confucian Tensions 134 d) Monastic Contributions to the Debate 146 e) Animal Sacrifice: Resistance and Accommodation 149 f) Degrees of Accommodation: Steps toward a Meat-free Diet 151 g) Zhuhong’s Precept Advice 158 h) Zhou Rudeng’s Rejection of a Meat-free Diet 161 i) Conclusion 167 4 Releasing-Life Societies: Communal Practices and Shared ­Concerns 170 a) Geographically Rooted Inspiration: Yongming Yanshou and the West Lake 172 b) Releasing-Life Societies 181 c) Regulating Meetings, Establishing Rituals 187 d) Meritorious Benefits of Releasing Life 194 e) Environmental Concerns 198 f) Silk or Cotton: What to Wear? 206 g) Military and Judicial Affairs: Pacifying the Country 213 h) Conclusion 216 5 Family Practice: Pure Land Recitation 219 a) Rebirth Biographies 222 b) Female Recitation Practice and Pure Land Rebirths 226 c) Male Recitation Practice and Pure Land Rebirths 232 d) Servants and Tenants 239 e) A Doctrinal Justification: Zhuhong’s Commentary 242 f) The Practice of Recitation and Its Potency 252 g) Conclusion 258 6 The Struggle for Attainment: How to Cultivate the Mind Using Pure Land and Chan Techniques 260 a) Laboring to Clear the Mind 264 b) How to Recite the Name 272 c) Definitions and Controversies: Critical Phrase Techniques 274 d) Practical Matters: Trying the Technique 285 e) Zhuhong and Encounter Dialogue 288 f) The Fellowship and Encounter Dialogue 291

Contents

g) h)

Time, Place, and Postures Conducive to Mind Cultivation 295 Conclusion 301

7 Evaluating Attainment: Hearsay, Judgment, Consensus 303 a) Epistolary Hearsay 306 b) Variance and Consensus: Assessing Yu Chunxi 311 c) A Protracted Search: Tao Wangling 323 d) Held in High Esteem: Wang Erkang 341 e) Conclusion 345 Concluding Remarks From Vision to Realization: Grappling with the Self, Grappling with Tradition 348 a) Network to Fellowship: The Relational Arena 353 b) Epistolary Connections 358 Appendix A: Members of the Fellowship 363 Bibliography 372 Index 405

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Acknowledgments Acknowledgments

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Acknowledgments This book is about relational arenas and the many connections between people that sustained religious fellowship. And so it is that I wish to acknowledge the network of intellectual relations that helped make this book possible. In the course of my intellectual development there are many scholars who shared their expertise with me, helping to improve my work in ways both great and small. I would like to start by thanking all those who, upon hearing me present papers at conferences and give various academic talks, offered constructive criticism, additional sources, and stimulating questions. I regret that I cannot name each of you individually. I would like to thank those at Princeton University who directed my graduate studies. Foremost, I would like to thank my Ph.D. dissertation adviser, Buzzy Teiser. I would also like to thank Susan Naquin, Jackie Stone, Yu Yingshih, Willard Peterson, and Ben Elman. While still a graduate student, Chünfang Yü gave me her blessing to embark on this project. Without her earlier work on Zhuhong, The Renewal of Buddhism in China: Chu-hung and the Late Ming Synthesis, I might not have had the courage to expand outward toward the larger network of Buddhist disciples surrounding Zhuhong and his contemporaries. So thank you for your support and for your pioneering Englishlanguage scholarship on the monk Zhuhong. Although this book has traveled a great distance from my dissertation writing days, I still wish to acknowledge the financial support I received from the Fulbright Program (IIE), which funded my dissertation research at the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, and the subsequent support from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, which extended my stay there for another year. The year after receiving my Ph.D., I was equally fortunate to have been awarded a post-doctorate fellowship for a two-year stay at the Institute of Literature and Philosophy, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, where I joined a project under the supervision of Chung Tsai-chun. I would like to express my gratitude to Lee Ming-huei, Lin Yue-hui, Liu Shu-fen, Lin Wei-chieh, Chang Ji-lin, Lü Miawfen, Liao Chao-heng, and many others at Academia Sinica who made my stay there tremendously worthwhile. Needless to say, the vibrant scholarly culture at Academia Sinica, with its numerous weekly presentations and wealth of international conferences, spurred my intellectual growth in many ways from which I still benefit today.

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During the last several years, I have had the good fortune to present my work at the Columbia University Seminar on Neo-Confucian Studies, where I received crucial feedback from On-cho Ng, Conrad Schirokauer, Ari Borrell, and Deborah Sumner. Stephen Angle and Bryan W. van Norden have both answered my many queries about Confucian texts. Most of all, I would like to thank Philip J. Ivanhoe for his generosity both in sharing his expertise and in taking the time to offer insightful comments on draft chapters and for having read the entire manuscript in less than two months’ time! All of which was done for someone he has never met and could easily have simply dismissed. My work is infinitely better for having received such help. Chen Huaiyu, T. Griffith Foulk, and Zhang Dewei also assisted in clarifying passages and offering input on translation choices. There are still far too few female scholars in the fields of Chinese Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism—a fact I often bemoan when reading the acknowledgements written by female scholars in other fields who often glow about some mythical sisterhood of academic support. I would, however, like to thank Lucille Chia for encouraging me to persevere when it would have been so easy to simply walk away. Through her encouragement, I reached out to Ellen Widmer, Kathryn Lowry, and Anne Burkus-Chasson, who were all wonderful in offering suggestions on the topic of epistolary writing. I would like to thank the Sinica Leidensia series editor, Barend J. ter Haar for seeing the potential in this volume. Patricia Radder and Heddi Goodrich also helped shepherd this volume through the editorial process. The final stages of this publication have been supported by a generous grant from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange. Needless to say, any remaining shortcomings are my own.

Abbreviations and Explanation ofCitations Footnote Citations xiii Abbreviations and Explanation of Footnote

Abbreviations and Explanation of Footnote Citations DMB ECCP

HJAS J JAAR JIABS T

WSJ X

Carrington L. Goodrich and Chaoying Fang, eds. Dictionary of Ming Biography 1368–1644, 2 vols. New York: Columbia University Press, 1976. Arthur W. Hummel, ed., Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period (1644– 1912), 2 vols. 1943–44; Reprint, Taipei: Ch’eng-wen Publishing Company, 1967. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies Mingban Jiaxing dazangjing: Jingshan zang ban 明版嘉興大藏經: 徑 山藏版. 40 vols. Taipei: Xinwenfeng chubanshe, 1987. Journal of the American Academy of Religion Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies Taishō shinshū daizōkyō 大正新修大藏經 [Buddhist Canon Newly Compiled in the Taisho Era]. 85 vols. Edited by Takakusu Junjirō 高楠 順次郎 and Watanabe Kaigyoku 渡邊海旭, 1924–1932. Tokyo: Taishō issaikyō kankōkai. Wangsheng ji 往生集 [Rebirth Biographies]. Zhuhong 祩宏 (1535– 1615); preface dated 1584. T no., 2072. Dainippon zokuzōkyō 大日本續藏經 [Great Japanese (Republication of the) Supplement to the Chinese Buddhist Canon]. 150 vols. Edited by Maeda Eun 前田慧雲 and Nakano Tatsue 中野達慧, 1905–1912. Kyoto: Zōkyō shoin. In following the conventions of CBETA, I use X not Z.

The three canonical collections cited here have been incorporated into the digitalized CBETA dianzi fodian jicheng 電子佛典集成 [Chinese Electronic Tripitaka Collection], prepared by the Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association. Taipei: Zhonghua dianzi fodian xiehui, 2015. I have consulted both this source and hardcopy editions of these texts. Brill largely follows the footnoting conventions laid out in the Chicago Manual of Style. However, given the number of sources used in this volume, the burdens of adding a full citation for the first mention of each and every source in a chapter soon became painfully apparent to both the series editor and myself. Thus, it was decided that in order to keep the footnotes from overwhelming a page, the following exceptions would be made. (1) Each source is mentioned in full only once and thereafter referenced in abbreviated form. (2) In cases where three or more authors are mentioned in a single footnote merely for purposes of reference and without comment (e.g., see the

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work of x, y, and z), I often provide only surnames and publication year—the full references are in the bibliography. (3) Titles of Chinese texts are translated only when mentioned in the body of the text or when making a particular point in a footnote, but not in footnote citations. (4) Buddhist canonical sources and temple gazetteers are referenced with pinyin only. (5) Translated titles for secondary works are found only in the bibliography. (6) As per Chicago Manual of Style allowances, publication information for multi-volume works is found only in the bibliography. (6) Pinyin is added for binomes and three-character terms, but used sparingly with four-character phrases— appearing only when the pinyin is needed for subsequent reference in prose sections of the text.

List of Figures List of Figures

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List of Figures 4.1 Listening to the Birds and Trees Extoll the Dharma: Elite men and monks meeting at the side of a lake in the Pure Land. A 1749 reprint of a 1597 woodblock cut illustration of Zhuhong’s Commentary and Its Subcommentary to the Amitābha Sūtra. Reprinted with permission from The East Asian Library and the Gest Collection, Princeton University 179 4.2 An Assembly of Those of the Highest Virtue: This theme is portrayed with monks and elite officials bathing and discoursing in the Pure Land. A 1749 reprint of a 1597 woodblock cut illustration of Zhuhong’s Commentary and Its Subcommentary to the Amitābha Sūtra. Reprinted with permission from The East Asian Library and the Gest Collection, Princeton University 179

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Introduction Introduction

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Introduction In about the year 1600, Regulator of Cavalry Guo Zizhang 郭子章 (1543–1618) wrote a letter to the monk Lianchi Zhuhong 蓮池袾宏 (1535–1615): I, your humble servant, already believe deeply (shenxin 深信) in the Western Pure Land. [Yet] there are those who say it is profoundly illuminating (miaoming 妙明, Skt. suvidyâgra). [While] there are others who say it is simple and easy (jianyi 簡易). I recently obtained a copy of your Commentary and Its Subcommentary to the Amitābha Sūtra (Emituo jing shuchao 阿彌陀經疏鈔) and read it. I now understand that this profound illumination does not favor a one-sided attachment to emptiness; what is simple and easy does not degenerate into superficial and vulgar. Since the time of Master Huiyuan, there is only you [who has taught this] … The letter, sent from Guizhou Province to Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, is layered with meaning. Guo expresses not only his spiritual ambition, but also his perplexity when confronted with competing religious claims, and the religious authority he drew on to resolve this conflict. Guo’s letter tells us unequivocally that he was a Pure Land practitioner, that he had been exposed to late Ming discussions about whether Pure Land practices were lofty or simple, and that he had resolved that question by reading Zhuhong’s commentary. The letter further expresses the highest admiration for the religious authority of the then sixty-five-year-old Zhuhong, even comparing him to the famous monk Huiyuan 慧遠 (334–416), whom Zhuhong himself greatly admired. Zhuhong’s response to Guo further framed all Buddhist cultivation, including Pure Land cultivation, in terms of the mind: “Whether monk or layman, there is nothing more important than illuminating one’s own ‘mind-ground’ (xindi 心地).”1 How best to cultivate the mind/heart was in fact a pressing question in late sixteenth-century Buddhist and Confucian discourse and as such is a prominent theme running throughout this volume. This short letter embodies the three main areas of inquiry listed in this book’s subtitle: spiritual ambition, intellectual debate, and epistolary exchange. All three areas have been critical to the reconstruction of the late sixteenthcentury Chinese Buddhist fellowship (hereafter also referred to as “the 1 Zhuhong 祩宏. Lianchi dashi quanji 蓮池大師全集 (Taipei: Dongchu chubanshe, 1992), 4509–4510. Unless otherwise stated, all translations are my own.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi 10.1163/9789004308459_002

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Introduction

Fellowship”) of elite male practitioners that constitutes the subject of this volume. In contrast to locally rooted religious groups, whose participants live in close physical proximity to one other, fellowships like this one are comprised of a geographically dispersed network of men who knew each other, having lived in close proximity for a short period of time or who met irregularly, but whose sense of community was sustained by their epistolary correspondence not by regular face-to-face contact. The very existence of this particular fellowship, whose lay and ordained members were spread across Jiangnan and beyond, has been determined foremost by an analysis of their shared spiritual ambition, that is, their desire to find a viable path to self-cultivation, an area of inquiry deeply intertwined with the intellectual as well as the social dimensions of their practice. This approach grounds discourse in community rather than merely imagining the reception of Buddhist ideas through analysis of prescriptive sources. The dynamic life of this fellowship is intimately connected to contemporary intra-Buddhist and Yangming Confucian discourses on mind cultivation. Readers will find that many of the chapters reveal a robust Confucian-Buddhist dialogue. In order to more effectively bring to life the historical moment wherein these men forged a Buddhist culture, I have included extensive discussion of the range of differences between the monk Zhuhong’s vision of a Pure Land path and that of one subset of Yangming Confucians: those allied with Zhuhong’s nemesis, Zhou Rudeng 周汝登 (1547–1629).2 A prominent thirdgeneration Yangming Confucian promoter of Wang Yangming’s Learning of the Mind (xinxue 心學), Zhou Rudeng conceived of mind cultivation in ways that resonated with Chan texts. This was so much the case that in his Sourcebook of Ming Confucians (Mingru xue’an 明儒學案), the Confucian literatus Huang Zongxi 黃宗羲 (1610–1695) criticized Zhou Rudeng as overly sympathetic to Chan. Yet despite his interest in Chan, Zhou distanced himself from Zhuhong’s promotion of Pure Land cultivation and rejected Buddhist precept practice. The ensuing chapters focus first on the lively discourse generated by this Buddhist fellowship’s interest in the relationship between doctrinal and practical spiritual matters and then proceed to introduce the methods of cultivation the Fellowship adopted in light of these discussions. It was indeed these discussions that connected the far-flung members of this fellowship. Its members were those who chose to reject certain Confucian methods of self-cultivation in favor of Buddhist ones, evidenced particularly by their formal acceptance of lay Buddhist precepts. Most would become Zhuhong’s precept-disciples (see 2 I use the term “Yangming Confucians” to denote followers of Wang Yangming, including second- and third-generation leaders and their lineages. The term roughly translates the modern Chinese description of these lineages as Yangming xuepai 陽明學派.

Introduction

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chapter 1). To wean his precept-disciples from an overreliance on Chan methods and convince them to embrace rebirth in Amitābha’s Pure Land, Zhuhong further introduced them to intra-Buddhist debates on the compatibility of Chan and Pure Land visions of the path to spiritual liberation. Such intellectual debates about self-cultivation were instrumental in determining the contours of late sixteenth-century and early seventeenth-century Buddhist culture, most particularly the culture of doctrinal deliberation, of bodily disciplines, of excavating releasing-life ponds, of meditative exercises, and of spiritual judgment. The sociability between the members of this particular Buddhist fellowship and their long-term engagement with what were to them crucial issues of self-cultivation is indeed striking. But how, one might ask, in the absence of monastic lay practitioner registers or other sources listing precept-disciples, does one reconstruct a lay (albeit elite lay) Buddhist community scattered across a region? Fortunately, Zhuhong’s epistolary collection identifies most of his elite male correspondents by their dharma names, signaling that they received the precepts under his tutelage. Epistolary exchanges reveal a more personal side to lay participation, as letters chronicle how through their relationship with Zhuhong, other monks, and each other, these men nurtured their Buddhist ambitions. An analysis of Zhuhong’s epistolary collection and other epistolary writings, including letters exchanged between precept-disciples, was indispensable to uncovering this fellowship, to discovering which Buddhist topics these men considered important, and to determining whom they regarded as their Buddhist friends. Because they give voice to more personal revelations, letters are used intensively throughout this study. However, numerous other sources are also used to further contextualize the epistolary content and paint a more complete picture of the Buddhist relations that defined the associative life of this fellowship.

Epistolary versus Other Sources

The analysis of descriptive sources brings into sharper focus how real historical actors draw on religious culture and how they bend received semiotic codes to suit their own religious exploration. Within Buddhist scholarship, Jan Nattier first raised the methodological need to differentiate between prescriptive and descriptive genres in determining how Buddhist culture actually works.3 The subjects of my study certainly wrote prescriptive essays. They took a public 3 Jan Nattier, A Few Good Men: The Bodhisattva Path According to the Inquiry of Ugra (Ugra­ pariprccha) (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2003), 48–72.

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Introduction

stand on specific techniques for self-cultivation and defended certain ­doctrinal views and exegetical traditions. Studying their essays, society circulars, and temple gazetteer writings will undoubtedly deepen our knowledge of Buddhist culture in this period. However, I have found epistolary writings to be the best descriptive sources not only for what they reveal about specific persons but because they also allow us to further contextualize prescriptive genres through direct ties to a more clearly demarcated audience. An analysis of epistolary exchanges allows us to separate out the more particular set of Buddhist ideas drawn from a broader discourse that were of greatest relevance to the parties concerned. Written in first-person narrative, they reveal levels of doctrinal understanding, religious commitment, interest in spiritual exercises, friendships, and so forth. The recipients of such quasiprivate familiar letters rarely remained anonymous, allowing us to think more concretely about Buddhist fellowship in terms of who, what, and where. In this respect, letters offer a counterbalance to those polemical essays, commen­ taries, and other philosophical writings, which were often addressed to an imagined unnamed readership. In general sizable epistolary collections, when they exist, are one of the most important sources available for the reconstruction of religious networks for they help determine network size, frequency of contact, and levels of intimacy. The only other source that might compare on such a relational level is poetry. However, in Zhuhong’s case, his extant poetry collection is quite small and sheds little light on his relations with disciples; and while Zhou Rudeng’s poetry mentions many obscure monks he met once while traveling, it fails to depict his relations with those monks with whom he developed enduring friendships. Poems, moreover, can be cryptic and do not often offer the protracted religious expositions found in some epistolary sources. Suffice it to say that in these two cases poetry is not a particularly revealing source. For many minor figures in this fellowship, letters are the only remaining substantial content-rich historical documents. This is mainly because such letters were republished in Zhuhong’s epistolary collection along with his responses (see chapter 1). Additionally, this network’s regional dispersal makes it conceivable that a number of Zhuhong’s correspondents did not know each other. It is the fact that they corresponded with Zhuhong about a shared set of spiritual concerns that links them to the fellowship’s discourse. Martin Huang attributes the late Ming rise in the importance of friendship among men to the flourishing of jianghui—forums for discoursing on learning, most particularly Confucian moral cultivation.4 This study further demon­4 Martin W. Huang, “Male Friendship and Jiangxue (Philosophical Debates) in SixteenthCentury China,” NAN NÜ 9, no. 1 (2007): 146–178.

Introduction

5

strates that Buddhist gatherings and more informal face-to-face discussions of Buddhist topics were equally instrumental to the development of elite male friendships. Friendships were certainly crucial to sustaining the associative life of the Fellowship. Mutual support from trusted confidants helped foster community and played a role in the overall spiritual progress of the network. Nevertheless, in this study, friendships are examined as one component within an overall web of associations that included elite engagement with exegetical sources, Buddhist scripture, lay societies, institutional relations, and, first and foremost, epistolary collections. Without such epistolary queries, ruminations, gossip, bouts of anxiety, and clear evidence that X and Y wrote to each other about their Buddhist activities, our study of how elite men in late sixteenthcentury China maintained a lively discourse on intellectual and practical spiritual matters would indeed be severely impoverished. As descriptive firstperson narrations, letters give voice to conversations, cultivation processes, and personal relations in a way prescriptive sources simply do not.

Relational Arenas: The Formation of Networks and Solidary Groups

Rather than view religious community in geographically localized terms, this study argues for an alternative—to borrow a word from Arjun Appadurai—a “deterritorialized” conception of community.5 While Esherick and Rankin have drawn attention to the concept of local “arenas,” that is, “the environment, the stage, the surrounding social space” where local elites function,6 the arena in which these fellowship members operated was primarily relational, not geographical; their activities cannot be pinpointed to a single locale. The previously quoted letter that Guo Zizhang sent to Zhuhong further illustrates this point. Guo had a long and illustrious official career, moving from post to post. At the time he wrote to Zhuhong, Guo had been sent on a military expedition to subdue the kingdom of Yelang 夜郎 in what is now Guizhou Province. Guo wrote that he could not visit Zhuhong himself at his residence, Cloud Dwelling Monastery 雲棲寺, but was sending three or four servants in his 5 Arjun Appadurai, “Global Ethnoscapes: Notes and Queries for a Transnational Anthropology,” in Recapturing Anthropology: Working in the Present, ed. Richard G. Fox (Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 1991), 191–210. 6 Joseph W. Esherick and Mary Backus Rankin, eds., Chinese Local Elites and Patterns of Dominance (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 11. For a recent attempt at mapping religious sites, see Jiang Wu, Daoqin Tong, and Karl Ryavec, “Spatial Analysis and GIS Modeling of Regional Religious Systems in China: Conceptualization and Initial Experiments,” in Chinese History in Geographical Perspective, eds. Yongtao Du and Jeff Kyong-McClain (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013), 179–196.

6

Introduction

stead—by teaching them it would be as if his master were teaching him personally.7 Guo increased his grasp of Zhuhong’s teachings through this rather innovative arrangement. This is not a study of local elites whose religious commitments were cemented through cradle-to-grave associations with a single dominant monastic institution, through friendships cultivated during early childhood religious instruction, or by adults who established a geographically contiguous congregation on a par with Western parish communities.8 Many network members came from different cities within the vast Jiangnan region; key players also hailed from other provinces. This network of correspondents indulged their Buddhist interests through small group gatherings or personal study and selfcultivation. Cultivation exercises were often carried out alone at home and at official posts or together when visitors arrived, at multiple points along a pilgrimage route, or at monasteries. However, these men did not always gravitate toward monastic ritual spectacle. A significant feature is the irregularity as to when and where they indulged in exercises of self-cultivation. Only after retiring from office did a few members build studios near the West Lake in Hangzhou, allowing for more regular contact. Despite the fact that these men were drawn to congregate at a number of historically important monasteries around the West Lake, no single monastery served as this network’s congregational home. Unlike temple-centered god cults, such as those devoted to Mazu or Guandi, whose importance was tied to localized territorial jurisdictions, elite religious networks placed primary emphasis on the quality of their interactions with learned monks and likeminded friends—spiritual progress was linked foremost to their associative life, not to the life of a single monastery. This relational arena comprised of dispersed individuals is what sociologists call a network and stands in contradistinction to solidary communities, defined in the sociological literature as bound by the circumference of the village or a restricted urban locality. Rethinking community in network terms allows us to better conceive of how highly mobile elite sixteenth-century Chinese men could have created a Buddhist fellowship. In their analysis of social networks, Barry Wellman and 7 Zhuhong, Quanji, 4509–4510. 8 For a discussion of cradle-to-grave versus seeker-oriented spirituality, see the work of American sociologist Robert Wuthnow, After Heaven: Spirituality in America Since the 1950s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998). For two other studies of note on geographically bounded religious communities, see Katherine L. French, The People of the Parish: Community Life in a Late Medieval English Diocese (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001); John T. McGreevy, Parish Boundaries: The Catholic Encounter with Race in the TwentiethCentury Urban North (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).

Introduction

7

many other sociologists have moved away from urban sociology’s preoccupation with solidary groupings and territorial units. Wellman distinguishes between “groups,” which are conceived of as limited bounded entities, and “networks,” which are defined as geographically nonspecific and unrestricted by a single type of membership. In his view, people are “limited members of multiple social networks, sparsely knit and loosely bounded.” In this conception “primary ties are dispersed among multiple, sparsely interconnected social networks” that have a broad range of direct and indirect connections. Links between members, access to resources, and ease of maintaining contact all affect how networks function.9 The Fellowship under discussion here can be fruitfully analyzed along similar lines (see chapter 1). It was a diffused network of varying alliances that created within it smaller “groups” or solidarities that fit Wellman’s definition. It would be easiest for us to adopt a hub-and-spoke method of analysis, declaring that each monk had his own clearly bound disciple-network, and then proceed toward a tidy comparison. Yet the social reality was far more complicated and far more fluid than such an analysis would permit. Interactions analyzed here were not structured according to a simple top-down hierarchical model wherein people gravitate toward one religious authority, institution, or parish.10 There were multiple centers and shifting leadership roles with no uniform elevation of monks over laymen. Moreover, discipleship was not an exclusive affair: by seeking counsel from more than one monk, many examination elites developed multiple mentoring relationships, putting less pressure on any one dyad. Despite this study’s primary focus on Zhuhong’s elite male 9

10

Barry Wellman, “The Community Question: The Intimate Network of East Yorkers,” American Journal of Sociology 84, no. 5 (1979): 1204–1207. For further development of this idea, see also, Barry Wellman and Barry Leighton, “Networks, Neighborhoods, and Communities: Approaches to the Study of the Community Question,” Urban Affairs Review 14, no. 3 (1979): 363–390; Barry Wellman, ed., Networks in the Global Village (Boulder: Westview Press, 1999); Barry Wellman, “The Persistence and Transformation of Community: From Neighbourhood Groups to Social Networks,” (Report to the Law Commission of Canada, 2001); Charles Kadushin, “Too Much Investment in Social Capital?” Social Networks 26 (2004): 75–90. William A. Christian has argued that the history of religion is largely a history of community and that a remarkable fact about religious communities is the “existence of a number of massive and enduring communities with non-overlapping memberships, each with its own body of doctrines.” In striking contrast, during the late sixteenth century we find overlapping membership in multiple Buddhist and Confucian contexts along with doctrinal arguments that combine traditions. William A. Christian, Doctrines of Religious Communities: A Philosophical Study (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), 1.

8

Introduction

disciples, Zhuhong was only one hub around which these men were known to congregate. Depending on the topic, Zhuhong at times recedes into the background. Hanshan Deqing 憨山德清 (1546–1623), Zhanran Yuancheng 湛然圓 澄 (1561–1626) and other monks, Yangming Confucian leaders, and some examination elites also assumed positions of religious authority. Because of this overlap and because he was an influential biographer, letter writer, and purveyor of spiritual talent, for comparative purposes, some of Deqing’s ideas are introduced throughout, especially in the final three chapters. Zhanran Yuancheng is also discussed at some length in chapter 6. However, including all monks and relations would create an enormously unwieldy study and will not be attempted here. (For a list of additional monks and Confucian exegetes, as well as an extended list of fellowship participants and their roles, see the Appendix.) This alternative model of religious fellowship—conceived of as a geographically dispersed network comprised of semi-lateral relations between a number of monks and numerous like-minded lay practitioners—expands our current scholarly repertoire of the types of relational structures that fostered religious life in pre-modern China (and perhaps in other Asian cultures). The term “Fellowship” was chosen to emphasize the affective side of the participants’ associative life and to suggest that, in spite of the untidy edges of the network and the inclusion of some peripheral figures, there was a certain cohesion that prevailed—firstly among more dominant participants, and secondly in terms of the network’s contribution to the same discourse.11 Civil service examinations were arguably the most important event in the creation of this network: most men met through introductions made either while under the duress of examination periods or later, when employed in government positions. To emphasize this connection, I often refer to fellowship members as “examination elites.”12 The more prominent voices in this study, Tao Wangling 陶望齡 (1562–1609), Huang Hui 黃輝 (1554–1612), Yu Chunxi 虞 11

12

I am grateful to Philip J. Ivanhoe for first suggesting to me the term “fellowship.” Scholars of Neo-Confucianism have readily adopted the term, since its introduction by Hoyt Tillman. However, this trend has received little attention in Buddhist Studies scholarship and may at first appear counterintuitive. Hoyt Tillman, Confucian Discourse and Chu Hsi’s Ascendancy (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1992). Given their extensive knowledge of classical scholarship, lineage ritual, and literary publications, these men could also be referred to as “literati” or “cultural elites.” In light of the structure of this network, I have decided not to use the term “gentry,” which connotes a sense of local power and landownership. For more on this topic, see Benjamin Elman, On Their Own Terms: Science in China, 1550–1900 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), xxi.

Introduction

9

淳熙 (1553–1621), Feng Shike 馮時可 (b. ca. 1547), Yuan Hongdao 袁宏道 (1568– 1610), Yuan Zhongdao 袁中道 (1570–1624), Yuan Zongdao 袁宗道 (1560–1600), Feng Mengzhen 馮夢禎 (1546–1623), and Tu Long 屠隆 (1542–1605) were welleducated men who had attained the jinshi degree. Huang Hui, Jiao Hong 焦竑

(1541–1620), Tao Wangling, and Yuan Zhongdao met through assignment to the Hanlin Academy. Paul McLean has noted that networks are often constructed from a variety of other networks,13 while Wellman has argued that networks often coalesce through networking opportunities afforded by professional associations wherein friends of friends became friends of each other.14 This has certainly proved to be the case for this fellowship, which expanded through introductions to educated friends, family members, and Buddhist monks. Many of these men participated in multiple overlapping networks. What this study does is select out, from among their many associations, those relations that nurtured an active interest in Buddhist cultivation and other Buddhist activities. For the time being, their mutual participation in other types of networks and activities will necessarily be set aside. Not all fellowship members participated in every gathering. From within the network, smaller subsets of persons met for the purpose of group culti­ vation, forming discrete, structured group solidarities such as Buddhist releasing-life societies (see chapter 4). Such groups tended to be short-lived. When they fell apart, however, the network remained intact, often regrouping under the aegis of other newly formed societies. Some network members created stronger alliances with a few select correspondents, who then became their close spiritual companions. Subgroups might meet face-to-face in groups of varying size and degrees of affiliation, go on pilgrimage together, or intermittently cultivate Chan in each other’s company. The strong sense of community created through these interactions resulted in long-lasting friendships and led to networking opportunities that further connected people, practices, and texts. Since the mid-1990s, cultural/interactionist/relational sociologists have recognized the need to integrate analyses of social networks with an accounting of both agency and culture.15 Oftentimes, their use of sophisticated mathematical modeling—based on measuring Euclidean distance, snowball sampling,

13 14 15

Paul D. McLean, The Art of the Network: Strategic Interaction and Patronage in Renaissance Florence (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007), 7. Wellman and Leighton, “Networks, Neighborhoods, and Communities,” 1208. See, for example, McLean, The Art of the Network; Mustafa Emirbayer and Jeff Goodwin, “Network Analysis, Culture, and the Problem of Agency,” Urban Affairs Review 14, no. 3 (1979): 363–390; Nick Crossley, Towards Relational Sociology (New York: Routledge, 2011).

10

Introduction

Spin Glass algorithms and other algorithms generated through computer analyses of massive data sets derived from focus groups, surveys, and field research—masks an underlying shortcoming: the analysis is only as good as the questions asked. This is particularly true with respect to the study of religious networks. When, for example, the questions asked focus narrowly on “depth of belief” without due consideration of how various religious traditions might define normative commitments—for example, by giving more weight to ritual participation than doctrine and so forth—the data sets will not in fact reflect how or why a group coalesces.16 Likewise, how religious culture or discourse is created and the power or weakness of its ideas is lost in algorithms that select out only for interactional information. The sheer volume of interaction does not of itself speak to the religious identity, motivation, or commitment of individual participants. For that reason, this book is not a quantitative sociological study of a network. In fact, in attempting to understand the balance of culture and agency within this particular religious network, there is far more to be gained through a detailed analysis of how its participants understood the relationship between doctrine and practice. This study takes as its starting point the Fellowship’s Buddhist interests and defines “normative commitments” in terms of the Buddhist topics and cultivation practices that received the greatest attention in its members’ letters and essays. At the same time, such an analysis requires bearing in mind the fluid nature of these interests. In his argument for an interactionist understanding of the nexus of culture, structure, and agency, Paul McLean has convincingly argued that “agency within networks is ever adapting to an unfolding social structure as well as an evolving repertoire of discursive gestures.”17 Thus we can ask: What religious or cultural idioms informed the Buddhist fellowship under study here? How did the individual actors contribute to the conversational flow occurring around them? What concrete actions did they take in enacting their vision of a better world? Furthermore, relationships are, as McLean adds, “built and rebuilt, sustained, and transformed across time. Thus we have to think about social networks and networking dynamically.”18 A single snapshot simply will not reveal the dynamic transformations that unfold over time as individuals become more

16

17 18

For a critique of belief as a determinative criteria in the analysis of Chinese religions, see Robert Campany, “On the Very Idea of Religions (in the Modern West and in Early Medieval China),” History of Religions 42, no. 4 (2003): 287–319. McLean, The Art of the Network, 7. Ibid.

Introduction

11

spiritually competent or less committed. For this reason, the associative life of this fellowship is examined over a thirty-year period.

Personalizing Religious Culture

To demonstrate that the production of intellectual ideas is a process intimately tied to situational dynamics, Randall Collins has stressed the role of emotional energy in the creation of community and its resulting intellectual output.19 The men who participated in this network of examination elites were not always in agreement and certainly had personal religious experiences that were not commutable to anyone else’s. Yet their micro-exchanges, often sustained over a twenty-to-thirty-year stretch, had a cumulative effect: they coal­esced into larger macro-patterns forming a knowledge community, a sort of clearinghouse on how to master cultivation techniques and sort through daily religious frustrations.20 In emphasizing the associative side of religious cultivation, this study hews a path between definitions of religion that stress “the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude” (James)21

19

20

21

Collins, following Durkheim, favors the theory that sustained social interaction leads to “social emotion” or “emotional energy” (Durkheim’s “effervescence”). This is similar to Weber’s “elective affinities,” Ann Swidler’s “emotional vitality,” and what other scholars have labeled “effort.” I have interpreted such energies to include both intellectual and emotional resonance. Randall Collins, Interaction Ritual Chains (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 102–133. Collins tested his theories of social interaction in an extremely ambitious work, The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998). My interest is in Collins’s theoretical stance, not his concrete Buddhist and Confucian examples, which leave much to be desired. For a critique of Collins, see Michele Lamont, “Three Questions for a Big Book: Collins’s The Sociology of Philosophies,” Sociological Theory 19, no. 1 (2001): 86–91; Douglas Goodman, “What Collins’s The Sociology of Philosophies Says about Sociological Theory,” Sociological Theory 19, no. 1 (2001): 92–101; and Collins’s response, in Collins, Interaction Ritual Chains, 3–6. William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902; reprint, London and New York: Routledge, 2001), 28. Leigh Schmidt has argued that in post-1850s America “[solitude] became such an entrenched habit of mind, if not body, that such grand theorists as William James and Alfred North Whitehead made solitary experience the core of religion itself.” Leigh Schmidt, Restless Souls (San Francisco: Harper, 2005), 16. Thomas Wilson has asserted that the Confucian quest for sagehood is not a solitary endeavor because the self as ethical agent cannot be isolated. Thomas Wilson, “Introduction,” in On Sacred Grounds:

12

Introduction

and those that view religion as either communal solidarity (Durkheim) or institutionally patterned behavior (Spiro).22 Reflecting more carefully on the role that personal emotional resonance plays in sustaining knowledge communities may help us reengage the question of community without an inadvertent reification of the idea, prevalent in the first three quarters of the twentieth century, that religion is a unified system of belief (as with Durkheim). Clifford Geertz’s extremely influential 1973 definition of religion continued this trend, opening with the words “a system of symbols,” and tended to privilege dogma over other religious phenomena.23 In reaction to scholars who posited religion as an interior, and thus inaccessible, realm of the human psyche, Geertz argued persuasively that religious ideas reside in the public domain and are thus a readily analyzable object of scholarly inquiry.24 Epistolary sources analyzed in chapter 7 confirm this supposition, for these letters continually extemporize on religious experience in language appropriated from earlier Chan texts, while also adding personal observations of contemporary behavior. However, what Geertz did not take into consideration was audience reception or the ways in which agency or institutional power might create or alter religious practice.25 In a correction to this oversight, scholars in search of a more nuanced account of how gender, ethnicity,

22

23 24

25

Culture, Society, Politics, and the Formation, of the Cult of Confucius, ed. Thomas A. Wilson (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2002), 15. For an overview of definitional craftsmanship and attempts to delineate a disciplinary horizon for the field of religious studies, and more on Whitehead, James, Spiro, and Durkheim, see Thomas Tweed, “Marking Religion’s Boundaries: Constitutive Terms, Orienting Tropes, and Exegetical Fussiness,” History of Religions 44, no. 3 (2005): 252–276, esp. 258, 275. For an insightful critique of the “religion as system of belief” paradigm, see Campany, “On the Very Idea of Religions,” 300–310. Clifford Geertz, “From the Native’s Point of View: On the Nature of Anthropological Understanding,” in Culture Theory: Essays on Mind, Self, and Emotion, eds. Richard Shweder and Robert Levine (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 135. Talal Asad has offered the most trenchant critique of Geertz’s Christian overtone and lack of attention to institution and agency. In providing a corrective, he has broadened the public dimension of Geertz’s definition to include institutions, ritual, and practice. See his chapter entitled “The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category” in Talal Asad, Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam (Baltimore: John Hopkins, 1993), 27–54. As critiques of Geertz are too numerous to list, I mention only: Kevin Schilbrack, “Religion, Models of, and Reality: Are We Through with Geertz?” JAAR 73, no. 2 (2005): 429–253 and William E. Arnal, “Definition,” in Guide to the Study of Religion, eds. Willi Braun and Russell T. McCutcheon (London and New York: Cassell, 2000), 21–34.

Introduction

13

class, and so forth affect the dynamics of religious community have delved more critically into issues of reception and agency.26 In light of this scholarly shift, focused on accounting for differences, the reader may have reservations about a study centered on a network of elite males who on the face of it exhibit little differentiation–in terms of gender, ethnicity, educational attainment, and economic and social strata. And yet social network analysts have also argued against the reification of such categorical attributes because they do not view them as singularly determinative factors in how network members make decisions.27 In fact, despite sharing so many of the same traits, the individual members of the Fellowship under study here exhibited a considerable degree of intellectual variance, level of commitment, and spiritual progress. This Buddhist fellowship’s elite female counterparts were religiously active, though they are not listed among the participants in this network’s releasinglife societies, temple restoration work, or epistolary exchanges. None of the correspondents are women.28 Low female visibility within the Fellowship was due, in part, to Zhuhong, who declared releasing-life society meetings off limits to female participation, and the sexes appear not to have mixed at other 26

27 28

Geertz’s critic and fellow anthropologist Fredrik Barth has pushed for a break with the root metaphor of society as a system of integrated parts. Fredrik Barth, Balinese Worlds (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993). See also Sherry Ortner, ed., The Fate of ‘Culture’: Geertz and Beyond (Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1999), a special issue of Representations in which Lila Abu-Lughod, Sherry Ortner, and others argue that participants are active manipulators of ideology—not passive recipients. Crossley, Towards Relational Sociology. Besides the epistolary collections of Zhuhong and the network, I have also checked the usual sources for sixteenth-century female epistolary writing, see references in the bibliography to Hu Wenkai 1941, 1973; Wang Xiuqin 1947; Qian Qianyi 1959; and Gu Ruopu 1971. Extant female writings for this period consist largely of poetry; there are extant poems by the wives, mothers, and daughters of some network members. In the 1580s, correspondence between women and non-familial males was socially unacceptable. I am aware of only two exceptions. Li Zhi 李贄 (1527–1602), a friend of some network members, wrote letters to his female disciples and argued for greater female access to methods of selfcultivation. However, his interactions and ideas were met with derision; see Pauline C. Lee, “Li Zhi and John Stuart Mill: A Confucian Feminist Critique of Liberal Feminism,” in The Sage and the Second Sex: Confucianism, Ethics, and Gender, ed. Chenyang Li (Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company, 2000), 113–132. For an exceptional case, see Ann Waltner’s work on letters to male disciples written by the young female adept Tanyangzi 曇陽 子 (1557–1580): “Tanyangzi in her own Words and those of Wang Shizhen,” in Beyond Exemplar Tales: Women’s Biography in Chinese History, eds. Joan Judge and Hu Ying (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 212–229.

14

Introduction

religious gatherings discussed in the ensuing chapters. Family devotional life was, however, one realm where men and women might join each other in Pure Land and other devotional practices. In this respect, women were vicarious participants who benefited from the Pure Land teachings that their husbands, brothers or fathers brought home. To highlight the familial side of this fellowship’s Pure Land cultivation, in chapter 5, I discuss the Pure Land practices of family members, wives, concubines, and servants.29 Women were intermittently present as subject matter in male epistolary writing and their voices are occasionally heard, however altered, in rebirth biographies. These sources allow for some access to female cultivation. One of the purposes of this study is to highlight the diversity of religious thinking and the creative recombination of received ideas that circulated among the members of the Fellowship. The letters sent among these ostensibly similar men, as they pondered on how best to cultivate the self, both reflect common themes and reveal more individualized struggles and successes. In the methodological shift from system to agency, Ann Swidler has reformulated the question from one of how to understand publicly available symbols to how “people who share similar cultural understandings integrate them differently into their lives.” In other words, the symbols may be part of a religious discourse open to all, yet it is evident when we factor in agency that religious practitioners are often motivated in their use of religion to resolve particular problems rather than to master an entire system.30 In thinking through the collective ability of the network versus differences in human capacity, we would do well to note Swidler’s idea that “thinking of culture as repertoire makes us aware that cultural symbols, rules, or rituals only sometimes ‘work’ for people. Some cultural orientations are so ingrained that they require neither effort nor self-consciousness. Others require laborious concentration …”31 29

30

31

How often women participated in the late 1600s in various Buddhist activities outside the domestic realm is an unresolved question. For some reflections on this topic, see Dorothy Ko, Teachers of the Inner Chambers: Women and Culture in Seventeenth-Century China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994); Susan Mann, Precious Records: Women in China’s Long Eighteenth Century (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), 27; Wilt Idema and Beata Grant, The Red Brush: Writing Women of Imperial China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2004); Beata Grant, Eminent Nuns: Women Chan Masters of Seventeenth-Century China (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2009). Scholarly use of the term “culture” has also been subject to critique. See Lila Abu-Lughod, “Writing Against Culture,” in Recapturing Anthropology: Working in the Present, ed. ­Richard G. Fox (Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 1991), 137–162. Swidler’s theoretical claims about how educated people use culture is relevant to how we conceive of this network’s manipulation of religious symbols. Ann Swidler, Talk of Love: How Culture Matters (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001) 5, 25.

Introduction

15

Fellowship members, too, differed in their grasp of available religious repertoires. Not everyone was a spiritual virtuoso: some excelled at fundraising, others at organizing group activities, and still others at religious transformation. Members also differed in their level of commitment to practice and partiality to specific techniques or doctrines: some network members favored Pure Land practices, some favored Chan, and some were ambivalent about the whole enterprise. The network had access to multiple Buddhist semiotic codes, and to those of Confucian, Daoist, and other religious traditions. Indeed, it is a commonplace to characterize this period as one of great intellectual cross-fertilization among the three teachings (Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism), an idea many Chinese elites summed up with the catchphrase “the harmonization of the three teachings” (三教合一). Much scholarship assumes such blending was widespread,32 yet James Robson’s conclusion that medieval Buddhist-Daoist relations were in actual fact complex and not reducible to a single model still holds true for the sixteenth century.33 Despite the lexicon of harmony or coalescence, rarely did anyone in the late Ming, including this fellowship of Buddhist precept-disciples, draw equally on all three traditions. In particular, not only was Zhuhong quite critical of Daoist practice, his Pure Land views cannot be subsumed under the rubric of the unity of the three teachings.34 The intellectual debates most salient to this network’s choices are either inter-Buddhist-Confucian or intra-Buddhist in tenor. For this reason, Daoist ideas, including inner alchemy, have been of minor con­ sideration.35 This study presents a more nuanced and in-depth look at Buddhist-Confucian interactions from the point of view of elite male Buddhist precept-disciples. Within the Fellowship there is no evidence of a Buddhist schism nor is there a radical disavowal—other than Zhuhong’s stance on

32

33 34 35

Timothy Brook, Praying for Power: Buddhism and the Formation of Gentry Society in LateMing China (Cambridge, MA: Council on East Asian Studies Harvard University and Harvard-Yenching Institute, 1993). For a review of this literature, see Jennifer Eichman, “Intertextual Alliances: Huang Hui’s Synthesis of Confucian and Buddhist Paths to Liberation,” T’oung Pao 100 (2014): 1–44. James Robson, Power of Place: The Religious Landscape of the Southern Sacred Peak (Nanyue) in Medieval China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2009), 324. Chün-fang Yü, The Renewal of Buddhism in China: Chu-hung and the Late Ming Synthesis (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981), 135, 186. Only a few members of the Fellowship were deeply invested in inner alchemy. Feng Mengzhen and Tu Long were initially disciples of Tanyangzi. However, she died in 1580, and they moved on to other spiritual mentors. One of Zhuhong’s most active preceptdisciples, Yu Chunxi, was quite interested in inner alchemy yet remained a prominent Buddhist disciple.

16

Introduction

liangzhi 良知 (innate knowing)—of Wang Yangming’s emphasis on Learning of the Mind. The late Ming relationship between Buddhist and Confucian traditions was particularly complex. Timothy Brook’s pioneering work on Chinese gazetteer collections culminated in his 1993 publication Praying for Power, a study of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century monastic patronage by local gentry. In this early work, Brook theorized that there were four distinct but related tensions in late Ming society: Confucianism versus Buddhism, political versus economic power, state versus locality, and public versus private.36 Brook further classified Confucianism as ethical and Buddhism as metaphysical.37 In contrast, this study demonstrates that, at times, Buddhists prioritized ethics while Confucian leaders contemplated metaphysics (chapter 2). Members of this Buddhist fellow­ship moved nimbly between various religious modalities, including Confucian and Buddhist. Those with a serious commitment to Buddhist practice expended considerable energy working out their options and crafting arguments to proselytize to their more reluctant counterparts, often by incorporating Confucian ideas to convince them to adopt a Buddhist practice. Though some network members must have muddled through, the following chapters demonstrate that others became highly articulate in their attempts to find and describe what they saw as the correct path to awakening. The number of elite male Buddhist associations found in Beijing appears to have hit its peak in the 1590s, declining substantially by 1609.38 In contrast, Buddhist activity continued unabated in the Jiangnan region, where if anything there was a surge in activity and greater financial investment in the 36

37

38

Timothy Brook’s Praying for Power devotes long sections to a handful of individuals who patronized local monastic institutions but does not explore their connections to each other or to a larger religious network (page 15). In 2005, Brook changed his views, conceiving of the state as one permeable network among others, and softened his earlier strict dichotomies between public/private, state/ society, replacing them with a more nuanced approach to encounters between individuals with multiple network affiliations; however, he did not revisit the topic of BuddhistConfucian relations. Timothy Brook, The Chinese State in Ming Society (London: Routledge Curzon, 2005). I agree with Brook that Buddhist activity diminished in Beijing, especially among sojourners from the south. Yet, unlike Brook, I do not see a general decline in Buddhist activity. Brook cites two sources, Wang Yuanhan and Yuan Hongdao, both of which are problematic (Brook, Praying for Power, 56, 75.) Zhang Dewei’s recent dissertation also argues that there was a reduction in Buddhist activity among elite official sojourners. Zhang Dewei, “A Fragile Revival: Chinese Buddhism under the Political Shadow, 1522–1620” (Ph.D. diss., University of British Columbia, 2010).

17

Introduction

renovation of Buddhist institutions until at least 1620, the outer parameter of this study. With respect to Zhuhong’s own reach, his trusted disciple Wu Yingbin 吳應賓 (b. 1566 jinshi 1586) claimed that Zhuhong’s teachings were propagated in Jiangxi, Jiangyin, and Fujian.39 Strictly speaking, my conclusions hold for a network of some seventy named participants who were active throughout China between 1580 and 1620. More broadly, Wang Shizhen 王世貞 (1526–1590) encouraged his peers to visit Zhuhong, whom he described as a mentor to fifteen hundred followers.40 Deqing too claimed that Zhuhong had a combined following of monastic and lay disciples numbering well over a thousand.41 Even allowing that both numbers tend toward the hyperbolic, it is evident that a larger number of potential sympathizers not clearly connected to the network had access to Zhuhong’s published writings and cultivated the same methods he promoted.



The first chapter of this book offers a more in-depth analysis of the composition of this Buddhist fellowship and a detailed discussion of the epistolary sources used throughout. Epistolary sources are contextualized both in relation to contemporary letter-writing manuals and the genre of the familiar letter. The chapter ends with a discussion of the knotty question of religious identity, a topic that has yet to be fully explored in the historical literature on late Ming religious traditions. This study remedies that oversight through a detailed consideration of the terminological markers this fellowship employed when identifying their Buddhist affiliations. Not all fellowship members were Yangming Confucian supporters; of those that were, many adopted multiple 39

40 41

Wu Yingbin’s Zhuhong stūpa epitaph makes the interesting claim that Wuyi Yuanlai, a precept-disciple of Wuming Huijing 無明慧經, propagated Zhuhong’s teachings, thus extending his influence to that lineage of disciples. The epitaph offers a detailed list of names and places that were ostensibly influenced by Zhuhong’s teachings. Zhuhong, Quanji, 5135–5157. Wang Shizhen 王世貞, Yanzhou shanren xugao 弇州山人續稿, in Mingren wenji congkan 明人文集叢刊, 1st ser., vol. 22 (Taipei: Wenhai chubanshe, 1970), 8340. In 1617, Deqing made a trip to Cloud Dwelling Monastery to commemorate Zhuhong (d. 1615). Deqing claims to have been greeted by “more than a thousand monastic and lay disciples” (緇白弟子千餘人). In his biography of Zhuhong, Deqing said that there were at least a thousand examination elites who sought out Zhuhong personally and untold others who were influenced by him, perhaps through epistolary exchange or access to his published works. Hanshan Deqing 憨山德清, Hanshan laoren mengyou ji 憨山老人夢 遊集 (reprint, Taipei: Xinwenfeng chubanshe, 1992), 2971–2972, 1434.

18

Introduction

modes of religious identification. Examining terminological differences is an important first step. However, engagement in Buddhist associative life was a complex, dynamically changing phenomenon with varied levels of commitment and participation; thus, each chapter is designed to demonstrate over and again the depth and range of these men’s Buddhist commitments. Chapter 2 focuses on the intersection of third-generation Yangming Con­ fucian and Buddhist interests in mind cultivation. In choosing to use the term “mind cultivation,” my chief objective was to find a succinct bridge concept sufficiently descriptive of late sixteenth-century Confucian and Buddhist preoccu­pations with the relationship between the heart/mind (xin 心) and self-cultivation. This shared concern is a thread running through many of the Fellowship’s debates and will reappear numerous times in the ensuing chapters. This chapter is the only one with an extensive discussion of Zhou Rudeng’s Confucian views and co-optation of the Buddhist concept of nonduality. Zhou Rudeng and his mentor Wang Ji 王畿 (1498–1583) attempted a highly selective appropriation of Chan ideas. However, in their promotion of sudden awakening, they largely ignored Buddhist precepts. On the other hand, Zhuhong rejected the existence of liangzhi, championed precept practice as a lifelong endeavor, and downplayed the importance of fleeting moments of enlightenment. The epistolary exchanges between Zhou Rudeng and Zhuhong analyzed in this chapter not only signal their critical engagement with each other’s teachings, but also present the Fellowship with a choice of contrasting ­spiritual trajectories. In their turn toward Buddhist cultivation, many in this fellowship rejected sudden awakening, adopted a gradual, lifelong path toward spiritual maturity, and became Zhuhong’s precept-disciples. Chapters 3 and 4 function as a unit; they are both intimately connected to how differing conceptions of mind cultivation impacted the Fellowship’s cultivation of the first Buddhist precept: do not kill. Chapter 3 highlights Buddhist and Confucian debates about whether killing animals is ethical and analyzes stories of karmic retribution and persuasive essays meant to convince an elite Confucian audience to stop killing animals and adopt a meatless diet. The examination elites of the Fellowship strategized on how to fulfill this precept; though many were unable to fully embrace a meat-free diet. Chapter 4 discusses the treatment of animals with respect to the creation of Buddhist releasing-life societies, which convened to release captured animals, and adopted a Pure Land ritual program. Despite heated Confucian criticism, Zhuhong and Deqing both hoped such societies and their pond excavation projects for the release of fish and other animals would transform the physical and spiritual environs around the West Lake into an earthly Pure Land. This

Introduction

19

chapter clearly illustrates the kinds of smaller circumscribed solidary groupings that materialized through friendships formed within the larger network. Not all tensions within the Fellowship were a result of Buddhist-Confucian differences. It was a common occurrence for elite lay Buddhists to reject Chan in favor of Pure Land cultivation and vice versa. How Zhuhong managed to persuade elite men to cultivate recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha and commit to rebirth in the Pure Land is the subject of the fifth chapter. This chapter focuses predominantly on two of Zhuhong’s major publications: Rebirth Biographies (Wangsheng ji 往生集) and A Commentary and its Sub­ commentary to the Amitābha Sūtra. Rebirth Biographies was written in fact to persuade elite men to adopt Pure Land cultivation techniques; it is also one of the few writings to discuss at any length the practices of their wives, mothers, and concubines. The success of this endeavor is clear in the number of Zhuhong precept-disciples who asked him to add their own relatives’ rebirth biographies to the collection. Directed as it was to resolving the internecine battles over Chan versus Pure Land cultivation, Zhuhong’s commentary on the Ami­ tābha Sūtra offered an extensive exegesis on the intimate relationship between the simple intoning of the name Amitābha Buddha and a richer doctrinal nexus that marshaled Huayan, Yogācāra, and Tiantai ideas to argue that Pure Land and Chan were compatible. The final two chapters, also conceived of as a unit, subsequently deepen our understanding of the spiritual ambitions of Zhuhong’s precept-disciples and highlight the disjunction between their desire for an immediate realization of awakening and their inability to achieve it. The sixth chapter contrasts Zhuhong’s elaborate commentarial writing with the kinds of rudimentary advice he offered in letters to his less spiritually gifted correspondents who expressed frustration with their slow progress toward spiritual maturity. The chapter elucidates their struggles with Chan critical phrase practice and Zhu­ hong’s subsequent creation of a Pure Land alternative. Chapter 7 considers the judgments that more spiritually adept men made with respect to each ­other’s perceived levels of spiritual attainment. Informal consultation and epistolary hearsay were crucial in shaping their discourse on religious experience. Fellow­ ship members carried on a robust dialogue on both how to evaluate each other’s claims to awakening and on whether they accepted those claims. Though informal, their judgments had a powerful effect in shaping how this Buddhist fellowship understood the path to spiritual maturity and the realization of enlightenment. These last two chapters rely extensively on epistolary writings and reveal an intimacy of thought inaccessible through other sources. Knowing who participated in what conversations helps anchor our understanding of late sixteenth-century intellectual history in the particularities of

20

Introduction

human relationship. The Appendix lists the names of fellowship members and divides them into three groups: prominent voices of historical actors for whom we have multiple sources and admissions of Buddhist engagement, mid-level participants who are historically recoverable and appear in multiple chapters but who were less active, and minor figures with fewer relational connec­tions, including some participants known only through a single epistle or source but about whom we have almost no historical information.

Final Remarks

This study is intended as one of many potential investigations into transregional, educated elite Buddhist fellowships. Through a careful examination of spiritual ambition and doctrinal debates, this study demonstrates that religious ideas often take root in relational arenas and are expressed most fully when members work in concert with each other. Built from the ground up, this study examines the micro-transactions whereby members of this network engaged in a variety of Buddhist and Confucian activities. Some scholars may be interested only in the longer dynastic (or centuries-long) arcs of a tradition. However, in order to provide a more in-depth consideration of how religious networks develop and unfold, I have decided to limit the temporal range of this study to the Wanli period (1573–1620) and forgo a general summary of ­sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Chinese Buddhism.42 There are already a number of scholarly summaries and broad surveys by American, Chinese, and Japanese scholars.43 For the historiography of the field, see my recent 42

43

Most of the textual evidence considered here dates more precisely from 1584–1617; therefore, “Wanli period” is used sparingly in the ensuing chapters. Instead, for the sake of readability, “late sixteenth century” or “late Ming” will be used throughout, with the caveat that the conclusions presented here do not extend beyond 1620, even though the Ming Dynasty ended in 1644. The volumes mentioned here often include in their titles the generic moniker “late Ming,” yet the contents might be limited to a collection of highly selective essays on the doctrinal positions of a few persons, such as in Araki Kengo 荒木見悟, Minmatsu shūkyō shisō kenkyū; Kan Tōmei no shōgai to sono shisō 明末宗教思想研究: 管東溟の生涯とその 思想 (Tokyo: Sōbunsha, 1979). Some texts devote a few pages to numerous topics: Chen Yongge 陈永革, Wanming fojiao sixiang yanjiu 晚明佛教思想研究 (Beijing: Zongjiao wenhua chubanshe, 2007); some focus broadly on ordination or post-1625 lineage debates: Hasebe Yūkei 長谷部幽蹊, Min Shin Bukkyō kyōdanshi kenkyū 明淸佛敎教團史研究 (Kyoto: Dōhōsha, 1993); Jiang Wu, Enlightenment in Dispute: The Reinvention of Chan Buddhism in Seventeenth-Century China (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); or politics, Zhou Qi 周 齊, Mingdai fojiao yu zhengzhi wenhua 明代佛教与政治文化 (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 2005). Chen Yunü has produced the most current solidly researched

Introduction

21

publication.44 I am convinced that historical metanarratives are valid only insofar as they draw their conclusions from a substantial number of more focused studies that flesh out the religious dynamics particular to each of the Buddhist communities that thrived during a specific era—scholarly work that is still in its infancy with regard to this particular time period with its copious but yet-to-be studied extant sources.45 In order to bring this Buddhist fellowship to life, I have chosen to follow historian David Johnson’s lead and for the moment set aside the impulse to summarize more broadly, for as he has observed, such studies tend to favor structure over texture and explanation over incident. Like Johnson, I find that, “relying on abstractions like the state, social structure, or modernization estranges us from what is most human in our subject.”46 Rather than a survey of late sixteenth-century examination elites that flattens out the landscape through a long trail of names and a few pithy, over-essentialized religious episodes, in this study I hope to paint a more textured, three-dimensional picture of this late sixteenth-century Buddhist fellowship through focused attention to the nuances of philosophical debate, religious practice, and social connections generated by and through a select group of real people. This triangulation draws on sociological theory and historical and cultural analyses without losing sight of scholarly definitions of religion and topics central to the discipline of religious studies—a discipline that has much to contribute to our scholarly conversations on religious experience and religious identity. Network studies that attempt to draw a more direct link between specific historical actors and

44 45

46

dynastic-long survey, Chen Yunü 陳玉 女, Mingdai fomen neiwai sengsu jiaoshe de changyu 明代佛門内外僧俗交涉的場域 (Taipei: Daoxiang chubanshe, 2010). See also Chün-fang Yü, “Ming Buddhism,” The Cambridge History of China, Volume Eight: The Ming Dynasty, Part Two: 1368–1644, edited by Denis C. Twitchett and Frederick W. Mote (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 893–952; Zhang Dewei, “A Fragile Revival.” Jennifer Eichman, “Humanizing the Study of Late Ming Buddhism,” Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal 26 (2013): 153–185. There are two studies of late Ming Christianity that deserve special note in this regard. The first offers a very rich detailed examination of the religious activities of a Christian community in Fujian Province between 1630 and 1640, and the second one discusses Jesuit networks and parishioner epistolary networks but largely defines “network” as synonymous with “community.” Li Jiubiao, Kouduo richao: Li Jiubiao’s Diary of Oral Admonitions; a Late Ming Christian Journal, trans. Erik Zürcher. 2 vols. Monumenta Seria Monograph Series LVI/1, 2 (Sankt Augustin: Institut Monumenta Serica; Brescia: Fondazione Civiltà Bresciana, 2007); Nicolas Standaert, Chinese Voices in the Rites Controversy: Travelling Books, Community Networks, Intercultural Arguments (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2012). David Johnson, Spectacle and Sacrifice: The Ritual Foundations of Village Life in North China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2009), 4–5.

22

Introduction

the broader discourse that surrounded them will help scholars better delineate the contours of Buddhist fellowship within the elite practitioner networks active in late imperial China. Ideally, my work will be read in the context of future studies on the historical actors presented herein and on the multiple networks surrounding other monks,47 and will more generally inform the study of Chinese Buddhist traditions, Confucian intellectual history, and even the history of epistolary and print culture. 47

What I have in mind is the accumulation of detailed studies comparable to the body of scholarship already done on the Medicis. This would allow for the types of network analyses seen in the work of John Padget and Christopher Ansell; see their “Robust Action and the Rise of the Medici, 1400–1434,” American Journal of Sociology 98, no. 6 (1993): 1259– 1319.

The Fellowship and Its Relations

23

Chapter 1

The Fellowship and Its Relations, Epistolary Sources, and Religious Identity This first chapter lays the groundwork for understanding the parameters of this fellowship within the context of its members’ relations with monks and with each other. Such relations are most observable in the abundance of letters exchanged between them. For this reason, the chapter will also situate the epistolary sources discussed throughout this volume within the context of late sixteenth-century epistolary writings, particularly the genre of the familiar letter, and contrast the Fellowship members’ letter-writing style to that of the model letters presented in letter-writing manuals. Letters will also be discussed in relation to Buddhist wenda-style writing, issues of privacy, and letter circulation. And finally, in developing a more interactive model of Confucian-Buddhist relations, the last section will address the question of religious identity and affilia­tion. The late sixteenth century provided unprecedented opportunities for examination elites to entertain a variety of religious modalities without the need to proclaim an exclusive affiliation. How to conceive of the composition of this network is intimately tied to the nomenclature they used to define their Buddhist commitments to each other and to the tradition, which varied widely from a desire to accept the tonsure to declarations of indirect discipleship. This chapter argues against a simplistic view of Confucian dominance, religious identity, and formulaic notions of letter writing, in favor of a more dynamic understanding of how networks form and how various dyadic relations sustain themselves within an arena of epistolary exchange and exploration of self-cultivation practices. By the 1590s, when this late sixteenth-century Chinese Buddhist fellowship began to coalesce, many elite men, including Yangming Confucian leaders, were already benefiting from frequent and varied interactions with Buddhist monks. In fact, exchanges among these groups were a rather common occurrence. A skeptic once asked the prominent Yangming Confucian Zhou Rudeng why he kept company with Buddhist monks and whether it was—as stated in Mencius 2A:8—because he wanted to learn from them “how to do good.” In his response, Zhou Rudeng explained that he fraternized with those monks who met certain criteria:

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi 10.1163/9789004308459_003

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Chapter 1

The monks I socialize with are at several different levels. Among the monastic ranks you should know that those of the highest caliber have had a direct realization. When I hear their names, I travel to see them and request a teaching. Upon seeing each other, we express our mutual sincerity. Secondly, I like to be near those who are steadfast in keeping the Brahma’s Net [precepts]1 and strictly adhere to regulations and [monastic] precepts. I truly respect and fear them. I also benefit from seeing and listening to those who can explain sūtras and commentaries and clearly distinguish between the various teachings. The breadth of their knowledge is first-rate. Subsequently, as for monks who like traveling to mountains and rivers and enjoy writing poetry, when I encounter them, I linger for a few days. They raise my spirits. There are also those who accumulate donations and property and singularly foster good deeds. They do not forget their duties. I fraternize with them to some extent.2 Far from projecting an air of Confucian superiority, Zhou Rudeng saw benefit in associating with Buddhist monks. He prized first and foremost the company of awakened monks and those with exegetical facility, but he also rubbed shoulders with those who met his basic criteria in their promotion of good works. Zhou Rudeng ended his letter on the following note: How would examination elites measure up if put to the test? This was a clear suggestion that their levels of attainment were cause for concern. This extended exposition evokes a lively milieu, wherein highly educated leaders like Zhou Rudeng drew intellectual and spiritual sustenance from their interactions with members of the monastic community. Such a picture contrasts sharply with the previous scholarly narratives of Confucian dominance and Buddhist decline.3 Much previous scholarship portrays late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Buddhist culture as one where Confucians and ­literati dominated a weakened monastic group. To the contrary, I argue that 1 The Brahma’s Net Sūtra discusses the ten grave and forty-eight minor bodhisattva precepts. 2 Zhou Rudeng, Dongyue zhengxue lu 東越證學錄 (1619; reprint, Taipei: Wenhai chubanshe, 1970), 400–401. 3 The eminent Mainland scholar Chen Yuan 陳垣 (1880–1971) claimed that, based on the brisk sale of ordination certificates from 1426–1567, the monastic population increased while the spiritual quality declined. Chen Yuan, Shishi yinian lu 釋氏疑年錄 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1964), 370. In the 1960s Kenneth Ch’en promulgated the narrative of decline, arguing that, by the late Ming, better-educated examination elites had no intellectual equals among the monastic community. Kenneth Ch’en, Buddhism in China: A Historical Survey (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972), 434. For an excellent overview of demise theories, see Jiang Wu, Enlightenment in Dispute, chapters 1 and 11.

The Fellowship and Its Relations

25

monks like Zhuhong and his cohorts had far more power to shape their own tradition and influence others than scholars have previously realized.

Situating Zhuhong: Interactions between Monks and Lay Disciples

Many of the members of this Buddhist fellowship were lay elites and officials and therefore technically, like Zhou Rudeng, “Confucian” (the term will be discussed later in this chapter). However, they too socialized with Buddhist monks we now consider famous and with a number of temple monks whose writings (if indeed there ever were any) are no longer extant. For the Wanli reign (1573–1620), the Qing literatus Qian Qianyi 錢謙益 (1582–1664) identified four eminent monks (gaoseng 高僧): Zhuhong 袾宏 (1535–1615), Deqing 德清 (1546–1623), Zhenke 真可 (1543–1603), and Xuelang Hongen 雪浪洪恩 (1545– 1608).4 There is evidence that members of the Fellowship socialized with these four monks to varying degrees.5 The founder of the Gongan school literary movement, Yuan Hongdao, and Hanlin academician Tao Wangling and others in this network also fraternized with the renowned monk and architect Miaofeng Fudeng 妙蜂褔登 (1540–1613), Wunian Shenyou 無念深有 (1544– 1627), a monk-mentor of the prominent iconoclast Li Zhi 李贄 (1527–1602), and Zhanran Yuancheng 湛然圓澄 (1561–1626), a Caodong Chan master discovered by Zhou Rudeng and Tao Wangling, who was a Zhuhong precept-disciple. More tangentially, monks Wuyi Yuanlai 無異元來 (1575–1630) and his dharma brother Yongjue Yuanxian 永覺元賢 (1578–1657), both sympathetic to Zhuhong’s teachings, forged relationships with some Fellowship members. After 1605 a few members even became acquainted with Miyun Yuanwu 密雲 4 Qian Qianyi identified a further thirty-seven famous monks (mingseng 名僧) for the Wanli era and twenty-one eminent and thirty-five famous monks for the Jiajing reign (1522–1567). Most of these monks have received little to no scholarly attention. Qian Qianyi 錢謙益, Liechao shiji xiaozhuan 列朝詩集小傳, ed. Qian Lucan 錢陸燦, in Mingdai zhuanji congkan 明代傳記叢刊 11 (1698; reprint, Taipei: Mingwen shuju, 1991), 705–776. 5 Chün-fang Yü countered the assessment of decline in her discussion of a different grouping of four eminent Ming monks: Zhuhong, Deqing, Zhenke, and Ouyi Zhixu 蕅益智旭 (1599– 1655). However, Zhixu was born much later than the other three and was still a boy during the historical period under discussion in this book. Biographies of Deqing, Zhuhong, Zhenke, and Zhixu are included in Chün-fang Yü, “Ming Buddhism,” and in either the DMB or ECCP. References to English-language monographs on these four monks will be cited individually throughout this study, but are listed here only by author-date, Chün-fang Yü 1981; Hsu Sungpeng 1979, J.C. Cleary 1989, Beverley Foulks McGuire 2014, and in the case of Zhenke, a German monograph by Sebastian Gault 2003.

26

Chapter 1

圓悟 (1566–1642), who was at that point a fairly obscure figure—he did not

become a famed Linji Chan master until several decades later. The men who belonged to this fellowship also mixed with members of the monastic rank and file who accompanied them on pilgrimages, made tea, lent bedrolls, and so forth. Letters and travelogues written by fellowship associates often mention such unnamed monks: in 1600 Yuan Hongdao took a boat with several “elder monks” (laona 老衲)6 to Mount Lu 盧; once when resting near the Sixth Bridge at the West Lake, temple monks unexpectedly brought tea; when Hongdao and Tao Wangling stayed at Shuangqing Inn, a monk brought them tea and gruel in the morning.7 Tea preparation was a common monk activity and one of the attractions of a monastery visit. Many monastic gazetteers have travel logs with cryptic references to nameless monks preparing tea for elite visitors.8 In between famous monks and their many unnamed brethren, we should insert competent if unremarkable monks who had received a monastic education and acquired a degree of facility with Buddhist doctrine, calligraphy, poetry, and the classics. Zhou Rudeng’s letter suggests that elite men had meaningful interactions with many all-but-forgotten sixteenth-century monks who were well regarded in their time. Most of these monks did not attain the same degree of examination success as the elite members of the Fellowship, but they must have known how to interact effectively with their more cosmopolitan clientele and have been introduced to elite tastes, literary interests, and spiritual concerns through their encounters.9 Additionally, we should not over6

7

8

9

Strictly speaking, the term laona refers to old monks, but in this instance it is likely a more generic term of respect and polite reference to his monk companions and thus should not be taken so literally in terms of their actual age. He stated this in a letter to Huang Hui. The other references are to trips around the West Lake and Tianmu. Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu 袁中郎尺牘, eds. Fan Qiao 范 橋 and Zhang Minggao 張明高 (Beijing: Zhongguo guangbo dianshi chubanshe, 1991), 252; Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Hongdao ji jianjiao 袁宏道集箋校, collated with notes by Qian Bocheng 錢伯城 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1981), 426, 453. Monks assigned to cultivate tea plants, draw water, and prepare tea likely never sat for governmental examinations. See Brook, Praying for Power, 41–46, 178, 259. For research on medieval Buddhist tea traditions, see the work of James Benn, “Buddhism, Alcohol, and Tea in Medieval China,” in Of Tripod and Palate: Food, Politics and Religion in Traditional China, ed. Roel Sterckx (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 213–236; Liu, Shu-fen 劉淑 芬, “ zhong suojian de chati yu tangti 《禪苑清規》中所見的茶 禮與湯禮,” Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology 78, no. 4 (2007): 629–670. For a broad overview, see also Benn, Tea in China: A Religious and Cultural History (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2015). Such monks are to be found among the biographical collections of Qian Qianyi, Deqing, and Buddhist canonical sources studied by the late scholar-monk Sheng Yen 聖嚴

The Fellowship and Its Relations

27

look the educated married disciples of Zhuhong, and other monks who took the tonsure late in life, a topic discussed towards the end of this chapter. Zhuhong figures most prominently in this study. Along with Deqing, Zhenke, and Hongen, he hailed from Jiangnan, though each resided in different areas. Despite the differences in personality, doctrinal leanings, or teaching methods we encounter among them, these four monks do not seem to have engaged in serious rivalry or heated disputes. More often than not, sources reveal that between them prevailed close friendships, cooperative relations, or, at worst, distance. There are no indications that they demanded exclusive loyalty from their lay disciples or kept examination elites from fraternizing with other monks. To the contrary, epistolary evidence suggests that at minimum fifteen of the examination elites who wrote to Zhuhong also wrote to Deqing, and that four of Zhuhong’s correspondents exchanged letters with Zhenke. Sources reveal that Deqing and Zhuhong certainly had much respect for one another: in the spring of 1576, Zhuhong spent ten days visiting Deqing on Mount Wutai 五臺山;10 Deqing wrote letters to examination elites praising Zhuhong’s teachings; and in 1617, Deqing was asked to write Zhuhong’s stūpa epitaph. After Zhuhong’s death (in 1615), his loyal disciple Yu Chunxi offered the abbotship of Cloud Dwelling Monastery to Deqing, who declined.11 There is no direct evidence of a meeting between Zhuhong and Zhenke, though they surely knew of each other’s activities. That there was likely no serious rift is evidenced by the fact that Zhenke wrote a praise poem (zan 贊) for him, sent a birthday greeting when Zhuhong turned seventy, and wrote a postface for one of Zhuhong’s commentaries.12 Zhuhong knew Hongen and had heard him lecture, yet there is no direct evidence of their views of each other.13 The general lack of hostility between these four eminent monks may stem in part from study under the same teachers. In the 1560s Zhuhong went to the

10

11 12

13

(1930–2009). For an extended discussion of this, see Eichman, “Humanizing the Study of Late Ming Buddhism.” See also Shi Sheng Yen 釋聖嚴, Mingmo fojiao yanjiu 明末佛教研 究 (Taipei: Dongchu chubanshe, 1987), 21–24, 90–101. This event is recorded in Deqing’s annalistic autobiography. See Sung-peng Hsu, A Buddhist Leader in Ming China: The Life and Thought of Han-shan Te-ch’ing (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1979), 70. Yu Chunxi, Yu Deyuan xiansheng ji, 18.16. Zhenke’s surviving works do not mention Zhuhong. Zhuhong’s collected works list only the titles of the first two texts, which are no longer extant. Zhuhong, Quanji, 5114. For the 1602 postface see Zhuhong, Fanwang jing xindi pin pusa jie yishu fayin (1602; Rare book, held at the East Asian Library and Gest Collection, Princeton University). Hongen has yet to be thoroughly studied. The best scholarship is an article by Liao Chaoheng, “Xuelang Hongen chutan: Jianti Dongjing Neige wenku suocang ‘Guxiang lu’ 雪浪 洪恩初探: 兼題東京內閣文庫所藏‘谷響錄,’” Hanxue yanjiu 14, no. 2 (1996): 35–57.

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Chapter 1

capital to seek instruction from two monks: the Linji master Xiaoyan Debao 笑 巖德寶 (1512–1581) and Bianrong Zhenyuan 遍融真圓 (1506–1584), both of whom also taught Deqing and Zhenke.14 Despite having studied with Debao, none of the three became his dharma-heir. Rather, it was their acquaintance Huanyou Zhengchuan 幻有正傳 (1549–1614) who was recognized as Debao’s legitimate dharma-heir and it is Zhengchuan’s lineage disciples, like Miyun Yuanwu, who had a profound impact on post-1625 lineage controversies. Paradoxically, as part of the fallout from these later controversies, Zhuhong, Deqing, and Zhenke were categorized under “lineage unknown,” a designation that undercuts the stature they enjoyed when alive. Once established in 1571 at Cloud Dwelling Monastery, Zhuhong rarely traveled outside Jiangnan. The fortuitous location of Cloud Dwelling Monastery in the vicinity of the West Lake, a favorite literati gathering spot, meant that Zhuhong frequently entertained elite visitors and was far from isolated. On the other hand, Deqing spent time in the north at Mount Wutai and other distant locations before he was exiled in 1595 to Leizhou 雷州 in the south, and rarely ventured outside Guangdong before 1614. Zhenke too was frequently absent from Jiangnan and spent considerable time in the north. He died in Beijing in 1603. Consequently, Zhuhong (d. 1615) remained the most prominent monk in the vicinity of the West Lake and was very much in demand in the latter twenty years of his life. The respect with which Zhuhong, Deqing, Hongen, Zhenke, and other monks were treated demonstrates that their lack of degreed credentials did not impede recognition of either their spiritual authority or the quality of their various writings. Before his tonsure, Zhuhong had risen only to the rank of government student (zhusheng 諸生). Zhuhong’s lack of success in government examinations did not, however, deter his many jinshi degree-holding preceptdisciples from asking him if their Buddhist writings were fit for publication.15 He also received many requests for prefaces. Because Zhuhong lived to be eighty, he was to his younger thirty- to forty-something disciples a veritable repository of exegetical breadth and spiritual capital. Likewise, Deqing and Hongen were educated at Repaying Kindness Monastery 報恩寺 in Nanjing yet never participated in the examination system. Nonetheless, many jinshi

14

15

For more on Xiaoyan Debao, see Noguchi Yoshitaka 野口善敬, “Minmatsu Kokyūha no genryū—Shōgan Tokuhō to Genyū Shōden 明末虎丘派の源流-笑巖德寶と幻有正 傳,” Tetsugaku nenpō 42 (1983): 121–140. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4510–4514.

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degree-holders sought their advice on matters of doctrine and also asked for prefaces. Temples and monasteries frequented by the Fellowship could be used for a variety of activities without compromising their Buddhist mission. Weary travelers, curious onlookers, and others certainly appeared at the gates. Epistolary sources, religious biographies, and personal essays depict a milieu in which elite male visitors drank tea and discussed politics, family, funerals, religious cultivation, sūtra texts, and other topics with Zhuhong and his monk-disciples. Some men even came for specific ritual purposes such as the conferral of lay precepts. In other words, visitors to such temples and monasteries (especially those who arrived with letters to deliver) not only burned incense and prostrated before an altar. They were also well versed in canonical sources and participated in similar—though not necessarily unified—discussions of doctrine and cultivation regimens. There were many individuals who, like Zhou Rudeng, delighted in the company of monks. Because this study begins with the year 1580 and moves forward, the network discussed here coalesced under the best of conditions, when interactions between monks and examination elites were extremely vibrant. The differences between monasteries may be one of degree rather than kind: some places had highly educated monks, others did not; some places were wealthier, some poorer; some entertained visiting elites conversant in Buddhist doctrine, others less so. Drawing largely on local and provincial ­gazetteers, Timothy Brook has described monasteries as civic spaces where examination elites met for non-religious purposes.16 Likewise, temple gazetteer descriptions of elite travelers note their arrival and often record their poetry but rarely chronicle their religious practices in any depth or air per­sonal spiritual difficulties. To piece together the religious questions entertained by such visitors, we need to pay more attention to their personal corre­spondence.

16

The multiple functions of a religious institution need not diminish its religious authority. For some reflections on this issue, see Thomas Bremer, Blessed with Tourists: the Borderlands of Religion and Tourism in San Antonio (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004). Mark Halperin has recently discussed the multifarious views of Buddhist temples held by Song literati. Mark Halperin, Out of the Cloister: Literati Perspectives on Buddhism in Song China, 960–1279 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006).

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Chapter 1

Epistolary Sources Analyzed

The network studied here was reconstructed through a detailed analysis of Zhuhong’s epistolary collection of two hundred letters. I have also consulted other epistolary collections: Deqing (147 letters), Tao Wangling (41), Yuan Hongdao (136), and his brother Yuan Zhongdao (89), Zhou Rudeng (85), Feng Mengzhen (602), and other random samplings of individual letters by Jiao Hong, Yu Chunxi, Huang Ruheng 黃汝亨 (1558–1626), Tu Long, and Zhenke. Throughout this study, letters are analyzed primarily for two purposes: firstly, for their spiritual content and, secondly, for what they reveal about the formation of this Buddhist fellowship, that is, who knew whom in the context of what Buddhist activities. An analysis of letter content was indeed crucial in determining which individuals these men considered their “Buddhist friends,” what transpired during this network’s thirty-some-year association with Zhuhong, and what Buddhist topics were of importance to them. All of the letters in Zhuhong’s epistolary collection discuss Buddhist cultivation, which cannot be said for literati collections.17 For this reason, I have not made this an exhaustive study of each epistolary collection just mentioned: only letters relevant to the topics discussed in the ensuing chapters will be cited.18 The vast number of extant Chinese epistolary sources from the sixteenth century onward has yet to garner the level of scholarly attention already given to the ever-burgeoning study of European, British, and American epistolary collections.19 True, there has been a concerted effort to study Chinese female 17 18

19

For example, less than half of Yuan Hongdao’s letters shed light on issues relevant to this study. I have encountered scholars of Western history who dismiss these Chinese epistolary collections as hardly substantial. Certainly one could point to Western publications that examine massive epistolary collections such as those written by Susan E. Whyman (1999, 2009) and Gary Schneider (2005). Some contemporaneous British epistolary collections tend to be quite large; see, for example, Alan Stewart’s project on Francis Bacon’s (1561– 1626) 900 extant letters and Nadine Akkerman’s work on the correspondence of Queen Elizabeth (1596–1662). Such comparisons should not keep us from understanding that members of this network were considered prolific writers. Within the study of sixteenthcentury China, Zhuhong’s extant epistolary collection and those of others that I have consulted are a substantial, rich, varied, and valuable historical source. This may be one case in which Eurocentric standards of what counts as “enough material” should not distract us from seeing the value in analyzing these sources. Antje Richter’s recently published hefty English-language handbook covering all periods of Chinese letter writing is the first of its kind and a welcome addition. However, it only begins to scratch the surface on this topic. Antje Richter, ed., A History of Letters and Epistolary Culture (Leiden: Brill, 2015). The only broad scholarly overview of Chinese

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epistolary practices for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.20 Some work has also been done on letters valued for their calligraphy,21 on letter-­ writing manuals,22 and on seventeenth-century chidu anthologies.23 Six­­teenth-century literati letters are frequently cited here and there as historical evidence. And yet monographs devoted solely to the analysis of epistolary collections or those that use letters intensively are in short supply. Even though there are a few volumes of translated letters, most notably the letters of Wang Yangming,24 there are no monographs devoted to the analysis of Buddhist or Daoist letters. Buddhist letter content as well as monastic letter writing has received little critical attention, having been rather sparsely incorporated into studies of post-1500 Buddhist culture.

20

21

22

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epistolary sources was written by Zhao Shugong 趙樹功, Zhongguo chidu wenxue shi 中 國尺牘文學史 (Shijiazhuang, China: Hebei renmin chubanshe, 1999). However, as Dániel Kádár points out, Zhao’s volume is rife with ideological and moral judgment. See also David Pattinson, “The Chidu in Late Ming and Early Qing China” (Ph.D. diss., Australia National University, 1998); and Dániel Kádár’s two linguistic studies: Model Letters in Late Imperial China: 60 Selected Epistles from ‘Letters from Snow Swan Retreat’ (Munich: Lincom Europa, 2009); Kádár, Historic Chinese Letter Writing (London: Continuum, 2010). Ellen Widmer, “The Huanduzhai of Hangzhou and Suzhou: A Study of Seventeenth-Century Publishing,” HJAS 56, no. 1 (1996): 77–122; Kathryn Lowry, “Duplicating the Strength of Feelings: The Circulation of Qingshu in the late Ming,” in Writing and Materiality in China: Essays in Honor of Patrick Hanan, eds. Judith T. Zeitlin, Lydia H. Liu, and Ellen Widmer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2003). Qianshen Bai, “Chinese Letters: Private Words Made Public,” in The Embodied Image: Chinese Calligraphy from the John B. Elliott Collection, eds. Robert E. Harrist, Jr. and Wen C. Fong (Princeton: The Art Museum, Princeton University, 1999), 380–400. Widmer, “The Huanduzhai,” 77–122; Kathryn A. Lowry, The Tapestry of Popular Songs in 16th- and 17th-Century China: Reading, Imitation, and Desire (Leiden: Brill, 2005); Anne Burkus-Chasson, “Elegant or Common? Chen Hongshou’s Birthday Presentation Pictures and His Professional Status,” The Art Bulletin 76, no. 2 (1994): 279–300. Lowry, The Tapestry of Popular Songs; Widmer, “The Huanduzhai”; David Pattinson, “The Market for Letter Collections in Seventeenth-Century China,” Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews 28 (2006); Pattinson, “The Chidu”; Pattinson, “Zhou Lianggong and Chidu xinchao: Genre and Political Marginalization in the Ming-Qing Transition,” East Asian History 20 (December 2000): 61–82; Kádár, Model Letters; Kádár, Historic Chinese Letter Writing. Julia Ching, trans., The Philosophical Letters of Wang Yang-ming (1972; reprint, Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1973).

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Chapter 1

The Familiar Letter

This detailed study of a Buddhist Fellowship is based on an analysis of the familiar letter. The familiar letter genre was a less strictly defined, unofficial, so-called “private” (si 私) mode of communication popularly used by educated elites for more personal conveyances. In his recent attempts to trace the definition and possible formation of a genre of familiar letter called chidu 尺牘,25 David Pattinson cited a description by Zhou Lianggong 周亮工 (1612–1672): “Chidu are but a brief flourish of the writing-brush, and are not considered among one’s formal literary works.”26 Pattinson thinks the lack of definition and non-canonical status made chidu attractive as a vehicle for literary experimentation and self-expression in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.27 The letters under study here certainly bear this out. The collected works (wenji 文集) of examination elites published during the seventeenth century often include fascicles of such personal letters entitled chidu. However, Pattinson has argued that the terminological distinctions between chidu, shu 書, and shujian 書簡 were negligible.28 This type of terminological flexibility is evident in the following editorial decisions. In the first instance, a letter to Zhuhong sent by his precept-disciple Huang Hui was printed in Zhuhong’s collection under shu, whereas Huang Hui’s editors published the very same letter under the designation chidu 赤牘.29 Secondly, the posthumous printing of the epistolary collections belonging to monks Zhuhong, Deqing, Zhenke, and Yuancheng use the terms shu or shuwen 書 問—a term favored in monastic publications. Finally, the epistolary collections of literati Zhou Rudeng, Tao Wangling, Yu Chunxi, and Huang Ruheng are all published under the designation shu, whereas the three Yuan brothers and Feng Mengzhen used chidu 尺牘, and Huang Hui chidu 赤牘. That familiar letters were published under various designations suggests a strong degree of latitude in the way correspondents conceived of this genre. Most of the letters analyzed throughout this study are familiar letters and as such do not exhibit an overconcern for the politeness, honorifics, and other 25 26

27 28 29

Pattinson, “The Market for Letter Collections,” 127–159. The article is a reworking of materials from David Pattinson’s dissertation, listed above. Vice Minister of Revenue Zhou Lianggong was a patron, collector, and connoisseur who is best known for his publication Lives of Painters (Duhua lu 讀畫錄), ca. 1673. Pattinson, “The Market for Letter Collections,” 131–132. Pattinson, “The Chidu,” 120–144. In support of his thesis, Pattinson cites Chu Binjie, who has claimed that shu, shudu, shujian, and chidu are in fact synonyms (Ibid., 39). Zhuhong, Quanji, 4492. Huang Hui, Huang taishi yichun tang canggao, 7.2.

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structures associated with ritualized commemorative or social letters. Nonfamilial “social” letters were written to cultivate interpersonal relationships, make requests, apologize or extend invitations.30 But most of the men under study here maintained decades-long friendships with each other and with some monks, and thus, in their interpersonal correspondence, they kept polite formulaic greetings and closings to a bare minimum—polite flourishes appear more often in demonstrations of gratitude and when rejecting advice—and frequently dispensed with the usual formalities altogether. To further complicate our attempts at typology, it must be remembered that many network members were brothers, relatives, or part of families that intermarried, thus allowing for more directness. Zhuhong’s letters were thought by some to be so finely written they were deemed model familiar letters for others to savor or emulate. This is evidenced by the fact that seven of them were reproduced in the 1662 anthology by Zhou Lianggong, entitled New Selection of Letters (Chidu xinchao 尺牘新鈔), again demonstrating the interchangeability of shu and chidu categories.31 Remark­ ably, each of the seven letters is an exact replica from Zhuhong’s published epistolary collection.32 Furthermore, the late publication date itself suggests that Zhuhong’s reputation endured in some circles well after his death in 1615.33 The seven letters chosen for the anthology were written to Zhuhong’s preceptdisciples (with one exception) and, thematically speaking, were neither too doctrinally challenging nor too narrowly focused on detailed familial matters. For example, the letters to the scholar-officials Wang Zhijian 王志堅 (b. 1573), Qian Yangchun 錢養淳 (n.d.), Sun Wugao 孫無高 (n.d.), and Yan Zheng 嚴瀓 30

31 32

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For this typology see Dániel Kádár’s work on epistolary collections which focuses largely on ­linguistic matters and typology, not letter content. Letter-writing manuals do not fully cover the genre of familiar letter, thus Kádár’s divisions are his own; Kádár, Historic ­Chinese L­ etter Writing, xvii. Other monk letters appear in Zhou Lianggong’s subsequent publications; however, Zhuhong is the only monk singled out for this particular anthology. Kathryn Lowry has observed that the majority of chidu anthologies are comprised of heavily edited letters. Thus it is unusual to find exact replicas as seen here. Of the many reprints of this anthology, I have consulted Zhou Lianggong 周亮工, Chidu xinchao 尺牘 新鈔 (Shanghai: Shanghai zazhi gongsi, 1935), 266–268. David Pattinson has written extensively on the publication of this and other chidu anthologies, though he barely mentions letter content, Pattinson, “The Market for Letter Collections,” 127–159. Another anthology, Ming Letters (Mingren chidu 明人尺牘), reprints verbatim Zhuhong’s letters to Yan Zheng and Wang Zhijian. This anthology also has two very short letters attributed to Deqing that were not published with his epistolary writings in Mengyou ji. Why later anthologists valued such letters is a topic for further research. Mingren chidu 明 人尺牘, compiled by Wang Yuanxu 王元勳 and Cheng Hualu 程化騄 (1705; reprint, Taipei: Taiwan shangwu yinshuguan, 1973), 4.52–53.

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(1547–1625)34 clarify how to cultivate Buddhist practice while in the midst of worldly affairs. The letters to Zan Tanru 蔡坦如 (n.d.) and Huang Pengchi 黃彭 池 (n.d.), who was not Zhuhong’s precept-disciple, explain basic doctrines: impermanence and karma, while those written to Qin Rennan 秦任南 (n.d.) and Zan Tanru point to “the mind” as the locus of practice.35 David Pattinson has suggested that the New Selection of Letters and other chidu anthologies functioned as guidebooks to a bygone era of late Ming cultured society. Yet the thematic content of these seven letters is too generic to inspire nostalgia for some aspect of a now-lost late Ming Buddhist culture.36 In Zhuhong’s letters we hear the voice of a mentor, instructor, and occasionally friend. For this reason, to the genre of familiar letters I suggest we add the subgenre of spiritual mentorship. The spiritual direction and encouragement Zhuhong offered is analogous to what in Western contexts is called “pastoral care.” Letter writing was not a transparent medium immune from posturing or even deception. Yet mentoring relationships were largely built on trust. That someone would willingly seek spiritual guidance from Zhuhong or other monks speaks to an acceptance of such a hierarchical dyad. Undeniably, the relationship between Zhuhong and his correspondents was far from passive. His correspondents actively queried him on doctrinal points. They sought advice on the best methods of mind cultivation, and consulted with him on mundane matters of governance and famine relief. Letters to Zhuhong also express a variety of familial concerns. And yet the motivation for writing was to benefit primarily from Zhuhong’s spiritual mentoring. Such epistolary requests for both spiritual and personal guidance required specific answers, not a general sermon, and Zhuhong certainly tailored his advice to address

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Zhou’s compilation reprinted only the names of Zhuhong’s correspondents, whereas Zhuhong’s collection lists their geographic location, official titles, and dharma names. The renowned guqin player Yan Zheng was the son of the well-known official Yan Na 嚴 訥 (n.d.). Peng Xisu 彭希涑 (1761–1793) wrote a biography of Yan Zheng, identifying both Yan Zheng and his son Yan Pu 嚴樸 (n.d.) as Pure Land practitioners who recited the name Amitābha Buddha and desired rebirth in the Pure Land. Peng Xisu, Jingtu sheng­ xian lu (X1549: 78.289c3–14). For these letters, see Zhuhong, Quanji, 4520, 4536, 4544, 4584, 4609, 4615, 4607. The letters reprinted from Zhuhong’s collection do not support Pattinson’s thesis; however, Tobie Meyer-Fong’s analysis of other late seventeenth-century poetry and letter anthologies certainly does. Pattinson, “The Market for Letter Collections;” Tobie MeyerFong, “Packaging the Men of Our Times: Literary Anthologies, Friendship Networks, and Political Accommodation in the Early Qing,” HJAS 64, no. 1 (2004): 5–56.

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individual circumstances, allowing us to imagine his correspondents’ spiritual needs in more concrete historical terms.37

Ritualized Letters in Letter-Writing Manuals and in Household Encyclopedias

In order to further understand the style of familiar letter that Fellowship members used, it helps to draw a distinction between them and the ritualized letter models published in Ming-Qing letter-writing manuals. Some of these manuals promoted letter writing as a substitute for one’s physical presence, even suggesting that correspondents explicitly state such sentiments in the body of the letter.38 Such textual substitution for one’s physical presence certainly appears in letters to Zhuhong. For instance, a few of his correspondents sent a friend or even servants to deliver letters and receive instruction in their stead; Wang Keshou 汪可受 (b. 1559) wrote that if Zhuhong would kindly teach his friend, it would be “as though we had met face-to-face;” not to mention Regulator of Cavalry Guo Zizhang, who dispatched several servants and wrote, “by teaching my servants, you will be teaching me.”39 Monks too followed this tradition. A great admirer of Zhuhong’s works, the monk Jiaoguang 交光 (n.d.), when unable to visit, sent his regrets: “I rely on this letter to take my place in sitting before you.”40 Moreover, many letters use set formulaic phrases to 37

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In his brief discussion of form letters, Timothy Brook cited one of Zhuhong’s extremely short three-line essays from the first series of Jottings by a Bamboo Window (Zhuchuang suibi 竹窗隨筆). This short didactic text suggests that some monks of the latter days of the Dharma have their priorities turned around. They have become habituated to writing poetry, letters (chidu), and calligraphy (shu 書) at the expense of Buddhist cultivation, whereas shidaifu have given up these writing practices for the cultivation of Chan, a choice monks should have made. Nevertheless, this text does not support Brook’s conclusion that Zhuhong “viewed the proliferation of private correspondence between monks and gentry as a dangerous sign that monks were becoming too much like the gentry.” After all, Zhuhong wrote plenty of letters. It is the lack of cultivation practices that his three lines are targeting. Brook, Praying for Power, 95. Zhuhong, Quanji, 3680–3681. For the history of this idea, see Pattinson, “Privacy and Letter Writing in Han and Six Dynasties China,” in Chinese Concepts of Privacy, eds. Bonnie S. McDougall and Anders Hansson (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 115; and Lowry, “Duplicating the Strength of Feelings,” 245– 246. See also the recent discussion in “Letters as Substitute for Face-to-Face Conversations,” in Antje Richter, Letters and Epistolary Culture in Early Medieval China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2013), 127–134. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4506–4507; 4509–4510. Ibid., 4440.

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express longing for personal contact with Zhuhong or other network members. But because the network was geographically unsettled and members on occasion found themselves isolated at assigned posts in a region where they had neither friends nor spiritual mentors, the expression of such sentiments frequently extended well beyond standard protocol, with letters proposing various logistical arrangements for future meetings. In addition to letter-writing manuals, there were also household encyclopedias available, such as the 1599 Santai’s Orthodox Instructions for Myriad Uses (Santai Wanyong Zhengzong 三台萬用正宗) and the 1607 Orthodox Instructions for Myriad Uses With No Need for Others’ Help (Wanyong zhengzong bu qiu ren 萬用正宗不求人), both of which devote fascicles to ritualized letter models. Set formulas for Buddhist and Daoist letters are included separately, under sections assigned more broadly to Buddhist and Daoist topics. Buddhist letter models run the gamut from commemorative to utilitarian: how to congratulate a new abbot; inter-monastic requests to borrow ritual implements; or the etiquette of requesting the return of said loaned items.41 Yet it is doubtful that the Fellowship’s members relied on letter-writing manuals or household encyclopedias when corresponding with each other.42 Some scholars speculate that highly educated jinshi degree-holders were simply not in the market for such middlebrow publications, which commoditized knowledge and peddled a particular cultural perspective to the less confidently literate.43 On the contrary, it was the letters of the Fellowship that at times 41

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The Buddhist and Daoist sections of these two manuals should be used with caution. Although the Santai Wanyong Zhengzong was published in 1599, its Buddhist section is largely a reprint of the same section in the thirteenth-century Extensive Record of a Forest of Affairs (Shilin guangji 事林廣記), compiled by Chen Yuanjing 陳元靚 (1137–1181). Pat Ebrey was the first to question whether genres like letter-writing and etiquette manuals could really be understood as empirical guides. “Tang Guides to Verbal Etiquette,” HJAS 45, no. 2 (1985): 604. Other scholars have further developed this idea, extending it to the study of household encyclopedias. See Craig Clunas, Superfluous Things: Material Culture and Social Status in Early Modern China (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991), 38; Wang Chenghua 王正華, “Shenghuo, zhishi yu wenhua shangpin: wanming Fujian ban ‘riyong leishu’ yu qi shuhua men 生活, 知識與文化商品: 晚明福建版‘日用類書’與其書畫門,” Bulletin of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica 41 (2003): 1–85; Suzanne E. Wright, “‘Luoxuan biangu jianpu’ and ‘shizhuzhai jianpu’: Two Late-Ming Catalogues of Letter Paper Designs,” Artibus Asiae 63, no. 1 (2003): 110; Shang Wei, “The Making of the Everyday World: Jin Ping Mei Cihua and the Encyclopedias for Daily Use,” in Dynastic Crisis and Cultural Innovation: From the Late Ming to the Late Qing and Beyond, edited by David Wang and Shang Wei (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2005). The level of literacy to which such publications were pitched is clear in the following description. The 1662 Collected Letters of Mouye (Chidu Mouye ji 尺牘謀野集) suggests

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became the models for these very compilations. Not only were Zhuhong’s letters republished in anthologies, but the compilation The Perfectly Suited Letters: A New Annotated Edition for Village Residents to Use on All Occasions (Xinjuan zhushi liju tongyong hebi wenhan 新鐫註釋里居通用合璧文翰), attributed to Tu Long, reproduced ritualized model letters with formulaic expressions used to commemorate life-cycle events (marriage, death, birth of a child, and so forth) that were written by Tao Wangling, Feng Mengzhen, Jiao Hong, and others associated with this network.44 More often than not, letters written by the monks and lay members of this Buddhist fellowship served as models for letter-writing manuals and household encyclopedias, not the other way around. Far from formulaic, letters exchanged between spiritual mentors and their elite male disciples offer many insights into both the quality of those relationships and the spiritual topics that mattered most.

Manuscript Letters and Woodblock Reprints

There are still extant manuscript letters on non-Buddhist topics written by members of this Buddhist fellowship. Some of them are held in the Shanghai Library and the John B. Elliott Collection at the Princeton Museum of Art. However, to the best of my knowledge, the originals of the letters studied here have not survived.45 Therefore, this book is based on an analysis of woodblock

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that readers first “patch together selections from several letters to make a new letter” and then find someone to copy it for them (Widmer, “The Huanduzhai,” 102–103). For a discussion of the much-studied letter-writing manual As Though Conversing (Rumian tan 如面 譚), see Wright, “‘Luoxuan biangu jianpu’ and ‘shizhuzhai jianpu,’” 84–85; and BurkusChasson, “Elegant or Common?,” 279–300. Tu Long, Xinjuan zhushi liju tongyong hebi wenhan 新鐫註釋里居通用合璧文翰 (Rare book, held at Harvard-Yenching Library). In her description of this text, Kathryn Lowry pointed out the dubious state of this genre, its malleable form, and offhanded style. Lowry, The Tapestry of Popular Songs, 18. I have yet to find any manuscript letters written by Zhuhong. One poem in the John B. Elliott Collection written by Deqing has been erroneously identified as a letter. The John B. Elliott Collection further includes an album of poems written by monks, but no letters. Harrist and Fong, The Embodied Image, 419. The Shanghai library publications are as follows: Shanghai tushuguan cang Mingdai chidu 上海圖書館藏明代尺牘, compiled by the Shanghai Library (Shanghai: Shanghai kexue jishu wenxian chubanshe, 2002); Shanghai tushuguan cang Ming-Qing mingjia shougao 上海圖書館藏明清名家手稿, ed. the Shanghai Library (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 2006). See also Song Zhiying 宋志 英, ed., Mingdai mingren chidu xuancui 明代名人尺牘選萃 (Beijing: Guojia tushuguan chubanshe, 2008). The largest group of extant Chinese monk manuscript letters date to

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printed reproductions. The lack of manuscript letters should not deter us from analyzing woodblock printed chidu nor cause us to dismiss them as heavily edited and therefore merely opaque forms of posturing. After all, manuscript letters, that is, letters handwritten with brush and ink, are not straightforwardly pristine artifacts. In fact, manuscript letters can be divided into three groups: letters that are original drafts; letters copied over by family, friends, or disciples, and thus edited to some extent; and letters that have been thoroughly edited or are copies of letters made by unrelated persons. In many cases there is no simple method to determine the calligraphic styles of various writers, and thus sorting copied letters from “original artifacts” has proven difficult.46 My examination of the reprinted Shanghai letters and the mounted brushed letter artifacts in the John B. Elliott Collection folios—by Huang Hui, Yu Chunxi, Huang Ruheng, Feng Mengzhen, Yan Zheng, Tu Long, and Lou Jian 婁堅 (1567– 1631)—confirm that many of them possess the same opening and closing salutations as those found in woodblock printed collections, suggesting that the body of these letters remained mostly intact across both media.47 There are, of course, differences. Woodblock printed letters do not make the same line breaks and do not convey emotion through differences in cal­ligraphic style. Woodblock printed letters typically identify the letter recipient—a detail often missing in manuscript collections, probably because there was, originally, a letter wrapper for such information.48 And undoubtedly, the woodblock printed letters reflect some degree of editorial interference, somewhere along the line.

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the mid-seventeenth century. Preserved in Japanese collections and brushed on letterpaper divided into three formal sections with images, names, and dates, they are unconnected to this network and will not be analyzed here. Nishikie hanga no seiritsu katei, Edo no hana ukiyo eten 錦絵版画の成立過程, 江戶の華浮世絵展, eds. Satō Mitsunobu 佐 藤光信 and the Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts (Machida City, Tokyo: Machida Shiritsu Kokusai Hanga Bijutsukan, 1999). Some scholars speculate that, once letters were printed in woodblock editions, the originals were destroyed. See the introduction to Shanghai tushuguan cang Ming-Qing mingjia shougao. The Shanghai Library published photographic copies of the letters along with a typeset transcription of each letter and short introduction to the writer. Letter wrappers were largely excluded from this multi-volume set. Shanghai tushuguan cang Mingdai chidu. Extant late sixteenth-century manuscript letters are largely part of albums and folios wherein they have been mounted and remounted, raising numerous questions about cropping, authenticity, collector intent, and connoisseurship. Only Qianshen Bai appears to have addressed in a preliminary way the analysis of ink and paper, calligraphic style, and other material issues—and only with respect to the extensive (and largely uncatalogued) collection of manuscript letters in the John B. Elliott Collection. Qianshen Bai, “Chinese Letters: Private Words Made Public,” 380–400.

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That letters were edited does not diminish their value as artifacts of a particular cultural moment, nor should we immediately assume that editing always extended beyond correcting characters and grammatical slips or that the original letter writers might disapprove of the changes. Yuan Hongdao’s epistolary collection is a case in point. Yuan Hongdao edited and published 250 of his own letters.49 These familiar letters are often quite direct, with little in the way of polite formalities. In his role as editor, Yuan Hongdao could have easily hewed to a more ritualized, florid style in the opening and closing lines, but that omission strongly suggests that he wanted his audience to focus on letter content. His good friend and fellow participant in the Gongan School of prose and poetry, Jiang Yingke 江盈科 (1533–1605), wrote that, with respect to Hongdao’s personal letters, “each word and every line dashes spontaneously from his hand, giving full and direct expression of what he wanted to say …”50 The Gongan School certainly valued spontaneity and direct expression. Yet despite Hongdao’s emotional forthrightness—which, for example, did not gloss over his disdain for the duties of a magistrate, his anxieties about a lack of measurable progress toward self-cultivation, and his occasional loneliness—these letters are not spurious off-the-cuff productions, but carefully crafted works replete with citations from other sources.51 This level of editing, of which Hongdao was in full control, suggests that the woodblock prints, while perhaps not exact replicas of the original brush and ink letters, could still be nonetheless true to the author’s intent. Moreover, Yuan Hongdao’s informal style itself offers some insight into the tone of the handwritten familiar letters that were circulating among other 49

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Another thirty were published after his death. Yuan Hongdao’s letter collection is the only one I use that has been comprehensively dated and published with scholarly annotation. See Yuan Zhonglang chidu, eds. Fan Qiao and Zhang Minggao. Citation as translated by Duncan Campbell (page 159). For an extensive compilation of references to Yuan Hongdao’s literary aesthetic, see Duncan Campbell, “The Epistolary World of a Reluctant 17th Century Chinese Magistrate: Yuan Hongdao in Suzhou,” New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 4, no. 1 (2002): 159–193. In an otherwise stellar article, Natasha Heller makes the broad claim that woodblock printed letters in the collections of Chan masters were collected and edited to the extent that “this makes it difficult to assert with any confidence what role letters may have played in the interchange between monks and lay followers …” Her preference is to see manuscript letters as a better measure of the true relationship between master and lay disciple. As discussed here, manuscript letters are not transparent sources nor should woodblock printed letters be dismissed. Natasha Heller, “Between Zhongfeng Mingben and Zhao Mengfu: Chan letters in their manuscript context,” in Buddhist Manuscript Cultures: Knowledge, Ritual, and Art, eds. Stephen C. Berkwitz, Juliane Schober, and Claudia Brown (New York: Routledge, 2009), 115.

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Fellowship members. The same candor can be found to some degree in the epistolary writing of his Gongan cohorts: Tao Wangling, Huang Hui, Li Zhi, and Hongdao’s own brothers. Others inspired by their movement may have also valued such directness and substance over formality. In personal letters they exchanged with longtime friends, polite formalities were dispensed with in short order.

Zhuhong’s Epistolary Collection and Wenda-style Texts

After Zhuhong’s death, his editor-disciples published a selection of his letters in The Collected Teachings of [Master] Cloud Dwelling (Yunqi fahui 雲棲法彙).52 In a highly unusual move, not only did they have printed the letters he wrote, they also included letters he received. A rich resource, Zhuhong’s exchanges were composed, in some cases, of four or five letters on a single topic, thus allowing us to trace the development of an idea. Zhuhong’s collected works were vetted (jiao yue 較閱) by a sizable number of readers: nineteen monks and thirty-eight examination elites, of which twenty-eight have dharma names identifying them as Zhuhong’s precept-disciples. These readers did not publish their criteria for letter selection or add a preface nor did they always include the letters they exchanged with Zhuhong. Zhuhong’s letters were divided into five sections.53 The first section is composed of correspondence from prominent officials. The letters were published in their entirety with proper salutations and closing phrases.54 The other four sections usually provide correspondents’ names and official titles, though some letters are referenced only by such appellations as “Layman Sun.” Only the fifth section, “Miscellaneous Letters,” has a few short interlinear notes indicating that this section is missing detailed information, presumably about the 52

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I have consulted a reprint of the 1897 Nanjing edition (the original title page reads: Yunqi fahui 雲棲法彙), which was republished in Taiwan under the title The Complete Works of Master Lotus Pond (Lianchi Dashi Quanji 蓮池大師全集), 4th ed. (1973; Taipei: Dongchu chubanshe, 1992). My references use the abbreviation Quanji and the Roman pagination for easy reference, since the fascicle page numbers have been obscured. It should be noted that not only is the 1897 Nanjing edition reprint much more extensive than most rare book library holdings of this work which often do not include the sūtra commentaries, it is also considerably longer than the version found in the Wanxu zangjing 卍續藏經 under the title The Collected Pure Land Words of (Master) Cloud Dwelling (Yunqi jingtu huiyu 雲棲淨土彙語) (X1170). Zhuhong, Quanji, 5197–5208. Ibid., 4480–4520.

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correspondents, or the full letters themselves. Because this section includes some wenda-style text, it is quite likely that Zhuhong was in the midst of reworking some letter material to fit that genre, but passed away before its completion.55 Wenda 問答, literally question (wen) and answer (da), are texts written in the form of a dialogue or conversation. The Buddhist wenda genre was an ideal vehicle for an “informal” yet highly controlled exchange between an imagined mentor and his mentee. The reworking of letter content to fit this format does not appear to be atypical; The Dream Wandering Collection (Mengyou ji 夢遊集) of Hanshan Deqing also includes both formal letters and wenda sections that are prefaced simply by the name of a disciple, albeit a prominent one. We could surmise from this that letters served as source material or inspiration for the creation of such texts. Both wenda texts and epistolary exchanges reflect a larger cultural practice, whereby masters fielded questions from audience members after public lectures or in private consultations. Zhuhong’s most famous text in this genre, the 1584 publication Answers to Forty-Eight Pure Land Questions (Da jingtu sishiba wen 答淨土四十八問), was a collaborative effort. Zhuhong’s precept-disciple Yu Chunxi was ostensibly responsible for composing the questions and Zhuhong the answers.56 Sūtra literature and discourse records (yulu 語錄) were often written in the form of an exchange between an authoritative figure and his disciple. However, unlike the straightforward real/fictional exchanges in other wenda texts, Chan-style wenda confound rather than illuminate. For example, the wenda section of Recorded Sayings of the Chan Master Zhanran Yuancheng is a purported transcription of face-to-face interactions between Yuancheng, Zhuhong, Zhenke, the monk Yuechuan Zhencheng 月川鎮澄 (1547–1617), Tao Wangling, Huang Hui, and others seen in this network. Each short exchange demonstrates that the participants had fully mastered the techniques of Chan encounter dialogue, whose cryptic questions, statements or stories were meant to jar the reader out of reliance on reason and facilitate the experience of enlightenment. Texts like Yuancheng’s wenda were an acceptable edited version that captured the esprit of the exchange, not a literal word-for-word documentation of events (see chapter 6).57 We have already seen how epistolary collections could serve as guides for letter writing. But they could also be an important spiritual point of reference. 55 56 57

Ibid., 4695–4705. Ibid., 1525–1526. A number of other texts also record these same events, and though the general import remains the same, there are small discrepancies in the wording. See, for instance, Heidou ji (X1592); Zhanran Yuancheng chanshi yulu (X1444).

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When defending their cultivation practices, Yuan Hongdao and other Fellowship members often cited the Song Chan exegete Dahui Zonggao’s 大慧 宗杲 (1189–1163) epistolary collection. In fact, the letters Dahui wrote to twelfth-century elite laymen had a significant impact on this network. Some Ming monks, like Yongjue Yuanxian, wrote prefaces for the separate republication of Dahui’s collection of letters, hoping that Dahui’s advice would inspire examination elites to develop the correct attitude toward cultivation.58 Deqing too had this in mind when he suggested in a letter to his disciple Tan Fuzhi 談 復之 (n.d.) that he read Dahui’s letters.59 It is noteworthy that Fellowship members read epistolary collections when they wanted to know what particular advice had been directed at elite concerns. Dahui’s collection may have in turn served as a model for their correspondence on Buddhist matters.60

Quasi-Private Letter Circulation and Letter Delivery

Scholars not working on epistolary sources assume, often incorrectly, that epistolary exchange was a private matter. One of the most cogent Western scholarly arguments for the historical value of epistolary writings rests on the idea that confidential communication will reveal otherwise inaccessible, intimate secrets—all else is mere posturing.61 In this paradigm, the more private the exchange, the more openly sincere and reliable the content. Within this 58 59 60

61

Yongjue Yuanxian, “Chongke Dahui chanshi shuwen fayu xu,” in Yongjue Yuanxian chanshi guanglu (X1437: 72. 460b23). Deqing, Mengyou ji, 907. A protracted analysis of the relationship between Dahui’s epistolary collection and late sixteenth-century Buddhist culture stands outside the scope of this project. Many epistolary collections, not just Buddhist ones, were published separately during the late Ming, attesting to the wide cultural acceptance of this practice. Dahui’s teacher, Yuanwu Keqin 圓悟克勤 (1063–1135), also wrote many letters, though these are not mentioned in this network’s writings. J.C. Cleary, trans., Zen Letters: Teachings of Yuanwu (Boston: Sham­ bhala, 1994). The following works attempt to correct this view with respect to the quasi-public circulation of Western epistolary exchange among friends and family and do not differ much from the Chinese context (Susan E. Whyman, 2009; Gary Schneider, 2005; McLean, The Art of the Network). In some instances, secrecy was important. With respect to homoerotic desires, confession and confidentiality, Patrick Garlinger likens the letter to a closet and the envelope to a protective veil. Patrick Paul Garlinger, Confessions of the Letter Closet (Minnesota: University of Minnesota, 2005), x. Illicit love affairs, depression, and other concerns might also be kept private. Elisabeth Hampsten, Read This Only to Yourself: The Private Writings of Midwestern Women, 1880–1910 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982).

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network, the reality was that letters circulated among a privileged, select group of friends who shared in the quasi-public reading of them.62 However, this does not diminish their historical value. As Bonnie S. McDougall has argued, in China as in the West, there were many different conceptions of privacy that extend well beyond the dichotomous language of official/private and inner/ outer.63 In attempts to determine how individualistic, and thus personal, Chinese letters are, some scholars suggest, using a Western standard, that only familiar letters with sufficient familial or emotional content fit this category.64 I have two objections to this designation. Firstly, sixteenth-century letters written to monks might include familial matters; however, what distinguished these letters was the scope of their spiritual content written in the first person singular. More significantly, in contemporary Western conceptions, personal belief and religious experience are ideally relegated to a privately guarded realm and rarely shared. In contrast, the letter collections studied here demonstrate that self-cultivation and spiritual advancement were openly discussed by the Fellowship and were part of a robust epistolary discourse that expressed such ideas in a shared normative vocabulary (see chapters 6 and 7). Zhuhong and his network indeed understood epistolary exchange to be a quasi-private form of communication. It was common cultural practice for a select group of close associates to share in the reading of letters exchanged between individuals. Sometimes friends requested that their letters be shown to a particular third person. Some letters were even addressed to several named individuals, to “friends” (youren 友人), or to a group of students, a practice attested by ubiquitous evidence. It must be added, however, that those outside the network would not have had access, and thus letters were “private” with respect to the control of their circulation within designated epistolary circles. Only when published posthumously, as customary, were letters made more generally available. A noteworthy instance of the public sharing of “private” letters is Zhuhong’s publication of his protracted epistolary exchange with literatus Cao Yinru 曹胤 儒 (n.d.), published separately under the title A Pure Land Exchange (Jingtu huiyu 凈土會語).65 In his postface, Zhuhong wrote that he felt compelled to 62 63

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See Qianshen Bai, “Chinese Letters,” 380–400. Bonnie S. McDougall’s introduction offers an excellent overview of Chinese concepts of privacy, in McDougall and Hansson, Chinese Concepts of Privacy, 3–26. See also Ko, Teachers of the Inner Chambers, 151–157; Lee, “Li Zhi and John Stuart Mill.” Pattinson, “Privacy and Letter Writing”; Heller, “Between Zhongfeng Mingben and Zhao Mengfu.” The letters were reprinted in Zhuhong’s Quanji under Cao Yinru’s epithet, Luchuan 魯川. The postface appears separately. Araki Kengo has speculated that the rift between Zhuhong and Cao Yinru was enough to curtail any further interaction. For a brief analysis

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dispute Cao’s privileging of Huayan at the expense of Pure Land doctrine. Extraordinarily satisfied that he had won the debate, Zhuhong explicitly urged others to read the exchange. Some modern assessments of this philosophical contest paint Zhuhong’s responses as inadequate, or view this disagreement as signaling a shift in power from monks to examination elites.66 Zhuhong certainly did not feel such a shift. Much to the contrary, he made a very public, self-assured display of authority. While the booklet itself is no longer extant, the letters were republished in Cloud Dwelling [Monastery] Gazetteer, further demonstrating how important the exchange was to his disciples.67 Because letters frequently changed hands, true privacy was indeed unachievable. In fact, after receiving a letter from Wang Erkang 王爾康 (1567–1604), Zhuhong wrote to advise him to keep unsavory political details to himself, cautioning that letters fell all too easily into the wrong hands.68 Self-preservation was a very real concern. In 1603 the monk Zhenke was given essentially a death sentence—thirty lashes at court—for a letter deemed incendiary to the state. The letter had been discovered in the house of his disciple Shen Lingyu 沈令譽 by officials investigating the Yaoshu 妖書 incident;69 it was not meant for public consumption and would have remained semi-private if not for this investigation. Though Tao Wangling, Deqing, and others rushed to his defense, it was to no avail.

66 67

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of the variance in doctrinal interpretation between Zhuhong and Cao Yinru, see Araki Kengo, Unsei Shukō no kenkyū 雲棲祩宏の研究 (Tokyo: Daizō Shuppan, 1985), 111–121. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4242–4243 and 4450–4480. Shi Sheng Yen, Mingmo fojiao yanjiu, 150–153; Jiang Wu, Enlightenment in Dispute, 66. Yunqi zhi, 288–292. This exchange began between two parties and reads as such, not as a philosophical treatise, even though these letters were later published. David Pattinson has suggested that some letters were written as de facto essays or philosophical treatises, and that the imagined audience for such letters was much broader than the dyadic relationship implied by addressor and addressee. While promising, Pattinson’s comments are narrowly directed at the first several hundred years of the Common Era and not universally applicable—especially in later periods. Pattinson, “The Chidu,” 13; cited in Heller, “Between Zhongfeng Mingben and Zhao Mengfu,” 113. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4557. Though English-language publications are quite sympathetic to Zhenke’s plight, primary sources demonstrate that only a small cohort came to his rescue: Zhanran Yuancheng, Hanshan Deqing, Tao Wangling, and so forth. For an extended discussion of the various reactions to Zhenke’s predicament, see Jennifer Eichman, “Epistolary Hearsay: Judging Buddhist Monks,” (paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Asian Studies, Honolulu, HI., March, 2011). This episode is recounted in a number of places. The clearest English-language source is the DMB biography of Zhenke. See also J.C. Cleary, Zibo: The Last Great Zen Master of China (Berkeley: AHP Paperbacks, 1989), 20–26.

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We know little about how letters arrived at their destinations, but it is likely, as Timothy Brook has suggested, that letters were delivered by servants, travelers, and couriers.70 Not to be overlooked, “traveling monks” (xingjiao seng 行腳 僧) too delivered many letters.71 Monks were required as part of monastic training to seek out teachers at other monasteries. Experienced travelers, they became adept at moving from monastery to monastery, sometimes in the company of elite practitioners. Because monks frequently saw other members of the extended network, they could convey messages and pass on letters and objects, and they probably knew all the latest gossip: who was sick, who had died, who had moved, and so forth.72 Monks also initiated contact through their own letters, asking laymen for favors. For example, Feng Mengzhen’s Diary (Riji 日記) describes the letters he received from monks requesting stūpa epitaphs. The turnaround in letter writing is rarely mentioned by the correspondents and is thus not easy to judge. In his Diary Feng Mengzhen does, however, describe two scenarios: logistical messages could be received in a matter of days, while familiar letters could take up to two months or more to arrive. People living in close proximity exchanged letters to iron out the logistics of meeting times and places.73 Personal letters sent by those who lived in other provinces might travel through a circuitous exchange of hands and take several months or more to arrive. Prompted by an unusual set of circumstances, Feng wrote that, much to his surprise, on the third day of the eighth month he received a letter from a friend who had passed away the previous month—the letter had been written in the sixth month but had taken almost two months to reach him.74 70 71

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Timothy Brook, Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 185–186. This term is often translated as either itinerant or wandering. However, much of this travel was purpose driven, ending in visits to particular monasteries or monks. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 793. For expediency, I offer here only a few references from Yuan Hongdao’s epistolary collection on how gossip circulated and letters were delivered. In 1602 Yuan Hongdao wrote Wang Zhideng 王稚登 (1535–1612) that whenever Hongdao was in Wu, a monk would share news about Wang (page 126); in 1596 a monk delivered a letter to Hongdao from Tao Wangling (page 68); in 1604 Yuan Hongdao gave Huang Hui’s younger brother a letter to deliver to him (page 255); in a 1596 letter Yuan Hongdao reminded his older brother Zongdao that letters could be sent with official grain transports from Suzhou to Beijing (page 16). Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu. Most logistical letters were not published and have not survived—Feng Mengzhen’s epistolary collection stands out as an exception to this. Feng’s “diary” is more accurately a chronicle of some days, since he skips many days and only published a fraction of the original text. Moreover, he rarely offers the sort of

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The flow of contemporary conversation was further shaped by the packages that often accompanied letters. Sending gifts with letters was a pervasive cultural practice not exclusive to Buddhist networks. Letters sent to Zhuhong included the following items: gifts of one’s salary; two fans with Pure Land poems written on them; a bolt of purple flowered cloth, and a pair of summer socks.75 He also received, from Huang Hui, a handwritten copy in kaishu script of the Amitābha Sūtra.76 Zhuhong often reciprocated with recently printed editions of his own texts and other objects: he sent Wu Shiguang 吳始光 (n.d.) a pair of chopsticks from Mount Wutai and four texts.77 Not all gifts were object oriented. For his father’s birthday, Huang Hui sent him words of wisdom taken from Zhuhong’s writings.78 In determining who was most active or who was closest to Zhuhong, the use of epistolary sources must be balanced against epitaphs, biographies, collected writings, temple gazetteer writings, and many other sources. Yet, in contrast to the official biographies of these men, epistolary collections offer far more insights into their habits of spiritual cultivation and varied religious interests. Letters in the aggregate expose the spiritual concerns of this network and demon­strate how highly they valued Buddhist fellowship. The lifeblood of friendship, letters offer a crucial glimpse of the extent to which network members interacted with each other—not just with Zhuhong—and allow us to reconstruct actual relationships, gauge correspondents’ levels of intimacy, and imagine the larger setting in which they lived. Letters exchanged between close friends fostered religious exploration, buoyed spirits, tamped down ­frustrations, and in general propelled matters forward, whether through advice on mastering cultivation techniques or through the resolution of doctrinal confusion.

Religious Identities: Multiple Affiliations

Our scholarly world tends to depict sixteenth- and seventeenth-century China as predominantly Neo-Confucian. Examination culture and the discourse of official life certainly lend veracity to this view. However, rather than paint with

75 76 77 78

personal reflection one might expect to see in a diary. Feng Mengzhen, Riji 日記, in Kuaixue tang ji 快雪堂集, 47.8. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4480; 4485; 4500–4501. Ibid., 4484. Longxing Xiangfu jietan si zhi, 163–164. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4566–4567. Ibid., 4492.

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such a broad brush, we would be better served if we distinguished between the arenas of discourse where Confucian ideas predominated and other discursive spaces where, for example, Buddhist cultivation technologies came to the fore. Many ru 儒, a term scholars increasingly translate as “classicist” rather than “Confucian,” like the elite Buddhist jinshi degree-holders in the Fellowship, lived in the interstices between groups and traditions, cultivating multiple religious affiliations. In fact, with respect to self-cultivation, they were not singularly committed to either a Buddhist or a Confucian regimen. They could potentially embrace both. When conferring lay precepts, Buddhist monks did not require participants to first profess a creed, renounce other cultivation regimens, or be exclusive in their affiliation. Additionally, during the Wanli reign (1573–1620) officials rarely lost office over their commitment to Buddhist ­practices—rather, before 1590, it was participation in Yangming Confucian activities that incurred greater liability.79 Occasionally Buddhist affiliation was leveraged as an excuse to deny promotions, but, in general, from 1590 onward examination elites could assume multiple modes of religious affiliation ­without political compromise, creating a climate that allowed for greater exploration of available cultivation regimens. Given the ease with which these men moved between institutional settings and disparate traditions, how should we characterize the multiple “religious” modalities adopted by Confucian-trained Buddhist precept-disciples? By virtue of their social position and success in the metropolitan examinations, these men did fit within a particular Confucian habitus—what Pierre Bourdieu has called an identity shaped by dispositional practice. Yet because they lived in a time of great intellectual ferment, members of this network did not ­simplistically accept their Confucian training.80 Rather, they articulately debated the merits of various Confucian and Buddhist ideas, resulting in a high 79

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Political factions might share a common interest in Buddhist cultivation, yet such interest was not a primary factor in court infighting or the usurpation of power. Just punishments and the use of animals in state sacrifice were specific Buddhist concerns. But statecraft itself did not present a problem. Chün-fang Yü has noted that the Wanli Emperor wanted firmer regulatory control over Buddhist institutions. However, the Wanli Emperor and the Empress Dowager looked favorably on Buddhist monks and their projects, offering at times generous financial support. Outside the arrests of Zhenke and Deqing, the network’s writings do not exhibit any overt handwringing over the state’s treatment of Buddhists and their institutions. Chün-fang Yü, “Ming Buddhism,” 928. Wendy Bottero, Nick Crossley, and other theorists argue that Bourdieu underestimated the role of agency, reflexivity, and social connections in the formation of cultural identities. Simply put, Bourdieu’s theories cannot account for change. Wendy Bottero, “Intersubjectivity and Bourdieusian Approaches to ‘Identity,’” Cultural Sociology 4, no. 1 (2010):

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degree of reflexivity and dispositional alteration—an idea Bourdieu does not theorize. The inter-subjective relationships they formed with one another during this process culminated in the formation of a Buddhist fellowship that enriched their experience of that tradition without necessarily hampering their participation in Confucian and Daoist forums. Taking nothing for granted, network members spent a lifetime searching for the right path (dao 道; Skt. marga) to self-cultivation, an idea pervasive in Chinese contexts, as Robert Campany has already stated—not the right religion. In constructing this path, Fellowship members often asked the same questions of both Confucian and Buddhist traditions and created various schemas that wed Yangming Confucian goals to Buddhist cultivation. In short, these men—inspired by Zhou Rudeng and his mentor Wang Ji 王畿 (1498– 1583), a pupil of Wang Yangming—pursued a Chan-style awakening because they thought it would lead to the full realization of innate knowing (liangzhi 良 知), a Yangming Confucian goal. Following Philip J. Ivanhoe, Aaron Stalnaker has characterized Wang Yangming’s teaching this way: “Wang Yangming and certain Chan Buddhists, see self ‘cultivation’ as a profound and sudden transformation of vision and orientation, resulting from a breakthrough to a previously obscured layer of the self, one’s true underlying nature, which is complete and perfect in its moral and cosmic awareness.”81 When Buddhist and Confucian practices and goals become so intertwined that they are treated as viable solutions to the same problems of personal forma­tion, then calling one a religion and the other a philosophy would misre­ present how this particular network viewed the two.82 What second-generation Yangming Confucians were doing to attain sagehood is akin to what Pierre Hadot had in mind when he claimed that, in the Hellenistic world, philo­ sophical theories expressly served practices of personal transformation: “Spiritual exercises were exercises because they were practical, required effort

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3–22; Wendy Bottero and Nick Crossley, “Worlds, Fields and Networks: Becker, Bourdieu and the Structures of Social Relations,” Cultural Sociology 5 (2011): 99–119. Stalnaker’s view is based on Philip J. Ivanhoe’s position in Ethics in the Confucian ­Tra­dition: The Thought of Mencius and Wang Yangming, 2nd ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett ­Publishing Company, 2002), 96. Aaron Stalnaker, Overcoming Our Evil: Human Nature and Spirit­ual Exercises in Xunzi and Augustine (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2007), 39. For a discussion of context-sensitive definitions of religion and a Wittgenstein “family resemblance” approach to conceiving of religion, see Asad, Genealogies of Religion, 27–54; and Brian Wilson, “From the Lexical to the Polythetic: A Brief History of the Definition of Religion,” in What Is Religion?: Origins, Definitions, and Explanations, eds. Thomas A. Idinopulos and Brian C. Wilson (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 141–163.

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and training, and were lived; they were spiritual because they involved the entire spirit, one’s whole way of being. The art of living demanded by philo­ sophy was a lived exercise exhibited in every aspect of one’s existence.”83 Yangming Confucian intellectual engagement with classical texts was certainly part of a lived exercise whose goal of personal formation not only encompassed the ability to make better ethical judgments but extended as well to more metaphysical matters already prevalent in post-Song Confucian discourse that were further amplified by the sub-branch of Yangming Confucians under discussion in this volume. In this particular case, the more restricted view endorsed by some scholars that Confucianism be defined only as a ­system of ethics is really quite inadequate.84 Clearly, we need a much more nuanced understanding of late sixteenth-century adherence to cultivation regimens and modes of affiliation. The term ru, which means literally “scholar,” “ritual specialist,” or “classicist,” is often rendered in English, rather imperfectly, as “Confucian.”85 How best to define Confucians or Confucianism has preoccupied the field for some time.86 83

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I have cited Arnold Davidson’s summary of Hadot’s definition. Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, ed. Arnold Davidson; trans. Michael Chase (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), 21. Peng Guoxiang 彭國翔 thinks Hadot’s spiritual exercises and Nussbaum’s therapeutics of desire were central Song-Ming Confucian concerns and argues that Confucianism should be classified, at the very least, as somewhere in between Western philosophy and religion (pages 13–15). Peng Guoxiang, “Rujia chuantongde shenxin xiulian ji qi zhiliao yiyi—yi gu Xila Luoma zhexue chuantong wei canzhao 儒家傳統的身心修煉及其治療意義—以 古希臘羅馬哲學傳統為參照,” in Ruxuede qilun yu gongfu lun 儒學的氣論與工夫論, eds. Yang Rubin 楊儒賓 and Zhu Pingci 祝平次 (Taipei: Taiwan University Publishing, 2005), 1–45; Peng, Rujia chuantong: zongjiao yu renwenzhuyi zhijian 儒家傳統: 宗教與人 文主義之間 (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 2007). With respect to Confucian traditions, Aaron Stalnaker has argued for greater attention to religious models and practices of training and personal formation. Stalnaker posits Foucault’s “technologies of the self,” as largely interchangeable with Hadot’s “spiritual exercises.” Stalnaker, Overcoming Our Evil, 33. On the historiography of Western uses of the term “Confucianism,” see Wilson, On Sacred Grounds. For a definition of the term ru, and an insightful discussion of twentieth-century quandaries, see Michael Nylan, The Five “Confucian” Classics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 23; 363–366; 307–343. Much of the discussion focuses on whether Confucianism should be defined as a religion or a philosophy. Hoyt Tillman, Theodore de Bary, Liu Shu-hsien, Rodney Taylor, and many others too numerous to list here have all weighed in on these debates. Rein Raud and Carine Defoort have had an insightful debate on whether Chinese philosophy does indeed exist. References to the works of these scholars can be found in the bibliography.

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Broadly construed, all literati (shi 士) were ru; by virtue of their examination success, degree-holders referred to themselves and each other as ru. Yet on an individual level, sixteenth-century ru defy easy characterization. In drawing attention to this issue, Willard Peterson has already expressed some reservations with respect to how scholars understand ru in its more sectarian translation as “Confucian”: “The broad definition of all literati as ‘Confucians’ leaves us in the conceptually untidy position of recognizing that, in the late Ming, being a Confucian did not entail believing, embracing, or practicing a determinate set of ideas that are readily labeled as the ‘doctrine’ or ‘body of thought’ of ‘Confucianism.’”87 In other words, given that the ru were a large and varied lot, we should not confuse formal classical education with religious commitment, adherence to orthodoxy, or exclusive identities. Ru ran the gamut from dedicated officials who advanced Confucian positions to the disaffected who expressed little interest in the Confucian exegetical tradition. With respect to levels of commitment, Peter Bol distinguished between men who actively promoted a Confucian identity and those who accepted Confucian teachings as morally correct but were not devoted to its dissemination.88 Ru members of this Buddhist fellowship became Buddhist precept-disciples, read Buddhist texts, participated in Buddhist rituals, and adopted Buddhist behaviors, professing a desire to be reborn in the Pure Land. And yet such men, like Huang Hui, Tao Wangling, and Yu Chunxi, also wrote essays on Confucian topics and remained committed to the ideals of sagehood. Additionally, disaffected Confucian-trained critics did not renounce their ru status even when they spent the majority of their time engaged in either Daoist or Buddhist pursuits. The civil service examination system demanded mastery of a core curriculum comprised of Cheng-Zhu interpretations of the Four Books and other classics.89 Yet beginning in the late fifteenth century some examination elites distanced themselves from that dominant ideology and began to gravitate 87

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This section draws extensively on Willard Peterson’s superb overview of educated late Ming thinkers. Willard Peterson, “Confucian Learning in Late Ming Thought,” Cambridge History of China, eds. Denis Twitchett and Frederick W. Mote (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 709–788. See page 772 for the quoted passage. Peter Bol, “Neo-Confucianism and Local Society, Twelfth to Sixteenth Century: A Case Study,” in The Song-Yuan-Ming Transition in Chinese History, eds. Paul Jakov Smith and Richard von Glahn (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2003), 242. From 1313 onward, the imperially sanctioned Cheng Yi 程頤 (1033–1107) and Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130–1200) school of interpretation formed the basis of civil service examinations; this remained so until 1905. Some contemporary scholars refer to this canon with the term “Cheng-Zhu orthodoxy.” Elman, On Their Own Terms, xxii.

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toward the Learning of the Mind (xinxue 心學) promulgated by Wang Yangming 王陽明 (1472–1529). Wang Yangming’s disciples quickly formed their own disparate lineages; within a mere generation there were multiple competing Yangming Confucian interpretive branches. Despite the increased numbers of Yangming Confucians, this looser structure of competing lineages meant that no single group dominated—a situation that lent itself to a surfeit of interpretive possibilities, effectively opening the Confucian discursive field to more voices. Wang Yangming’s turn toward interiority further lent itself to greater interaction with Buddhist and Daoist textual traditions and communities. Scholars looking for an authoritative judgment on who was a committed Confucian in the late Ming have often turned to the circa 1676 Sourcebook of Ming Confucians (Mingru xue’an 明儒學案), written by Huang Zongxi 黃宗羲 (1610–1695). In its breadth and depth, this text is still the single most influential source—some might argue, early historical account—of late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Confucians.90 Huang divided Yangming Confucians into regional branches and praised the purported orthodoxy of the Jiangyou branch, while criticizing the more Buddhist-influenced Taizhou school.91 Intent on ending Buddhist influence on the Confucian tradition, Huang’s judgments were quite partisan. Yet when we step back from Huang’s project and read against the grain, Huang’s work reveals not the late sixteenth-century decline of Buddhist ideas commonly described in the scholarship, but their 90

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Many scholars repeat Liang Qichao’s claim that this work was the first formal complete Chinese history of “learning and scholarship.” However, Hung-lam Chu has questioned the facile repetition of this claim, pointing rather to both Liang Qichao’s later claim and Huang Zongxi’s own remarks that this was a guide to self-cultivation (page 246).­ Hung-lam Chu, “Confucian ‘Case Learning’: The Genre of Xue’an Writings,” in Thinking With Cases: Specialist Knowledge in Chinese Cultural History, eds. Charlotte Furth, Judith T. ­Zeitlin, and Ping-chen Hsiung (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007), 244–270. In recent years, Mainland scholars have preferred to regroup ru by intellectual rather than regional designations. Largely tinkering with Huang Zongxi’s project, their reshuffling of the same two hundred Confucians under various philosophical categories breaks no new ground. For an overview of this kind of scholarship in Mainland, Taiwanese, and Japanese studies of Yangming Confucians, see Lin Yuehui 林月惠, Liangzhixue de zhuanzhe: Nie Shuangjiang yu Luo Nian’an sixiang zhi yanjiu 良知學的轉折:聶雙江與羅念菴思想 之研究 (Taipei: Taiwan National University Publication Center, 2005). For a work that looks at the genealogy of a number of Confucian anthologies, placing Huang Zongxi’s work in a broader historical context, see Thomas Wilson, Genealogy of the Way: The Construction and Uses of the Confucian Tradition in Late Imperial China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995).

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ascendancy vis-à-vis an elite discourse that exhibited an intense degree of engagement.92 It is this engagement that deserves greater scholarly attention. Like Willard Peterson, most scholars draw a distinction between literati (shi) and “men committed to cultural pursuits” (wenren 文人). Wenren are not usually identified as “Confucian” in our scholarly literature, which tends to focus on their literary contributions, yet they were often classified as ru.93 Among the wenren who figure most prominently in this study, the jinshi degreeholding Yuan brothers and Tu Long wrote essays on Confucian and/or Buddhist topics and engaged in self-cultivation, drawing from both Yangming Confucian and Buddhist traditions—and they referred to themselves and each other as ru. In this respect, scholars should not overlook the circulation of Confucian ideas among a more expansive group of educated elite—irrespective of how Huang Zongxi (or others) might categorize them. The playwright Tu Long 屠隆 (1542–1605) exemplifies how easily some in the network adopted multiple religious modalities. Tu Long referred to himself variously as a “disciple of the three teachings” (sanjiao dizi 三教弟子), a “Buddhist disciple” (fo dizi 佛弟子), a “disciple of the Three Jewels” (sanbao dizi 三寶弟子), “Śāla Person of the Way” (suoluo daoren 娑羅道人), and “Layman Hongbao” (鴻苞居士).94 Tu Long, along with Feng Mengzhen, was a disciple of the more Daoist-inspired figure, Tanyangzi 曇陽子, before her death in 1580.95 Though both men engaged in Buddhist and Confucian discussions, they were not in the vanguard of those promoting Confucian self-cultivation and cannot strictly be categorized as Yangming Confucians, though both were ru by virtue of their educational attainment. It must be added that most of Zhuhong’s educationally successful disciples were not intellectual or literary heavyweights: they were members of that broader community of ru who engaged in a variety of cultivation activities and writing practices. Some—such as the Confucianeducated Buddhist precept-disciples, Ge Yinliang 葛寅亮 (1570–1646) and Huang Ruheng—were perhaps best known for their Buddhist fundraising circulars and gazetteer writing, not their philosophical insights.

92 93 94

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Ch’en, Buddhism in China, 434. Peterson, “Confucian Learning in Late Ming Thought,” 773. Tu Long has long confounded scholars. Chaoying Fang’s DMB biography calls him a Daoist, whereas Timothy Brook labels him a Buddhist enthusiast. Brook, Praying for Power, 66. See Yunmen xiansheng sizhi, 276, 280, 282; and Tu Long, Hongbao ji 鴻苞集, 30.5. Ann Waltner, “Visionary and Bureaucrat in the Late Ming: Wang Shih-chen and T’an-yangtzu,” Late Imperial China 10, no. 2 (1987): 105–133.

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The Lexicon of Buddhist Affiliations

The descriptive markers the Fellowship employed to identify their own and others’ Buddhist affiliations were quite varied and favored terms denoting a specific Buddhist path over more generic designations. This nomenclature falls under two categories: Buddhist friendship terms and markers of formal ritual affiliation. We have evidence that most of the men included in this study eventually became Buddhist precept-disciples. However, over the thirty-year course of the Fellowship’s existence, participant engagement could fluctuate; initial enthusiasm might give way to lukewarm reception and vice versa. In thinking about levels of commitment, Thomas Tweed’s work on American Buddhist affiliation offers a useful comparison. Tweed developed a vocabulary for circum­venting overreliance on what he called an “essentialist-normative definition,” which identifies Buddhists as only those who take the five precepts. Tweed argued that not-just Buddhists (those who cultivate more than one tradition) but also would-be Buddhists, Buddhist sympathizers, and active practitioners lacking formal ritual affiliation have all contributed to the shape and direction of American Buddhist culture.96 In similar fashion, the course taken by this fellowship in the late Ming was shaped by those who shared in the same spiritual ambitions yet participated in a variety of formal and informal ways. Two terms used to identify late sixteenth-century participants have significant ramifications for how we demarcate the contours of this network. The first term, jimenzhe 及門者, literally “to enter the gates,” is used in numerous monk biographies, often appearing after the names of visitors received by a given monk in order to indicate that he was much in demand.97 Some of these visitors can be identified as precept-disciples or loyal followers active in Buddhist circles, yet by itself the term jimenzhe does not stipulate how many times someone met a master or their precise ritual affiliation. In fact, in some sources those designated jimenzhe are famous literati who visited only once, or 96

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Tweed has developed a number of categories: “dharma-hoppers,” “night-stand Buddhists,” “not-just-Buddhists,” “lukewarm Buddhists.” These categories should inspire us to create a more varied descriptive vocabulary. Thomas Tweed, “‘Who is a Buddhist?’ Night-stand Buddhists and Other Creatures,” in Westward Dharma, eds. Charles S. Prebish and Martin Baumann (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 17–33. For the locus classicus of this term, see The Analects 11.2. This is not to be confused with the term “entering the room” (rushi 入室), Analects 11.15, which Mario Poceski suggests implies “personal closeness and mastery” of one’s teacher’s teaching. Mario Poceski, Ordinary Mind as the Way: The Hongzhou School and the Growth of Chan Buddhism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 70.

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persons that are historically more difficult to trace. Deqing’s biography of Zhuhong used this term twice in his description of Zhuhong’s disciples: “Those who entered the gates (jimenzhe) to receive precepts and take the tonsure numbered no less than several thousand. As for laymen, their numbers are incomparable. Officials both retired and active who entered the gates numbered at least a thousand. As for indirect disciples (sishuzhe 私淑者), their numbers are incomparable.”98 The term “indirect disciple” means, quite literally, to privately (si) receive (shu) instruction through other people’s reports. Indirect disciples were so profoundly inspired by reading a master’s works that they professed discipleship under one of the following three circumstances: (1) to someone they had never met; (2) to someone with whom they had had extremely limited contact; or (3) to someone (a monk or Confucian exegete) who was already deceased.99 We could speculate that Zhuhong’s indirect disciples include not only anonymous individuals inspired by reading his publications, but also those correspondents who took precepts at home, under Zhuhong’s direction, and wrote to him requesting dharma names. The numbers of nameless indirect disciples whose cultural presence was felt by Deqing and others and the imprecise definition of visitors who “entered the gate” is a primary reason why I prefer to conceive of the network with fuzzy, less determinately circumscribed borders. Buddhist friendship terms were many and varied. In his letters, Yuan Hongdao called Tao Wangling his “Buddhist friend” (foyou 佛友). In another letter, Hongdao also referred to Tao Wangling, Yu Chunxi, and Yu’s brother as “Chan friends” (chanyou 禪友); he then qualified that assertion by also calling them “poetry friends” (shiyou 詩友).100 However, this is in contradistinction to the remaining named individuals who were referred to only as “poetry friends.”101 98

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Since Deqing wrote the biography within two years of Zhuhong’s death, his reference to untold “indirect disciples” likely refers to those who self-identified this way even while Zhuhong was alive. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 1434. This idea resonates with the monastic practice of choosing dharma heirs by remote succession (yaosi 遙嗣). For more on this monastic tradition and mid-seventeenth-century controversies concerning the practice, see Jiang Wu, Enlightenment in Dispute, 10. The locus classicus for this idea is Mencius 4B:22. The above explanation is based in part on Wiebke Denecke, The Dynamics of Masters Literature: Early Chinese Thought from Confucius to Han Feizi (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2010), 158. Yuan Hongdao also called some friends “Buddhist persons” (foren 佛人). Though used infrequently, this term is found in the canonical literature. Zhou Rudeng used the term “Chan friends” (zongmen zhi you 宗門之友). See Huang Zongxi, Mingru xue’an 明儒學 案 (Taipei: Huashi chubanshe, 1987), 860. This is in a 1597 letter to Wu Hua 吳化. Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 197.

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When he was the magistrate in Suzhou in 1595, Yuan Hongdao exclaimed in exasperation that the only true “dharma friend” (fayou 法友) he could find there was Tu Long.102 Other friendship terms included “dharma companion” (falu 法侶), applied to Wu Yongxian 吳用先 (b. 1564, jinshi 1592),103 and “rare friend in the dharma” (famen weiyou 法門畏友), yet another term used in reference to Tao Wangling.104 Lamenting the logistical impediments to frequent contact with close friends, Tao Wangling wrote that friendship was a karmic connection, extending over many lifetimes.105 In contrast to scholarly assertions that friendships often took precedence over familial ties in late Ming elite male circles, the Fellowship attests to the continued importance of family ties to friendship networks.106 In this fellowship, friendships were often maintained with more than one member of the same family, especially among those with the same educational attainments. All three Yuan brothers, the two Tao brothers, Wangling and Shiling, the two Yu brothers Chunxi and Chunzhen, and the uncle-nephew duo Wu Yingbin 吳應 賓 (b. 1566, jinshi 1586) and Wu Yongxian were all active in this network. Some of Zhuhong’s disciple’s families established even closer intergenerational ties through marriage.107 With respect to formal ritual affiliation, most of the men in this network became precept-disciples (jie dizi 戒弟字). Zhuhong’s epistolary collection identifies many of his correspondents by their dharma names (fahao 法號), denoting that they had taken refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha and had accepted the five lay precepts. Throughout this study, those with dharma names will be identified as Zhuhong’s precept-disciples.108 Buddhist canonical texts call those who took refuge and vowed to uphold the five precepts jushi 居 士, that is, laymen.109 The well-known 1776 Biographies of Laymen (Jushi zhuan 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109

See his 1595 letter to Wang Lu 王輅 (n.d.). Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 64. Yuan Zhongdao, Kexue zhai jinji 珂雪齋近集 (1618; reprint, Shanghai: Shanghai chudian chongyin, 1935), 187. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4485–4488. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji 歇庵集, ed. Wang Yinglin 王應遴 (Reprint, Taipei: Weiwen tushu chubanshe, 1976), 1198, 2360, 2366. See for instance, Martin W. Huang, “Male Friendship and Jiangxue (Philosophical Debates) in Sixteenth-Century China,” NAN NÜ 9, no. 1 (2007): 146–178. See chapter 5. See also Chün-fang Yü, The Renewal of Buddhism, 93. Zhuhong conferred dharma names that began with one of these three characters: guang 廣, da 大, or zhi 智. Ibid., 92. In his writings, Zhuhong reserved the term “layman” (jushi 居士) for men whom he called “at-home laymen” (zaijia jushi 在家居士). Women were called “at-home women” (zaijia nuren 在家女人). Women could also take refuge and adhere to lay precepts and were

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居士傳), compiled by the eighteenth-century Pure Land disciple and jinshi degree-holder Peng Shaosheng 彭紹升 (1740–1796),110 included a significant

number of men from this network: well-known figures like Tao Wangling, Huang Hui, Jiao Hong, Li Zhi, the Yuan brothers; and lesser known Zhuhong precept-disciples like Wang Zaigong 王在公 (d. 1627), Gu Yuan 顧源 (n.d.), Wen Ziyu 聞子與 (n.d.), Ding Mingdeng 丁明登 (n.d.), among others. Arguing that he saw no conflict between maintaining both ru and Buddhist identities, Peng collected biographies of those he simply considered to be true Buddhists. Peng’s determinations were based on the congruence between an individual’s actions (that is, keeping the precepts) and Buddhist understanding (xingjie 行解).111 Zhuhong and his disciples also judged levels of spiritual attainment according to this standard (see chapter 7). Despite such criteria, Peng’s biographies do not provide detailed descriptions of precept practice. Instead, they mention official degrees, service to the state, and Pure Land Buddhist activities. A Pure Land disciple himself, Peng had a tendency to overstate commitments to Pure Land cultivation, yet his unquestioned acceptance that these men were both ru and Buddhist demonstrates foremost that he did not deem this a crisis of “religious identity” nor think that these men by virtue of their Confucian training and participation were uncommitted Buddhists, impure Buddhists, lesser Buddhists or the like—an idea we would do well to follow. Network members described their Buddhist ritual affiliations as follows. Lou Jian 婁堅 (1567–1631) wrote that he was a “precept-disciple” (jie dizi 戒弟 子), while Wu Yingbin, in designating himself a “layman precept-disciple” (youposai jie dizi 優坡塞戒弟子), redundantly added the Chinese transliteration for the Sanskrit term upāsaka, meaning “layman”; in another text he called himself a “bodhisattva precept-disciple” (pusa jie dizi 普薩戒弟子).112 A number of Zhuhong’s disciples took the bodhisattva precepts (see chapter 3). Wu Yingbin is also an excellent example of someone who cultivated multiple

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referred to by the transliteration of upāsikā, the Sanskrit term for female lay adherents. Zhuhong, “Sengsu xinxin,” in Zhuchuang er bi 竹窗二筆, Quanji, 3673. Peng Shaosheng wrote on both Buddhist and Confucian topics, often attempting to reconcile the disparities between the two. Like the Ming Dynasty laymen he includes, he was sympathetic to Wang Yangming’s notion of mind cultivation. For a detailed discussion of Peng’s life, see Colin Jeffcott, “Peng Shaosheng or Peng Jiqing?: Biographies of a Confucian Buddhist,” in Religion and Biography in China and Tibet, ed. Benjamin Penny (Richmond, VA: Curzon, 2002), 148–177. Peng Shaosheng, “Jushi zhuan fafan” (X1646: 88.180.b16). Lushan zhi, 1873. Wuyi Chanshi guanglu (X1435: 72.237.a14). Wu Yingbin’s biography of Deqing was also signed “precept-disciple.”

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monk relationships. Not only did he identify himself as Zhuhong’s preceptdisciple, but he also, in a preface to Wuyi Yuanlai’s works, referred to himself as a “disciple” (dizi 弟子) (of Yuanlai), and in a 1616 eulogy that he wrote for the monk Zhenke, Wu Yingbin identified himself as Zhenke’s “indirect disciple” (sishu dizi 私淑弟子), suggesting they had never met.113 In some cases, the term used to signal Buddhist affiliation or commitment incorporated exegetical or practical allegiances such as “Chan friends” or Huang Hui’s appellation for himself, “Pure Land disciple” (jingtu dizi 淨土弟 子).114 Huang Hui is identified more formally, in the 1599 dedication to the calligraphic rendering in kaishu script of the Amitābha Sūtra that he presented to Zhuhong, as the “Buddhist disciple, Layman Huanru” (佛弟子幻如居士).115 There were also a number of other terms worth noting. Zhuhong’s letter to Wang Zaigong 王在公 (d. 1627) gave him this praise: “Officiating as you have, loving the people as you do, and saving the wrongfully accused from suffering—this is enough to call you an ‘official bodhisattva’ (huantu pusa 宦途菩 薩).”116 Feng Shike further referred to several of Zhuhong’s followers as “accomplished disciples” (gaozu dizi 高足弟子).117 The less common generic term “Buddhist disciple” (fo dizi 佛弟子), appended to a few epitaphs written by these men, is most prevalent in monastic gazetteers and presumably also designates a precept-disciple. The nomenclature presented here indicates that, when these men highlighted their Buddhist affiliations, they tended to favor a more precise and varied terminology. This again signals that sixteenth-century conceptions of engagement with Buddhist, Confucian, or Daoist cultivation regimens could take many forms and was likely driven by interest in a particular path to ­self-cultivation, not a general profession of faith as one might expect with monotheistic traditions. Most Fellowship members established some level of formal Buddhist ritual affiliation. However, sixteenth-century practitioners could participate in a variety of Buddhist activities without first taking lay precepts. Ritual affiliation could be established years later, as in the case of Huang Hui, who formalized 113 114 115 116 117

Wu Yingbin wrote prefaces, biographies, eulogies, and stūpa epitaphs for a number of famous monks. Zibo zunzhe quanji (X1452: 73.144.a24). Zhuhong, Quanji, 4485–4488. The dedication along with a postface by Ma Yiteng 馬一騰 (n.d.) was reprinted in Long­ xing Xiangfu jietan si zhi, 163–164. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4517. Feng Shike 馮時可, “Pudu’an fangshengji,” in Feng Yuancheng xuanji 馮元成選集 (1611: Hishi Collection, Princeton University copy of original in Naikaku Bunko, Tokyo), 18.13b.

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his affiliation twelve years after his initial participation.118 In contrast to religious traditions that require formal ritual induction before participation in ritual or other activities, clearly demarcating membership, sixteenth-century Buddhist institutions did not make comparable demands. If sixteenth-century examination elites could participate in releasing-life societies, Buddhist text reading societies, and various other Buddhist activities years before they made a formal commitment to precept cultivation, then becoming a precept-disciple indicated a shift in status from within an already established engagement and not an initiation into the Fellowship. In this respect, formal ritual acceptance does not offer a clear demarcation of in-group/out-group, Buddhist/ non-Buddhist. The ways in which this contrasts on the one hand with Western religious traditions that require a formal profession of faith or baptism before participation, and on the other, with how Chinese literati conceived of themselves in other periods of history, requires further scholarly exploration. Buddhist commitment could fluctuate. The following two epistolary sources will serve to illustrate this point. First, the series of extant epistolary exchanges between Zhuhong and his precept-disciple Chen Jiefu 陳价夫 (n.d.) portray an avidly engaged Chan cultivator who was working through the stages depicted in the Ten Oxherding Pictures. However, the last letter from Chen indicates that five years have lapsed between the earlier enthusiastic exchanges and this letter. As he reread those earlier exchanges, Chen greatly regretted that he was no longer a committed practitioner but had slipped and was frittering away his time. He asked Zhuhong once again to offer him advice.119 In the second instance, Yuan Hongdao retired from office in 1600 and returned home to build a retreat at Willow Wave Lake. Some time after that, Hongdao and Yuan Wenwei 袁文煒 (n.d.) heatedly debated the relative virtues of accepting an official post versus retiring to pursue Buddhist cultivation. Wenwei enthusiastically encouraged Hongdao to resume office, whereas Yuan Hongdao advised his friend to retire from official life in favor of self-cultivation. Unanticipated by either party, within three years Yuan Wenwei had become a monk and taken the dharma name Sixin 死心.120 Written in 1607 in Beijing, Yuan Hongdao’s letter states: 118 119 120

See Eichman, “Intertextual Alliances,” 130. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4548. This Sixin is not to be confused with Zhuhong’s correspondent, the precept-disciple Sun 孫 of Yuyao 餘姚 (dharma name Daheng 大珩), who later became a monk, taking the name Sixin. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4568. Brook claims that Yuan Wenwei was a tribute student (gongsheng 貢生) who continually failed the exams and thus took tonsure. Praying for Power, 120.

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In the past when we were at Willow Wave Lake, you pleaded with me to eat meat and become an official. I, in turn, advised you to return home, set up a retreat (an 菴), and cultivate yourself as an eater of rice gruel. At that time, each of us stubbornly stood by our views. Neither of us could predict that three or four years later you would have already entered a monastery (rushan 入山) and I would have broken the precepts. Now, as for you and me, were we not in the past confused and now awakened? Now I would like to encourage you while you still can to come to the capital to visit me. We are both old: our hair is white, our faces wrinkled. There is nothing that I could entreat you to do. I just hope that during this lifetime I will once again have the pleasure of your company.121 Yuan Hongdao had given up meat for a time, but could not sustain the practice. At the same time, his friend Yuan Wenwei, who was initially lukewarm about Buddhist cultivation, became so committed that he took the tonsure.122 In short, what was argued emphatically on one day was not a predictable marker of what might transpire in someone’s later years. This last example again demonstrates that religious identities were not static, but dynamic. In his research on the life of prominent Yangming Confucian Hu Zhi 胡直 (1517–1585),123 Rodney Taylor theorized that some examination elites moved diachronically from one tradition to another. Perhaps they first embraced Yangming Confucian practices but then spent the next ten years cultivating a Buddhist regimen, after which this choice was rejected in favor of a more exclusive Confucian identity. In contrast, other elite men were more synchronic in their religious peregrinations, affiliating themselves with mentors, fellowships, and rituals of varying traditions all in the same year.124 In their search for the right path to self-cultivation, this network indeed tended to move synchronically. In any given year, its members participated in both Buddhist activities and Confucian assemblies. A few, like Zhuhong’s preceptdisciple Tao Wangling, became Yangming Confucian leaders, while constantly 121 122

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Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 303–304. In contrast, Deng Huoqu 鄧豁渠 (1498–1578) took the tonsure for five years and then returned to lay life. How often this occurred and under what circumstances remains to be studied. Wu Pei-yi, The Confucian’s Progress: Autobiographical Writings in Traditional China (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 99. See his biography in the DMB. Hu Zhi was a disciple of Luo Hongxian 羅洪先 (1504–1564). Hu’s most prominent disciple was Guo Zizhang, who collected some of his writings for publication. Rodney Taylor, The Religious Dimensions of Confucianism (Albany: State University of New York, 1990), 65–77, esp. 74.

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re-evaluating the benefits of Buddhist and Confucian cultivation regimens. Such fluidity became a hallmark of sixteenth-century elite male religious engagement.

Desiring Monkhood: Family Men Take the Tonsure

While some examination elites wavered in their Buddhist commitments, others earnestly desired to become monks. A surprising number of frustrated practitioners harbored the suspicion that only a monastic vocation would result in real spiritual progress. In yet another challenge to the scholarly narrative of lay dominance and monastic decline, the epistolary evidence reveals that a number of elite men who were already encumbered with official and familial duties seriously contemplated relinquishing both to pursue a monastic vocation. In response, Zhuhong either reassured these men that Buddhist cultivation and official life were compatible choices, or offered practical advice on how to make the transition to a monastic vocation—though only occasionally. The question of vocation was also raised in Confucian venues, compelling Yangming leaders like Zhou Rudeng to craft their own contrary responses. That Zhou took a stance on this issue likely indicates that more than a few of his disciples contemplated retiring from official life. As we will see, Zhou Rudeng presented his own arguments to dissuade scholar-officials from monkhood, listing as well the many obstacles that kept married men from acting upon such yearning. Zhuhong, in turn, offered advice on how to balance the desire for monkhood with the realities his lay disciples faced. The letter at the beginning of this chapter described how enormously beneficial it had been for Zhou Rudeng to interact with the monastic community. In fact, he was on good terms with the monks Deqing and Yuancheng and did not reject the monkhood per se. However, Zhou Rudeng did object to a change in status for Buddhist laymen who held official positions, and he objected vehemently to what he considered an abandonment of the ancestral temple, wives and children, and other Confucian values. When asked, at one of his many jianghui gatherings, whether it was acceptable for a Confucian student to join a monastic community, Zhou flatly replied, “No.” Zhou did not frame his more detailed response in terms of Confucian anti-Buddhist polemics, but instead cited two widely circulated Buddhist texts: The Platform Sūtra and The Discourse Records of the Chan Master Dahui Pujue (Dahui Pujue chanshi yulu 大 彗普覺禪師語錄). The passages Zhou chose from these sources advocate the retention of an official position and continued practice as a layman. This strategy, of using Buddhist texts to counter Buddhist desires, was a persuasive

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means of communicating with those ru who were attracted to Buddhist teachings: Someone asked, “If a student of Confucian classics (rusheng 儒生)125 has a deep faith in Buddhist teaching, what do you think of his leaving home to become a monk?”  The Master replied, “As for this, there is no need to discuss whether the Confucian Way (ru dao 儒道) allows it, the Buddha’s teaching has never allowed it. From the beginning, the Buddha said that there is no profession (治生產業) that inherently contradicts [Buddhist teachings].126 An official (zaiguan 宰官), a layman (jushi 居士), a monk (biqiu 比丘), each in turn follows his own karmic conditions (suiyuan 隨緣). These should not become confused and mixed. This is the teaching of the Tathāgata. The Platform Sūtra says, ‘If one desires to cultivate, this can also be done at home.’127 For this reason the gāthā states, ‘The expression of gratitude (en 恩) is to be filial and nurturing toward one’s parents. The expression of righteousness (yi 義) is to be mutually sympathetic towards superiors and inferiors. When the mind is equanimous (ping 平), how could one labor at keeping the precepts? If one’s behavior is above criticism, then what need is there to cultivate Chan?’128 This is the teaching of the patriarchs. Dahui said, ‘Studying the Way begins with the afflictions of the mind (chenlao 塵勞).’129 One need not disfigure the body,130 change one’s surname, abandon one’s wife and children, and break with the ancestral temple, becoming a transgressor against Confucian teachings (mingjiao 125 126

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128 129

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Some scholars translate this term as “Confucian scholar,” others as “classicist.” In this context, rusheng could mean any level of student preparing for the civil service examinations. This exact phrase appears repeatedly in Zhiyi’s commentaries to the Lotus Sūtra. See, for instance, Miaofa lianhua jing xuanyi (T1716: 33.683.a6). When cited in later Chan texts and commentaries, this reference is occasionally preceded by the words “the sūtra says” (jing yun 經云). This may be why Zhou Rudeng attributed the passage to the Buddha. The full title of this text, The Platform Sūtra of the Dharma Treasure of the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch, will be abbreviated throughout this work as The Platform Sūtra and will refer to Zongbao’s recension, Liuzu dashi fabao tan jing (T2008: 48.352.b22). Zhou Rudeng has reversed the order of these four lines of the gāthā. The last two stanzas should precede the first two. Liuzu dashi fabao tan jing (T2008: 48.352.b29). In the rest of this text, Zhou Rudeng elaborates on the afflictions of the mind. This particular passage is not a direct citation of Dahui, though it is similar to other phrases found in Dahui Pujue chanshi yulu (T1998: 47.900.a7–8). The term huixing 毀形 means, literally, to “disfigure the body.” However, it is commonly used in Buddhist texts to signify the shaving of the head when an ordinand takes the tonsure.

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Chapter 1 名教). The Buddha did not teach people to behave like this. This is (merely) the teaching of great kalyāṇamitra (shanzhishi 善知識). If this is the case, then if there is someone who thinks he must become a monk, how could one say this person truly understands Buddhist teachings?”131

Zhou Rudeng blamed well-intentioned Buddhist teachers of high spiritual attainment (kalyāṇamitra) for propagating this erroneous idea. He countered that neither the Buddha, nor the Sixth Patriarch Huineng 惠能 (638–713), nor the Song Chan monk Dahui encouraged officials to take the tonsure. This style of argument—in which the purported progenitor of a tradition or famous monk is employed to criticize later developments, but is himself never criticized—was used pervasively in this period and will reappear again in later chapters. Zhou enumerated the standard Confucian objections to monastic life: shaving the head, changing one’s surname, leaving wives and children, and neglecting the ancestral temple. Confucians considered altering the body a sign of disrespect for what heaven had endowed. In leaving home, men gave up their family name and adopted the surname Shi 釋, the first character of the transliteration of Śākyamuni, becoming members of the “family of the Buddha.” Because married men were financially responsible for their wives, children, and concubines and expected to honor their ancestors both through continuance of the patriline and proper ritual sacrifice at ancestral temples and shrines, abdicating these responsibilities would have been judged deeply unfilial. Sticking with his list of objections, Zhou Rudeng sidestepped the thorny issue of when it was acceptable to leave home and become a monk, since no one was born into that vocation. As it turns out, Zhuhong’s life trajectory offers the perfect counterexample. Zhou Rudeng’s adopted mentor, Wang Ji, described Zhuhong as a “Confucian who escaped to Chan” (蓋儒而逃禪).132 Before Zhuhong took the tonsure he was a rusheng 儒生, preparing for the civil service examinations. Tonsured in 1566 at the relatively late age of thirty-two, Zhuhong had already been married twice and had fathered a son, who died in infancy. In a letter to Layman Hong 洪, Zhuhong explained his decision to take the tonsure, placing primary importance on filial duty: “… I did not dare become a monk until after my parents had passed away. When my mother was still alive, I could have discontinued

131 132

Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 170–171; see also 315–316, 323–324. Wang Ji 王畿, Wang Longxi quanji 王龍溪全集 (Taipei: Huawen shuju, 1970), 514.

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my exam preparation, but I would not have left home to become a monk.”133 Zhuhong did in fact wait until his mother died before he took the tonsure. Likewise, in 1617, the year his parents died, the forty-year-old Cai Maode 蔡懋 德 (1578–1657), the fourteenth-generation descendant of the Song Confucian Cai Yuanding 蔡元定 (1135–1198), left his wife and children and finally “abandoned his Confucian identity to become a monk” (棄儒入釋), ­taking the Dharma name Yongjue Yuanxian.134 For married men the decision to leave home was often complicated by familial considerations and could not be taken lightly. In comparison, sending orphans and the young to live in a monastery was relatively easy.135 For five of the six Zhuhong precept-disciples who deliberated on whether to take the tonsure, the filial duty to have children and raise them predominated. Well aware of how complicated this was, Zhuhong advised married adult men that before joining a monastic community they must first settle household affairs, educate their sons, marry off their daughters, and straighten out financial matters. Lou Jian, an only son, found it difficult to leave home before he had met his filial responsibility to continue the patriline. After the birth of his son, Lou Jian severed conjugal relations, sleeping separately; yet, subsequently, he was reluctant to leave without first raising his son and obtaining his mother’s permission.136 Another committed layman, Qian Yangchun 錢養淳 (n.d.), wanted to leave behind worldly affairs and find a secluded place to read and recite, but he had to wait five or six more years to marry off his daughter.137 The Pure Land practitioner Wang Zaigong 王在公 (d. 1627), who engaged in numerous Buddhist practices, also had a daughter’s marriage to arrange, which he states in a letter to Zhuhong.138 In contrast, monastic gazetteer accounts 133

134

135

136 137 138

Other texts mention his relatives’ resistance to this decision. For a more detailed account and bibliographical references to a substantial number of biographies of Zhuhong, see Chün-fang Yü, Renewal of Buddhism, chapter 1. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4692. Maode was first drawn to Buddhist teachings during a monastery stay at age twenty-five. He took the tonsure fifteen years later. Like Wuyi Yuanlai, he was a disciple of the Caodong master Wuming Huijing 無明慧經 (1548–1618). Well educated, he left extensive writings. For his biography, see Gushan Yongjue laoren zhuan 鼓山永覺老人傳, in Yongjue Yuan­ xian chanshi guanglu (X1437: 72.578.b7-c1). See also Yuanxian’s 1629 preface, “Jianzhou hongshi lu xu” (X1606. 86.552.a8). Stories of eminent monks typically claim that they were sent to live in monasteries at a prepubescent age. The life trajectories of Hanshan Deqing and Xuelang Hongen certainly bear this out. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4541. Ibid., 4533. Ibid., 4515–4517.

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describe him as someone who “gave up his official position and left his wife and children” (棄官捨家) to live a Buddhist life in a small dwelling near the West Lake.139 Some time after 1617, Wang Zaigong took the tonsure under one of Zhuhong’s monk-disciples, Zhenji Wengu 真寂聞谷 (1566–1636; dharma name Guangyin 廣印).140 Another Zhuhong precept-disciple, Qian Shuda 錢叔 達 (d. 1619), eventually took the tonsure at Cloud Dwelling Monastery. We know very little about this man’s life as a lay Buddhist; however, his letter to Zhuhong expressed dismay at the death of his son, who was yet another of Zhuhong’s correspondents. In response, Zhuhong returned one of the son’s letters to the father.141 In his deliberations on whether to take the tonsure, one family man, Feng Taiqu 馮泰衢 (n.d.), exchanged a series of letters with Zhuhong—six undated responses are still extant. Zhuhong offered much advice: he told Feng there was no particular age at which one must choose to become a monk. He advised Feng that he could be both a householder and a monk if he cultivated bodhisattva practices internally while externally manifesting the body of a śrāvaka (shengwen shen 聲聞身).142 Several letters later, Zhuhong sent him a razor with which to shave his head.143 Feng had wanted to remain with his family while being fully tonsured, but after his neighbors criticized this idea, he abandoned the plan. When informed of Feng’s situation, Zhuhong proposed the following solution: I heard that you did not shave your head and that you have given up the thought of becoming a monk … In my humble opinion, marry off your daughter as soon as possible. Your son and his teacher can both come to my place. Every two or three months, your son can go home to visit his mother. Moreover, you can return to put household affairs in order. It will

139

140 141

142 143

Wang Zaigong (dharma name Dayue 大𨬓) was mentored by another Zhuhong correspondent, Zhu Lu 朱鷺 (1553–1632), who convinced him to give up official life and devote his time to cultivation. Wang was a friend of Yuan Hongdao and others in the Fellowship. He appears in a number of monastic gazetteers and is deserving of greater scholarly attention. Xi Tianmu zushan zhi, 187. The eighteen letters exchanged between Zhuhong and Wengu exhibit the kind of spiritual mentoring Zhuhong offered to other monks. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4633–4640. There are conflicting monk names for Qian Shuda. Zhuhong’s editors identified him as the monk Jumeng 具蒙, whereas some gazetteer sources call him Dengci 等慈. Poshan xingfu si zhi, 125. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4583. Ibid., 4592. Ibid., 4593.

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seem as though you have not abandoned worldly affairs, and there will be no cause for slander to arise…144 Feng eventually did become a monk, taking the name Changxing 常惺, and became active at monasteries around the West Lake.145 Most descriptions of monastic life emphasize that monks have cut ties with this world, leaving behind family and relatives to live in a celibate, secluded enclave of like-minded men. Polemical texts often rigidly reinforce this dis­ tinction.146 Yet Zhuhong’s epistolary collection tells a different story about actual sixteenth-century practice. His letters reveal what methods of accommodation made it possible for married men to meet their filial and familial obligations while residing at a monastery. This raises a number of questions. How many men took the tonsure well after reaching adulthood? How often did older men or women who took the tonsure bring children to live with them in a monastic setting? How were these children then raised? Zhuhong suggested that Feng’s son could be educated at the monastery and sent home every few months to visit his mother, not so unusual a compromise, given that many young men resided at monasteries when preparing for government examinations.147 This is one example of accommodation: it remains to be seen what methods were employed beyond those already mentioned in Zhuhong’s letters. The men discussed in this section were classically educated, worldly, committed Buddhists who decided to leave home in pursuit of spiritual liberation in a monastic institution. Those who made this transition put their literary talents and educational attainments to use administering to the spiritual needs of others, including educated officials. Neither basking in fame nor fleeing proscription, poverty, or other social ills, these educated monks who occupy that ground between more famous and rank-and-file monks labored in relative 144 145

146

147

Ibid., 4594. This Changxing may be the monk Shanheng 善恆, whose epithet was Changxing. Shanheng was active at the Great Bright Celebration Vinaya Monastery 大昭慶律寺, where, after assuming the abbacy in 1642, he improved the precept platform and started a Pure Land society. Da zhaoqing lusi zhi, 369. Recent scholarship has begun to modify our views of the relationship between monks and society. See the work of Hao Chunwen for China and Gregory Schopen and Shayne Clarke for India. Timothy Brook wrote a short section entitled “Gentry Becoming Monks” that includes a brief reference to Feng Taiqu and other men who took the tonsure late in life. Praying for Power, 119–126. For further translation and comment on Feng Taiqu, see Chün-fang Yü, Renewal of Buddhism, 99–100.

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anonymity, yet they represent a type of capable monk rarely discussed in the scholarly literature. Given that Zhuhong and Zhou Rudeng both entertained queries from disciples eager to join a monastic order, other monks must have also found themselves offering advice to elite men who desired a deeper engagement with the tradition, resulting in a significant field of potential candidates, who, like Zhuhong, were more than capable of interacting with other elite educated visitors. More committed Fellowship members worried about whether their environment was an impediment to continued progress toward spiritual liberation. Zhuhong’s response to the military commander Xu Yuanzhen 許元真 (n.d.), who also contemplated the monkhood, sums up Zhuhong’s position: the Buddhist goal of awakening was the same whether one was a monk or a layman.148 He did not reify the monastic vocation, yet on occasion he offered counsel on the tricky issue of family obligations and created a flexible process for the most dedicated Buddhists to manage the transition. On the other hand, well aware of the limits that an official life imposed on the ability to carry out a full regimen of practices, the ensuing chapters will demonstrate that, while Zhuhong had high standards, he was accepting of almost any level of commitment and encouraged officials to incorporate Buddhist practice in their daily lives to the extent possible.

Conclusion

This chapter brings into sharper focus the dynamic interactions of this Buddhist fellowship with monks, with each other, and with Buddhist and Con­ fucian cultivation regimens, interactions most observable in the exchange of familiar letters. The topics presented in this chapter further draw out the parameters of the Fellowship, whose participants ranged from committed to lukewarm, and included precept-disciples, indirect disciples, and those known only obliquely through a single letter. The edges of the Fellowship are not geographical or clearly bounded by official membership registers based on formal ritual affiliation, nor is it possible to simply carry out a head count. Fluctuations in commitment—thwarted spiritual ambitions and renewed enthusiasm— and changed circumstances all affected relations between Fellowship members 148

Xu Yuanzhen knew Tu Long, who wrote four poems commemorating Xu’s stay at White Cloud Cave 白雲洞 at Drum Mountain Monastery 鼓山寺 in Fujian. Zhuhong’s letter debating the merits of monastic versus lay cultivation also refers to Xu’s stay at White Cloud Cave. Gushan zhi, 913–914. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4564.

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and the monk Zhuhong. However, the discourse surrounding Zhuhong had enough momentum to continue steadily while absorbing the input of network members as each engaged in whatever capacity and for however long. There was a core constellation of members who kept these conversations alive over a thirty-year period and whose names will appear most frequently in the ensuing chapters. The members of this Buddhist fellowship did not privilege a Confucian modality in all aspects of their personal and professional lives. For this reason, downplaying their Buddhist affiliations or considering their practices a form of “Confucianized Buddhism” would misrepresent the Fellowship members’ conception of their Buddhist commitments and their Confucian engagement. Indeed, we need not only to move beyond a monotheistic understanding of religious identity as singular but also to challenge past scholarship that sees the balance of power between the two traditions as a one-sided Confuciandominated affair. During the late sixteenth century, ru were, by definition, thoroughly versed in the Confucian classics. Yet the ru in this fellowship gravitated toward Buddhist techniques for the cultivation of the self and carved out an epistolary and ritual space for the exploration of that tradition. The epistolary sources show that even prominent Confucians sought out Buddhist monks for spiritual and intellectual exchange, pointing to our need for a more interactive model of Buddhist-Confucian relations. That this network came together at a vibrant time in Ming history is evidenced too by the lively exchanges on issues doctrinal and otherwise seen in the letters written by its members. Furthermore, a thorough content analysis, which has not been carried out before this study, reveals new insights into topics such as the desire to leave home and become a monk. This chapter has also linked these quasi-private epistolary exchanges to late Ming epistolary culture, especially the familiar letter and the subgenre of spiritual mentorship. The epistolary collections of elite monks and their jinshi degree-holding preceptdisciples stand out for their content and style, which display an intimacy not seen in the pro forma letters presented in letter-writing manuals and household encyclopedias. Not only did these letters become models to emulate, but they also ground late Ming intellectual, social, and religious history in real people and real concerns. This chapter introduced the nomenclature these men employed to identify their relationship to Buddhist praxis and that of their peers. However, a review of this nomenclature merely scratches the surface of what constitutes a ­religious identity. To fully understand this Buddhist fellowship requires a thorough examination of its associates’ spiritual ambitions, that is, what they debated, practiced, cultivated, and worried about. The ensuing chapters create

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a three-dimensional picture of the religious dynamics of the members of the Fellowship—one that reveals how identities are performed from a variety of subject positions. Their interest in Buddhist cultivation regimens was intimately tied to how they understood the relationship between the mind/heart and enlightenment, the topic of the next chapter.

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Mind Cultivation

Chapter 2

Mind Cultivation: Theoretical and Practical Considerations One need not search elsewhere for a method of learning; all is contained within our minds. Zhou Rudeng (1547–1629)



Each time someone in this world raises a foot and takes a step, there is a karmic effect. Yuan Zhongdao (1570–1624)1

⸪ These two epigraphs encapsulate contrasting positions on self-cultivation debated both within the Fellowship and, more generally, within late sixteenthcentury discourse. In other words, should self-cultivation attend foremost to internal mental adjustments or commence with disciplining bodily behaviors? How the members of this Buddhist fellowship understood the relationship between interior states and external behaviors was intimately connected to their conception of the mind. Following Wang Yangming, Zhou Rudeng believed that good ethical decision-making was governed by the free operation of an innate moral impulse, liangzhi 良知. From his perspective, the task of self-cultivation was to remove whatever was obstructing liangzhi by paying attention to the mind/heart (xin 心). He argued that conforming to Confucian protocol without first attending to the mind/heart was ill-conceived because it could lead one to simply ­replicate prescribed behaviors superficially—to walk, sit, speak, and act in a seem­ingly appropriate manner, but without the inner moral impulse to do so. 1 Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 145. Yuan Zhongdao, “Xin lu 心律,” in Kexue zhai jinji 珂雪齋近 集 3.11 (1935; reprint, Shanghai: Shanghai chudian chongyin). This 1935 edition is believed to be a copy of the twenty-four fascicle 1618 edition, now reorganized into just four fascicles— references will follow this latter system.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi 10.1163/9789004308459_004

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In a challenge to positions like Zhou’s, which prioritized discussion of interior states at the expense of bodily cultivation, Yuan Zhongdao produced an essay aptly titled “Mind Precepts (Xin lu 心律),” the source of the second epigraph. Zhongdao asserted that karma is an inescapable reality. To change the karmic results of one’s body, speech, and mind, one’s cultivation regimen should begin with exercises of behavioral constraint. Such exercises were conceived of as a support to the internal mental adjustments needed to make better ethical decisions. For this reason, Yuan Zhongdao made a strong case that ru like himself should cultivate Buddhist precepts, the first five of which were to abstain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, or consuming intoxicants.2 The emphasis on the mind was a shared Confucian and Buddhist concern. Dialogue and debate about the role of the heart/mind was vital to Wang Yangming’s Learning of the Mind (xinxue 心學) and was hotly contested both among Yangming Confucians themselves and with Cheng-Zhu Confucians. Buddhists too had a long tradition of discussing xin, especially in Chan and Yogācāra contexts, which focused respectively on the experiential and analytic aspects of the mind in its relation to spiritual liberation. These shared concerns created fertile ground for a lively exchange between Confucians and Buddhists. In order to draw out the key variables at issue in how this Buddhist fellowship understood the intersection of these two traditions, I use the term “mind cultivation” as a bridge concept. How the mind was understood, especially in relation to ethical development, had a profound impact on the Fellowship’s cultivation of Buddhist releasing-life practices, dietary choices, and desire for rebirth in the Pure Land of Amitābha Buddha. Confucian-Buddhist debates regarding mind cultivation played themselves out in miniature within this Buddhist fellowship. The small cohort who actively engaged with Confucian ideas and cultivation techniques largely rejected Zhu Xi’s 朱熹 (1130–1200) ideas in favor of Yangming Confucian ones. These men were especially drawn to the teachings disseminated by Zhou Rudeng and his mentor, Wang Ji 王畿 (1498–1583) (z. Longxi 龍溪). For these two Confucian leaders, the mind itself was “neither good nor evil,” an idea likely inspired by the Buddhist concept of nonduality. Zhou Rudeng further maintained an avid, if narrow, interest in Chan texts and practices and drew inspiration from their 2 Zhongdao diagnosed the problem with Yangming Confucians to be a skewed desire for sudden awakening. As a remedy, Zhongdao favored sudden awakening followed by gradual cultivation. In this long essay, he first conceded that though ru like himself (身現在儒門), what one might call “socio-cultural ru,” could not follow monastic precepts, they were suitable candidates for lifetime adherence to the ten virtuous precepts (shi shan jie 十善戒).

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explanations of sudden awakening and nonduality, yet he rejected the broader Buddhist tradition, especially precepts, the doctrine of karma, and Pure Land teachings. In contrast, not only was the monk Zhuhong’s theory of the mind/ heart intimately tied to his Pure Land advocacy, but he also insisted that his disciples primary task in a lifelong gradual path toward spiritual maturity was to “do good and stop evil” through cultivation of Buddhist precepts. Furthermore, Zhuhong dismissed the existence of liangzhi as implausible. How the Fellowship understood these respective positions—and the extent to which they rejected Zhou Rudeng’s stance to become Zhuhong’s preceptdisciples and participate more broadly in Buddhist ritual and practice—will become evident in what follows and throughout the ensuing chapters. This chapter introduces Zhou Rudeng’s concept of the mind by situating it in relation to his Yangming Confucian lineage and to Zhuhong’s protestations. The extent to which Zhou Rudeng and Zhuhong disagreed on matters of selfcultivation is evident in the acrimonious tenor of their protracted epistolary exchange. Presenting a study in contrasts, these exchanges will be analyzed at the end of this chapter. The initial enthusiasm that Tao Wangling, the Yuan brothers, Huang Hui, and other Fellowship members expressed toward Zhou Rudeng’s Chan-inspired ideas eventually gave way to skepticism as these men and others embraced Zhuhong’s call for precept practice and rejected the contemporary elite penchant for narrowly discoursing on Chan at the expense of actual cultivation, an idea often labeled “crazy Chan” (kuangchan 狂禪).

Zhou Rudeng’s Confucian and Buddhist Activities

Zhou Rudeng (jinshi 1577) had a long—though not always illustrious—career, during which he served variously as a secretary in the Ministry of Works in Nanjing (1577–1579), as an assistant salt commissioner in Taizhou (1590–1592), and as the assistant surveillance commissioner in Guangdong (1597–1599).3 3 It must be stressed that although he was occasionally demoted, his official difficulties were unrelated to either his Yangming Confucian activities or his Buddhist interests. For a more detailed account of Zhou Rudeng’s activities, see Jie Zhao, “Chou Ju-Teng (1547–1629) at Nanking: Reassessing a Confucian Scholar in the Late Ming Intellectual World” (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 1995). Peng Guoxiang has constructed a yearly chronology (nianpu 年 譜) of Zhou Rudeng’s activities that is useful, but not exhaustive. Peng Guoxiang, “Zhou Haimen xiansheng nianpu gao,” in Zhongguo ruxue vol. 1, eds. Wang Zhongjiang 王中江 and Li Cunshan 李存山 (Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan, 2006), 341–386; reprinted with further additions in Peng Guoxiang, Jinshi ruxue shi de bianzheng yu gouchen 近世儒學史的辨正與 鉤沉 (Taipei: Yunchen wenhua shiye gufen youxian gongsi, 2013), 373–432.

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Zhou spent most of his life in Jiangnan, traveling between Nanjing and eastern Zhejiang, and thus was able to avoid direct involvement in the political turmoil roiling Beijing.4 The relatively more relaxed setting of Nanjing afforded him time for intellectual pursuits, as he became an active and influential Yangming Confucian. Yet, as we have seen, Zhou Rudeng moved seamlessly between Confucian and Buddhist forums and had the ability to communicate effectively with both monks and Confucian-leaning examination elites. Zhou reached the height of his popularity between 1590 and 1615, a period in which his major contributions to Yangming thought were written and published. His importance slowly fades after that: much less is known of his activities from 1614 until his death in 1629. In the Sourcebook of Ming Confucians, Huang Zongxi divided influential Confucians by geographic region and intellectual lineage, placing Zhou Rudeng and his disciple Tao Wangling 陶望齡 (1562–1609) under the division he created called the “Taizhou school,” and he further identified Zhou as a disciple of Luo Rufang 羅汝芳 (1515–1588).5 However, a growing number of scholars have questioned the accuracy of these categorizations, finding Huang’s choice rather self-serving.6 Firstly, the Taizhou division includes a disparate number of personalities who neither hailed from that geographic location nor formed a coherent intellectual lineage; the so-called “Taizhou school” is, in actuality, not a school per se, but a catchall category comprised mainly of Wang Gen’s 王 根 (1483–1541) intellectual descendants, whom Huang (and others) severely criticized for their perceived outrageous behavior and ideas. Zhou Rudeng and Tao Wangling were criticized because they synthesized some aspects of Buddhist and Confucian traditions—yet, the two were natives of Zhejiang, not 4 See for example Jie Zhao, “A Decade of Considerable Significance: Late-Ming Factionalism in the Making, 1583–1593,” T’oung Pao 88, no.1 (2002): 112–150; “Ties that Bind: The Craft of Political Networking in Late Ming Chiang-nan,” T’oung Pao 86 (2000): 136–164. 5 A native of Nancheng, Jiangxi, Luo Rufang (z. Jinxi 進溪) was initially a disciple of Yan Jun 顏 鈞 (1504–1596), who was himself a disciple of Wang Gen. However, his intellectual development extended well beyond the confines of that strain of Yangming Confucian thought. Zhou Rudeng and Luo Rufang spent some time together before Luo’s death in 1588. Zhou even helped publish some of Luo’s work posthumously but did not identify Luo Rufang as his primary mentor. 6 Jie Zhao has argued that shifting Zhou Rudeng to Luo Rufang’s lineage was a strategic decision Huang made in order to elevate himself while minimizing Zhou Rudeng’s importance. Jie Zhao, “Chou Ju-Teng,” 129–150. Peng Guoxiang also provides strong evidence that Zhou Rudeng belongs to Wang Ji’s lineage. Peng Guoxiang 彭國翔, “Zhou Haimen de xuepai guishu yu “Mingru xue’an” xiangguan wenti zhi jiantao 周海門的學派歸屬與<明儒學案>相關問 題之檢討,” Journal of Chinese Studies 31, no. 3 (2001): 339–372.

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Taizhou.7 Secondly, Zhou Rudeng claimed to be a disciple of Wang Ji, not Luo Rufang. For these reasons, Zhou Rudeng and his disciples are a better intellectual and geographic fit with another of Huang Zongxi’s categories: Eastern Zhejiang, which was dominated by the lineage of Wang Ji 王畿 (1498–1583). Zhou was only twenty-four when he first heard the then seventy-four-yearold Wang Ji speak at a 1570 lecture in Shan 剡, Zhejiang,8 yet despite the fifty-year age difference, in the following year he became a formal disciple at an initiation ceremony sponsored by the magistrate of Sheng District 嵊縣.9 Nonetheless, when asked in his later years whether he had personally received instruction from Wang Ji, Zhou claimed that he had been present (jimen 及門) at the 1570 lecture but had not benefited from the teaching (shouye 受業). Consequently, Zhou Rudeng’s claim to discipleship rested on his later reading of Wang Ji’s writings, not on personal instruction,10 and thus resembles that of an indirect disciple.11 Zhou Rudeng did, however, have some connection to Wang Ji’s family in that Wang’s grandson Wang Shitao 王世韜 (n.d.) became one of Zhou’s disciples.12 Despite such a tenuous personal connection, from 1585 to 1614 Zhou Rudeng worked tirelessly to solidify Wang Ji’s and his own reputation as Wang Yangming’s pre-eminent heirs, a position he successfully convinced others to accept.13 To do so, he revived Yangming academies and intellectual forums (jiangxue) after the ban imposed by Grand Secretary Zhang Juzheng 張居正 (1525–1582) was lifted in 1582. From 1588 onward Zhou Rudeng reinvigorated 7

8 9 10 11

12 13

Huang Zongxi also criticized Zhou Rudeng and Wang Ji for their use of Daoist ideas. However, in the introduction to the Sourcebook, Huang cites extensively from a letter Tao Wang­ling wrote to Jiao Hong that discusses Zhou’s preference for Chan teachings. Huang Tsung-hsi (Zongxi), The Records of Ming Scholars, trans., eds. Julia Ching and Chaoying Fang (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987), 45. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 431. Jie Zhao, “Chou Ju-Teng,” 14. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 431–432. Zhou did not call himself an “indirect disciple” of Wang Ji. Yet on two separate occasions Zhou Rudeng offered an interpretation of the term, emphasizing that indirect disciples referred specifically to those who had the ability to grasp the esprit of someone’s teaching, not the mere study of their texts. Zhou further identified Mencius (372–289 bce) as an indirect disciple of both Confucius (551–479 bce) and Zisi 子思 (492–431 bce) despite the obvious chronological gap. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 287–289, 416. Wang Shitao appears as a frequent interlocutor in Zhou Rudeng’s jianghui exchanges. To promote Wang Ji (and himself), Zhou Rudeng wrote his own version of lineage transmission, the 1605 Orthodox Transmission of the Learning of the Sages (Shengxue zongzhuan 聖學宗傳), a volume Huang Zongxi criticized. For more on Zhou’s text, see Jie Zhao, “Chou Ju-Teng,” 176–195.

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local elite study of Wang Yangming and Wang Ji’s works in Wang Ji’s native place, Shanyin 山陰 (present-day Shaoxing). In 1599, Zhou organized a memorial gathering at Wang Yangming’s shrine, and in 1601, Zhou and fifty others com­memorated the famous 1527 dialogue between Wang Ji and Qian Dehong 錢德洪 (1496?-1574) at the Tianquan Bridge.14 He organized a 1608 memorial for Wang Yangming in Hangzhou and, in 1614 with the help of thirty-two officials, he completed the first Wang Yangming temple in Nanjing. In addition, Zhou wrote a biography of Wang Ji (circa 1605) and a preface to the republication of Wang Ji’s collected works (1619). Indeed, Zhou Rudeng’s self-positioning was so successful that the Confucian master Liu Zongzhou 劉宗周 (1578–1645) confirmed Zhou’s connection to Wang Yangming by recognizing him as Wang Ji’s legitimate heir, laying out a clear line of transmission from Wang Ji to Zhou Rudeng, and from Zhou Rudeng to Tao Wangling and his brother Tao Shiling 陶 奭齡 (d. 1640). Nevertheless, Liu also criticized them for their preoccupation with Buddhist ideas.15 For the thirty-year period discussed here, there is considerable evidence of Zhou Rudeng’s sustained contact with monks, perusal of Buddhist texts, and written response to Buddhist queries. As early as 1573, Zhou Rudeng’s cousin Zhou Mengxiu 周夢秀 (z. Jishi 繼實; jinshi 1577), who was a devout Buddhist believer (信內典甚深), attempted unsuccessfully to win him over to his beliefs. By 1580 Zhou was more amenable to his cousin’s views, but he does not write that he had a deep faith.16 Others who fostered his interest likely include the Buddhist propagator of morality books Yuan Huang 袁黃 (1533–1606; jinshi 1586),17 who met with Zhou in 1579,18 and the monk Zhenke, whom he met in 1593.19 During his days in Nanjing (1590s), Zhou Rudeng, his friend Feng 14 15

16

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Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 258–261, 262–264. In particular, Tao Shiling was singled out for his use of the Buddhist theory of causation to explain Yangming teachings. Liu Zongzhou, “Ji Tao Shiliang xiansheng wen,” in Liu Zongzhou quanji 劉宗周全集, eds. Dai Lianzhang and Wu Guang (Taipei: Zhongyang yan­ jiuyuan Zhongguo wenzhe yanjiusuo choubei chu, 1997), 1068. For a detailed description of Zhou Mengxiu’s Buddhist practice, including adherence to a meat-free diet, see Wang Ji, Quanji, 457. Zhou Mengxiu turned the ancestral home into a temple, a move praised by Zhuhong. See Zhuhong, Quanji, 4159–4161; Shengxian zhi 嵊縣 志 as cited in Peng Guoxiang, Jinshi ruxue shi, 366–367. For the above reference, see Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 692–693; and Peng Guoxiang, Jinshi ruxue shi, 382–384. Cynthia Brokaw has written extensively on Yuan Huang’s propagation of morality books. See chapter 4 of this volume, notes 70 and 115. See Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 569; for his relations with both Zhou Mengxiu and Yuan Huang, see Jie Zhao, “Chou Ju-Teng,” 48–51. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 970–72; Jie Zhao, “Chou Ju-Teng,” 80–87.

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Mengzhen, and others in their circle fraternized with a number of Buddhist monks. By 1595, when Zhou first met his future disciple Tao Wangling, he had already developed a strong interest in Chan Buddhist texts, including The Discourse Records of the Chan Master Dahui Pujue (Dahui pujue chanshi yulu 大 慧普覺禪師語錄).20 Not only Zhou, but Tao, too, was by then well versed in Buddhist texts and practices—a shared aspiration that surely kindled their friendship. That same year, together they convinced the monk Zhanran Yuancheng to assume the abbacy of Illuminating the Mind Monastery 明心寺, in Zhejiang, and later, in 1599, they traveled together to Mount Potalaka 普陀 山, also in Zhejiang, where they met with the monk Miaofeng and several lesser-known monks. We know that in 1596, Zhou gave Feng Mengzhen a copy of Zhou Mengxiu’s A Compilation for Understanding Confucianism (Zhi ru bian 知儒編), a volume that argues for the study of Buddhist texts to aid in the mastery of Confucian ideas.21 After Zhou was stationed in Guangdong, he met the monk Deqing, and the two developed a close working relationship, introducing each other to potential disciples, attending each other’s lectures, collaborating on the publication of the Caoxi [Monastery] Gazetteer (Caoxi zhi 曹溪志), and even lecturing jointly at Caoxi Monastery in 1598. Zhou Rudeng and Zhuhong appear to have met by chance while traveling, although Zhou gives scant detail.22 But that they were well informed of each other’s teachings is clear from their epistolary exchange, translated later in this chapter. Suffice it to say, Zhou Rudeng’s contact with Buddhist personnel and participation in Buddhist activities evidences a long multi-layered engagement with the tradition. However, growing Confucian criticism eventually dampened enthusiasm for the use of Buddhist doctrine to illuminate Confucian ideas. In the republication of Liu Zongzhou’s collected works, the Tao brothers’ Buddhist leanings are overtly criticized, and Liu and his student Huang Zongxi are characterized as having finally corrected “misguided” Yangming Confucian

20

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When his older brother Zhou Ruqiang 周汝強 died (1580), Zhou Rudeng marked the occasion by sponsoring with others the publication of Dahui’s text. There is an extant copy in Naikaku Bunko dated 1585 that lists Zhou Rudeng’s financial contribution to this publication and ends with a dedication of merit for the liberation of all beings. See Peng Guoxiang, Jinshi ruxue shi, 383. Zhou’s text was published as early as 1576. A number of copies have recently come to light. See, for instance, Taiwan National Library Rare Book Collection, #9021 (available in electronic format through CBETA). Zhou Rudeng’s later text, Fofa zhenglun 佛法正輪, repeats many of the same Buddhist citations. Feng Mengzhen, Riji, 54.91–92. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 810–811.

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forays into Buddhist territory.23 By the mid-seventeenth century, such denunciations signaled the end of an era of Confucian experimentation in the intertwining of Buddhist and Confucian ideas visible in the work of Wang Ji, Zhou Rudeng, Tao Wangling, and those surrounding them.

The Forum for Spiritual Exploration

Throughout the Jiangnan region, Yangming Confucians organized forums for the study and dissemination of their teachings. These meetings, called variously jiangxue 講學 or jianghui 講會, could be structured in a variety of ways: some opened with an extended period of reflective silence, others with recitation of a poem or singing. Most consisted of a lecture followed by a lively exchange between participants and a renowned leader.24 During the 1590s and into the 1600s, Zhou Rudeng presided over numerous such gatherings. The written transcripts of his jianghui interactions, called literally Meeting Exchanges (Huiyu 會語), were published under five geographic headings in Zhou Rudeng’s circa 1608 Record of Verification and Learning in Eastern Zhejiang (Dongyue zhengxue lu 東越證學錄),25 an invaluable source for the study of Zhou’s attitude toward the Learning of the Mind. These exchanges repeatedly emphasized that the intent of jianghui was to foster immediate personal transformation, not mere mastery of textual intricacies or erudition. Unlike the description Martin Huang has presented of other jianghui primarily focused on philosophical debate, Zhou Rudeng rejected such a view.26 Meetings where 23

24

25

26

The 1781 summary (tiyao 提要) that lays out these criticisms precedes the table of contents and ends with the names of the general editors, but not a specific author. Liu Zongzhou, Liu Zongzhou quanji 劉宗周全集, 17.2–3. Zhou Rudeng encouraged a lively exchange. However, the Jiangyou school adherents preferred to distinguish themselves from other Yangming lineages by conducting their meetings in a more subdued manner, often given to silent reflection. See Lü Miaw-fen, Yangmingxue shiren shequn—lishi, sixiang yu shijian 陽明學士人社群──歷史、思 想與實踐 (Taipei: Academia Sinica Institute of Modern History, 2003), 410–414. This title could be translated in several different ways. The term zhengxue can mean “to ascertain the truth of what one studies or to verify the teachings.” However, in Zou Yuanbiao’s 鄒元標 (1551–1624) preface to Zhou’s work, he not only creates a symbiotic relationship between these two characters but also separates them into two different processes, “to know” and “to experience.” Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 18–19. Willard Peterson translates jiangxue as “discoursing on learning,” and John Dardess uses “discussing study” and “discussion meetings.” Most scholars recognize that the terms jiangxue and jianghui were often used interchangeably. Because the format and content of such gatherings varied greatly depending on geographic locality, membership compo-

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he presided emphasized matters of the spirit and moral cultivation, much like the Hellenistic gatherings described by Pierre Hadot, and incorporated practical spiritual exercises towards self-realization or sagehood. Some audiences conceived of the very gatherings themselves as a type of cultivation exercise. At one meeting, a certain You Yichuan 游一川 said, “Today many friends here have attained success in cultivating (shoulian 收斂)27 their minds and bodies (shenxin 身心). What must be done so that in the future we do not lose this heart/mind (xin)? We hope that you, venerable sir, can offer us a concrete teaching that can serve as a guide to continue (chixun 持循) [this practice].”28 Clearly, Zhou guided his audience along the path toward self-cultivation through spiritual exercises focused on the mind. In fact, he frequently brought jiangxue discussions back to this one central idea. If the mind/heart were in order, external affairs would proceed smoothly. Zhou highlighted the Yangming Confucian belief that everyone was at heart a sage, but his particular approach closely mirrored that of the Buddhists. One skeptical jiangxue participant, Hong Shumin 洪舒民, suggested that he and other practitioners spent their entire lives as average cultivators.29 In response, Zhou Rudeng affirmed that everyone possessed the same mind/heart as that of Yan Hui, Zengzi, Zisi, Mencius, and even Confucius.30 He further reasoned that when a sage and an ordinary person looked in the mirror, one did not see gold and the other lead.31 Such claims to equalization led some disciples to conclude that spiritual exercises were thus unnecessary. Yet Zhou countered that, although all humans possessed the same intrinsic nature (xing 性), they ­differed in the degree to which they had realized sagehood—an idea that reso-

27

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sition, style of interaction, and length of time, there is no single succinct description, other than to say that jiangxue were convened to advance Confucian moral cultivation. Martin Huang has argued that jiangxue refers more narrowly to philosophical debates, a position that may hold true in some cases. However, it is not an apt description for later generations in the particular Yangming Confucian lineage under study here. For Peterson’s definition and discussion of translation issues, see Huang, “Male Friendship and Jiangxue,” 146–178; John Dardess, Blood and History in China (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2002), 53–59. The term shoulian 收斂 means, literally, “to gather or collect.” This term is often used in Yangming Confucian contexts to denote the technique of gathering one’s inner faculties or gaining composure. The mind that is collected or retrieved here is the moral mind or mind of the Way (daoxin 道心). See, for example, Mencius 6A:8 and 6A:11. I would like to thank Philip J. Ivanhoe for his help in interpreting this passage. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 154. Ibid., 150–151, and also 163–165, 211–212. For a more metaphysical take on this idea, see ibid., 211. Ibid., 378.

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nates with the Buddhist understanding of buddha-nature (foxing 佛性) and the path to liberation.32 Zhou in fact claimed that sagehood required foremost an internal transformation. As already seen in the epigraph to this chapter, Zhou asserted: “One need not search elsewhere for a method of learning; all is contained within our mind. What the thousand sages transmitted to each other is just this mind.”33 This concept certainly resonates with the Chan adage of a mind-to-mind transmission (一心傳心). Chan teachings, Hung-lam Chu has claimed, likely provided the inspiration for Zhou’s assertion.34 In support of the claim that all were sages, Zhou repeatedly cited Mencius 6B:2: “The way of Yao and Shun is simply to be a good son and good younger brother. If you wear the clothes of Yao, speak the words of Yao, and behave the way Yao behaved, then you are a Yao …”35 Zhou drew on Mencius’ authority to claim that whenever someone exhibited proper moral expression, they were in that moment a Yao or Shun—that is, a sage. One could be a sage for varying intervals of time: a moment, a day, a month, or much longer.36 The more difficult task was to sustain that level of realization by stringing together a seamless series of such moments. In Zhou Rudeng’s conception, sagehood could be expressed in the immediacy of the here and now. He did not conceive of sagehood as a remote, rarely attainable level of perfection that one reached

32 33 34

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Ibid., 325, 271, 282–285, 340, 360, 402. Ibid., 145. Chu Hung-lam, “Confucian ‘Case Learning’: The Genre of Xue’an Writings,” in Thinking With Cases: Specialist Knowledge in Chinese Cultural History, eds. Charlotte Furth, Judith T. Zeitlin and Ping-chen Hsiung (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007), 259, 262. Yangming Confucians also drew inspiration from Mencius 6A:7 and the Analects 17.2; both citations claim that human endowments were the same, but that individual habits differed greatly. Wang Yangming diagnosed the differences in terms of desires and selfishness. Wang Yangming, Instructions for Practical Living, and Other Neo-Confucian Writings, by Wang Yang-ming, trans. Wing-tsit Chan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963), 141–142. For the Chinese reference, see Chen Rongjie 陳榮捷 (Wing-Tsit Chan), Wang Yangming Chuanxi lu xiangzhu jiping 王陽明傳習錄詳註集平 (Taipei: Xuesheng Shuju, 1983), 228, #162. Because there are discrepancies between the English and Chinese recensions, for ease of reference citations will include both the page number of the volume and the number assigned to a particular text on that page. Wang Gen famously told Wang Yangming that the streets are full of sages; Wang Yangming, Instructions for Practical Living, 239–240, #313; see also 108, #139; 68, #107; the idea was frequently repeated by Wang Ji, Quanji, 405–406; 557–559. D.C. Lau trans. of the Mencius. Wang Ji, Quanji, 228. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 147, Zhou also presents this same idea with reference to the three times (sanshi 三世), a Buddhist term for past, present, and future lives. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 352–353.

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permanently in a single epiphany, after the spiritual equivalent of a long arduous climb up a steep mountain.37 A sage was not someone who had achieved perfection. Instead, what distinguished a sage from a muddled individual was heightened awareness of his own confusion.38 In addition, a sage had the ability to correct any perceived moral errors immediately.39 Zhou Rudeng, like other Yangming Confucians, revered Confucius’ disciple Yan Hui because “he never overstepped without knowing it (and never knew it without correcting himself). There was no mistake that he made twice.”40 When asked about his own efforts, Zhou admitted that he made mistakes in body, speech, and mind, but always moved to correct them.41 Zhou was certainly held in high esteem, though it is unclear whether his disciples ultimately thought he was a sage on a par with Yan Hui, Yao, Shun, Wang Yangming or other revered Confucian figures. Zhou wanted cultivation efforts directed toward grasping the spirit (jingshen 精神) of Yao and away from Yao’s perceived mannerisms.42 In a departure from Zhu Xi, who criticized the idea of spirit as Buddhist, Yangming Confucians ascribed sagehood, following Cihu 慈湖 (1140–1225), to the spirit of the mind (心之精神). The point of mind cultivation was not to realize the original nature of Yao or Shun, but to be a Yao or Shun through awakening to one’s own original nature.43 In emphasizing internal transformation and knowing it for oneself (zide 自得), Yangming Confucians stressed that the goal was to walk on one’s

37 38 39 40

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42 43

Zhou Rudeng Zhengxue lu, 409. Ibid., 367, 376, 378. Ibid., 343. For a discussion of Wang Yangming’s views on eliminating errors, see Ivanhoe, Ethics in the Confucian Tradition, 80–82. Many late sixteenth-century Buddhist monks and commentators also revered Yan Hui (see chapter 7). The reference to Yan Hui is from the Zhouyi 周易, Xici 繫辭 part 2, #5. See Richard John Lynn, trans., The Classic of Changes: A New Translation of the I Ching as Interpreted by Wang Bi (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 85. See also Wang Ji, Quanji, 557–558, 606, 236; Zhou Rudeng Zhengxue lu, 183, 213; Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2157–2161. Zhou’s language echoes the Buddhist claim that body, speech, and mind generate karma. However, Zhou used xin 心, whereas Buddhist lists of these three have yi 意. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 351, 409. Ibid., 255–258. Zhuhong, however, rejected Zhou Rudeng’s position and sided with Zhu Xi. Zhuhong, Quanji, 3675–76. Zhou Rudeng Zhengxue lu, 219.

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own path—not merely to follow in the footsteps of the Tathāgata.44 In parallel fashion, many Chan texts, too, emphasize “knowing it for oneself.”45 In contrast to Mencius 6B:2, which singled out walking slowly behind one’s elders or older brother as a gesture of proper Yao-like filial behavior, Zhou typically redirected his jiangxue audience inward toward the mind and steered them away from such small external gestures of behavioral compliance. In one exchange—after Zhou and his disciple determined that the disciple “wore” the clothes of Yao, spoke the words of Yao, and behaved like a Yao—Zhou asked the disciple if he doubted that he was a Yao. When the disciple bowed his head in hesitant deliberation (niyi 擬義), Zhou quickly reprimanded him.46 From Zhou’s perspective, the expression of liangzhi should be as direct and unme­ diated as the impulse to save a child about to fall into a well, discussed in Mencius 2A:6, an example Wang Ji and Zhou Rudeng returned to time and again when making this point. Wang and Zhou both stressed the need to eliminate doubt and express absolute confidence (xin 信) in one’s own sagehood. Although Zhou Rudeng spent the majority of his time in the company of highly educated elite men, eminent monks, and literate exam-strivers, he was critical of what he considered mere textual mastery. Through diligent exam preparation, Zhou and his circle had learned the classics, especially the Four Books, inside out. Yet, in Zhou’s view, waiting until the end of a prolonged period of study to begin self-cultivation was a serious error. Rather than obsess over the words of the ancients, disciples would do well, he asserted, to commit themselves to the present through daily efforts at realization. Reading numerous books, offering an exhaustive analysis of a text, spending all one’s time scrutinizing short excerpts—these practices, he claimed, merely resulted in the cultivation of words. Inspired by Wang Yangming’s famous dictum on the “harmonious fusion of knowledge and action” (知行合一), Zhou held that the words one read should resonate (moqi 默契) with one’s own experiences. Arguing something to death was no substitute for self-cultivation, nor would it cause some moral quality to suddenly materialize.47 44

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Some readers might find the sudden inclusion of the Buddhist term tathāgata somewhat puzzling. Yangming Confucians made liberal use of Buddhist vocabulary, but often for their own purposes. Ibid., 176. Based in part on the writings of the monk Dahui Zonggao, Juhn Ahn makes a compelling case for a new Song Chan shift that emphasized “knowing the Way for oneself.” Juhn Ahn, “Who Has the Last Word in Chan? Transmission, Secrecy, and Reading During the Northern Song Dynasty,” Journal of Chinese Religions 37 (2009): 1–72. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 257. Ibid., 372.

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To highlight the shortcomings in his elite audience’s reading practice and clarify unequivocally the difference between personal formation and mere recitation or memorization of texts, Zhou raised the example of an illiterate farmer who made the ultimate filial sacrifice when he cut off a piece of his flesh to nurture his ill father.48 On the other hand, he added, “there are scholars who have read ten thousand fascicles, but at home they have no use for even a single word. Although they continue to read, of what benefit would it be?”49 The contrast that Zhou Rudeng drew between the illiterate farmer and the literate yet morally challenged scholar only served to further emphasize the point that correct moral impulses are inherent. The goal at hand was not erudition, but the stripping away of selfish desires and rediscovery of this innate moral impulse. In yet another illustration of the commonality between this style of Yang­ ming Confucian thinking and Chan, Zhou recounted the story of the illiterate monk Yun’an 雲菴, who started life poor and husked rice to survive. His cultivation practices began with reciting the name Amitābha Buddha, but after two years someone taught him how to make obeisance to the Lotus Sūtra. After five years his mind suddenly opened. When asked what he had attained, in true Chan fashion, the monk responded, “What is there to attain?” Yun’an’s response epitomizes that of Chan monks who promoted sudden awakening over gradual practice, but it also gives voice to Wang Ji and Zhou Rudeng’s sense that innate moral impulses can be obscured by an accretive process of learning. In prying his literate audience away from external study toward internal reflection, Zhou asked, “To be educated, does this follow from external pursuits or is it attained in oneself? In observing this monk, one can reflect on this.”50 Zhou’s comment elides the distinction between Confucian moral cultivation and Chan awakening—a topic that will be taken up below. As will be seen shortly, Zhou Rudeng had some very abstract theories, but he grew impatient with

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The filial slicing of one’s flesh to nurture parents or for other religious purposes had long been praised in both Buddhist and Confucian texts. There is an expansive and growing body of scholarship on this topic. See the work of Keith Knapp, Selfless Offspring: Filial Children and Social Order in Medieval China (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005); John Kieschnick, The Eminent Monk: Buddhist Ideals in Medieval Chinese Hagiography (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997), 49–51; Jimmy Yu, Sanctity and Self-inflicted Violence in Chinese Religions 1500–1700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 62–88; ­Beverly McGuire, Living Karma, 95–96. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 369. Ibid., 327.

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hypothetical discussions that merely left ideas suspended in mid-air (xuan kong 懸空).51 In redirecting his elite audience toward the mind/heart, Zhou Rudeng attempted to shift jiangxue discussions away from intellectual argument and textual exegesis and toward matters of mind cultivation and innate moral ­intuition. Zhou Rudeng tended to sidestep specific questions about statecraft, the nitty-gritty of family management, and areas of, say, scientific, mathe­ matical or medical expertise that required specialized training or years of technical study. In his view, a strong moral maturity would result in the ability to suc­cessfully sort through these secondary modes of acquisition and prioritize appropriately. For this reason, his primary emphasis was on mind cultivation.52

Liangzhi and Mind Cultivation

Wang Yangming’s writings downplayed Zhu Xi’s emphasis on heavenly principle (tianli 天理) in favor of a new nomenclature. He asserted that the learning of the sage was none other than Learning of the Mind (xinxue 心學),53 an idea inspired in part by Lu Jiuyuan 陸九淵 (1139–1193), who equated the heart/mind with principle (xin ji li 心即理).54 Wang Yangming and his followers argued for an expansive understanding of “mind” (xin 心)—or more precisely, liangzhi— than was given in the Four Books and other Confucian classics. This new definition took into account both mental and empathic aspects, but also added an ontological role for the mind as a creative regenerative force not seen in 51

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The above discussion is based on numerous essays and incorporates some of Zhou’s metaphors and descriptive language. Ibid., 145, 165, 176, 221–225, 235, 243, 249, 254, 255, 265, 319, 321, 322, 326, 356, 369, 372, 402, 404, 413, 414, 362. In this, Zhou Rudeng is largely repeating an idea promoted by Wang Yangming. See Wang Yangming, Wang Yangming quanji, eds. Wu Guang et al. (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1992), 73; Yong Huang, “A Neo-Confucian Conception of Wisdom: Wang Yangming on the Innate Moral Knowledge (liangzhi),” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 33, no. 3 (2006): 2, 394, 403; and Eske Møllgaard “Doctrine and Discourse in Wang Yangming’s Essay, ‘Pulling up the Root and Stopping up the Source,’” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 31, no. 3 (2004): 379. The idea that the learning of the sage is the Learning of the Mind (聖人之學,心學也) is stated in the opening line of the preface Wang Yangming wrote for the collected works of Lu Xiangshan. Wang Yangming, “Xiangshan wenji xu,” Wang Yangming quanji, 245. Lu Jiuyuan 陸九淵, “Yu Li zai shu,” in Lu Xiangshan quanji (Hong Kong: Guangzhi shuju, 1997), 95–96.

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pre-Song Confucian discourse. Yangming Confucians focused their efforts inward toward the psycho-emotional processes of ethical decision-making and, at the same time, outward toward the cosmos. And in this respect, their concept of “mind” cannot be neatly subsumed under the usual translation of xin as heart/mind. When theorizing about the mind/heart, internal transformation, and the path to sagehood, Wang Yangming focused more specifically on liangzhi 良知, often loosely translated as “innate knowing,”55 and made it the cornerstone of his philosophy.56 Although drawn from Mencius 7A:15, the Yangming Confucian definition of liangzhi was stipulative, not lexical, having been given greater metaphysical and philosophical import by Wang Yangming than originally anticipated in the Mencius. Yangming conceived of liangzhi as original, permanent, and possessed by all men; liangzhi is the equilibrium before feelings are aroused (weifa 未發). At times, Yangming emphasized that liangzhi was a substantive entity whose task was to discern what was right and correct mistakes. At other times he suggested that liangzhi was a state of being or a dynamic process. At the end of his life, he asserted that the mind was neither good nor evil, opening the door to future controversy.57 In response to this variety of statements, ensuing generations of Yangming Confucians aligned themselves with one or another aspect of Wang’s defini55

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One often sees “innate moral knowledge,” another misleading translation. In the 1960s, scholars rendered liangzhi with various expressions, including “moral consciousness,” “original knowing,” and “original consciousness.” However, these terms suggest either a cognitive process or a process of learning and calculated intent that does not fit with Wang Ji and Zhou Rudeng’s understanding of liangzhi as an intuitive moral impulse. More recently, Philip J. Ivanhoe has adopted the term “pure knowing,” arguing that liangzhi is the conscious knowing aspect of principle. However, what might be meant by “knowing” is still problematic. See Takehiko Okada, “Wang Chi and the Rise of Existentialism,” 126; and Tang Chun-I, “The Development of the Concept of Moral Mind,” 101; both in Self and Society in Ming Thought, ed. William de Bary (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970). See also Ivanhoe, Ethics in the Confucian Tradition, 25–26. Wang Yangming stated explicitly that his teaching did not diverge from liangzhi. Wang Yangming, Wang Yangming quanji, 1133. Wang Ji too wrote that liangzhi was Wang Yangming’s most significant teaching. See Wang Ji, Quanji, 89–98, 93. Instructions for Practical Living defined liangzhi in three ways: First, following Mencius 6A:6, Wang called liangzhi the heart/mind of knowing right from wrong (是非之心)— this use also appears in the Inquiry on the Great Learning; second, he equated liangzhi with Cheng Hao’s idea of heavenly principle (良知是天理); and third, in a metaphysical sense liangzhi was the creator of all things (良知是造化的). Following Hegel, the late scholar Mou Zongsan categorized these three respectively as: subjective, objective, and ontological.

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tion, forming exegetical branches and social organizations with very different missions, each of which put their own imprint on liangzhi.58 Of greatest import to this study is the theory of liangzhi developed by Zhou Rudeng’s adopted mentor, Wang Ji.59 Examining Wang Ji’s theory is effectively examining Zhou’s, since Zhou hardly deviated from his mentor on this score, and in fact was considered by his disciple Tao Wangling and others as the “living” Wang Ji.60 Given how close they were judged to be, in this brief introduction the differences between Zhou and Wang need not detain us. Even before Wang Yangming’s death, his disciples began heated discussions on the meaning of liangzhi. The written record of the most famous debate on this topic is called “The Tianquan Bridge Colloquy” and concerns a 1527 exchange between disciples Qian Dehong 錢德洪 (1497–1574) and Wang Ji at the Tianquan Bridge. Wang Ji’s version of this event succinctly spells out the distinct direction in which he chose to take Yangming Confucian thought.61 Qian Dehong claimed that their master taught that the fundamental basis of the mind is “neither good nor evil” (wu shan wu e 無善無惡), but that, when intentions are active, distinctions between good and evil become apparent; knowing the difference between the two is the task of liangzhi. He further claimed that Yangming stressed that “doing good and removing evil” (wei shan qu e 為善去惡) was the primary method of cultivation. In contrast, Wang Ji took the notion of “neither good nor evil” and applied it not only to the mind but also to intentions, liangzhi, and the method of cultivation—all of it was neither good nor evil.62 Some scholarly articles call Wang Ji’s concept the theory of the “four negatives” (siwu 四無) and Qian Dehong’s theory that of the “four positives” (siyou 58

59 60 61

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Because no single English translation could possibly encapsulate the disparate conceptual apparatus these competing branches attached to liangzhi, I have chosen to follow other recent scholarship and keep liangzhi in its romanized form. This approach has the clear advantage of maintaining a single consistent signifier for easy comparison cross exegetical branches while simultaneously directing readers toward the disparate definitions that developed around liangzhi. See, Yong Huang, “A Neo-Confucian Conception of Wisdom.” For a very clear and extended definition of liangzhi, see Wang Ji, Quanji, 394. Tao Wangling, “Haimen wenji xu,” Xie’an ji, 357. The text has already been translated and received considerable scholarly attention. I am concerned here only with Wang Ji’s theorizing on liangzhi and will thus not present Qian Dehong’s version of events. For an extended discussion and translation of Wang Ji’s version, see Tu Wei-ming, “An Inquiry into Wang Yang-ming’s Four-Sentence Teaching,” The Eastern Buddhist 7, no. 2 (1974): 32–49; Wang Ji, “Tianquan zheng dao ji,” in Quanji, 89–93. See also a partial translation in Huang Tsung-hsi (Zongxi), The Records of Ming Scholars, 114–117. My summary follows Tu Weiming, “An Inquiry into Wang Yang-ming,” 32–48.

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四有), and yet this depiction does not begin to convey the philosophical import and symbiotic relationship between the two terms, you 有 and wu 無 in either

a Confucian or Buddhist context. These terms literally mean “existence” and “non-existence”; however, in Wang Ji’s case wu alluded to that which is a priori, unsubstantiated, undifferentiated, changeable, and regenerative. Buddhists used both these terms in their formulaic expressions of nonduality, wherein you represents the conditioned world of saṃsāra, and wu represents unconditioned, ultimate truth.63 Wang Ji, too, collapsed distinctions and embraced nonduality. Yet despite this degree of commonality, Wang Ji’s theory is grounded in a broad synthesis of passages from the Four Books and Book of Changes that had in common the character wu and was designed to refine his master’s ideas and establish his own legacy as Wang Yangming’s rightful heir, however tenuously. In this, he promoted a conception of liangzhi that was far more metaphysical in its vision than those branches of the tradition that emphasized only the you teaching to “do good and avoid evil.”64 In highlighting the wu aspects of liangzhi, Wang Ji stressed three dimensions: a natural untrained impulse, an unscripted correct response to any situation, and a shapeless malleability. Wang Ji did not conceive of liangzhi as a fixed entity, set of principles, or a repository of learned moral knowledge. In emphasizing that liangzhi was a natural impulse, Wang Ji cited Mencius 7A:15: “what one knows without reflecting (bu lu 不慮) is liangzhi.” This impulse is as natural as loving one’s parents and respecting one’s elders (Mencius 7A:15) or saving a child about to fall into a well (Mencius 2A:6). In cases like these, liangzhi’s response “originated neither in study nor deliberation (不學不慮), but in ordinary (pingchang 平常) events. Originally it was without sound or odor; without action or desires (不為不欲).”65 In drawing on the Doctrine of the Mean 63

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Since this is a necessarily brief description, I have not laid out a comparison between Buddhist, Daoist, and Confucian views of you and wu. While there is some resonance between Wang Ji’s concept of the relationship between you and wu and the Daoist idea of wu, Wang Ji’s ideas are more indebted to Confucian interpretations of the Book of Changes, a topic beyond the scope of this project. See Isabelle Robinet’s entries in Fabrizio Pregadio, ed., The Encyclopedia of Taoism, Vol. 2 (London; New York: Routledge, 2008), 1042, 1100. See also Chen Lai 陳來, You wu zhi jing: Wang Yangming zhexue de jingshen 有無之境: 王 陽明哲學的精神 (Beijing: Remin chubanshe, 1997). One of the hallmarks of Wang Ji’s work is his synthesis of a broad array of terms. He equated xin 心, liangzhi, wu 無, xu 虛, and ji 寂, among others. Zhou Rudeng continued this practice. He treated liangzhi, zhishan 至善, and wu shan wu e 無善無惡 as synonyms. Wang Ji, Quanji, 103–105. Although Wang Ji distinguished between buwei buyu and wuwei wuyu 無為無欲, Zhou Rudeng equated the two phrases. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 228–229. Wang Ji, “Response to Geng Dingxiang,” Quanji, 337–338. See Peng Guoxiang, Liangzhixue de zhankai: Wang

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to describe liangzhi as beyond ordinary senses—without sound or odor— Wang Ji highlighted its more metaphysical quality. He further incorporated what many Confucian and Daoist texts refer to as “actionless action” or “nonaction” (wuwei 無為)—accomplishing tasks without the overt intent to do so. Additionally, to lessen, if not to altogether eliminate, desire was a Yangming Confucian goal derived from the Mencius—one that resonated with the Buddhist goal to cut desire. According to Wang Ji, when liangzhi responds naturally to concrete situations unobstructed by selfish desires, the outcome is morally correct. Wang Ji insisted that each situation had to be approached with an unscripted response. In this respect, he shifted moral certainty away from reliance on a fixed set of prescriptions or the safety of resorting to past protocols. He also rejected reliance on accumulated experience—especially if it fostered a habitual set of reactions. Rather, one should be confident that reliance on liangzhi alone will result in an appropriate response to events as they unfold. In short, when Wang Ji claimed that the mind was “neither good nor evil,” he did not mean that good and evil cannot be found in the world or that people cannot distinguish between the two. What he meant was that liangzhi was not, strictly speaking, a cognitive exercise in separating good from evil—a position closer to that of Qian Dehong and those Yangming Confucians who promoted the you side of liangzhi. In keeping with the conception of liangzhi as a formless malleability, Wang Ji stressed that liangzhi was not a substance, a solid clearly delineated mass, or a repository for a fixed set of rules. Wang Ji and Zhou Rudeng both argued against the idea that one could cultivate liangzhi into existence, causing it to materialize through one’s good decision-making. Liangzhi was a permanent, underlying, creative force that neither expanded nor contracted in size based on human activity. In stressing its dynamic quality, Wang Ji likened liangzhi’s existence to that of water. Wherever water flowed, its shape was reconfigured to fit the space it filled; whenever liangzhi responded, it manifested itself in ways appropriate to the present situation. Likewise, Wang Ji also compared liangzhi to an echo in a valley: For example, like sound in a deserted valley, from nothing something arises. When there is a call, there is a response. After one response, it stops. It neither comes from anywhere nor does it proceed to somewhere else. It has no past or present; it is neither internal nor external. It stands Longxi yu zhongwan ming de Yangming xue 良知學的展開:王龍溪與中晚明的陽明 學 (Taipei: Xuesheng shuju, 2003), 33.

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alone in its luminosity. The myriad transformations all come forth from this.66 That liangzhi neither comes from somewhere nor continues on elsewhere again highlights Wang Ji’s idea that liangzhi functions in the immediate present and does not leave a trace.67 This aspect reinforces the previous point that the correct application of liangzhi required an acute sensitivity to the situation at hand and did not depend on the accumulation of learned responses.68 The final assertion in this passage, that the myriad transformations emerge from liangzhi, points again to its more metaphysical, creative dimensions.69 Adding to this analogy, Zhou further likened liangzhi to air blowing through bellows. Such Daoist analogies, however, paint a picture that is clearly at odds with the emotional empathy required in most ethical decision-making, let alone in the case of a child in clear and present danger. And yet, when pressed on whether liangzhi should be categorized under you or wu, Zhou elided the distinction between these two categories by suggesting that an echo in a valley, like air coursing through bellows, was a facsimile of the impulse to save a child about to fall into a well.70 The attempt on the part of Wang Ji and Zhou Rudeng to conceive of liangzhi in terms well beyond any pedestrian concept of the heart or mind, in its capacity for self-reflection or emotional empathy, pushed liangzhi into a metaphysical space at odds with normative Confucian thinking about moral culpability and closer to the Buddhist concept of nonduality, that is, beyond both language and emotion. In this respect, their conception of liangzhi pulled together what were previously incompatible positions. 66 67

68 69 70

Wang Ji, Quanji, 496. There are some interesting parallels between the image of “leaving no traces” and the Buddhist idea that worldly phenomenon should merely be reflected like an image in a mirror. Peng Guoxiang, Liangzhixue de zhankai, 35; Ivanhoe, Ethics in the Confucian Tradition, 25. For the importance of context in making decisions, see also Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 178–179. For more on this idea, see Peng Guoxiang, Liangzhixue de zhankai, 36; and compare to Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 381. Zhou Rudeng conceived of this idea in broad terms. He included references to the Daode jing and to Zhou Dunyi’s 周敦頤 (1017–1073) famous statement “non-polar and yet supreme polarity” (無極而太極) for which he provided a new gloss using the categories of you and wu. The Laozi reference from the Daode jing’s chapter 5 is as follows: “Is not the space between heaven and earth like a bellows? It is empty without being exhausted.” D.C. Lau trans. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 184. Joseph A. Adler, “Zhou Dunyi: The Metaphysics and Practice of Sagehood,” in Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. 1, eds. William Theodore De Bary and Irene Bloom (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 673–674.

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With respect to the intersection between Wang Ji’s concept of liangzhi and Buddhist doctrine, the leading Wang Ji scholar, Peng Guoxiang, has suggested that all three wu dimensions of liangzhi—as a natural impulse, unscripted response, and formless malleability—flesh out a single underlying philosophical idea, that of neither clinging nor obstructing (無執無滯). This idea, he argues, may well have been inspired by the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence, which diagnoses the human impulse to grab onto or cling (zhi 執) to an unchanging notion of reality as the root of human suffering.71 In the “Tianquan Bridge Colloquy,” Wang Ji argued that Yangming’s teachings did not present a single fixed position (zhiding 執定) but instead offered expedient devices (quanfa 權法) and that, without personal verification or realization (自證自 悟), one would become mired (zhi 滯) in words and commentaries. Expedient devices, self-realization, and being mired in words were all prevailing Buddhist ideas—the latter resonating with the famous Chan aphorism, “do not establish words” (不立文字). Such closely aligned concepts would have easily garnered the attention of those interested in exploring both traditions. The importance of nonduality to Zhou Rudeng and Wang Ji’s concept of liangzhi is further evident in another major late sixteenth-century debate, this time between Xu Fuyuan 許孚遠 (1535–1604) and Zhou Rudeng—carried out through written exchange, not oral argument. In his 1592 written response to Xu Fuyuan, Zhou succinctly summed up the Tianquan Bridge dispute as such: “‘Neither good nor evil’ is none other than to ‘do good and avoid evil’ (wei shan qu e) and is without a trace.”72 In his synthesis of the categories you and wu and erasure of the distinction between substance and function, Zhou presents Wang Ji’s theory of wu in terms compatible with the Buddhist concept of nonduality, replicating the famous Heart Sūtra claim that “emptiness is none other than form; form is none other than emptiness.” Wang Ji exhibited his own mastery of nonduality in a short text defending his cohort Zhang Yuanbian’s 張元 忭 (1538–1588)73 decision to name his studio “Nonduality” (bu er 不二). Wang Ji opened with the great debate between Vimalakīrti and Mañjuśrī on the meaning of nonduality. At the end of the essay, Wang Ji asserted that nonduality was the hidden crux of Confucian teachings: “Neither good nor not good, this is the supreme good (zhishan 至善). Neither permanent nor impermanent, this is true permanence. Neither confused nor awakened, this is complete awaken71 72 73

Peng Guoxiang, Liangzhixue de zhankai, 34–37. Wang Ji, Quanji, 122–123. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 91. For his collected writings, see Zhang Yuanbian 張元忭, Zhang Yanghe xiansheng bu er zhai wenxuan 張陽和先生不二齋文選 (1603, Hishi copy held at the East Asian Library and Gest Collection, Princeton University. Original held at the Naikaku Bunko, Tokyo).

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ing. These ideas are the central mystery of our Confucian nonduality; this is the ultimate teaching of the thousand sages.”74 Claiming the realization of nonduality as a Confucian goal, Wang Ji was adamant that this would lead to the greater functioning of liangzhi in all moral decisions. Rather than conceive of the task of cultivation as one of slowly bringing a practitioner closer to the realization of liangzhi, Wang Ji viewed cultivation and realization as simultaneous events and asserted that this represented Wang Yangming’s teaching of sudden awakening (頓悟之學), a path ideally suited to those of superior aptitude (shanggen 上根).75 Takehiko Okada has pointed out that Wang Ji urged practitioners to concentrate on nonduality first.76 Yet Wang Ji discouraged the use of Chan methods.77 Rather, he directed disciples toward moral cultivation in the context of everyday affairs and in the presence of others. He reasoned that the sages had already transmitted a path to nonduality and that one could awaken to the Confucian path through Confucian techniques, though his writings do not offer much in the way of specific spiritual exercises.78 Instead, Wang Ji described mind cultivation in terms of recovering (fu 復) what had been obscured—stripping away whatever blocked the optimal functioning of liangzhi, what Philip J. Ivanhoe has called “the discovery model.”79 These blockages—selfish desires, habitual reactions, and so on—were likened to clouds obscuring the sun. When such obstructions were removed, liangzhi’s ability to respond increased. Hence, one became a skilled moral decision-maker through a process of disciplined elimination of these blockages rather than through an accumulation of good moral habits. Wang Ji wrote that “one should daily seek to diminish cultivation and not seek to increase it. When cultivation is completely exhausted, then one is a sage … as it should be, each thought is clear, cold and natural …”80 The parallels between Buddhist doctrine and Wang Ji’s and Zhou Rudeng’s concept of the relationship between you and wu, nonduality, elimination of desire, and a number of other concepts described here did not go unnoticed. In fact, such resonances, if not outright syntheses, were troubling to a number of their contemporaries. The two were often accused of infusing Yangming 74 75 76 77 78 79 80

Wang Ji also found equivalent ideas in the Doctrine of the Mean. Wang Ji, Quanji, 1216– 1223. Wang Ji, Quanji, 91. Takehiko Okada, “Wang Chi and the Rise of Existentialism,” 126. In a long dialogue with Lu Guangzu 陸廣祖 (1521–1597), Wang Ji specifically rejected the Chan technique of focusing on a critical phrase (huatou 話頭). Wang Ji, Quanji, 447–453. Ibid., 120, 123. Ivanhoe, Ethics in the Confucian Tradition, 96. Wang Ji, Quanji, 446–447, 192.

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Confucian thought with Buddhist concepts.81 The monk Yuanxian claimed that Wang Yangming used Chan to supplement his Confucian teachings, whereas Wang Ji and Luo Rufang were both too extreme in their liberal adoption of Chan nomenclature and ideas, creating a skewed interpretation: “In using Confucianism to explain Chan, is it not that Chan became Confucianized?” Equally critical Confucian detractors claimed that Wang Ji turned Yangming thought into a version of Chan. Yuanxian further cited Li Zhi’s observation that the teachings of Wang Ji and Luo Rufang could be classified as Buddhist, not Confucian.82 In a word, despite the excesses of Huang Zongxi’s later accusations against Zhou Rudeng, Luo Rufang, and others (whom he called members of the “Taizhou school”), he was not alone in finding their incorporation of Chan troubling. Controversies aside, the many conceptual bridges created by this profusion of overlapping terms made it easy for late sixteenth-century explorations of both Yangming Confucian and Buddhist traditions. Given their avid interest in both traditions, Fellowship members attempted to master the rudiments of Yangming Confucian ideas and Chan Buddhist teachings, easily moving back and forth between the two. Tao Wangling, Yu Chunxi, the three Yuan brothers, Huang Hui, Tu Long, Feng Mengzhen, and many others knew both Zhuhong and Zhou Rudeng personally. Yet none of these individuals chose sides narrowly—rather, they each carved their own unique path. Respecting this flexibility, we should be careful not to paint with too broad a brush in determining whether they were Yangming Confucians first and Buddhists second, or vice versa. Their modes of religious identification were multifaceted and call for a more nuanced interpretation than these terms yield.

Zhuhong’s Reaction to Liangzhi

Monastic reactions to the theory of liangzhi ran the gamut. Zhuhong outright dismantled the very idea that liangzhi as defined by Wang Yangming even existed. Some monks simply ignored the concept, while others engaged in discussions of liangzhi to a greater or lesser degree, including Zhenke, Yuancheng, 81

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One long preface to Wang Ji’s collected works expounds at great length about the uneasiness of those who thought Wang Ji had become too Buddhist and abandoned the Confucian tradition. Wang Ji, Quanji, 4–6, see also, 122–124, 174. Despite Yuanxian’s view, Luo Rufang hardly used Chan terms or discussed Chan or other Buddhist topics. However, as the scholar Zhao Wei has convincingly demonstrated, Buddhist ideas are threaded throughout his works. Yongjue Yuanxian, Yongjue heshang guang­lu (X1437: 72.565.c11–16). Zhao Wei 趙偉, Wanming kuangchan sichao yu wenxue sixiang yanjiu 晚明狂禪思潮與文學思想研究 (Sichuan: Badu shushe, 2007), 167–174; 178–187.

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Yuanxian, and Zhixu. However, the idea never gained traction and by the late seventeenth century it had all but faded from the Buddhist commentarial tradition.83 Thus, despite the Chan inspiration behind the theory of liangzhi as espoused by Wang Ji and his disciples, as well as the unprecedented level of late sixteenth-century interaction between Buddhist monks and Yangming Confucian practitioners, the leaders among them did not suddenly concur that they had found common ground. In fact, very few Yangming Confucian leaders experimented with the doctrine of emptiness to the same degree that Wang Ji and his disciples did, making their intellectual forays rather unique in this regard. Zhuhong argued that Wang Yangming’s conception of liangzhi was a flawed distortion of Mencius and did not ultimately exist as a pristine entity, state of being, or untainted dynamic process. In particular, he objected to any attempt to equate liangzhi with the Buddhist idea of zhenzhi 真知, or “true wisdom,” the wisdom that comes through the realization of nonduality. Because the two terms zhenzhi and liangzhi have in common the character zhi, network members often bridged the divide between Confucian and Buddhist ideas by arguing that the two terms were homologous. However, Zhuhong’s understanding of zhenzhi was entirely Buddhist and left no room for other inter­pre­tations, despite the fact that Confucians and Daoists had long employed the term in their own discourses.84 Nevertheless, for those disciples looking for similarities, Wang Ji’s oeuvre offered fertile ground, especially when his definitions of zhenzhi were taken out of context. For example, the following disparate passages can be read through the Buddhist lens of nonduality, of seeing into one’s own nature, and of the doctrine of impermanence: “What one knows without thinking, this is true wisdom (無知之知是為真知)”; “To awaken through seeing one’s nature, this is true wisdom (見性以入悟真知也)”; “True wisdom is unchanging; cognition arises and ceases (真知無變而識有生滅).”85 83

84 85

For references to Ouyi Zhixu’s understanding of liangzhi, see Araki Kengo, Bukkyō to Jukyō: Chūgoku shisō o keiseisuru mono 佛敎と儒敎 : 中国思想を形成するもの (Kyoto: Heirakuji Shoten, 1963), 402–403. In one passage Zhenke disparaged the term and in another he simply mentioned it in a list of ideas that had been used to discuss prajñā. Zhenke, Zibo laoren ji (X1452: 73.171.b9 and 337.b2). The term appears in the fifth chapter of the Zhuangzi, “The Great and Venerable Teacher 大宗師.” Beginning in the Song and on through the Ming, Confucian writings often contrast “ordinary knowing” (changzhi 常知) with “genuine knowing” (zhenzhi 真知), a formulation that could be applied to the sentences presented here, though Wang Ji’s interpretation leans more solidly toward nonduality. The contrast is between wuzhi 無知 (the uncognized) and youzhi 有知 (the cognized) as seen below in the ditty written by the monk Yuancheng. Wang Ji, Quanji, 27, 518, 977; see also 1229, 529. Ivanhoe, Ethics in the Confu-

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Yet for Zhuhong, zhenzhi could only be the domain of Buddhist truth, not Confucian. To demonstrate that liangzhi and zhenzhi were incongruous, Zhuhong’s short essay “Liangzhi 良知” employed a Yogācāra method of logical analysis popular at that time, called hetu-vidyā (yinming 因明).86 Zhuhong wrote: The newly created theory of liangzhi was a result of the depth of Wang Yangming’s insight and studious effort. It was not forced into existence as a catchphrase in order to increase the number of his followers (menting 門庭). Yet those keen to synthesize Confucianism and Buddhism say that this is none other than what the Buddha called “true wisdom” (zhenzhi 真 知). Now, this is impossible. Why?  The two characters, liang and zhi originally were derived from Mencius. Now I will use a threefold method to analyze them. “Zhenzhi is liangzhi” is the proposition (zong 宗).87 What requires no reflection (bu lu 不慮) yet is known; this is the reason (yin 因). Among babes in arms, there is not

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cian Tradition, 81. Zhou Rudeng certainly framed zhenzhi in terms of nonduality and often placed it under the category wu. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 244, 294, 288. For a general overview and references to Yogācāra materials available in the late Ming along with an extended discussion of Yogācāra exegetes, see Shi Sheng Yen 釋聖嚴, Ming­mo fojiao yanjiu, 196–249; and Ge Zhaoguang 葛兆光, “Xichao que zi dongying lai— Riben Dong Benyuan si yu Zhongguo jindai foxue de yinyuan 西潮却自东瀛来—日本 东本愿寺与中国近代佛学的因缘,” in Xichao you dongfeng: wanqing minchu sixiang, zongjiao yu xueshu shi lun 西湖又东风: 晚清民初思想、宗教与学术十论 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 2006), 47–66; For an argument concerning the Ming “Buddhicization” of Confucian traditions, see also William Chu, “The Timing of Yogācāra Resurgence in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1643),” JIABS 33, no. 1–2 (2010 [2011]): 5–25. Hetu-vidyā was a popular method of disputation during the late Ming. Jiang Canteng has written about the monk Zhencheng’s use of it; and Jiang Wu has discussed Feiyin Tongrong’s attempt to employ this technique. See Jiang Wu, “Buddhist Logic and Apologetics in 17th Century China: An Analysis of the Use of Buddhist Syllogisms in an Anti-Christian Polemic,” Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 2, no. 2 (2003): 273–289. This style of reasoning is a syllogism comprised of three parts: a proposition (zong 宗); reason (yin 因); and example (yu 喻). According to the rules of hetu-vidyā analysis, the proposition must be in the form of A = B. For example, zhenzhi is liangzhi (真知即良知). Zhuhong’s proposition is rather cryptic, leaving out half the proposition—which I suggest is simply unstated. The other two parts are correct. The formidable Japanese Chan monk Mujaku Dōchū 無著道忠 (1653–1744) also found fault with Zhuhong’s formulation of the proposition. Nonetheless, his own reading of the essay seems to have missed the point—most likely because Mujaku did not fully understand the Chinese context in which it was written. Moreover, Mujaku thought Zhuhong unremarkable and took issue with many of his ideas. John Jorgensen, “Mujaku Dōchū (1653–1744) and SeventeenthCentury Chinese Buddhist Scholarship,” East Asian History 32/33 (2007): 52–53.

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one who does not know to love their parents and respect their elders; this is the example (yu 喻).  What is meant by liangzhi is good (mei 美). This is to know naturally without fabrication. However, the love and respect that we know have long been entangled with falseness and stupidity (shewang 涉妄). How could it be called true, eternal, tranquil luminescence (zhen chang jizhao 真常寂照)?88 What is true (zhen 真) must of course be differentiated from what is good (liang 良).89 Here Zhuhong strategically bypasses Wang Yangming’s definition of liangzhi by instead confining his comments only to what Mencius said: “What he knows without having to reflect on it is what he truly knows (liangzhi 良知).”90 In Zhuhong’s interpretation of this passage, liangzhi simply meant “good” or “excellent,” not an ontological entity or the conceptual nexus in which Wang Ji’s lineage embedded the term. Secondly, he argued that love and respect were a direct result of social conditioning, clouded by imperfection, and could hardly be equated with the highest transcendent level, true wisdom. The test case discredits the assertion that loving parents happens naturally, and thus the proposition that these two terms could be equated becomes untenable. Zhuhong employed this Yogācāra method of argument to succinctly reject the idea that zhenzhi and liangzhi could be used interchangeably.91 Zhuhong’s critique did not go unnoticed. For our purposes, others’ explanations help further illuminate how this short essay was understood. In an attempt to reconcile the difference between Wang Yangming’s and Zhuhong’s views, his precept-disciple Mailang Minghuai 麥浪明懷 (d. 1630) offered an elaborate apologetic—one that sought to clarify Zhuhong’s position and explain away the differences. In A Chan Response to Difficult Questions (Zong­ men shenan 宗門設難), Minghuai claimed that Wang Yangming was simply presenting the fundamental nature of liangzhi before the stimulation of emotions (weifa 未發)—that is, the wu aspect.92 In contrast, Minghuai argued that 88 89 90 91 92

Wang Yangming also used the term “still luminescence” (jizhao 寂照). Zhuhong, Quanji, 3674. Lau, Mencius 7A:15. Two other short essays by Zhuhong also argue that zhenzhi is best understood in Buddhist terms. Zhuhong, Quanji, 3676–3677. Some scholars translate weifa as “the unmanifest (or quiescent) mind.” Yifa/weifa are often translated as the expressed and unexpressed phases of the mind and reflect the two polarities of stillness and movement. For an explanation of Zhu Xi and Zhou Dunyi’s usage, see Joseph A. Adler, Reconstructing the Confucian Dao: Zhu Xi’s Appropriation of Zhou Dunyi (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2014). Mailang Minghuai, Zongmen shenan (X1457: 73.862.c1–863.c3).

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Zhuhong’s critique was directed quite narrowly at the functioning of liangzhi once the emotions had been aroused (yifa 已發)—that is, the you aspect. In other words, Zhuhong presented liangzhi from the perspective of pratītyasamutpāda (yuanqi 緣起), that is, the doctrinal position that everything in one’s environment comes into existence through an interdependent set of conditions. When analyzed from this perspective, the impulse to save a child about to fall into a well was necessarily dependent on a confluence of external factors: there needed to be a child, a well, and a crisis—otherwise, there would be no impulse to save. Likewise, the heart’s expression of filial piety was dependent on the presence of parents, just as respect for elder brothers was conditioned by their existence, and so forth. In the end, Minghuai proposed that the reconciliation of these two perspectives could only be facilitated through a personal realization (tiren 體認) of nonduality. Minghuai went even further, claiming that Wang Yangming had borrowed Chan language to synthesize the two traditions and push ru toward the right path, while Zhuhong came along to be his successor and finish the job. Despite the weaknesses in this attempt at historical narrative, Minghuai accurately conveys the prevalent contemporary perception that Yangming Confucians were inspired by Buddhist ideas.93 Audiences reading both Minghuai’s wenda-style text and Zhuhong’s short essay were comprised of skeptical and enthusiastic examination elites who were exploring both Buddhist and Yangming Confucian traditions and wanted answers to the question of their compatibility. Like Minghuai, not everyone accepted Zhuhong’s argument that liangzhi and zhenzhi were distinct. Another of Zhuhong’s precept-disciples, Huang Hui, wrote an essay to the effect that liangzhi and zhenzhi were homologous, and he was probably not the only one in the Fellowship to do so.94

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Araki Kengo has also identified the monk Yuzhi Faju 玉芝法聚 (1492–1563), who knew both Wang Yangming and Wang Ji, as one of the first to attempt to synthesize the theory of liangzhi and Buddhist thought. See Araki Kengo, Minmatsu shūkyō shisō kenkyū, 81–90, as cited in Jiang Wu, Enlightenment in Dispute, 68. Peng Guoxiang has also written on the relationship between Wang Ji and Yuzhi. For the Minghuai citation, see Araki Kengo, Unsei Shukō no kenkyū, 12–13. Huang Hui homologized liangzhi, zhenzhi, and another term, changzhi 常知. See Jennifer Eichman, “Intertextual Alliances.” Zhou Rudeng also discussed changzhi. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 182.

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Mind Cultivation



An Attempt to Fuse Buddhist and Confucian Conceptions of the Mind

Zhuhong may have refuted Wang Yangming’s concept of liangzhi, but, like Minghuai, other monks within the Fellowship were more open-minded. For instance, Minghuai’s dharma master, the monk Zhanran Yuancheng, whose first abbacy in Zhejiang had been arranged by Zhou Rudeng and Tao Wangling, and who was also a Zhuhong precept-disciple, composed a ditty (ge 歌) entitled “Liangzhi.”95 This style of sung verse was used as an aid to memory, though we do not know if this particular ditty was for private use or sung at jiangxue events. The ditty not only draws heavily on Chan imagery and illusions but also reinforces the idea that a practitioner needed to realize nonduality in order for liangzhi to be fully operative. In fact, the concept of liangzhi presented here varies little from the Buddhist definition of buddha-nature, while the path to realization exploits a Chan trajectory in a perfect blending of these two visions of self-cultivation. The ditty opens with the proposition that liangzhi is neither conditioned (you) nor unconditioned (wu): Liangzhi is not the knowing of conditioned knowing Nor is liangzhi the knowing of unconditioned  knowing …

良知非是有知知 良知亦非無知知

In these lines, Yuancheng reinforced the idea that it would be a mistake to conceive of liangzhi as either permanent or impermanent. The subsequent lines explain that it would be equally wrong to think liangzhi can be perfectly mirrored in language or to cling (zhizhuo 執著) insistently to its emptiness. In this, he drew Wang and Zhou’s concept of liangzhi further into the Buddhist doctrinal sphere. The ditty claims that liangzhi should be bright and perspicacious at all times and manifest itself naturally in all of one’s daily activities: When conversing, no need to measure internal and  external When hungry, eat 95

答話不須揀內外 饑便餐

There are a number of different ge 歌 styles of poetry and song. This particular style follows the pattern of a ditty with seven-character lines occasionally punctuated for emphasis with short staccato three-character lines. The ending characters often form part of a rhyme pattern for easy memorization and the language tends to be simple. Zhanran Yuancheng, Zhanran yuancheng chanshi yulu (X1444: 72.838.a12). I would like to thank Kathryn Lowry for her help in identifying the style of this text.

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When tired, sleep In walking, standing, sitting, reclining; there is only  [liangzhi] …

睡便臥 行住坐臥祇這箇

The classic Chan phrase “When hungry, eat; when tired, sleep,” a metaphor for a natural and uncontrived approach to self-cultivation attributed to the Tang monk Dazhu Huihai 大珠慧海 (n.d.), became a pervasive Chan trope over the ensuing centuries.96 However, there is no denying that the final lines of the ditty reinforce the idea of naturalness in terms more familiar to Confucian discourse: No need to reflect No need to calculate When kites soar and fish leap, the Way is united Liangzhi, liangzhi, if known this way Those that apprehend liangzhi would not trade it for  gold

不用思 不用算 鳶飛魚躍道一貫 良知良知若個知 知得良知金不換

Liangzhi should be readily apparent in one’s actions like the natural, seemingly uncalculated movement of birds and fish, an analogy frequently used by Wang Ji.97 That life should be met naturally as it unfolds without constant reflection or elaborate schemes was an idea shared not only by some Chan exegetes but also by Wang Ji and his followers. Nonetheless, despite the level of congruence seen in this ditty, there were limits to what Yuancheng could accept. When Wang Ji and Zhou Rudeng described liangzhi as “neither good nor evil,” they called it the “supreme good” (zhishan 至善).98 In this context, supreme good is the mind itself in a state of vacuity and calm, devoid of desire.99 In his explanation of supreme good, Zhou Rudeng argued that it represents Confucian virtues, that is, the heart/mind of compassion, of shame, and of respect as they are before either their conceptualization or naming.100 However, Yuancheng, like the monks Deqing and Yuanxian, understood “supreme good” to refer to an underlying fixed essence (benti 本體) at odds with the doctrine of nonduality. Deqing specifically rejected the notion that “supreme good” was a higher-order entity than “nei96 97 98 99 100

Jingde chuandeng lu (T2076: 51.247.c3). Wang Ji, Quanji, 249. This term, drawn from the Great Learning, was central to Yangming Confucian discourse. Wang Ji, Quanji, 1384, 518; see also 256, 388, 363, 412. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 279–280; for references to an underlying essence, see 281, 291.

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ther good nor evil” since positing the existence of such an entity created a false duality.101 The monk Yuanxian raised this same objection and, like Zhuhong, explicitly refuted the idea that Mencius’ term liangzhi could be elevated to the level of ultimate truth. These two monks were in agreement that, with respect to virtuous behavior, the external environmental conditions came first, followed by the conceptual apparatus, and then the response, a process that ran contrary to Wang Ji and Zhou Rudeng’s assertion that all is already contained within the mind and ideally moves outward from it.102 In sum, the attempts to synthesize various transcendent truths did not lead to a complete philosophical fusing, nor did it break down the distinctions between the two traditions on many other fronts. Yuancheng may have been quick to exploit the compatibility between a number of aspects of Chan and Wang Ji’s new theories, yet when asked whether his patron and friend Zhou Rudeng should properly be categorized as a Buddhist or Confucian, Yuancheng responded unequivocally that Zhou belonged to the Learning of the Way (daoxue 道學)—a reference to Confucian teachings.103 Zhou Rudeng too maintained a clear distinction between the two traditions. This is illustrated in the following story of how Zhou once handled a jiangxue participant who bungled such differences. When the disgruntled interlocutor accused Zhou of incorporating the teachings of Daoists and Buddhists in a discussion of Confucian thought, Zhou Rudeng reaffirmed for him that the participants were all Confucians (ru). After all, they all wore the clothes of a Confucian, behaved like a Confucian, and quite naturally emulated Confucius. Zhou added that Confucius’ most sublime teachings could not simply be ­mimicked, but must be personally realized. For Zhou, it was this need for selfrealization that underlined the commonality between these various traditions. Zhou Rudeng then asked his interlocutor what the origin was of the engrained habits (qixi 氣習) obstructing his practice. The befuddled fellow replied that engrained habits were a karmic legacy from past kalpas. Zhou Rudeng swiftly rejected the response, calling it Buddhist, not Confucian.104 Clearly, Zhou Rudeng entertained a select number of Buddhist (and Daoist) ideas because they resonated with a deeper set of shared concerns. But despite 101 102

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Araki Kengo, Bukkyō to Jukyō, 423–438. Monks were not the only ones to object to Wang Ji’s theory of “neither good nor evil.” Members of the Donglin faction, like Gu Xiancheng 顧憲成 (1550–1612) also rejected this and other philosophical concepts professed by Wang Ji and his sympathizers. See, for example, Gu’s 1600 Zhengxing bian 證性編. Zhanran Yuancheng, Zhanran Yuancheng chanshi yulu (X1444: 72.802.c2–4). From the context, it is clear that qixi 氣習 is synonymous with xiqi 習氣. This may simply be a printing error. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 163–164.

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this, and despite others’ confusion, he maintained a very clear vision of both the theoretical and practical aspects of his own lineage’s path to cultivation. Throughout his life, Zhou Rudeng persisted in his efforts to transmit the teachings of Wang Ji; for that purpose he found many Chan doctrinal positions and cultivation methods quite useful.

Mind Cultivation: Spiritual Exercises

The effort to bridge the divide between Chan doctrine and Yangming Confucian teachings was not confined to theoretical discourse. It also affected cultivation choices. Many in the Fellowship experimented with both Confucian and Buddhist techniques: at times Buddhist techniques were even used to achieve a Yangming Confucian goal. In order to help his disciples realize the “unimpeded full activation of liangzhi” (zhi liangzhi 致良知)—that is, the free expression of a natural intuitive moral impulse uncompromised by bad intentions, uncontrolled emotions, or selfish desires—Zhou Rudeng guided them to take concrete steps in line with normative Confucian moral values of filial piety, benevolence, loyalty, propriety, and the like.105 However, in contrast to Confucian exegetes who would have stopped there, Zhou Rudeng further advocated many Chan-inspired spiritual exercises—his teaching style even occasionally embodied the spirit of Chan encounter dialogue. That is, in his interactions with disciples he tested them by posing seemingly illogical questions in the style typical of master-disciple relations depicted in Chan gongan 公案 collections. As will be seen, Chan literature both informed his cultivation choices and supplemented his more normative advocation of Confucian virtues. In keeping with the Yangming Confucian imperative that the self-cultivated individual did not indiscriminately mimic a rules-generated approach to the situations at hand, Zhou emphasized that his disciples should follow Mencius 4B:19 and “act out of benevolence and righteousness and not [just] act out benevolence and righteousness.”106 Ideally, genuinely virtuous responses originated from an innate sense of benevolence and righteousness, not from the feigned virtue of going through the motions. The ability to enact benevolence 105 106

To that end, he often cited well-known passages from the Analects and the Mencius. For an extended list of references, see Zhao Wei, Wanming kuangchan sichao, 306–244. For clarity, I have cited Bryan van Norden’s translation of Mencius 4B:19, not D.C. Lau’s. Brian Van Norden, trans., Mengzi: With Selections from Traditional Commentaries (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2008), 107. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 278–279.

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or rightness depended, initially, on one’s capacity to reflect on human relations. To foster this skill, Zhou Rudeng urged his followers to practice a number of contemplative exercises long embraced by Neo-Confucians, including more recently Wang Yangming: self-reflection (fansi 反思; fanzhao 反照), inner contemplation (fanguan 反觀), and self-regulation (zi tiao 自調).107 He asked his disciples to think and reflect before they spoke.108 However, Zhou Rudeng further added his own Chan-inspired touch. Chan monks, most notably from the Hongzhou lineage, advocated that the proper way to cultivate was to eat when hungry, sleep when tired, and put on clothes when cold—an idea echoed earlier in Yuancheng’s poem. Zhou was quite cognizant of the intersection between his vision of the self-cultivated life and such Chan exhortations. He even wrote that, in contrast to Zhu Xi’s understanding, his own ideas “concur with the central teaching of the Daoists and Buddhists,” although his contemporary Buddhist and Daoist peers would have protested against the claim. After all, Zhou is very narrowly focused on only a few Chan ideas to the exclusion of karma and rebirth.109 In one of the jiangxue he presided over, Zhou defended the Song Confucian-Chan Buddhist Yang Shi 楊時 (1053–1135)110 against the criticisms leveled at him by Zhu Xi: Zhu Xi said, “Guishan 龜山 [Yang Shi] said, ‘Eat when hungry, drink when thirsty, every movement of the hand and foot is the Way.’ [However], what the hand grasps and where the foot walks is not the Way. Only when the hand expresses respect and the step is calm and dignified is this the Way …”111  Zhu Xi also said: “As for walking slowly behind one’s elders or walking quickly in front of them, both are walking. However, only walking slowly behind one’s elders is following the Way. If one walks quickly in front of 107

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111

Zhou Rudeng’s promotion of these techniques was squarely drawn from within a Confucian hermeneutic and was not a recent “borrowing” from other religious traditions. The notion of turning inward (fan 反; 返) is also prevalent in Daoist inner alchemical texts as well as Buddhist ones. However, Zhou rarely cited inner alchemical texts, though he does cite Laozi’s Daode jing and the Zhuangzi. See for example, Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 147, 151, 153, 157, 171–172, 242, 362, 382. Ibid., 240. Zhou Rudeng categorized Yang Shi in this way. Several late Ming collections of lay Buddhist biographies identify Yang Shi along with other Song Confucian thinkers as lay Buddhist practitioners. Zhou likely knew of the identification, if not the texts themselves. See, for example, Jushi fendeng lu (X1607) and Fofa jintang bian (X1628). This is a direct citation (page 1498). Zhu Xi 朱熹, Zhuzi yulei 朱子語類, ed. Li Jingde 黎 靖德 (Taipei: Huashi chubanshe, 1987), 1486–1498.

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one’s elders, then this is not following the Way. How could one just recognize walking as [being] on the Path?” …  [Yet the truth is that] in general, seeing, hearing, walking, and grasping are fundamentally the Way. The Way is lost when one holds onto a selfish mind. If the mind does not cling but remains completely like that of a child’s (chizi 赤子), then when one needs to walk slowly, one walks slowly, and when one needs to advance quickly, one advances quickly. In observing, do so intelligently, in listening, do so clearly. In following the natural processes of observing, listening, grasping, and walking, what is not the Way and further requires that one seek to add to this?112 This text succinctly underscores a key difference between the vision of selfcultivation held by Yangming Confucians like Zhou Rudeng and that promoted in Zhu Xi’s teachings. Zhou Rudeng objected that Zhu Xi’s method set up a false dualism in its promotion of behavioral conformity, for the underlying problem lies not in external behaviors but in the mind/heart of desires and selfishness. Zhou believed that the self-cultivated person expresses the Way through his maintenance of an unselfish, child-like mind and his ability to respond to each situation as it arises without calculated deliberation.113 Like Wang Ji, Zhou Rudeng endorsed the nondualistic position that all actions embodied the immediate expression of the Way. In this, he elevated the ordinary mind (pingchang xin 平常心) as the locus of practice, and the everyday Way (pingchang dao 平常道) as the path.114 The upshot of this approach was to downplay the need for a long, slow period of ethical maturation. In rejecting a gradual path based on a sequential series of spiritual exercises, Wang and Zhou’s position resonated with that offered by Chan subitists, who 112 113

114

Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 239–242. The popular late Ming topic, whether one needed to maintain a “childlike mind,” was discussed using various terminological preferences: for Li Zhi, tongxin 童心; Wang Gen, chuxin 初心; Luo Rufang and Zhou Rudeng both chose chizizhixin 赤子之心. This latter choice is well known from both Mencius and the Daode jing. For a detailed discussion of Li Zhi’s concept, see Pauline Lee, Li Zhi, Confucianism and the Virtue of Desire (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2012), 123–126. The ordinary mind is anything but ordinary. The reference is to a mind devoid of the usual dual distinctions such as right/wrong, ordinary/sagely. For a description of the idea that the “ordinary mind is the Way” (平常心是道), see Mazu Daoyi 馬祖道一 (709–788), Mazu Daoyi chanshi guanglu (X1321: 69.3.a13) and further explanations in Mario Poceski, Ordinary Mind as the Way, 183. When the monk Nanquan Puyuan 南泉普願 (749–835) was asked how to attain the ordinary Way, he offered that one should see mountains as mountains and water as water. See Qu Ruji 瞿汝稷, Zhiyue lu (X1578: 83.665.c1–2).

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endorsed sudden awakening.115 Wang Yangming’s instructions certainly acknowledge the arduous work of cultivation: progression, backsliding, exertion of sincere effort, and a long road of incremental progress. And yet, in some passages, he elided the distinction between the activation of liangzhi and the hard work of cultivation (本體便是工夫).116 Wang Ji carried this latter idea to its extreme and made the centerpiece of his philosophy the idea that cultivation itself was, in effect, already the expression of liangzhi. For those of superior aptitude (shanggen), Wang Ji posited that practice and realization were simultaneous occurrences; only those of lesser aptitude (xiagen 下根) need lower their sights and tackle the disparity between their abilities and the expression of sagehood through a series of spiritual exercises aimed at merely fostering good and eliminating evil.117 Conceptual clarity aside, Zhou’s disciples had a hard time discerning the difference between unenlightened physical movement (say, walking) and physical gestures that were at once both a cultivation exercise and the expression of the Way. Zhou clarified how he envisioned the expression of nonduality in the following two jiangxue exchanges. The first text opens with the question of whether following the Way was merely a matter of lifting arms and moving feet, or required one to be cognizant of this movement. Zhou Rudeng asserted that all (enlightened) movement should occur naturally without deliberation. The practitioner should simply focus on the attitude or awareness that accompanies any movement or lack thereof. The interlocutor however persisted: Yuan Dexuan 袁德玄 asked, “Since one is not cognizant (buzhi 不知) of this, then how could it be called clear and bright, ever-present awareness (liaoliao changzhi 了了常知)?” 115

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Simply put, most late Ming Buddhist arguments about sudden and gradual tend to center on whether one should stress sudden awakening followed by gradual cultivation or a path of gradual cultivation during the course of which one will hopefully have a sudden inexplicable realization of enlightenment. However, the categories of sudden and gradual could also be used to rank Buddhist teachings and there was, over time, much fluidity and nuance in how these categories were applied to both enlightenment and practice. See especially the essays in Peter N. Gregory, ed. Sudden and Gradual Approaches to Enlightenment in Chinese Thought (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987); and Bernard Faure, The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 32–52. In Confucian terms, Wang Yangming elided the distinction between substance (ti 體) and function (yong 用). See, for example, Wang Yangming, Instructions for Practical Living, 209, #243; Chen Rongjie, Wang Yangming Chuanxi lu xiangzhu jiping, 313–314, #243. Wang Ji, Quanji, 89–93.

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 Zhou responded, “When you grasp or move, then know that you grasp or move. When you do not grasp and move, then know that you do not grasp and move; isn’t this clear and bright, ever-present awareness? Knowing (zhi 知) and not knowing (buzhi 不知), not knowing and knowing: in the end they are not a duality (you er 有二). In coming to this realization, the Way is merely a provisional name. How could one continue to puzzle over what is or is not the Way?”118 In his response, Zhou eliminated the difference between knowing and not knowing, forged a symbiotic relationship between movement and stillness, and redefined zhi 知 not as a concrete accumulation of knowledge but as a natural, unmitigated response.119 In guiding Yuan Dexuan’s understanding of “clear and bright, ever-present awareness,” Zhou Rudeng adhered to the locus classicus for this phrase, the famous story of Bodhidharma’s verification of the Second Chan Patriarch Huike’s (487–593) realization of enlightenment,120 wherein the phrase represents complete awakening.121 Zhou Rudeng wanted Yuan Dexuan to grasp the difference between attention to movement and the operation of liangzhi, here couched in the Buddhist language of awakening or supramundane wisdom. Ending with the topic of assigning names, Zhou called even the “Way” a provisional term. In effect, there was nothing to grab onto, literally or conceptually. Yuan Dexuan’s question of how one knows when ordinary everyday acts are responses resulting from the spontaneous activation of liangzhi and how to recognize when that shift in perspective occurs remained a serious question 118 119

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Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 181. The idea of naturalness was not particular to Zhou Rudeng. It was also the centerpiece of Wang Ji’s teaching on cultivation as seen in the following, “cultivation should be singularly applied to the “original state” [e.g., heart/mind] with naturalness as the principle [method] (工夫專用在本體上, 以自然為宗).” Wang Ji, Quanji, 17. This story was repeated numerous times, including by Dahui in a source familiar to Zhou. Dahui pujue chanshi yulu (T1998A: 925.b17–24). The term liaoliao changzhi is not found in either Zhu Xi’s Zhuzi yulei or Huang Zongxi’s Mingru xue’an and was likely not debated much in Song-Ming Confucian texts. In this respect, Zhou’s use of the term appears unique; Wang Ji uses the term only once and in reference to Buddhist practice. An interlinear note in Luo Rufang’s discourse records defines liaoliao changzhi as the wisdom of the sage: without stages, complete, like a great perfect mirror. Both Zhou Rudeng and Luo Rufang frequently reinterpret the character zhi 知 in passages from the Analects or other Confucian texts to mean liangzhi, whether that was the original intent or not. See Luo Rufang 羅汝芳, Xujiang Luo Jinxi xiansheng quanji 旴江羅近溪先生全集 (1618; rare book, held in Taiwan National Library), 3.23; Wang Ji, Quanji, 449–450.

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for a number of jiangxue participants. The following exchange continues with this theme of movement and further hones in on the crux of the argument: how does one discern the fine line between internal motivation and mere outward mimicry? The story recounts an exchange that took place one day when Wu Guochao 吳國超 (n.d.), Wang Kuiguang 汪奎光 (n.d.), and Li Zhushan 李 櫧山 (n.d.) met at the West Lake: Zhushan lifted his arm and stretched his leg for everyone to see and said, “In my hand movement and foot gesture, all is complete (ben zi wan ju 本 自完具). Everyone is a sage. Is there any reason not to have confidence in this?”  In the evening they returned and Zhou asked Guochao, “As for Li’s statement, do you believe it?”  Guochao said, “Yes.”  Zhou replied, “At present Mr. Li can lift his arm and stretch his leg; if he dies, then what?”  Guochao remained silent.122 Firstly, the claim that “all is complete” resonates with a very similar Chan phrase found in the Platform Sūtra and in Dahui Zonggao’s discourse records.123 In these two Chan texts and in Zhou Rudeng’s writings, the phrase is used to indicate that all is complete within the self, whether that be defined as buddha-nature, wisdom, the ability to become a buddha, or the Yangming Confucian idea of liangzhi. Secondly, the text succinctly illustrates how opaque Zhou Rudeng’s teachings had become when compared to straightforward Confucian directives to be filial, trustworthy, and loyal.124 Zhou’s masterful performance modeled on that of Chan encounter dialogue introduces a teaching technique in stark contrast to the usual jiangxue debate. At first, Li Zhushan appears to be correct; his assertion that every movement is an expression of the Way and his claim that all are sages are spot on. The question of confidence in the veracity of the gesture and remark, too, fit within the discourse of this Yangming lineage. Yet Zhou Rudeng rejected Li’s position while Guochao was 122 123

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Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 184. Numerous passages in Wang Ji, Wang Yangming, and Taizhou sources reiterate this idea, as do numerous Buddhist sources. For Buddhist references, see Jingde chuandeng lu (T2076: 51.227.a28); Zhuhong, Zimen jingxun (T2023: 48.1040.c25); Banruo xinjing dayi (X561: 26.902.b9). There are many other examples of Zhou’s Chan-style encounter dialogues. See also Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 319, 380, 438.

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stymied by Zhou’s response, leaving the reader as well to puzzle it out for himself. Not only do the jiangxue texts cited here exhibit Chan traits, but they also highlight the fact that within the broader Yangming Confucian discourse on matters of self-cultivation, physical movement was often a focus. Bodily behaviors—gesturing, walking, eating, and so on—were used metaphorically to denote methods of mind cultivation and the embodiment of liangzhi. In that respect, they speak to the larger issue of how interior adjustments should be reflected in everyday acts. The behavior and attitude Zhou modeled in these texts reflect Chan influence, and yet they are quite removed from Yuan Zhongdao’s claim that self-cultivation should start with exercises of behavioral restraint due to the belief that “each time someone in this world raises a foot and takes a step, there is a karmic effect.” The notion of karma is conspicuously missing from Zhou’s discussion. Zhou’s demonstrations of the embodiment of nonduality indeed flummoxed some of his disciples and may have contributed to his diminishing relevance after 1615.

Dissenting Views: Objections to Zhou Rudeng’s Methods

Zhou Rudeng’s approach did not sit well with monks like Zhuhong or even with some of Zhou’s own disciples. The epistolary disagreement between Zhou and his prominent disciples, brothers Tao Wangling and Tao Shiling, sheds some light on the kind of resistance Zhou faced in the propagation of his methods. The letters that Zhou and Zhuhong exchanged further reveal the sharp distinction between Zhuhong, who favored a gradual method of cultivation which began with the practice of doing good and eliminating evil, and Zhou Rudeng’s subitist approach, which emphasized foremost the immediate realization of nonduality. Both epistolary exchanges demonstrate that, despite Wang Ji and Zhou Rudeng’s assertion that the mind was neither good nor evil, when it came to practical matters of self-cultivation, many educated elites embraced a more mundane set of spiritual techniques that would help them do good and remove evil. In a further demonstration of how important Chan texts were to both parties, these exchanges are framed not through citations from the Four Books or other Confucian moral teachings, but in Chan terms and argued through pitting the words of various Chan masters against one other. These exchanges further demonstrate that Zhou Rudeng was thoroughly conversant in Chan polemics, especially intra-Chan arguments about sudden and gradual cultivation. In all these letters, he relied heavily on Chan discourse records to make a Confucian point.

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The two Tao brothers helped found the Society for Verification and Culti­ vation 證修社,125 headed by their mentor, Zhou Rudeng. However, in contrast to Zhou’s more sedate prescriptions on how, ideally, jiangxue activities should unfold, during a meeting at a Daoist abbey, a rift developed between Zhou and the Tao brothers that—according to one of Zhou’s letters—became so consumed with debate there was a loss of decorum (timian 體面).126 Several letters were required to repair the damage and keep the brothers attending the society’s meetings. The friction was caused by their differing interpretations of a popular Yangming Confucian topic: how best to foster good and to correct mistakes (遷善改過). All three accepted that the streets were full of sages, but parted company on the spiritual exercises needed for the full realization of sagehood or buddhahood (the two goals are conflated in this exchange). The letters shed light on precisely which Chan passages were considered meaningful to this debate and highlight how difficult it was to come to a clear decision on how to proceed, especially if a practitioner struggled, like Tao Wangling did, with his own Yangming Confucian practice or, as Tao Shiling admits, has recently tasted the “joy of Chan” (chanyue 禪悅), a reference to meditative experience.127 It is not possible to ascertain the order in which the two letters cited here were received or whether other letters form part of this exchange (they probably did), but the following letter by Zhou Rudeng was likely written first. In it, Zhou strikes a conciliatory tone but does not entirely resolve the dispute. Rather, he presents a number of contrasting Chan directives in anticipation of further discussion at an upcoming meeting to be held at the Yangming Confucian Academy, a gathering he probably feared the brothers would not attend. In taking up the topic of fostering good deeds and correcting mistakes, the letter grapples with two choices: should the mind be disciplined aggressively when wayward thoughts arise or should such thoughts simply be allowed to dissipate naturally. Zhou couched his answer within the intra-Buddhist debate on the matter: 125

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Tao Wangling wrote that the name of this society refers to its two missions: “verification” (zheng 證), that is, what the ear hears and the eye sees, a reference to reading and dis­ coursing; and “cultivation” (xiu 修) that is, the movement of hands and feet which denotes the embodiment of the teachings through practice. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2040–2042. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 795. In a separate letter to Tao Shiling, Zhou prevailed upon his Buddhist commitments by pleading with him that he should use his “deep mind” (shenxin 深心) to repay the Buddha’s kindness (en 恩) and perform the work of a great kalyāṇamitra, by helping transmit Wang Yangming’s teachings to future generations. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 775.

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As Lan’an 嬾安 [Changqing Da’an 長慶大安 (793–883)] said, “In tending an ox, if the head enters the grass, quickly yank the nose and bring the head up.” Dahui also said, “Those who study the Way must control their untoward thoughts (enian 惡念). They should be like Lan’an tending an ox. When [untoward thoughts] arise, quickly make them (jizhuo 急著) refined and bright (jingcai 精彩), like yanking the head back up (zhuai zhuan 拽轉).”128 As for [Chan master] Zhangzhuo Xiucai 張拙秀才 (n.d.), he said, “To eliminate [vexations] is a mistake; to pursue [ultimate reality] is wrong.”129 To yank up or to eliminate, how much could they differ (ge 隔)?  At the assembly on Vulture Peak, the butcher’s son, Broad-Forehead [dropped his knife], stood there and became a buddha;130 The girl who offered a pearl in an instant realized supreme perfect enlightenment.131 Outside this, what else is there? And yet Guifeng 圭峰 [Zongmi 宗密 (780–841)] also said, “When one awakens to true principle, this is none other than Sudden Perfect.132 The elimination of delusion is [then] achieved gradually.”133 In light of this, the butcher’s son and the [dragon] girl, at the time, had yet-to-be eliminated delusion (wangqing 忘情).  Niutou [Farong 牛頭法融 (594–657)] asked the Fourth Chan Patriarch [Daoxin 道信 (580–651)], “When objects arise, how should the mind counteract (duizhi 對治) them?” The Fourth Patriarch replied, “You should just follow the mind and let it be free, there is no need to employ countering methods.”134 Jianfu [Hongbian 薦福弘辯 (782–865)] said, ‘Sudden [means that] in realizing one’s own nature, one is in the com128

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130 131 132 133 134

Both citations are part of the same section of Chan Master Dahui Pujue’s Discourse Records, but are presented there in reverse order. Zhou offers an abbreviated version that leaves out a number of phrases and sentences, perhaps because he misremembered the passage or because he expected the Tao brothers to know the work. Dahui Pujue chanshi yulu (T1998A: 47.890.a27–890.b4). “Ultimate reality” (zhenru 真如; Skt. tathatā) means being free from all dichotomizing tendencies of thought. The term is often translated more literally as “thusness” or “suchness.” The gāthā is repeated in many collections, including Dahui Pujue chanshi yulu (T1998A: 47.901.c1–3). Though cited in many places, the locus classicus is the Nirvana Sūtra. Ibid. (T1998A: 47.933.b8). In this story from the Lotus Sūtra, the dragon girl achieved buddhahood in less time than it took to hand the Buddha a precious gem. Miaofa lianhua jing (T262: 9.35.c14–17). For a discussion of Sudden Perfect, see Peter Gregory, Tsung-mi and the Sinification of Buddhism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991). Jingde chuandeng lu (T2076: 51.307.b11–13). Ibid. (T2076: 51.227.b2).

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pany of buddhas. However, because one is stained by the habits of an indeterminate number of past lives (無始染習), one temporarily needs gradual [methods of] cultivation to counteract them (duizhi 對治).”135 Niutou and Jianfu are both members of the Chan [school].136 One said, “No need to add countering methods.” The other said, “For this reason, one needs countering methods.” How do we determine which one was right?  Only through understanding each of these [directives] will one’s fostering [of good] and correcting [of mistakes] not be deficient.137 Indeed, the letter leaves the Tao brothers to contemplate the question: Should one side with Daoxin and cultivate the mind in a non-purposive manner by simply allowing untoward thoughts to dissipate naturally, or should one actively employ various Buddhist countering methods (duizhi) to expel mental and emotional detritus, as Jianfu suggests, thus treating the mind like an ox whose head needs to be pulled back from the grass?138 Zhou Rudeng tended to side with Zhangzhuo Xiucai’s assertion that an intrusive, aggressive method of dealing with mental vexation was counterproductive. Likewise, Zhou favored the examples of the butcher’s son and the dragon girl, whose realization of enlightenment was immediate and not garnered through long hours of patient study—similar to the stories of the illiterate farmer and monk discussed previously. Yet he does concede that sudden awakening may need to be followed by gradual cultivation, a position asserted by several monks as due to the residual bad habits from past lives, though we know Zhou rejected karma and rebirth. Tao Wangling wrote back to his mentor, arguing in favor of sudden awakening followed by gradual cultivation. For him, spiritual progress required small incremental steps and a years-long dedicated practice of strict mental discipline. Tao framed his argument in terms of the Huayan Sūtra story of Sudhana, whose spiritual journey to meet fifty-two kalyāṇamitra (spiritual guides) 135 136 137

138

Jianfu was asked to explain the difference between sudden and gradual cultivation. The citation here is his response to that question. Jingde chuandeng lu (T2076: 51.269.c9–10). Because Zhou has “Niutou,” I have left it in the translation. However, this should be “Daoxin.” Zhou, like his contemporaries, often employed a shorthand method of citation when writing letters. Some citations are jumbled, while some leave out sections between phrases or, like Zhangzhuo’s famous gāthā, include only the first and last characters of the first two stanzas. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 795–797. Countering methods refer to a Buddhist method of correcting bad habits through engagement with its opposite. For example, one might use compassion to counter hatred. They function as an antidote or curative means to purify the mind of evil or wayward thoughts.

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culminated in his realization of enlightenment. Tao opened his discussion by asserting that the very first stage of the ten stages of faith, discussed in this sūtra, already contains within it a buddha’s wisdom. He then asks rhetorically, “The wisdom of a buddha (fozhi 佛智) is unacquired (wudai 無待) wisdom, [so] what stages (jieji 階級) are there to discuss?” He then answers, “Yet one must ascend the fifty stages and draw near to the two [final stages] of awakening; only then [can] one realize the buddha-vehicle (fosheng 佛乘).”139 Tao compared this ascension to the five levels of progression in Confucius’ own path to self-cultivation as laid out in Analects 2.4, which began with Confucius setting his heart on learning at fifteen, taking his stand at thirty, eliminating doubt, and so forth, culminating at age seventy in his ability to follow his heart’s desire without transgression—a stage equated here with Buddhist enlightenment. Tao used this analogy to argue that sagely potential is only realized through the gradual elimination of mental biases and engrained karma-inducing habits, a process he compares to purifying gold.140 Thus, despite being in agreement with Zhou that the butcher’s son and the dragon girl were proof that the Buddha’s wisdom was inherent and not acquired, he sided with the need to yank the ox’s head up and added Huike’s 慧可 (487–593) method of subduing the mind (tiaoxin 調心) as techniques needed to foster spiritual transformation (shenhua 神化).141 He further dismissed Zhangzhuo’s claim that eliminating vexations was a mistake. In addition, in defining how a person of the Way should foster good and correct errors, Tao raised a favorite Yangming Confucian example, that of Yan Hui. As stated earlier, Yan Hui never transgressed without knowing it and never made the same mistake twice.142 In this, he exemplified the perfect expression of the unimpeded operation of liangzhi. To explain just how Yan Hui accomplished this, Tao filled in the contours of this story by citing two Chan exegetes, Guizong Zhichang 歸宗智常 (8th c.) and Dahui. It is his explanation of the Dahui citation used to advocate a gradual path that will concern us here: Dahui also said, “Those who study the Way must unhabituate what has become habitual and habituate what is unhabituated.” What is meant by 139

140

141 142

There are two copies of this letter: Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2157–2161, and Peng Shaosheng, Jushi zhuan (X1646: 88.262.a17-b15). There are slight differences between the two, and in this case I chose to follow the latter. He also used the analogy of growth from childhood to adulthood. See Luis O. Gómez, “Purifying Gold: The Metaphor of Effort and Intuition in Buddhist Thought and Practice,” in Gregory, Sudden and Gradual, 67–165. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2157–2159; Qu Ruji, Zhiyue lu (X1578: 83.519.a10). See note 40.

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unhabituated (shengchu 生處)? There are no distinctions. What is meant by habituated (shouchu 熟處)? There are distinctions. In reaching this, errors are errors; what is good is also in error. To make distinctions is an engrained propensity of habit (xiqi 習氣).143 Even if one does not make distinctions, there are still engrained habits. Only when one directly grasps in each and every thought what is wrong (念念知非) and in each and every moment corrects mistakes (時時改過), will there be some mutual resonance (xiangying 相應). This is the true fostering of good, the real correction of errors. This is what is called “following the mind and letting it be free”; this is also called “cultivation in accordance with [one’s] nature.” The many theories presented by past generations of venerable monks, in the end, do not surpass this point. What need is there to continually posit similarities and differences among them? This letter section answers the question of what it truly means to foster good and eliminate mistakes. It does this by first citing a line from Dahui and then offering a definition of the two terms shengchu and shouchu—one that simplifies Dahui’s own explanation.144 In addressing the difficulty of dealing with the mind’s propensity to make distinctions (fenbie 分別) between good and evil, Tao stresses an immediacy to the mental process of both recognizing errors and correcting them. Like Chan texts, Yangming Confucian writings used the phrase “from moment to moment” (時時當下) to express the importance of manifesting one’s realization of sagehood in precisely this moment and in each and every subsequent moment.145 Tao’s method is in keeping with Wang Ji and Zhou Rudeng’s emphasis on the present moment without resort to past or future. This same method is used to explain Yan Hui’s process of self-correction and offer a way to understand Daoxin’s prescription that one should let the mind be free. Without quite saying it, what Tao is proposing is an understanding of the simultaneity of practice and realization that accounts for an inherent, 143 144

145

The Sanskrit term vāsanā refers to proclivities or propensities that have become habitual and engrained. Dahui’s definition of these two terms largely follows the pattern already established above with the categories you and wu and was likely viewed by Tao and others through that prism. What I have decided to translate as “unhabituated” (shengchu), Dahui defined with the following string of words, “enlightenment,” “nirvana,” “thusness,” and “buddhanature” (菩提涅槃真如佛性). “Habituated” (shouchu) is defined in terms of worldly efforts at making distinctions: “clever,” “quick-witted,” “to weigh mentally,” “to calculate/ compare” (聰明靈利思量計較). Dahui pujue chanshi yulu (T1998A: 47.908.b6–8). A growing number of scholars think Wang Yangming, et al., borrowed this phrase from Chan. Zhao Wei, Wanming kuangchan sichao, 138–150.

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unacquired wisdom yet permits a long, gradual effort at self-cultivation, through spiritual exercises that do not obstruct the immediate/continual expression of nonduality but support it. Tao ended this letter by suggesting that, unlike Zhou, whose ambition was to propagate the Way, his own ambition resided in finding good company, that is, superior friends (like Sudhana’s search for kalyāṇamitra). He further expresses little appetite for jiangxue discussion. These very rich letter excerpts are quite revealing in that both Confucian leaders, Zhou Rudeng and Tao Wangling, cite Chan exegetes and tie their understanding of sudden and gradual methods of self-cultivation to Chan explanations of nonduality. Tao presents a clear example of how Buddhist stories like that of Sudhana could be used to understand the Confucian path to self-cultivation and how Buddhist cultivation techniques could be used to further illuminate the Confucian spiritual exercises engaged in by the likes of Yan Hui. However, Zhou Rudeng’s understanding was not static, nor was Tao Wangling’s. Given Tao’s various successes or failures at mind cultivation, evidently his ideas changed fairly often (see the final chapter). In a long and heated epistolary exchange, Zhou Rudeng and the monk Zhuhong too debated the merits of sudden versus gradual cultivation. Diametrically opposed to Zhou Rudeng’s teaching style, Zhuhong insisted that practitioners would be better served if they were taught “to do good and eliminate evil” (wei shan qu e). Five of Zhou Rudeng’s letters on the theme and six of Zhuhong’s replies were published together in Zhuhong’s collected works. This exchange is extraordinarily valuable in that not only does it offer concrete evidence of their disagreements but, more importantly, it also sheds light on the precise nature of their dispute and the exact textual references they chose to employ. The tone of the exchange is often pointed and sarcastic, further shedding light on the tenor of their relationship. Their argument about doctrine and practice crystallized around differing interpretations of two famous Chan exchanges that illustrate contrasting pedagogical choices. Both exchanges originated with the Chan master Niaoke Daolin 鳥窠道林 (741–824)146 but became codified within Chan lore. The first is the story of Niaoke’s assistant, who waited patiently for Niaoke to impart a Buddhist teaching, but the master refused. When the assistant decided to leave and seek Buddhist teachings elsewhere, Niaoke held up a piece of cloth and blew a hair off it. With this gesture, the assistant was immediately awakened. Zhou Rudeng asked in a letter to Zhuhong whether this act could be called good or evil, and whether the story had the same import as Niaoke’s exchange 146

This monk, whose name, Niaoke, literally means Bird Nest, is often referred to as such.

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with the renowned poet Bai Juyi 白居易 (722–846). In this second famous exchange, Bai Juyi asked for a teaching and was told, “Whatever is evil do not do; whatever is good offer it.” However, Bai Juyi protested that even a threeyear-old knew this. To which Niaoke responded, what a three-year-old might know, an eighty-year-old could not execute.147 In his reply to Zhou Rudeng, Zhuhong wrote concurring that the doctrinal import of both stories was essentially the same. However, he disagreed with Zhou Rudeng’s attempt to teach people that the mind was neither good nor evil, suggesting that this would bring great harm. Undeterred, Zhou Rudeng wrote back, suggesting that simply telling people to do good and avoid evil was equally misleading and harmful. Zhuhong then asserted that the harm of not cultivating good led to rebirth in the lower three paths, whereas those who did good and avoided evil were reborn as either humans or devas. Zhou Rudeng, however, dismissed such a rebirth because it was still a small reward compared to liberation from saṃsāra, achieved in this lifetime through the realization of nonduality, that is, enlightenment. Zhuhong objected to Zhou Rudeng’s conclusion that one could elide the distinction between the activation of liangzhi and the hard work of cultivation. He argued that while Chan discussions of emptiness and nonduality were not inherently wrong, they provided little in the way of guiding disciples on a practical level toward spiritual liberation. It was far better to establish a firm moral foundation. Zhuhong wrote: The mind (xinti 心體) is originally without good or evil, yet how could one say that evil affairs do not obstruct it? Although this preserves the view of emptiness, it is contrary to the teaching of perfection (yuanzong 圓宗). If you recognize in yourself that good and evil both cease, this truly is to stop evil and do good. If you insist that one should not stop evil or do good, then this is to know that one is not yet perfect (weizhen 未真). If today one manages governmental [affairs], how could one not enact policies and promote benevolence, eliminate false loyalty, and get rid of harm? This still is to engage in stopping evil and doing good. When in 147

Late sixteenth-century practitioners frequently discussed the two stories recounted here. The monk Yuanxian gave a sermon on precepts that included both stories: Yongjue yuan­ xian chanshi guanglu (X1437: 72.417.a8–24). Zhuhong also wrote about the story of blowing a feather off a cloth in his Record of the Exalted Acts of Buddhist Monks (Zimen chongxing lu 緇門崇行錄). In that account, Zhuhong lamented that most readers knew only that the assistant was awakened but were unaware of his previous sixteen years of diligent practice. This last detail, however, is unsupported by other accounts. Zhuhong, Quanji, 2161–2162.

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step after step there is ordinary movement, yet in phrase after phrase there is [only] talk of emptiness, this is the great error of today’s clever Chan practitioners.148 Zhuhong found it incongruent that in “step after step” the movement was ordinary, yet the talk only of emptiness. He strenuously objected to the idea that nonduality should be taught as a method, especially since he thought onesided discussions of emptiness mistakenly bypassed real world concerns. Zhuhong believed that the more methodologically sound choice was to underline the simple yet fundamental teaching that one should perform good deeds and put an end to evil. In a striking reversal of roles, Zhuhong adopts the stance of a Confucian official concerned about the hard nuts and bolts of governing, the enactment of good policies, and the virtuous lives of examination elites. Throughout their protracted exchange, Zhuhong doggedly insisted on moral discipline for everyone—a position one would expect from someone tasked with governing. In further highlighting the disparity between discussions of emptiness and ordinary affairs, Zhuhong argued in these letters that Chan discussions of emptiness were not inherently wrong, but that as a practical matter of spiritual progress his disciples should first establish a firm moral foundation. In pressing this point, Zhuhong’s final extant letter on this issue opened with the following hypothetical question: “Someone might ask me, ‘The majority of today’s shidaifu like lofty, mysterious discussions. They detest ordinary talk. Why do you so earnestly refuse to give up this one sentence of stopping evil and doing good?’”149 In answering his own question, Zhuhong responded that very few of the many examination elites who liked to discourse on Chan had any real level of spiritual attainment. Zhuhong ended the letter with this statement: “If one insists that to stop evil and do good is a teaching for those of lesser aptitude and that picking up a cloth and blowing on it is a teaching for those of great aptitude, then this is incorrect.”150 In a word, he completely rejected Wang Ji and Zhou Rudeng’s hierarchical ranking of disciple potential. Just as Zhuhong took on the role in this exchange of the practically minded Confucian official, Zhou Rudeng could come across as an equally lofty, misguided Chan monk fixated on emptiness. Like the Yuan brothers, Zhuhong was quick to appreciate the paradox of Yangming Confucian interest in Chan literature. Yangming Confucians dismissed Zhu Xi’s cultivation methods as little 148 149 150

Ibid., 4647–4648. Ibid., 4649. Ibid.

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more than dry intellectual exercises, yet, in an ironic twist, some left themselves open to that very same criticism. Their own fascination with Chan literature and shallow experiences of awakening were often judged as little more than a rash intellectual pursuit of no real spiritual value. Their peers would accuse them of corrupting Wang Yangming’s lineage, and more serious Buddhist followers would accuse them of hypocrisy, or worse, of “crazy Chan.” As Yuan Hongdao wrote, “If in awakening to the truth (wu li 悟理) one cannot follow this with precepts and meditation, then this is still crazy wisdom. Thus, one returns to that muddy, unclean world.”151

Conclusion

In this chapter I have introduced “mind cultivation” as a bridge concept. However, we should keep in mind that Wang Ji, Zhou Rudeng, their monk counterparts, and the many educated men who eagerly listened to them were engaged in some bridge building of their own. They were ensconced in a discourse of shared and borrowed terminology that created a rather sturdy bridge between Yangming Confucian and Buddhist exegesis and methods of self-­ cultivation. Their arguments over which mattered more, an inner intuitive impulse or outer behavioral restraint, certainly exceeded the parochial para­ meters of both traditions. As a case in point, Wang Ji and Zhou Rudeng emphasized interiority, nonduality, expedient means, and sudden teaching, while viewing the realization of nonduality and cultivation as simultaneous events—what they called the “full operation of liangzhi.” Zhou Rudeng in particular argued in favor of sudden cultivation in exchanges carried out almost entirely on Buddhist terrain, and through citation of Chan monks. He further incorporated Chan encounter dialogue and in general tapped into contemporary educated elite enthusiasm for Chan literature. Nonetheless, over time a number of jiangxue participants became disillusioned with Zhou Rudeng’s overemphasis on awakening at the expense of moral discipline. Those that could not bridge the gap between vision and realization began to favor Zhuhong’s stance that attaining spiritual maturity was an incremental life-long endeavor that should commence with the foundational moral teaching “do good and eliminate evil.” Many chose to become Zhuhong’s precept-disciples. Spread out over a vast region, they formed what I am calling a “Buddhist fellowship.” Those that remained loyal disciples of only 151

See, for example, Yuan Zhongdao, “Xin lu,” 3.15–16; Yuan Hongdao, Xifang helun (T1976: 47.389.c7–11).

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Zhou Rudeng or switched allegiances to other Yangming Confucian leaders were not part of this fellowship and will no longer concern us. The predominance in this chapter of Yangming Confucian discourse should not lead the reader to conclude that the debates here reinforce the previous scholarly narrative that this is a form of Confucianized Buddhism, where Confucians set the terms of debate and predominated over a cowed Buddhist community. Rather, what Yangming Confucians, and most particularly this subbranch, did was to open up a discursive space ripe for fruitful comparison. In fact, the epistolary and other sources analyzed here demonstrate that late sixteenth-century Buddhist monks and their followers neither capitulated to Confucian ideas nor exhibited merely reactionary tendencies. Far from it: the Buddhists had for centuries engaged in their own debates about the mind and had at their disposal a plethora of viable alternatives. If the monk Zhuhong was able to manipulate a Confucian view to get his Buddhist point across, and the monk Yuancheng reinforced the relationship between liangzhi and Chan definitions of nonduality, naturalness, and sudden enlightenment, this was in actual fact part of their proselytization. Under Zhuhong’s direction, the network members were encouraged not to limit themselves to Chan texts and practices, but to cultivate a much broader understanding of the Buddhist tradition. Following his advice, they read numerous Buddhist texts, observed the five lay precepts, participated in monastery rituals, releasing-life activities, Pure Land cultivation, and so forth. Those who took their directives from Zhuhong were especially quick to criticize the shortsightedness of their peers who only attempted to master Chan without a deeper commitment to a broader range of Buddhist practices. They were also alarmed by the efforts of those who mastered none of it but dabbled away thinking they had gained great spiritual insight.

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Ethical Dilemmas: Can Good Buddhists Eat Meat? The following story is one of many compelling sixteenth-century Chinese accounts of karmic demise. It was told to the educated official Feng Mengzhen 馮夢貞 (1546–1623) by his trusted friend Zhu Wuyuan 朱武原 (n.d.), whom he often met at Buddhist temples in and around the West Lake in Hangzhou. The events describe the dangers of vanity and the karmic fruits visited upon a nun who was far too concerned with her looks: There was a young nun who lived in a small nunnery with other nuns. She valued her appearance and constantly washed with floured water (mian­ shui 面水). After she died, she appeared to another nun in a dream [saying], “Because I used so much floured water when washing my face, I have been reborn as a huangbiao 黃膘 pig.1 Tomorrow I will be butchered. I hope that you can save me; if not, still come to see me.” The nun did as told and went to the designated place, but the pig had already been butchered. She bought some of the meat, but because it was huangbiao meat, of course, it could not be eaten. Feng Mengzhen further comments on the meaning of this story: I think this nun’s mistake was minor. But in retribution she was born as a pig. How could one not expect that a more serious infraction would result in something extraordinarily frightening? As for this huangbiao meat, there is a saying that this is the meat of humans who are reborn as pigs. This is because human meat stinks.2 Pungent pork thus symbolized human karmic misfortune. Late sixteenth-­ century tales of karmic woe portrayed deceased relatives and neighbors as 1 In modern veterinarian terms, huangbiao—the character huang meaning “yellow”—denotes an illness of the gallbladder and is more commonly used in conjunction with illness in horses (huangbiao ma 黃膘馬). I have not found this term used with pigs. The meat of an animal with this disease has a foul odor. Although this comment from a sixteenth-century religious source does not present a scientific view, it may well refer to a diseased pig with a similar problem. 2 Feng Mengzhen, “Ni hua zhu,” in Man lu 漫錄, in Kuaixue tang ji, 46.7.

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not-so-dead presences in living animal form. The telling and retelling of these stories concretized the abstract principle of karmic retribution and made it come to life in flesh and blood and in one’s immediate surroundings. Rooted in the circumstances of everyday life, stories of rebirth in the realms of hungry ghosts and animals were not entertaining tales from a far distant past. These hair-raising stories, considered eyewitness accounts of immediate ­karmic truth, helped shape the contours of sixteenth-century elite religious imaginations. Many of Zhuhong’s precept-disciples actively consumed such tales. They analyzed and repackaged historical accounts of karmic retribution, turning them into evaluative tools used to interpret contemporary events. In their daily tasks as officials, husbands, friends, or fathers, these men were committed to “doing good and stopping evil,” which for them meant living in accordance with the first Buddhist precept, to not kill. Confucians and Buddhists agreed that killing humans was wrong, and thus there was little debate on this issue. And yet one might expect state-sanctioned punitive measures toward criminals, bandits, and rebels to be met with some Buddhist resistance. Surprisingly, even Zhuhong supported these. However, by the late sixteenth century many Buddhists argued that proper cultivation of the first precept required both monks and lay practitioners to abstain from killing animals and give up the consumption of meat. This stance was far more controversial and resulted in considerable late sixteenth-century debate about dietary practices and the proper treatment of animals. For this reason, much can be learned about the Buddhist culture that they created from an in-depth study of how Zhuhong and his disciples interpreted this precept, the strategies they developed for accommodation, the arguments they crafted to defend the practice, and the efforts they made to propagate their vision. One of the more striking findings in this chapter is that initial cultivation of this precept did not require a sudden immediate break with all meat consumption—a modern misconception. To the contrary, Zhuhong defined adherence in terms of incremental steps, resulting, perhaps decades later, in an entirely meatless diet. Not only was this gradual renunciation an accepted sixteenthcentury practice, but Zhuhong’s directives followed classical Indian Buddhist precedents. And in this respect, they were not a weak capitulation to dominant Confucian or societal pressures, but strategically adroit responses attuned to the religious needs of practitioners and their socio-cultural environment. For his elite male disciples, the wholesale adoption of the first Buddhist precept was not entirely predicated on personal choice. As Robert Orsi and other scholars of “lived religion” have demonstrated, religious communities are continually (re)constituted in an ongoing dynamic relationship with the realities

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of everyday life.3 This chapter will demonstrate that state authority, social custom, and competing ethical views—the stuff of everyday life—impinged on the free exercise of this precept both in interpretation and in actual practice. Economically, newfound wealth increased access to meat, tempting those of means to purchase it. Politically, these men could not change state-controlled rituals requiring animal sacrifice. However, the state did not overly regulate personal dietary preferences—allowing officials considerable leeway in the consumption of meat at private celebrations. On these occasions, whether a fellowship member chose to consume meat depended to a much greater degree on how persuaded he was by Buddhist and Confucian debates on the matter. Zhuhong’s texts criticized the sacrifice of animals in state ritual. Yet his strongest criticisms were reserved for the culturally ingrained practices of sacrificing and eating animals on private ritual occasions: birthday celebrations, banquets held for friends, weddings, the birth of a child, sacrifices to ancestors, and sacrifices to gods to recover from illness. Zhuhong believed that the congratulatory life-affirming quality of such celebrations made them inappropriate occasions for killing the sons and daughters of “animal families,” who would have grieved the loss of their own kin. Killing other sentient beings invited misfortune, generated bad karma, and dampened both the immediate occasion and future prosperity of human participants.4 In principle, the ethically correct choice was unambiguous: animal sacrifice was to be rejected on the premise that all sentient beings should be allowed to die a natural death. In practice, these men accommodated private occasions in a number of ways that are explored throughout this chapter. In their privileging of human welfare over that of animals, Confucian moral teachings offered a ready source of counterarguments. However, because Zhuhong’s elite male precept-disciples were so well tutored in the classics (and Yangming Confucian interpretations of them), they directly challenged that idea. While both parties agreed that animals were not to be killed without reason, they differed on whether animal killing for the purposes of state sacrifice, entertaining officials, or nourishing one’s parents provoked an ethical dilemma. It will soon become apparent that, on an abstract philosophical level, opposing 3 Orsi’s article is especially helpful in its discussion of the historiography of religious studies and the definition of the neologism “lived religion.” Robert Orsi, “Everyday Miracles: The Study of Lived Religion,” In Lived Religion in America: Towards a History of Practice, ed. David D. Hall (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 7. 4 Zhuhong, Quanji, 3345–53. For a full translation and extended discussion of this issue, see Chün-fang Yü, Renewal of Buddhism, 84–87.

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Confucian and Buddhist positions are easily recognizable: prescriptive texts, polemic writings, and persuasive essays each cite competing views in a dexterous handling of a wealth of classical examples. Nonetheless, to write a good polemic about the need to give up meat was one thing, to cease eating it, another. This chapter further narrows the divide between behavioral prescriptions and the translation of these ideas into a lived tradition by addressing the following questions. What dietary practices did these men actually attempt to cultivate? What difficulties arose in the daily contest to alter one’s dietary habits? How should one act in the face of unsympathetic friends and family members? While some essays partially answer these questions, it is the epistolary sources, with their descriptions of actual practice and pleas for Zhuhong’s advice, that deepen our understanding of this fellowship’s struggle with cultivation of the first precept, to abstain from killing. This chapter opens with a description of Buddhist precepts, karmic stories, and intra-Buddhist debates on whether one can kill animals and eat meat. It then turns to Confucian philosophical disagreements and elite male Buddhist responses. Finally, the chapter entertains the practical questions of implementation and personal accounts of such attempts.

Interpreting the First Precept: Karmic Tales

In the Fellowship’s defense of a meatless diet, stories of karmic retribution took precedence over scriptural sources. The substantial late sixteenth-century literature on karmic tales often drew a direct connection between present behavior and future rebirths, especially in the animal realm. Such karmic tales reinforced the idea that humans and animals were locked in an integrated and unending cycle of rebirths. This section analyzes a number of these karmic tales, beginning with Zhuhong’s On Not Killing and Releasing Life (Jiesha fangsheng wen 戒殺放生文)5 and extending to other sources, particularly stories recorded by members of this fellowship. These stories offered numerous reasons for sparing the life of an animal: animals are sentient beings; they possess buddha-nature; animals are human relatives from past lives; animals who were unjustly killed by humans in a former life seek vengeance; and karmic retri5 This is, in fact, a reference to two texts, On Releasing Life and On Not Killing. Sometimes they were printed separately and sometimes together as they were when published in Zhuhong’s Quanji. For the sake of convenience, I use the combined title and discuss them for the most part as a unit.

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bution. But before analyzing these tales, it is worthwhile to briefly examine precept cultivation and the historical background to debates over whether one needed to stop killing animals and give up meat. Despite the lack of extant registers for lay precept ceremonies presided over by Zhuhong, we are quite fortunate that many of Zhuhong’s two hundred correspondents are identified by the dharma names (fahao 法號) they received when he conferred upon them the five lay precepts called upāsaka precepts (youposai jie 優婆塞戒), of which only the first precept, to abstain from killing, will be discussed in this chapter.6 Much of the scholarly and religious literature characterizes Zhuhong as a strict precept adherent. But in actual fact, Zhuhong let his disciples choose to cultivate from one to five of the lay precepts. Two Indian schools of thought, the Sautrāntikā and Sarvāstivāda, which exerted considerable influence on Chinese debates about how to conduct precept ceremonies, agreed on the need to take refuge (guiyi 歸依) in the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha before conferral of the precepts. But the Sautrāntikā school permitted adherents to take the precepts individually and did not insist that all five be conferred at once—a practice Zhuhong followed. The precepts were divided into three categories of acceptance: complete (quan 全), half (ban 半), and minor (shaofen 少分).7 Fellowship letters also document Zhuhong’s promotion of, as well as counseling on, the five lay precepts. These epistolary sources further tell us that some of Zhuhong’s precept-disciples wished to augment their commitment to this disciplinary regimen by taking the bodhisattva precepts, a request that we know Zhuhong honored in the case of Tao Wangling, Wu Yingbin, Yu Chunxi, and Wen Gu 聞谷 (n.d.), among others. And in a letter to Huang Hui, Zhuhong agreed to let him take the bodhisattva precepts at home in his own private

6 The first five Buddhist precepts are the same in all standard monastic and lay precept compilations, though monastic practice exacted a considerably stricter interpretation. The five upāsaka precepts, already listed in chapter 2, are only one of the four sets of precepts that might be conferred upon a lay adherent. The others are, respectively, the eight precepts (baguan zhaijie 八關齋戒), the ten virtuous precepts (shishan jie 十善戒), and the bodhisattva precepts (pusa jie 菩薩戒). 7 In contrast, the Sarvāstivādins conferred all five precepts together: only then did they call someone a lay adherent (Skt. upāsaka; Ch. youposai 優婆塞). These two models were transmitted to China and variously adopted (though that history is beyond the scope of this study). See Zhuhong, Quanji, 4569.

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ceremony.8 In a further display of how important precept cultivation was to Zhuhong, he also wrote a lengthy commentary on the bodhisattva precepts.9 Chinese precept lists have remained essentially unaltered since the fifth century, when the monastic regulations and the scriptures that shaped their acceptance were translated into Chinese. Early fifth-century interpretations took as authoritative two disparate Indian genres: vinaya texts and Mahāyāna scripture. Although killing of humans and animals was condemned, the vinaya did not create an explicit link between the first precept and a strict meat-free diet. Indian monastic regulations allowed for the consumption of meat from animals that had not been expressly killed to feed the monastic community. When vinaya texts did prescribe the avoidance of eating some animals, the lists were partial and not uniformly consistent. The consumption of some animals was prohibited, not out of compassion, but for more self-serving reasons: apparently, dogs, birds, and eagles could smell the scent of their kind on a monk who had eaten such meat and would chase after him.10 Discussions of whether Chinese monastic communities should restrict the consumption of meat began in the fourth century and evolved over an extended period of time. The list of animals that one should not eat gradually lengthened.11 Under pressure from the laity, by the eighth century, monastic communities adopted a strict meat-free diet.12 By the tenth century, this practice was a well-established part of Chinese monastic life; debates over whether monks or nuns should go without meat, as well as alliaceous vegetables, receded from the later literature. Once a meatless diet became the monastic norm, monks started advocating the same diet for their lay disciples.13 Bio­8 9

10

11

12

13

Ibid., 4485–4488. Zhuhong, Fanwang pusa jie jing yishu fayin (X679). For an extended discussion of this text, see Matthew Wilhite, “The Dharma of Obedience: Yunqi Zhuhong’s Realist Interpretation of the ‘Brahma Net Sutra’” (Ph.D. diss., University of Iowa, 2013). Some texts forbid eating of elephants and horses because they were used for military transport. Birds and eagles are listed separately in Yifa’s translation—eagles were not categorized under “birds.” For an enumeration of which animals were prohibited in which vinaya texts, see Yifa, The Origins of Buddhist Monastic Codes in China (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2002), 56–58. See also Kieschnick, The Eminent Monk, 22–28. In discussing earlier centuries, Kang Le sought to link purity and vegetarianism—a link not found in the sixteenth-century texts I have encountered thus far. Kang Le 康樂, Fojiao yu sushi 佛敎與素食 (Taipei: Sanmin shuju, 2001). Michihata Ryōshū 道端良秀, Chūgoku Bukkyō shisōshi no kenkyū: Chūgoku minshū no Bukkyō juyō 中国仏教思想史の研究 : 中国民衆の仏教受容 (Kyoto: Heirakuji Shoten, 1979), 275–291. See Kieschnick, The Eminent Monk; Kieschnick, “Buddhist Vegetarianism in China,” in Of Tripod and Palate, ed. Roel Sterckx (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 186–212.

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graphies of monks attest to some success in this push. They describe lay followers who gave up meat, closed butcher shops, and burned fishing nets. Their success, however, did not preclude further debate on how strictly lay communities ought to adhere to a meatless diet, an issue that remained unresolved throughout the sixteenth century and beyond. Only Mahāyāna scriptures unequivocally linked the precept against killing with a diet entirely free of meat: translated in the early fifth century, both the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra and the Mahāparinirvāṅa Sūtra forbade the eating of all meat. However, this late sixteenth-century Buddhist fellowship did not cite passages from either scripture in the essays they wrote in favor of a meat-free diet. In later centuries, Chinese monastic and lay interpretations of the first precept were predominantly influenced by The Brahma’s Net Sūtra (Fan wang jing 梵網經), also a fifth-century text, but of Chinese or Central Asian origin, which endured as an authoritative guide to the cultivation of bodhisattva precepts. The eighth-century Śūraṃgama Sūtra, revered by sixteenth-century Chinese Buddhists, also had an impact on later arguments against eating meat. Indeed, in their prefaces and collections of karmic tales, Zhuhong’s disciples frequently cited these latter two texts.14 More significantly, to persuade their peers to kill fewer animals and eat less meat, Zhuhong’s precept-disciples often shared karmic tales they themselves had collected. Zhuhong’s didactic compilation On Not Killing and Releasing Life certainly offered them an exemplary template for that endeavor.15 To help his readers master the karmic logic of cause and effect relations, Zhuhong’s text imparted the skills needed to interpret all sorts of situations: dreams, strange encounters with animals, death, and past and future lives. In his exhaustive portrayal of heart-wrenching animal deaths, Zhuhong questioned the cultural acceptability of meat consumption. To prove that the law of karma was a pervasive, inimitable social fact readily apparent in real-life situations, Zhuhong reinterpreted stories drawn from Confucian, Buddhist, Daoist, and other sources. He also added contemporary eyewitness accounts, specifically stating that these stories were not mere “hearsay” (chuanshuo 傳說). The end result was a rich catalog of karmic tales.16 14

15 16

Even though scholars consider these scriptures “apocryphal” in that they were not translated directly from Indian source texts, long before the sixteenth century both were fully accepted into mainstream Buddhist discourse. For an excellent historical overview of Buddhist vegetarianism in China and references to these texts, see Kieschnick, “Buddhist Vegetarianism in China,” 186–213. Zhuhong, Quanji, 3345–3380. Ibid., 3374, 3352.

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In the hands of a skilled interpreter like Zhuhong, the karmic logic and narrative framing of past stories offered the interpretive structures needed to accurately read the karmic implications of contemporary events. Zhuhong’s precept-disciples were able to borrow these structures and apply them to reallife situations happening around them, recording their own tales of karmic retribution. These new stories were not purely formulaic in their description. In them, the inevitableness of karmic comeuppance was constantly relived, reinvented, and verified through the exchange of new and old stories that helped build interpretive agreement among network members. Stories of karmic retribution resonated with contemporary stories of the strange or grotesque (zhiguai 志怪). Karmic tales utilize the same literary tropes as zhiguai literature, for instance, trips to hell or other realms, and moral reciprocity. But while both genres variously fascinate or repulse, they were written for different purposes. In her study of Liaozhai’s Record of the Strange, Judith Zeitlin analyzed a work that was created in “an age surfeited with writing, when writer’s and reader’s expectations were conditioned less by the world around them than by their familiarity with other literature.”17 In contrast, Zhuhong’s animal tales in On Not Killing and Releasing Life were designed to offer a moral lens through which readers could become habituated to identifying the karmic significance of their immediate surroundings. Zhuhong’s success in this endeavor can be measured in part by the number of prefaces that were written for On Not Killing and Releasing Life. Reprinted at least twenty times, each subsequent edition required a new preface. Many prefaces offered original karmic stories that attested to the writer’s mastery of Zhuhong’s interpretive techniques, further enhancing the veracity of his text.18 In his 1589 letter to Zhuhong, Huang Hui wrote that Jiao Hong had given him a copy of Zhuhong’s texts, evidence that the work circulated among the

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Judith Zeitlin, Historian of the Strange: Pu Songling and the Chinese Classical Tale (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), 11. Though Pu Songling’s collection is greatly admired today, Allan Barr argues that during Pu’s lifetime it was little known outside Shandong. Allan Barr, “Novelty, Character, and Community in Zhang Chao’s Yu Chu xinzhi,” in Trauma and Transcendence in Early Qing Literature. eds. Wilt L. Idema, Wai-yee Li, and Ellen Widmer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006), 282. See also Robert Campany, Strange Writing: Anomaly Accounts in Early Medieval China (Albany: State University of New York, 1996). The publication history of these prefaces and of Zhuhong’s text has yet to be written. We do not know the size of a single print run, who republished the work, the date of publication, or where the texts were disseminated and where presumably releasing-life activities took place.

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Fellowship.19 A number of Zhuhong’s epistolary responses to precept-disciples also mention that he was sending along a copy of the text with his reply. In his Record of Karmic Consequences (Yinguo lu 因果錄), Li Zhi reprinted Zhuhong’s On Releasing Life at the opening of a fascicle devoted to karmic rewards for releasing life—a topic covered in the next chapter—and inserted On Not Killing later in that same fascicle, increasing the circulation of this material.20 Evidence of undesirable local rebirths were also disseminated in texts published by examination elites: Feng Mengzhen’s Scattered Records (Man lu 漫錄), and Wang Qilong’s 王起隆 (n.d.) A Record of New Miracles [Associated with] The Diamond Sūtra of the August Ming (Huangming jingang xinyi lu 皇明 金剛新異錄).21 Both authors assured their audience that the stories were empirical accounts and credited their informants, who were often other members of this network traceable through a variety of biographical and other sources.22 As with Zhuhong’s text, when circulated among this community, such stories of karmic retribution created a sense of urgency. For both author and reader, these stories were sensible reports of actual events and not mere fictional amusements. They quite literally believed that morally suspect behaviors could tip the balance toward rebirth in the animal realm. Arguments in favor of a meatless diet emphasized shared sentience. Ani­ mals, like humans, possessed some level of awareness (zhijue 知覺) and felt pain, especially when faced with an unnatural death. In the following statement, Zhuhong unambiguously equated the killing of humans and animals: “Pain and itching are felt equally by all. For this reason, killing another is the equivalent of killing oneself. Killing an animal is no different from killing a human (殺畜無殊殺人也).”23 Shen Zemin personalized this idea when he equated eating fish from his family’s releasing-life pond with eating his own 19 20 21 22

23

Zhuhong, Quanji, 4480–4481. Li Zhi, Yinguo lu, reprint in Li Zhi quanji zhu, vol. 18, 1–103. Wang Qilong 王起隆 (z. Jiyan 季延 h. Zhi’an 止庵) attained the zhusheng and was from Xiushui (Jiaxing), Zhejiang. Huangming jingang xinyi lu (X1633). Pu Songling also named contemporary informants and made truth claims about the events he described, lending an aura of factuality to his accounts. However, the karmic tales recorded by Zhuhong, Feng Mengzhen, and other precept-disciples were written for a religious purpose. Feng Mengzhen’s informants were those who shared his acceptance of Buddhist doctrine, often recording their own accounts of karmic events. Likewise, Zhuhong sized up the character of his informants and wrote down only what was told to him by the morally upright. Despite the sweeping commonalities suggested by this passage, Zhuhong did not think plants and rocks possessed sentience—a view that was occasionally proposed in some Chinese exegetical circles. Zhuhong, Pusa jie wenbian (X681: 38. 235.a2–8).

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flesh and blood.24 On Not Killing and Releasing Life emphasized the shared sentience of humans and animals through stories that depicted the excruciating pain and fear animals felt when they sensed death was near: oxen refused to leave their pens, pigs cried, and a mother deer’s intestines ruptured into a thousand pieces as she watched her son slowly expire.25 Nevertheless, such acute, human-like emotional responses did not lead Zhuhong to conclude that killing animals resulted in the same level of demerit incurred from killing humans. There were significant differences, usually reflected in a five-to-one ratio: intentionally killing an adult resulted in one hundred demerits; intentionally killing a useful domesticated animal, twenty. In Zhuhong’s Record of Self-Knowledge (Zizhi lu 自知錄), demerits incurred from killing an animal were based on whether the animal was harmful or beneficial to humans, large or small, domesticated or wild. Each act of killing or harm required a specific and graded response. Hence, killing an animal harmful to humans warranted only a single demerit, whereas flogging an exhausted work animal resulted in one demerit for every stroke, and cooking animals in a way that creates excruciating pain, twenty.26 Most Buddhists, Zhuhong included, recognized that animals lagged behind humans in intelligence and were of limited spiritual aptitude. Nonetheless, the network greatly admired animals that ostensibly cultivated Buddhist practices. Animals are depicted executing the following religiously liberative behaviors: parrots recited the name Amitābha Buddha; animals listened to the Dharma; they moved in rhythm to the tempo of a recitation; they circumambulated, bowed, or knowingly approached a sūtra table. Two geese who moved in rhythm to the tapping of the wooden fish when family members recited the Diamond Sūtra eventually died standing in front of the sūtra table: they were buried at Pure Karma Monastery 淨業寺 and called “the geese who listened to the sūtras.”27 In this and other examples, animals do not initiate Buddhist practice nor create new methods; they merely imitate the ritual behaviors of humans. One might be tempted to think that the genre of karmic tales was created for the benefit of uneducated commoners, yet the following spider stories 24 25

26

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Shen Zemin, “Shenshi fangsheng chi beiji,” in Xihe ji, 70.11. For an extended treatment of animals’ human-like emotional characteristics, and more citations to Zhuhong’s texts, see Joanna F. Handlin Smith, “Liberating Animals in MingQing China: Buddhist Inspiration and Elite Imagination,” Journal of Asian Studies 58, no.1 (1999): 51–85. See Zhuhong, Quanji, 2253, 2275, 2279. For a complete translation of the Record of SelfKnowledge, see Chün-fang Yü, Renewal of Buddhism, 233–259; for these particular passages, see 245–247. Wang Qilong, “Shuang e lihua,” Huangming Jingang xinyi lu (X1633: 87.498.a4–10).

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indicate that elite, well-educated men like the Yuan brothers and Huang Hui believed that insects could respond piously to Buddhist recitations. In a letter to Zhuhong, Huang Hui wrote that he built a small stūpa and memorialized a spider who had died “listening” to him recite the name Amitābha Buddha.28 Once, when the mother of the Yuan brothers was reciting the Diamond Sūtra, a spider descended into the room, circumambulated the sūtra table, bowed, and died. Family members were so moved that they gave the spider a monk’s burial and also constructed a stūpa.29 While Zhuhong’s letter in response to Huang Hui offered approval for Huang’s actions, Zhuhong expressed some skepticism toward such present-day animal and insect behaviors. In his interlinear comments to the Tang and Song Dynasty stories recorded in Rebirth Biographies, of parrots and myna birds who recited the name Amitābha Buddha, Zhuhong wrote that, unlike those birds, contemporary birds no longer recite with sincerity and thus there are no new tales of birds reborn in the Pure Land.30 Zhuhong’s disciples continually reiterated two of the most salient reasons to abstain from killing animals and eating meat: all sentient beings are, in fact, our parents from past lives, and all sentient beings by virtue of their inherent buddha-nature are also potential future buddhas. The first assertion was based on the Brahma’s Net Sūtra: “All men are our fathers. All women are our ­mothers. All our existences have been taken from them. Therefore, all the living beings of the six realms are our parents, and if we kill them, we kill our parents …”31 Given the Chinese moral imperative to be filial, the thought that one’s parents 28

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31

There are various versions and references to this story: Zhuhong, Quanji, 4490; Peng Shao­ sheng, Jushi zhuan (X1646: 88.259.a19). For Huang Hui’s epitaph and other details about the stele he erected, see the temple gazetteer Jifu fancha zhi, 114–116. See Wang Qilong,“Zhizhu tuohua,” Huangming Jingang xinyi lu (X1633: 87.499.c18–20); Peng Shaosheng, Jushi juan (X1646: 88.269.a6–9). For a discussion and partial translation of this story, see Joanna F. Handlin Smith, The Art of Doing Good: Charity in Late Ming China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 32, and 297 footnote #104. Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.147.c17–19). A later compilation, Xifang huizheng lu 西舫彙征 錄, reprints some of Zhuhong’s animal stories and adds others about fish, snakes, and chickens that recite, and a dog that bows. This excerpt has been translated by M.W. de Visser and later revised by Jane Marie Law in “Violence, Ritual Reenactment, and Ideology: The Hojo-e (Rite for Release of Sentient beings) of the Use Hachiman Shrine in Japan,” History of Religions 33, no. 4 (1994): 325–26, reprinted in Duncan Ryukan Williams, “Animal Liberation, Death, and the State: Rites to Release Animals in Medieval Japan,” in Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds, eds. Mary Evelyn Tucker and Duncan Ryukan Williams (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions, 1997), 149–162. For the Chinese original see Fanwang jing (T1484: 24.1006.b10–12).

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or grandparents might be served for dinner was particularly disturbing.32 The claim that animals possess buddha-nature led many to suggest that killing an animal would incur grave consequences equivalent to killing a buddha. In principle, sixteenth-century lay adherents abstained from eating fish and shellfish as well as beef, pork, chicken, and other meats. Still, such a comprehensive list did not preclude further debate. Tao Wangling’s essay “The Story of the Relics of a Crab (Hanzi sheli shuo 蚶子舍利說)” introduced the case of a practitioner who had stopped eating meat, but not shellfish. Readily acknowledging how difficult it was to give up meat, Tao described a gradual process. First, the practitioner should abstain from eating ferocious animals, then domesticated animals, and finally, soft animals incapable of escape, such as shellfish—a much harder task given their exquisiteness. Blaming current dietary confusion on misguided Confucians, Tao raised this question: How does one justify what one eats? Tao wrote: [A certain] He Zhe stopped eating meat, but he could not give up eating oysters. For this reason, he asked his disciples to debate whether or not he should eat them … I think that the majority of those who share the same ideas as Zhe are cruel towards animals that are soft/weak while fearing those that are hard/unyielding. They fear tigers and leopards but cook chickens and pigs. When they refrain from eating chickens and pigs, they then eat shellfish. The weaker the animal, the crueler they are in abusing it … At the slightest provocation, debased Confucians (louru 陋儒) throw out a few justifications. They have a pretext for greed. They even have a justification for killing (sha 殺) …33 Tao Wangling concluded this text with the story of someone who bit into a clam only to find that the center was as hard as a relic, an indication that the expired clam had a high level of spiritual attainment. Tao exclaimed, “Flesh eating flesh, buddhas eating buddhas. How utterly lamentable! How absurd!”34 32

33 34

The Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci countered in his 1603 publication Tianzhu shiyi 天主 實義 that if one was so worried about eating a “relative” for dinner, then why not be compassionately concerned about animals used for plowing fields or about whether one’s current wife was one’s mother in a previous lifetime? For a translation of some passages and an extended treatment of this controversy, see Chün-fang Yü, Renewal of Buddhism, 87–90. Eric Reinders also comments usefully on Ricci’s text in Borrowed Gods and Foreign Bodies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 146–170. The debate was not a new one: Tao Wangling presented several historical precedents in which there were debates over eating shellfish. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 1710–1711. Ibid.

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The monk Deqing echoed this same sentiment in a postface to Zhuhong’s On Releasing Life: In regards to all sentient beings, because they have awareness and sensation (zhijue 知覺),35 they all possess buddha-nature. If one takes a life, then this is to cut short a buddha-nature. This [action] is not restricted to the avenged and his creditor mutually seeking each other out (yuan zhai xiangxun 冤債相尋).36 Because of this, one also remains in the long kalpa of saṃsāra, continually being reborn in the six paths: there is no place that one is not reborn, nor any body that one does not inhabit. Those that one kills are one’s fathers, mothers, brothers, wives, and children from previous existences.37 Deqing’s exhortation reiterates the Brahma’s Net Sūtra teaching that intrafamilial connections spanned centuries. Deqing and Tao Wangling both believed that, because all sentient beings possessed buddha-nature, one should not eat them. These two ideas, that all sentient beings are potential buddhas and that all sentient beings have a personal familial connection to each other, remained a cornerstone of late sixteenth-century literature on the first precept. Deqing further concluded that to refrain from killing was the greatest act of filial piety and the gateway to buddhahood. Vengeance was another grave religious concern. Countless stories echoed Deqing’s sentiment that slaughtered animals might exact revenge. In one of his many essays on the topic of meat consumption, the well-known playwright Tu Long drew a direct connection between eating animals and the engendering of resentment. Tu Long cited several lines from the Śūraṃgama Sūtra passage on the relationship between eating meat and becoming an animal: “Based on the ability of the strong to overpower the weak, upon encounter, the strong eat the weak … Because humans eat mutton, the dead sheep become humans, and when humans die they become sheep … In death after death, life after life they mutually consume each other.” He added the following: “In this 35

36 37

There are various other translations for this term, especially “perception” or “consciousness.” In this discussion of the sentient nature of animals, my preference is to use “awareness” (as presented a few pages previously) or “awareness and sensation.” The phrase concerns two parties: the enemy (yuanjia 冤家) and a creditor (zhaizhu 債 主), who are mutually locked in a cycle of revenge and debt. Deqing’s preface (page 1648) to another text, The Record of Immediate Retribution for Killing (Shasheng xianbao lu 殺生現報錄), repeats these same themes of familial interconnection between humans and animals, a shortened lifespan, and rebirth in hell for those who ate meat. Deqing, “Fangsheng wen ba,” in Mengyou ji, 1646–1647.

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karmic cycle it is difficult to escape the mutual confrontation of enemies (yuan dui xiangxun 冤對相尋).”38 Undoubtedly, this was a particular hazard of some professions. Zhuhong’s Rebirth Biographies recounts the dream encounters of butchers chased by oxen, and chicken handlers whose eyes are almost pecked out. Horror-stricken, these men piously recite the name of Amitābha Buddha and leave their profession.39 On Not Killing and Releasing Life repeats the story of a butcher who was deprived of the ability to enunciate his dying words—he could emit only the sounds of an ox. In another, an eel seller’s body twisted into the shape of an eel as he expired.40 In his preface to On Not Killing and Releasing Life, the prominent playwright Tang Xianzu 湯顯祖 (1550–1617), a close friend of Tu Long, also offered local evidence of this vengeful karmic cycle. Attempting to warn his readership of the dangers present in ignoring the doctrines of karma and rebirth, Tang recounted a story told to him by a relative about a villager who, at the wishes of a beautiful maiden, often shot down kingfishers. The birds resented her intensely. Upon her death, a large kingfisher flew out her window. Shocked by this story of his neighbor being reborn as a kingfisher, the relative became a vegetarian, wore straw shoes, ploughed the fields with his own feet (rather than with an ox), and forbade his wives to use hair ornaments made from animal parts. The relative reasoned that by doing so he would avoid offending humans who had been reborn as animals. In his conception, animals—and apparently, even dead animal parts—still embodied some aspect of their previous human life. In this respect, Tang, like Feng Mengzhen, too, believed that future rebirths could retain traces of a former life. Stories of karmic retribution paired transgressors and transgressed in a cycle of mutual karmic destruction. Imagined in very personal terms, the power of another’s enmity to affect both one’s current lifespan and future rebirth prospects induced anxiety. When wrongfully accused humans were reborn as animals, they could return to exact revenge. The destructive power of resentment is amply illustrated by the story of a local landlord in Hangzhou 38

39 40

I have added the ellipsis to indicate where Tu Long condensed various passages from the sūtra. Tu Long, “Quan yu biqiu wen,” Hongbao ji, 30.2–3. Though some Buddhists, past and present, object to attempts to create one-to-one correspondences between actions and their results, the Śūraṃgama is not the only scripture to make such claims. See, for example, the Foshuo fenbie shan’e suoqi jing 佛說分別善惡所起經. This text has a long list: the hateful become snakes, the lustful become insects, and so forth. The monk Jiexian 戒 顯 (1610–1672) also lists correspondences in his 1644 Xianguo suilu (X1642: 88. 38.c22–23). See also Zhuhong, Quanji, 3373. Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.146.b25-c10). Zhuhong, Quanji, 3377–3378.

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named Lin Hao. In Feng Mengzhen’s telling, Lin took a tenant to court for failure to pay rent on time. Because Lin greatly exaggerated the extent of the problem, the judge ordered a severe lashing, which caused the tenant’s death on the third day of the sixth month of 1584. Some months later, Lin had a dream in which he saw a snake curled up on his pillow. The snake was his former tenant, who told Lin that he must repay (chang 償) him with his life. The next day Lin and his father arranged for Buddhist ceremonies, but it was to no avail. Lin died exactly a year after the tenant, on the third day of the sixth month of 1585. This story is somewhat unusual in that the performance of Buddhist ceremonies did not offer the expected reprieve. Nevertheless, in his assessment of this story, Feng found the retribution just. Humans responsible for the death of another human or an animal could be taken on a trip to hell. There, the vengeful spirits of the aggrieved confronted them, wishing to exact great harm. To override the negative effect on their own rebirth prospects, such travelers were advised to practice diligently and accumulate enough merit to liberate the aggrieved animal or human from hell. Such is the case in the following story, which tells of a group of humans seeking justice for their (presumably wrongful) deaths at the hands of an official. In 1613, an official named Wu Yide 吳奕德 visited a monk and had an awakening, after which he took a vow, kept a vegetarian diet, and made copies of the Diamond Sūtra, which he distributed to others. Nevertheless, one day while bathing in the river, he suddenly became ill and died. But shortly thereafter, Wu returned to life. He recounted how during his “death” he was given a tour of hell, where he was practically assaulted by 180 dead people, who held him responsible for their deaths. Not remembering any of them, Wu assumed that his judicial rulings had resulted in their deaths. However, because his family kept a vegetarian diet and copied the Diamond Sūtra, Wu was allowed to resume his former life. Henceforth, he recited the Diamond Sūtra in hopes of liberating the aggrieved.41 This story illustrates the hazards of holding office, as well as the degree of enmity the aggrieved dead were believed to be capable of harboring against the living. Protecting oneself from this hostility, and seeking liberation for others, lay in devotional practice and a meatless diet, which apparently had a powerful spiritual prophylactic effect. For the most part, rebirth was considered a local matter: neighbors, friends, and relatives were reborn within geographic proximity, not in some unfamiliar neighborhood or far-off land. When Zhuhong advised followers to keep their eyes and ears attuned to new evidence of karmic causality in the form of community happenings and new deaths, he was quite literally conceiving of rebirth 41

Wang Qilong, “Yide you ming,” Huangming Jingang xinyi lu (X1633: 87.500.a.9-b16).

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in the local vicinity. However, there is one exception. In the late Ming literary world, elite men occasionally praised each other with the term “returned person” (zailai ren 再來人). The term offered the ultimate compliment to men of such dazzling literary talent or ethical fortitude that others thought they could not have possibly achieved it in a single lifetime. Tu Long referred to his friend Yu Chunxi as a returned person; the artist Chen Hongshou 陳洪綬 (1598–1652) and Tao Wangling both received this compliment. Yu Chunxi wrote two prefaces that shed light on this practice. Yu wrote that in 1591 a god descended into a certain Mr. Sun’s room and began discussing past lives. The god identified a Zhangru 長孺 as the reincarnation of the Sulu King Zhongding 蘇祿忠定王 a mythical figure. “Zhangru” was an epithet shared by both Yu Chunxi and Qiu Tan 丘坦 (n.d.), but the Yuan brothers, who knew them both, suggested that the god may have been referring to Qiu Tan, not Yu Chunxi.42 Apparently, Yu Chunxi did not let the matter drop. In yet a second preface, he recounts a small group gathering with the monk Dahuo, wherein they all tried to determine just which person must have been this Sulu King. In the end, Yu Chunxi claimed the distinction for himself. Both texts have a parlor game quality to them, though Yu seems to be pursuing the idea in earnest.43 In sum, Zhuhong and his disciples collected many stories of karmic retribution. Predicated on the karmic logic exemplified in Buddhist literature and verified through an analysis of contemporary incidents, such stories hammered home the very real consequences visited upon those who killed other sentient beings. Connected to humans through generations of familial relations and the potential to become buddhas, animals were thought to retain some aspect of their former human selves. In the opening story, when the nun appeared in a dream she had already been reborn as a pig. The snake on the pillow that Lin Hao encountered was both animal and human. Even ritual implements (see below) and hair ornaments made from animal products were also implicated. More alarmingly, unjust killing was conceived of in very localized terms that recognized the ability of the dead—through rebirth in the same neighborhood, confrontation in hell, or dream contact—to track down 42

43

Qiu Tan is a little studied figure. He was a member of the Gongan literary movement. Two letters that Yuan Hongdao wrote to Qiu Tan are still extant, and he is mentioned in other writings by the Yuan brothers. Yu Chunxi compared this particular rebirth to that of Cao Zhi 曹植 (192–232), who became posthumously the monarch in a fabled kingdom called Zhexu. Sulu is likely a mythical kingdom where a monarch was awarded the title “Zhongding.” Of particular interest here are the open discussions of rebirth that were carried out between Yu and his friends, the Yuan brothers, the monk Dahuo, and others. Yu Chunxi, “Chaoxian yong xu” and “Wuyong xu,” in Yu Deyuan xiansheng ji, 5.4–6.

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the living aggressor. Such stories recount the vengeful feelings of wronged animals, humans, and humans turned animals. However, through recitation, adherence to a meatless diet and other Buddhist rituals, people had the potential to liberate aggrieved humans and vengeful animals, as well as protect themselves. Animals and insects, too, had the potential to liberate themselves through imitating Buddhist practices. The stories presented thus far imagine a recognizable “self” that can be traced from one life to the next. The interlinear notes added to these collections of stories do not comment on the doctrine of no-self or emptiness; instead they take for granted this very real continuation of the “person” from one life to the next. Contrary to canonical claims about rebirth and scholarly arguments against describing Buddhist rebirth as the transmigration of a soul, time and again the writings of this network describe an encounter between humans and animals in which those reborn in the animal realm are recognized by the living as recently deceased family members, servants, and neighbors. The identified human-animal often retains a recognizable propensity, physical gesture, or unfulfilled desire from their former life. In a word, while there may not be a “soul” that endures from one life to the next, these Buddhist prac­ti­ tion­ers assumed that a personal link carried forward from one life to the next, not merely some mysterious abstract karmic residue retained from innumerable past lives.

Buddhist Doctrinal Misgivings about Saving Animals

In contrast to the above tales of karmic retribution, a countervailing tradition of Buddhist morality tales presented animal deaths as a natural, inevitable outcome of the exhaustion of an animal’s current (and unfortunate) fixed karmic lifespan (dingye 定業). If, through death, an animal would be “liberated” for rebirth in a better realm, then why would the slaughter of animals result in the butcher or meat-eater incurring bad karma? By raising such stories, Zhuhong’s contemporaries challenged him to respond to Buddhist doctrinal positions at seeming variance with his own. This issue is presented in Questions Concerning the Bodhisattva Precepts (Pusa jie wenbian 菩薩戒問辯),44 a supplemental 44

This one fascicle text offered a defense of and further clarification to questions that were raised disputing some of the assertions Zhuhong had made in his long commentary on Zhiyi’s commentary on the bodhisattva precepts listed in the Brahma’s Net Sūtra. The full title of the text is Questions and Debate Concerning the Elucidation of the Commentary on the Bodhisattva Precepts Contained in the Brahma’s Net Sūtra (Fanwang pusa jie jing yishu fayin wenbian 梵網菩薩戒經義疏發隱問辯; X681). The title page of the text also

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wenda-style text that Zhuhong wrote in response to questions posed after he finished his commentary on the bodhisattva precepts, a text that circulated among network members. Questions Concerning the Bodhisattva Precepts presents a story within a story. An imagined interlocutor who wanted to eat meat retold the following tenth-century incident (circa 976–984). The story recounts the tale of a monk who was trying to deliver a letter to someone named Bohe. The letter simply stated, “Your task of saving sentient beings has already been completed. Return early. Return early.” It just so happened that Bohe was a large, fifteen-year-old pig. The owner, a butcher, told the monk upon meeting him that when smaller pigs arrived for slaughter, they would frantically run back and forth. Bohe would corral them and convince them to line up and submit willingly to their deaths. When the letter was given to the large pig, as though human it suddenly stood up on two legs and died.45 In the interlocutor’s interpretation, the large pig was really a bodhisattva in disguise. The bodhisattva-pig used expedient means (fangbian 方便, Skt. upāya) to help smaller pigs face the end of their current undesirable karmic lifespan. Zhuhong cautioned that, while bodhisattvas indeed had the ability to kill without incurring bad karma, ordinary humans should not overestimate their own spiritual powers. After all, only bodhisattvas or sages and worthies possessed the power to carry out “cutting, severing, and slicing” without injury to the animal or incitement of retributive vengeance. The mere ordinary human lacked this ability. Undeterred, the interlocutor had a ready solution. To neutralize the destructive emotions of vengeance and animosity, the meat should first be offered to buddhas and sages. Some adherents believed buddhas and sages could assume the karmic sins of the butcher or supplicant and thus reduce animal resentment. Stories abound of Jixiang Buddha accepting meat sacrifices, not because he wanted to eat meat, but out of compassion for those who would incur bad karma from the act of killing. Conceding this point, Zhuhong still argued that the wise refrained from indulging in a meat-laden feast, and that ordinary humans should think about the certainty of merit to be earned by not participating in a sacrifice.46 In his commentary to the Brahma’s Net Sūtra, Zhuhong makes an exception only in cases where bodhisattvas are prepared to save humans or animals by killing them and assuming their place in receiving the

45 46

iden­tifies it by the shorter title presented above, which I will use throughout. For Zhu­ hong’s 1587 commentary see the Fanwang pusa jie jing yishu fayin (X679). Zhuhong, Pusa jie wenbian (X681: 38.240.c10–19). In this instance, Zhuhong is citing a famous gongan attributed to Mazu Daoyi; see Jingde chuandeng lu (T2076: 51.246.b27).

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unremitting punishments of that most dreaded of all places the Avīci Hell, where they surely would have been reborn for inflicting great harm on other sentient beings.47 In other words, despite the introduction of moral complexity and neutralizing solutions, Zhuhong set the bar impossibly high. How this worked in practice is most clear in the exchange of letters between Zhuhong and his zealous disciple Bao Shijie 包世杰 (n.d.), who decided it would be best to save fishermen from certain rebirth in hell by burning their boats and nets. Greatly alarmed, Zhuhong offered numerous complex moral examples to dissuade Shijie from carrying out such a radical plan. Praising his commitment to the bodhisattva vows, Zhuhong reminded Shijie that “bodhisattvas abandon their heads, eyes, marrow, and brains as though discarding an old pair of shoes. If someone were to seek after your head, eyes, marrow and brains, could you bear to have them cut, sever, chop, and pierce you yet [remain] peacefully and happily self-composed without the slightest twitch?”48 In other words, such exceptions were the prerogative of bodhisattvas in possession of supranormal powers, not your average committed practitioner. Still, there was one major exception to this rule: some Buddhist ritual implements were manufactured from cowhides and ram horns. Zhuhong smoothed over this problem by emphasizing the benefits this would bring to the dead animal. He wrote that when these implements were offered to a buddha, the animal used to make them gained merit: “If one makes an offering of a cowhide drum to the Buddha, then the cow also benefits (gong 功). If one makes an offering of a ram-horn lamp to the Buddha, then the ram also ceases to have sins.”49 Presumably, an animal can be aided in this way well after it has died and already assumed a new rebirth in another life form. Those who owned or produced ritual implements for Buddhist ceremonial use may well have been comforted by these words. However, in the next chapter we will see that, interestingly, Zhuhong condemned the use of silk: he did not suggest that silkworms gained any merit if the silk was first offered to a buddha or if the saṅgha wore silk robes. But on the whole, animal-derived ritual implements stand as the primary exception to Zhuhong’s uncompromising proscription against killing animals.

47 48

49

Zhuhong, Fanwang pusa jie jing yishu fayin (X679: 38.168.c9–169.a13). In yet another demonstration of familial ties within this network, it should be noted that Bao Shijie’s son, Bao Hongkui 包鴻逵 (b. 1577, jinshi 1610) was also a Zhuhong preceptdisciple and correspondent. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4501–4506. Ibid., 4691.

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Philosophical Compatibility: Buddhist-Confucian Tensions

In a departure from the more insular genre of karmic tales, this Buddhist fellowship also wrote essays on the first precept that directly engaged the Confucian philosophical tradition. Such essays cited Confucian classics, arguing that there were also Confucian precedents for limiting animal deaths and cultivating a meat-free diet. Yangming Confucians enjoyed considerable support from within their tradition for their interest in Chan teachings, an interest many freely indulged. Nonetheless, this openness toward Buddhist cultivation did not extend to the first Buddhist precept, especially when interpreted to preclude the consumption of meat. The pillars of the Yangming Confucian tradition—Wang Yangming, Wang Ji, and Zhou Rudeng—rejected the notion of a meatless diet, and from 1590 to 1610 Confucian resistance remained the greatest stumbling block to Buddhist attempts to change society’s treatment of animals. Undaunted by such resistance, the more committed of Zhuhong’s precept-disciples and their friends published essays that directly challenged Confucian ethical presuppositions concerning cosmic unity, social hierarchy, loving life, and benevolence. The late sixteenth century ushered in a period of unprecedented wealth, which gave elite men greater access to an abundance of luxury goods, including meat. Meat was swept up in the general Confucian criticism of extravagance in favor of an ethic of frugality. Confucians cautioned their peers to resist excessive indulgence. They did not, however, advocate complete abstention from meat: meat played a crucial role in sacrifices to ancestors, nourishment of elderly (or sick) parents, and entertainment of high officials. In these three contexts, Confucians asserted that the self-cultivated individual responded in a morally appropriate manner only if he first correctly gauged the relational distance between himself and others. In practice, this meant that loving attention to ancestors, parents, friends, and neighbors (in that descending order) was of far greater importance than the care of animals. Yangming Confucians were not heirs to a textual tradition that grappled with the category of sentient beings, the doctrine of karma, or the possibility of rebirth, and they thus had little to say on these issues. When challenging Confucian positions, this Buddhist fellowship changed its tactics. They contended that the sacrifice and consumption of animals was shaped by cultural factors and guided by either personal desires or a misreading of classical texts. Zhuhong’s precept-disciple Tao Wangling stands out for his near point-by-point rebuttal of Wang Yangming’s positions. Executing a different strategy, Tu Long—a lukewarm Confucian—challenged Confucian teachings on both cultural and environmental grounds. On the other hand,

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Jiao Hong—a committed synthesizer of all three traditions—following Hu Zhi, endorsed a revisionist view of early Chinese history. Intimately familiar with both Confucian and Buddhist arguments, these men and others like them chose to challenge Confucians on their own textual turf: they did not introduce elaborate Buddhist doctrinal schemes or insert the many stories of karmic retribution seen in more typical Buddhist publications. A close analysis of their writings will further illuminate the strategies they deployed to persuade those outside the Fellowship to change their diet or at least not kill animals. Four crucial topics had a decisive impact on how Yangming Confucians responded to the question of whether animals could be killed: cosmic unity, social hierarchy, love of life, and benevolence. Wang Yangming’s essay on the Great Learning emphasized cosmic unity: “The great man regards heaven, earth, and the myriad things as one body (yiti 一體). He regards the world as one family and the country as one person.”50 On the face of it, this ontological conception of unity encompassed the Buddhist doctrine of shared sentience. However, Wang Yangming maintained a distinction between an ontological unity and the hierarchical structuring of social relations. In fact, his texts exhibit an affinity with Song Neo-Confucian writings on the ontological and social status of humans and animals. Song Dynasty Confucians, such as Zhang Zai 張載 (1020–1077), Cheng Yi 程 頤 (1133–1107), and Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130–1200), argued for a new metaphysics, postulating that all things in the universe share in the same underlying “substance” (yiti 一體).51 New claims of metaphysical interconnectedness notwithstanding, Song Neo-Confucians still held to an earlier ethics based on The Analects and Mencius that privileged familial relations above all others and in this respect they continued to reject the Mohist position of universal love (jian ai 兼愛). Although Yangming Confucians often rejected Zhu Xi’s teachings, on this particular issue they closed ranks with their Cheng-Zhu counterparts. 50

51

Wang Yangming’s essay Inquiry on the Great Learning (Daxue wen 大學問) cites Mencius 2A:6. For the Chinese, see Wang Yangming, Wang Yangming quanji, 967; for an English translation, see Wing-tsit Chan, trans., A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (1963; reprint, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 659–660. For a more philosophically oriented discussion of both the Song precedents and later Ming understandings of the relation between an underlying cosmic unity and an immediate social hierarchy, see Lin Yue-hui 林月惠, “Yiben yu yiti: Rujia yiti guan de yihan ji qi xiandai yiyi 一本與一體: 儒家一體觀的意涵及其現代意義,” in Chuancheng yu chuang­xin: Zhongyang yanjiuyuan zhongguo wenzhe yanjiusuo shizhounian jinian wenji 傳承與創新: 中央研究院中國文哲研究所十周年紀念文集, edited by Chung Tsaichun 鐘彩鈞 (Taipei: Academia Sinica, Institute of Literature and Philosophy Preparatory Office, 1999), 543–568. Much of the above discussion is based on this article.

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Wang Yangming kept the basic Song Neo-Confucian premise of metaphysical unity but adjusted the theory, positing liangzhi as the shared ontological connection between the natural and physical worlds. Two passages from Instructions for Practical Living (Chuanxi Lu 傳習錄), a purported record of conversations held between Wang Yangming (1472–1529) and his disciples, and the locus classicus for Yangming Confucian teachings, will suffice to establish his position on the treatment of animals: The liangzhi of man (ren 人) is the same as that of plants, trees, tiles, and stones. Without liangzhi inherent in man, there cannot be plants and trees, tiles and stones…. The point at which this unity is manifested in its most refined and excellent form is the clear intelligence of the human mind. Wind, rain, dew, thunder, sun and moon, stars, animals and plants, mountains and rivers, earth and stones are essentially of one body (yiti) with man. It is for this reason that such things as grains and animals can nourish man and that such things as medicine and minerals can heal diseases.52 Unlike the Buddhists who thought that all sentient beings had the potential to realize buddhahood, Wang Yangming allowed that only humans could actualize liangzhi. Shared unity did not mean a shared level of intelligence or potential for moral cultivation: stars, plants, and animals possess liangzhi, yet they cannot actualize it. In stark contrast to the Buddhist deduction that shared sentience and buddha-nature were sound moral reasons to abstain from eating meat, Yangming proposed quite the opposite: joint possession of the same “substance” meant that meat could nourish humans. In this case, similar premises led to radically different conclusions. In the second excerpt, Wang Yangming makes plain that love of plants and animals did not preclude their consumption, nor did such acts trigger a moral dilemma. The excerpt further presents a clear directive on how to cultivate benevolence (ren 仁).53 Wang Yangming was asked if claims about a shared substance (tongti 同體) did not outright contradict the Great Learning, which 52 53

Wang Yangming, Instructions for Practical Living, 222 #274. Chen Rongjie, Wang Yangming Chuanxi lu xiangzhu jiping, 331 #274. The multivalent Confucian term ren 仁 is typically translated as either “benevolence” or “humaneness,” though Ames and Rosemont render it “authoritative,” in an attempt to link ren with the capacity to grasp the social order and the methods for managing affairs. On the advice of the scholar and Confucian expert Lee Ming-huei 李明輝, I translate ren in the second passage (next page) as “unconditional acceptance.” For simplicity’s sake, I use “benevolence” throughout the rest of the chapter.

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taught that “things have root and branch, affairs have first and last; if one knows their order, then they are close to the Way.” Wang Yangming responded that there were no contradictions between the social distinctions prescribed in the Great Learning and his theory of liangzhi: We love (ai 愛) both plants (caomu 草木) and animals (qinshou 禽獸), and yet we unconditionally accept (ren 仁) the feeding of plants to ­animals. We love both animals and men, and yet our mind/heart unconditionally accepts the butchering (zai 宰) of animals to nurture our parents, provide for state sacrifices, and entertain guests…”  We love both our parents and strangers, but consider this: there is only one small basket of rice and a bowl of soup. With them, one will survive; without them, one will die. Since we cannot use this meager fare to save both our parents and a stranger, we will choose to save our parents. Our heart unconditionally accepts this. We can accept this because it is based on the principle of the Way.  As to the relationship between our parents and us, there is no dissimilarity, and thus the two cannot be differentiated on the basis of hierarchy. Being benevolent towards others and sparing with things (renmin aiwu 仁民愛物) follows from this relationship with one’s parents.54 If in this primary relationship we can accept that there is no hierarchical separation, then [everything that follows from that] can be [properly ranked].55 Simply put, when there is only a single bowl of rice, children feed their parents. Wang Yangming’s response privileged the parent-child relationship, clearly distinguishing his position from that of the Mohists and, by association, the Buddhists. His discussion of love was premised on Mencius’ objections in Mencius 3A:5 that the following two Mohist positions were contradictory: first, there should be no gradations in love (愛無差等); secondly, [love] begins with one’s parents (施由親始).56 Mencius argued that the second premise, which he accepted, contradicted the first. If love began with one’s own parents and extended outward, then one loved one’s own child more than a neighbor’s child, a clear indication of gradations in love. Hence, Mencius reasoned that there could be no uniform extension of love toward all humanity.

54 55 56

Wang Yangming is citing Mencius 7A:45. The above translation is based on Wing-Tsit Chan’s translation in Wang Yangming, Instructions for Practical Living, 223. Lau, Mencius 3A: 5.

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Yet, for Wang Yangming, that the family unit was ethically privileged did not contradict his argument that all shared in the same cosmic substance, liangzhi—Wang Yangming’s most significant departure from his Song predecessors. In presenting his case, he again cited Mencius 7A:45: “He is attached to his parents but is merely benevolent towards the people; he is benevolent towards the people, but is merely sparing with things (renmin aiwu).”57 The Confucian exercise of benevolence, Mencius claimed, began with parents and extended outward in ever-decreasing importance: this is the natural order of things.58 Wang Yangming concluded his discussion by way of reference to the Great Learning: “What the Great Learning calls ‘understanding priorities’ (houbo 厚 薄) is a natural adjustment of principle (li 理) based on liangzhi. This cannot be ignored.” Clearly Wang Yangming rejected the idea that if one accepted the theory of a shared cosmic substance then it followed that one was equally required to accept the idea of universal love.59 To the contrary, he claimed that it was precisely this shared cosmic substance that set the framework for prioritizing relations based on an awareness of social obligations and the hierarchical ranking of differences. Despite this clear Buddhist-Confucian philosophical divide, two prominent Confucian ideas—loving life and benevolence—became touchstones for this network and for later seventeenth-century writers who sought common ground between the two traditions. Used to needle recalcitrant Confucians into at least a partial concession, loving life (haosheng 好生) and benevolence were equated with the Buddhist idea of compassion (cibei 慈悲).60 In an effort to persuade their peers to give up meat or at least kill fewer animals, Tao Wangling, Tu Long, and Jiao Hong each developed their own strategies for the co-optation of this Confucian vocabulary and other textual precedents, considerably blurring exegetical boundaries between the two traditions. And yet, 57 58

59

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Lau, trans. See Kieschnick’s translation of an essay by Zhu Xi that cited this same passage in his dismissal of the Buddhist category “sentient being.” That essay relies on many of the same arguments presented here, but with a much harsher tone. Kieschnick, “Buddhist Vegetarianism in China,” 206. Literally “thick and thin,” the term houbo was often employed to express partiality. Borrowing the term, Zhuhong refuted the idea that animals could not be reborn in the Pure Land, stating that those who become confused “make distinctions of favoritism and partiality, and separate humans from animals (迷有厚薄而分人畜).” Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.147.c22–23). There is some overlap between Buddhist compassion (ci 慈) and the Confucian idea of ren, but the two terms are not entirely interchangeable, though Buddhist polemics often equate them.

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Confucian leaders like Zhou Rudeng pushed back against such attempts to bridge this divide by marshalling the very same resources to shore up their own positions and keep Buddhist ideas at bay. In 1601, Tao Wangling and his friends formed a releasing-life society to the south of Kuaiji, in Zhejiang Province. They began excavating a pond for the purpose of releasing captive fish and other aquatic life, although they soon encountered local objections to the project. On that occasion, society members asked Tao Wangling to write a postface to On Not Killing and Releasing Life. One of Zhuhong’s staunchest supporters, Tao Wangling largely advanced Zhuhong’s own justifications and metaphors to defend the practice of releasing life. However, in one significant departure, most likely in a direct appeal to his Yangming Confucian counterparts, Tao framed the debate in terms of mind cultivation. Arguing that there was an intimate connection between cultivating a benevolent or compassionate disposition (mind) and the release of animals, in his postface, entitled “Dispelling Doubts about Releasing Life (Fangsheng bianhuo 放生辨惑),” Tao composed six questions presented in the form of a debate between a Confucian interlocutor and his Buddhist respondent.61 Tao’s work exemplifies the intramural quality of so many of these debates; he framed his arguments in terms of Confucian objections and reinterpreted Confucian texts to argue Buddhist points. In an attempt to gain the upper hand, Tao rejected Confucian claims that it was natural for love to have its gradations. In contrast to the Confucian distinction made between humans and animals, Tao categorized them both as sentient beings. His text opened with the Confucian interlocutor’s objection that saving the insignificant lives of small animals was child’s play unworthy of an official’s attention. Attempting to even out the soteriological stakes, Tao’s Buddhist respondent claimed that “heaven’s mind loves all equally (deng ai 等 愛) …”62 The respondent further argued that cosmic unity, like shared sentience, was sufficient grounds to prohibit killing, and thus the mind/heart should not distinguish between large and small—Tao’s society released mainly birds and fish. With respect to the size of animals, Zhuhong categorized ravens, turtles, and big fish as large (ju 巨); shrimp, snails, frogs, clams, and littler fish were deemed small (xi 細).63 61

62 63

Three of the six questions are philosophical in orientation and will be entertained here, while the other three concern environmental issues and will be discussed in the next chapter. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 1945. Zhuhong, “Fangsheng tushuo,” Quanji, 4775. Deqing makes the same doctrinal point. ­Deqing, “Fangsheng gongde ji,” Mengyou ji, 1329.

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The disaffected interlocutor countered the assertion of “loving equally” by quoting Mencius 7A:45 on the gradations of love, already cited above.64 Tao’s resolute Buddhist respondent pushed on, reasoning that stealing from strangers was an inappropriate way to support one’s parents—an act that would cause parental anxiety. Likewise, asking a butcher to kill an animal for ritual use was inferior to preserving life through renouncing sacrifice. Both of these examples explicitly addressed issues raised in Wang Yangming’s text: supporting one’s parents and sacrificing animals for ritual purposes. Tao Wangling did not accept killing as an inevitable part of a natural social order that lovingly nurtured parents with meat or sacrificed animals during state ritual, thus signaling his rejection of a Confucian norm. Rather, his definition of “love” militated against killing animals under any circumstance. To bolster his position that releasing life engendered compassion, Tao Wangling also claimed that just as a single act of compassion generated a hundred more, a single act of cruelty generated more cruelty. Citing a passage on love from the Classic of Filial Piety, Tao argued that “‘loving one’s parents (aiqin 愛親) keeps people from behaving maliciously towards each other.’65 Likewise, in saving sentient beings (zhong 眾), how could one be cruel towards animals (wu 物)?”66 In this passage Tao introduces the category of sentient being and further shifts the reader’s attention toward animals, asserting that one should foster compassion and a love of life by distancing oneself from the acts and motivations associated with killing them. In the exchanges discussed thus far, Tao Wangling went to great lengths to persuade the reader that loving one’s parents should lead to the protection, not the butchering, of animals. And he did so through citing copiously from Confucian texts. But for the final, sixth exchange in Dispelling Doubts about 64

65

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I have restricted this discussion to the works of Wang Yangming, Zhou Rudeng, and members of the network. Suffice it to say, there were many other parties contributing to this discourse. In a short rumination on chadeng 差等, Chen Longzheng 陳龍正 (1585–1645), a disciple of the Donglin leader Gao Panlong, rejected Buddhist arguments of equality. Differentiation was needed, he argued, to retain order and protect society. Chen Longzheng, “Xueyan xiangji 學言詳記,” in Jiting quanshu 幾亭全書 (Hishi copy held at the East Asian Library and Gest Collection, Princeton University. Original held at the Naikaku Bunko, Tokyo), 20.17.5b. For ease of reference to both the Chinese and English translation, see Roger T. Ames and Henry Rosemont, Jr. trans., The Chinese Classic of Family Reverence: A Philosophical Translation of the Xiaojing (Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 2009), 106. Tao’s text takes the term “things” (wu 物) to mean animals, not inanimate objects. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 1946.

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Releasing Life, Tao reversed the strategy: the Confucian interlocutor now suggested that Buddhist doctrine itself demonstrated that releasing life was an ill-conceived practice. The interlocutor reasoned that this practice was at odds with the Buddhist teaching on the doctrine of emptiness. If one understood nonduality and the doctrine that all things are ultimately “unproduced” (wu­­ sheng 無生; Skt. anutpāda),67 then in cultivating the mind, “how could one go to extremes in protecting the lives of the myriad things? [The practices of] jumping off a cliff or cutting one’s flesh to feed [carnivorous animals] are both conditioned actions.68 Likewise, buying up oysters and snails [for release] only encourages wasteful expenditure.”69 Not only does the interlocutor reject the release of animals, he further rejected Śākyamuni’s sacrifice of his own flesh to save animals as depicted in the two Buddhist jātaka tales mentioned here. Such behaviors are judged mere karma-generating acts that mired one in the conditioned world of saṃsāra. Tao Wangling countered that sacrificing one’s own flesh was both an act of complete surrender of the self and of universal compassion. He further added that animals, like humans, love life and fear death. In a second counterattack, Tao’s Buddhist respondent criticized his adversary’s erroneous grasp of the doctrine of emptiness as dualistic and discriminatory. By privileging the doctrine of emptiness because it was symbolic of the “unconditioned” (wuwei 無 為; Skt. asaṃskṛta), that which is not subject to the laws of causality, while simultaneously criticizing the “conditioned” (youwei 有為; Skt. saṃskṛta), that is, the teaching that all phenomena are impermanent and constantly rising and ceasing in dependence on each other, the interlocutor mistakenly overvalued his own life at the expense of other sentient beings.70 Such partiality to the teaching of emptiness ushered in only stinginess and greed, especially when used as an excuse to dismiss the act of releasing life. Once again, Tao’s text challenged the prevailing social hierarchy: 67

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69 70

Tao Wangling uses “unproduced” (wusheng), “neither rising nor ceasing” (wusheng wumie 無生無滅), and “neither birth nor death” (wu shengsi, seen in the next citation) throughout this discussion to express the same idea—the unconditioned, that which does not depend on causal relations for its existence and neither rises nor ceases, like nirvāṇa. The decision to introduce these two jātaka tales, that is, stories of the past lives of the Buddha Śākyamuni, was likely made because Zhu Xi ridiculed their depiction of severing flesh, finding it too extreme. The two tales are, respectively, the Mahāsattva jātaka and the Śibi jātaka. In the former, the prince Mahāsattva kills himself to feed a hungry tigress; in the latter, a king cuts his flesh to feed a hawk about to kill a pigeon, saving the pigeon’s life. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 1951. For Zhuhong’s explanation, see Zhuhong, “Fangsheng juan hou,” Quanji, 3382–3384.

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Today there are those who emphasize the importance of their own lives while downplaying the lives of animals. Cherishing one’s own life inevitably leads to coveting life. Killing animals is explained away [by claiming that on the highest doctrinal level] there is neither birth nor death (wu shengsi 無生死). This results in an extreme lack of benevolence and is no better than the level of a vulgar scholar.71 Throughout Dispelling Doubts about Releasing Life, Tao Wangling defended the practice of releasing life by drawing attention to mind cultivation, framed here in terms of a commitment to compassion, respect for animal life, proper understanding of the doctrine of emptiness, and a rejection of prevailing social hierarchies. Tao Wangling benefited from both traditions, yet when it came to not killing and releasing life, he sided with the Buddhists. In his refusal to accept the Confucian stance that human life takes priority, Tao Wangling maintained that, ethically, releasing life was both a sound moral choice and a well-conceived practice for cultivating one’s own mind/heart. His definition of compassion, which he equated with the Confucian terms “loving life” and “benevolence,” was founded on the acceptance of equality among sentient beings insofar as they should be allowed to die a natural death. In contrast, Tao’s mentor Zhou Rudeng defended traditional Confucian social distinctions. In several texts written circa 1601, Zhou Rudeng reiterated Wang Yangming’s view that humans and animals both possess liangzhi, realizable to its full potential only in humans. Asked to clarify the meaning of Mencius 4B:19, Zhou reworked the passage, switching the topic to liangzhi while keeping the distinction between humans and animals. Zhou claimed that “the difference between humans and animals is exceedingly small. What people do not know (zhi 知), they can be brought to know. Animals, in the end, cannot be brought to know.” And again, in commenting on Analects 16.8, Zhou claims that the difference between animals and humans lies in the ability of humans, due to their innate “utmost jewel” (zhibao 至寶), to comprehend the teachings of the sages. Zhou’s choice of “knowing” and emphasis on an innate potential reflects Yangming Confucian concerns; he uses these passages from the Analects and Mencius to sort out the difference between animals and humans in ways relevant to sixteenth-century discussions, yet unrelated to the import of the original texts. On the other hand, Zhou Rudeng also reminded his audience that Confucius loved life and exercised great respect for animals. In underlining Confucius’ utmost reverence for the animal kingdom, Zhou criticized those contem­po71

Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 1952.

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raries who were excessively cruel to animals. At a jianghui event held circa 1601, Zhou commented on the death of Confucius’ dog and its subsequent burial by Zilu: “Confucius was poor and he did not have a cover for its burial. Still, he gave the matted cover from his seat so that [the dog’s] head would not become severed [during burial]. Confucius loved life (haosheng 好生) and loved animals in this way. But those of later generations who deviated from the instructions of Confucius in killing animals (shasheng 殺生) and treating them cruelly are many.”72 With respect to killing animals, Zhou reminded his readers that “one should especially reflect on the following: ‘Without reason, do not kill (sha 殺) dogs and pigs,’ and ‘keep one’s distance from the kitchen.’ Both are teachings of we Confucians (wuru 吾儒). One should not neglect them.”73 Addressed to a ru audience, Zhou’s nuanced instruction met the Buddhists halfway and appears to be as much an attempt to shore up an eroding Confucian standard—by invoking a supposedly fixed norm—as it was an attempt to distance himself from Buddhist ethics. Though scholars generally agree on the dominance of Confucian values in sixteenth-century public discourse, Zhou’s writings suggest that such values were no longer taken for granted, certainly not among those who attended his jianghui. The enthusiasm of his close confidant Tao Wangling and other examination elites for a Buddhist ethic that eliminated animal deaths and resulted in a meat-free diet exerted new pressures on Confucian values and lifestyle. For this reason, Yangming Confucian leaders found themselves drawn into these debates. In another challenge to meat consumption, Tu Long discredited the Con­ fucian view that heaven created animals for human consumption.74 Written circa 1590,75 six of his essays repeatedly reiterate a number of points meant to prove that what people ate was directly influenced by custom, not by the will of heaven. Tu Long argued that superior intelligence, and thus the ability to overpower animals, was a poor justification for their consumption. After all, tigers and wolves can overpower humans, yet no one argued that heaven created humans for their consumption. To boot, what was one to make of poisonous 72 73

74 75

The story of Confucius’ dog is recorded in the Book of Rites. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 209. The first citation is from the “Wang zhi (王制)” chapter of the Book of Rites, and the second is from Mencius 1A:7. Both ideas were frequently brought into these discussions. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 453. For similar arguments, see Yu Chunxi, “Tianzhu shiyi shasheng bian,” Yu Deyuan xian­ sheng ji, 20.20–23. The edition of the Hongbao ji 鴻苞集 that I have consulted was published in 1611. However, Tu Long died in 1605, and one essay discussed here is dated 1590; therefore, I place the texts at a considerably earlier date.

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snakes and other noxious animals that humans refuse to eat? Did heaven really create them for human consumption, and if not them, why others?76 Tu further argued that dietary choices were dictated by availability and custom, not by heaven favoring some regional populations over others. Tu highlighted, for example, how absurd it would be to think that heaven created fish only for the delectation of coastal residents, snakes for residents of Guangdong, and so forth. An astute observer of cultural practices and regional differences, Tu easily dismantled the arguments of those who invoked heaven to justify eating meat. In yet another approach, the Yangming Confucian Hu Zhi 胡直 (1517–1585) attempted an historical revisionism not seen in other Confucian exegesis. His long exposition On Prohibiting Killing (Jie shasheng lun 戒殺生論) was cited in toto by Jiao Hong 焦竑 (1541–1620), thereby increasing its circulation well after Hu Zhi had passed away. A prominent Buddhist supporter and confidant of many in this network, Jiao Hong added a concise introduction, in which he proposed the following: the human heart is predisposed to love life and hate killing; however, because humans mindlessly follow custom, they are unaware of this.77 As noted in chapter 1, Hu Zhi moved diachronically between Yangming Confucian and Buddhist traditions. He was a Buddhist for a considerable number of years; late in life he again embraced Confucian positions. Irrespective of this personal history, the essay took on a life of its own. Hu Zhi was offended by run-of-the-mill Confucians (shiru 世儒) who dismissed not killing as merely a Buddhist idea. Presenting a highly charged polemic, Hu questioned whether ru, by relegating the topic of not killing to the Buddhists, were in fact conceding that Confucian sages delighted in killing (lesha 樂殺) and lacked benevolence? In passage after passage from the Analects, Mencius, and the Book of Rites, Hu painstakingly demonstrated that the sages prohibited killing with the exception of the usual three reasons: ritual sacrifice, health of one’s parents, and entertainment of guests. 76

77

This essay comments on Zhuhong’s On Not Killing. Tu Long, “Jiesha wen shi zhuzi,” Hongbao ji, 29.51–54. Yan Maoyou 顔茂猷 (jinshi 1634) also criticized the notion that animals were created to nourish humans. “People all say that animals were created to nourish humans. They do not know that humans are also one ‘animal’ (wu) between heaven and earth.” Yan Maoyou, “Pingji 平集,” section, 8.11r, in Diji lu (1631 preface by Qi Biaojia. Rare book copy, East Asian Library and Gest Collection, Princeton University). Some scholars have written about this essay as though it were indeed Jiao Hong’s original writing. Jiao Hong often copied others’ essays, added a short introduction, and included the texts among his collected works. Hu Zhi, “Jie shasheng lun,” in Heng lu jingshe canggao, 14.1–6. Cited without deviation in Jiao Hong, “Jie shasheng lun,” in Jiaoshi bisheng (reprint, Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1986), 2.36.

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In a series of highly developed arguments, Hu questioned the historical accuracy of prescriptive passages in the Book of Rites and the Records of the Historians. In light of actual historical fact, Hu suggested that the interpretation of such texts required a finer contextualization and more nuanced reading. Hu doubted that King Wen 文 ever ate the hundred and twenty exotic animals (deer, birds, and countless varieties of fish) kept in his nine-hundred-acre park and listed in the Book of Rites. In reading against the grain, Hu drew attention to animals spared from death through the benevolence of sages and kings. For example, the legendary ruler Yu 禹 saved the lives of dragons; the Duke of Zhou 周公 drove tigers, elephants, and the like to a safe place; Duke Shao 召公 restricted the collecting of precious birds and strange animals; and Confucius forbade the use of meat from hunts in sacrificial vessels. In his gloss to the story that Fuxi 伏羲 taught men how to farm and fish, and allowed hunting, Hu argued that at the time the world was overrun with fierce birds and ferocious animals. Therefore, Fuxi offered the most humane solution until grains could be planted.78 Nonetheless, despite the sophisticated hermeneutic, the historical veracity of Hu Zhi’s examples should not be taken at face value. Hu further argued that the Confucian virtue of benevolence was the primary path to sagehood and could only be cultivated with the mind/heart of not killing. However, because Confucian teachings allow the consumption of meat in three situations, Hu suggested his readership conclude that the Buddhist interdiction against killing offered the superior path to sagehood. The continued popularity of Hu Zhi’s essay points to how heated and irresolvable an issue this was for both an earlier generation of Yangming disciples and for Jiao Hong and his contemporaries. The arguments presented by Tao Wangling, Tu Long, Jiao Hong, Hu Zhi, and Zhou Rudeng rehash the same citations with different interpretive glosses. Tao Wangling took direct aim at Yangming Confucian positions, while Tu Long attempted to turn Confucian logic back on itself. Some essays, like Hu Zhi’s, are extraordinarily well crafted, yet no single essay possessed the persuasive power needed to put the issue to rest. The evidence indeed points to unbridgeable phi­losophical differences between the teachings of Wang Yangming and monks like Zhuhong. The members of this Buddhist network were well versed in arguments both for and against not killing animals, though they were partial to Buddhist explanations of the causal connection between all sentient beings. The more committed Buddhists criticized Confucian ethics because it stopped 78

The monk Zhanran Yuancheng also repeated this point in his commemoration of a releasing-life pond at White Lotus Monastery. Zhanran Yuancheng, “Bailian si fangsheng ji,” in Zhanran Yuancheng chanshi yulu (X1444: 72.824.b5).

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short of their ultimate goal of not killing animals and not eating meat–the first precept. How many of their peers chose to join them as a direct result of these proselytizing efforts is not known, but it is likely that, despite the many inroads made by Fellowship members, their arguments had limited effect outside Buddhist-sponsored forums—which did draw a crowd. And yet Yangming Confucians could not simply ignore the topic or put it behind them in a show of cultural dominance. The unremitting efforts of this network and its allies succeeded in making not killing a frequent topic of both Confucian and Buddhist discourse.

Monastic Contributions to the Debate

Examination elites were not the only ones citing Confucian texts to argue in favor of a Buddhist ethic. Sixteenth-century monks too made an excursus into Confucian territory in their efforts to persuade ru audiences to adopt Buddhist standards of moral conduct. Some of these monks relied on the long-established Buddhist strategy of homologizing the five lay precepts with five Confucian virtues.79 Others, like Zhuhong, boldly reinterpreted passages from the Confucian classics. In an effort to demonstrate Buddhist moral superiority, Zhuhong wrote that Confucian moral prescriptions were too lax to effectively alter one’s karmic trajectory. In Questions Concerning the Bodhisattva Precepts, Yu Chunxi assumes the role of Zhuhong’s Confucian interlocutor and asks whether Confucian virtues were not sufficient in themselves. After all, Confucians already had the ceremonies and guidelines of the Duke of Zhou and Confucius, and the three precepts and four interdictions of the Analects; what more did they need?80 Zhuhong replied rhetorically: When is it ever acceptable to kill a living organism? His response pointedly highlighted Confucian ethical shortcomings:

79

80

The practice of homologizing the first five Buddhist lay precepts and five Confucian virtues began centuries previous; for one of the earliest examples, see the Sūtra of Trapuṣa and Ballika (Tiwei boli jing 提謂波利經), written by Tanjing circa 460 and discussed in Zongmi, Inquiry into the Origin of Humanity, trans. Peter Gregory (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995); Peter Gregory, Tsung-mi and the Sinification of Buddhism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 281–286. Zongmi’s example is better known in current scholarship, due to Peter Gregory’s efforts, but there are many more Buddhist examples. For the three precepts, see Analects 16.7; for the four interdictions, see Analects 9.4. See also Wang Ji, “San jie shu,” in Quanji, 559–61.

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The interdictions of the Confucians and Buddhists are largely similar, but in looking at both their general [import] and specific [recommendations], they are different. For example, among the five [Buddhist] precepts, the first precept [says], “Do not take life.” This means that there should be absolutely no killing. But the Confucians merely discuss not killing ox, sheep, dogs, or pigs without a reason. They do not say, “Do not kill.” They just say, “Use a hook, not a net [when fishing], and do not shoot at roosting birds.” They do not say, “Do not use hooks or nets.” From this, we know that Confucian precepts are for the good of living in this world, whereas Buddhist precepts are for the good of escaping this world. As for ru taking Buddhist precepts, this has been the case from ancient times and is not sufficient to cause a stir.81 In their unequivocal injunction against killing animals, Buddhist dicta clearly represented a higher moral standard, or so Zhuhong thought. Confucian ethical standards came up short on two key fronts. Firstly, they lacked the rigorousness and refinement of the Buddhist ban on killing, which extended even to insects. But more alarmingly, their soteriological benefit was insufficient. Merely counseling prudence in the preservation of animal populations and advising caution against overharvesting may very well have spared the lives of some animals, but it had no spiritually liberative effect on humans who fished or shot birds. In a highly selective manipulation of passages from the Confucian classics, Zhuhong challenged claims that Confucius killed animals (Analects 7.27) and participated in the “crass” custom of fighting over a catch in the hunt (Mencius 5B:4), that is, to use it in a sacrifice. Zhuhong’s short essay entitled “An Explanation of Fishing and Shooting (Diao yi shuo 釣弋說)” cited Analects 7.27: “The Master fished with a line, but did not use a net; he used an arrow and line, but did not shoot at roosting birds.”82 Zhuhong manipulated this passage by slipping in a one-character interpolation: “The master said, ‘Fish with a line, but do not use a net …’” This small adjustment positioned Confucius as the wise outlier who commented on others’ undesirable customs. Zhuhong sug81

82

Yu Chunxi is named as the interlocutor for the first twenty-two questions presented in this text. Zhuhong, Pusa jie wenbian (X681: 38.233.a12–23). The above translation closely follows that of Chün-fang Yü, Renewal of Buddhism, 71, but I have made slight modifications. Analects 7.27. The translation is by Roger T. Ames and Henry Rosemont, Jr., The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation (New York: Ballantine Publishing Group, 1998), 117.

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gested that Confucius, up against a strong dominant tradition of hunting and meat eating, offered the most benevolent guidelines that he could, in effect reducing animal deaths.83 Making Confucius an exemplar of “not killing” was wishful thinking, but Zhuhong was not the only monk to link the Buddhist definition of “not killing” with the Confucian virtue of benevolence. Both Hanshan Deqing and Hanyue Fazang 漢月法藏 (1573–1635) equated the Confucian virtue of benevolence with the first Buddhist precept, to not kill. Both homologized the first five Buddhist precepts (abstention from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, or consuming intoxicants) with the five Confucian virtues: benevolence, rightness, propriety, trustworthiness, and wisdom. In Rites and Rules of Conversion (Huasheng yigui 化生儀軌), Deqing claimed that Confucian benevolence was in itself an interdiction against both taking life and eating meat. Deqing further claimed that not killing leads to long life, harmonious relations with others, and abundant sons and grandsons.84 Fazang, too, equated benevolence with not killing.85 Still, such correspondences were quite a stretch. Confucian texts stressed prudence and self-discipline, but they did not advocate a meatless diet, nor did they connect wisdom with abstention from alcohol, the fifth precept.86 Thus far, this chapter has focused on two genres that this Buddhist fellowship employed to convince their peers to end cruelty to animals and adopt a meat-free diet: Buddhist tales of karmic retribution, and essays that drew extensively on Confucian classics. The first genre emphasized karmic retribution, shared sentience, and the interconnectedness of animals and humans. Such texts remained within the boundaries of Buddhist literary concerns and did not directly engage in the arguments of other exegetical traditions. The second genre branched outward into Confucian territory in a direct challenge to Confucian philosophical positions. As seen in this section, monk commen­83

84 85 86

See also his reference to Analects 10.18, a passage wherein Confucius is described eating meat. Zhuhong cited only the following excerpt: “When his lord made a gift of livestock, he would rear it.” For a comparison, see Mencius 5B:5. Zhuhong, “Diao yi shuo,” Quanji, 3381–82. Not stealing leads to prosperity in one’s next life and so forth. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 2494, 2496, and 1646. Hanyue Fazang equated numerous lists of five with the five precepts. Fazang, Hongjie fayi (X1126: 60.581.a21–24). An 1825 preface to Ouyi Zhixu’s Extensive Collection of the Essentials of the Householder’s Precepts (Zaijia lu yao guangji 在家律要廣集) repeats the same parallels between the five precepts and the five constants, indicating that homologization remained an attractive strategy in later periods. Shen Qiqian 沈起潛 (n.d.), “Zaijia luyao guangji xu” (X1123-A: 60.447.a21).

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taries, too, attempted to assert Buddhist superiority through equating Buddhist precepts with Confucian virtues. These genres offer insights into how this network conceived of their religious role vis-à-vis the lives of animals but tell us little about actual practice. Therefore, the remaining sections of this chapter will shift to a consideration of the real dietary accommodations this network instituted with respect to state sacrifice, entertaining guests, and eating more generally.

Animal Sacrifice: Resistance and Accommodation

Buddhists and Confucians shared concepts of good governance. In fact, the written record does not indicate that there were serious Buddhist quandaries over the direction of state rule. Zhuhong’s own Record of Self-Knowledge catalogs the karmic rewards accrued to officials who were loyal to the emperor, devised benevolent policies, and observed the laws and institutions of the present dynasty. However, animal sacrifice for the purpose of state-sanctioned rituals was one point that did pose a problem. To reduce animal killing, Zhuhong offered officials three strategies: buying pre-cooked meats, reciting dhāraṇīs, and prohibiting others from making sacrifices. State prohibitions indicate that people, at least on the face of it, ate less meat than one might suspect. Ming law, following precedents already established during the Tang and Song, prohibited animal sacrifice, hunting, and fishing during the first, fifth, and ninth months and on ten abstention days (zhairi 齋日) during all subsequent months.87 Zhuhong certainly endorsed these prohibitions. His Record of Self-Knowledge underlined their importance: a commoner who killed during prohibition generated twice the demerits. Thus, killing a work animal would now warrant forty demerits instead of the usual twenty. An official who permitted animal killing during the three prohib87

The ten monthly days are: the 1st, 8th, 14th, 15th, 18th, 23rd, 24th, 28th, 29th, and 30th. These ten days are the same days that Buddhist texts call “the ten fast days” (shi zhai ri 十 齋日). On those days, monastic and lay followers attend repentance ceremonies at Buddhist temples. Chinese government prohibition of killing on those days dates to at least the Tang Dynasty. Ch’u T’ung-tsu, Law and Society in Traditional China (Paris and the Hague: Mouton, 1961), 219, cited in Chün-fang Yü, Renewal of Buddhism, 312. See also Liu Shu-fen 劉淑芬, “Nian sanyue shiyi—zhonggu houqi de duantu yu zhaijie 年三月十一— 中古後期的斷屠與齋戒,” in Dalu zazhi 104 no. 1 (2002): 15–33; and no. 2 of the same volume: 16–30; and also Michel Soymié, “Daojiao de shi ri zhai 道教的十日齋,” Faguo hanxue 2 (1997): 28–49. Soymié shows that the ten fast days originated with Daoism and Liu demonstrates how these ten days eventually came to be considered Buddhist.

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ited months also saw his demerits double.88 On a more positive note, Zhuhong wrote that for every day that an official prohibited the slaughter of animals he gained ten merits. Still, Zhuhong was not satisfied. Zhuhong argued that officials understood well the cosmic harmfulness of killing animals. After all, officials prohibited animal sacrifice during prayers that were meant to alleviate natural disasters, especially droughts and floods. He asked, “Why must they wait until there is a disaster and only then prohibit [killing]? Alas! … relaxing this restriction before the disaster has entirely passed—is this not to be deeply regretted?”89 In response to local customs, Zhuhong further criticized the sacrifice of animals when it was employed as an expression of gratitude to the gods: “When praying for good fortune or to avoid disasters and the like, if one does not cultivate good deeds but instead makes an evil promise to sacrifice an animal [if the prayers are answered], this results in ten demerits.”90 Merely promising such a sacrifice netted ten demerits; carrying out the sacrifice added an additional ten. Prescriptive denunciations aside, neither Zhuhong nor the elite officials who agreed with him could change state ritual. In such cases, he offered various measures to lessen the karmic burden on both participant and animal. For example, the Buddhist official Zhao Nianwo 趙念莪 (n.d.) was much distressed by the obligatory animal sacrifice required during state-sanctioned rituals. He thus wrote Zhuhong seeking advice. The monk first praised Zhao Nianwo because his official conduct accorded with the vows and practice of a bodhisattva. He then offered the following compromise: As for following [ritual procedures listed in the] great compendia of offerings and sacrifices, this requires the killing (zaihai 宰害) of many animals. If you do not have the power to save them, then recite a dhāraṇī and recite the [Buddha’s] name as an aid in ferrying them across. This is something that the sūtras permit. There is nothing about this that is unacceptable.91 Intoning a dhāraṇī or reciting the name of Amitābha Buddha was one, albeit minor, strategy that only attempted to alleviate suffering in a future rebirth, not stop the sacrifice. Zhuhong’s Record of Self-Knowledge offered another 88 89 90 91

Zhuhong, Quanji, 2277. Chün-fang Yü, Renewal of Buddhism, 247. Zhuhong, “Zhaiyue jiesha,” Quanji, 3844. Zhuhong also objected to Daoist jiao rites of expressing gratitude to the gods through animal sacrifice, a practice that he argued invited disaster. Zhuhong, Quanji, 3843. Ibid., 4561.

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strategy of avoidance: “When statutes for state or family ritual or [official] banquets require sacrifice of [animal] life, and one buys prepared [meat] dishes in the market, for every hundred mace (baiqian 百錢) thus spent, count one merit.”92 Zhuhong and his disciples often favored this latter strategy. In situations where outright prohibition was not possible, these directives represented small accommodations to the vow taken not to kill. Peng Shaosheng’s eighteenth-century biography of the official Cai Chengzhi 蔡承植 (z. Huaiting 槐 庭; jinshi 1583) claimed that he prohibited those under his jurisdiction from using either alcohol or meat from animals raised by the family in sacrifices to the gods (shasheng jishen 殺牲祀神);93 however, when officiating at ­state-sanctioned rituals, it was unlikely that Cai could avoid following official regulations.

Degrees of Accommodation: Steps toward a Meat-free Diet

Given the plethora of tales of karmic retribution and the passionately written efforts to convince others to give up meat, one might conclude that these men adhered to a meatless diet. But did they really? Just how many of Zhuhong’s precept-disciples refrained from eating meat? How many years they claimed to maintain this diet, and how often they violated their own commitment are extremely challenging research questions. The following three sources offer some insights as to why. Buddhist biographical collections assert that Zhu­ hong’s precept-disciples Cai Chengzhi, Tao Wangling, and the devout layman 92

93

One interlinear note states that baiqian refers to a hundred wen of copper cash, that is, coins that were strung together to form various denominations. The note further adds that this is the equivalent of ten fen silver. Zhuhong, Quanji, 2255. In this instance, I have made minor adjustments to Chün-fang Yü’s translation of the passage. Chün-fang Yü, Renewal of Buddhism, 235, 309 note #1. The official Cai Chengzhi was a Zhuhong correspondent and precept-disciple. There are several substantial Buddhist biographies of Cai Chengzhi, among which Peng Shaosheng’s biography claims that Cai not only recited but also memorized the names of the three thousand buddhas. He also recited the name Amitābha Buddha and was apparently reborn in the Pure Land. Cai served as a prefect in Shaoxing, Zhejiang, and this may account for his friendship with Tao Wangling and others in the network. He is mentioned in a number of monastic gazetteers, which repeat the story of his restoration of an inscription written by the monk Zhenke. Peng Shaosheng, Jushi zhuan (X1646: 88.258.a17-b21). This section of Cai’s biography is translated in full in Smith, “Liberating Animals,” 51–85. Cai’s interdiction is also noted in Chün-fang Yü, Renewal of Buddhism, 93. Yü and Smith both cite only Peng Shaosheng’s biography. I have yet to find external historical evidence that would further verify that Cai could/did in fact prohibit meat sacrifices to the gods.

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Gu Yuan 顧源 (n.d.) all kept a meatless diet, but the texts are quite cryptic. Tao Wangling’s biography simply says that he kept a vegetarian diet. Gu Yuan apparently gave up meat, alcohol, and sex after age forty. Cai Chengzhi gave up meat some time after age twenty, whereas Tao Shiling’s biography of Wang Mochi 王墨池 states that he quit eating meat after he passed the metropolitan examinations. These sources tell us that some men gave up meat late in life and that for others momentous occasions could motivate this change, but they reveal little else.94 To shed some light on the dietary habits and eating strategies of the scholarofficials of the Fellowship, this section analyzes the more detailed descriptions of diet written by Yuan Zhongdao, Tu Long, Feng Shike, and Yuan Hongdao. Our sources tell us that strict adherence to a meatless diet was difficult for examination elites to maintain. They were socially obligated to host lavish dinners for their peers and participate in state sacrifice. The exigencies of official and family life, as well as the continual struggle to exercise self-restraint, all impinged upon the practitioner’s ability to comply fully with the strictest interpretations of the first precept. Yet the threshold for initial compliance was set quite low: modifications in how meat was procured would be sufficient. Rooted in canonical precedents, such minor adjustments made it possible for many disciples to take the lay precepts and begin this form of cultivation, distinguishing themselves from their non-Buddhist peers. Yuan Zhongdao’s essay “Mind Precepts” sheds some light on the ethical issues confronting Buddhist precept-disciples, both in their personal struggles to give up meat and in the etiquette required when entertaining non-Buddhist guests. In linking eating habits to mind cultivation, Yuan Zhongdao did not define religious commitment in unbending opposition to conventional norms, nor did he rigidly demand an immediate transition to a strictly meatless diet. Rather, Yuan Zhongdao’s strategies for compliance were an attempt to accommodate, not alienate. “Mind Precepts” exhibits a degree of context-specific flexibility, offering minor adjustments that were sensitive to the ethical dimension of human relations and elite cultural habits. 94

Many religious biographical compendia, such as Peng Shaosheng’s Biographies of Laymen and Peng Xisu’s A Record of Pure Land Sages (Jingtu shengxian lu 淨土聖賢錄), merely state that someone gave up meat and alcohol or ate a vegetable-based diet (茹素; 蔬食; 斷酒肉). Zhuhong’s Rebirth Biographies is not any more helpful. For the Gu Yuan reference, see Jushi zhuan (X1646: 88.257.b23); Jingtu shengxian lu (X1549: 78.297.c24). For references to Cai Chengzhi, see Jingtu shengxian lu (X1549: 78.289.c17) and Tao Wangling, Jushi zhuan (X1646: 88.262.b23). For Wang Mochi, see Tao Shiling 陶奭齡, Xiao chaisang nannan lu, 1.58. Tao Shiling’s preface to this compilation is dated 1635.

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For practitioners who could not immediately give up meat, Yuan Zhongdao advocated a gradual transition to a meat-free diet. The worst one could do, Zhongdao claimed, was kill an animal for one’s own culinary pleasure. When entertaining guests, it was not easy to upend social custom and treat the guests dishonorably by serving them a meatless meal. In such cases, meat should be bought from markets or butchers. Likewise, if one was an invited guest, it was improper to request a meatless meal or chastise the host for not providing one; this would not revive a dead animal. Instead, Zhongdao advised that guests accept what was served but eat more of the vegetable dishes in preparation for a later transition to a full vegetarian diet. Conversely, when visiting monasteries, one should follow the dietary protocols in place at the monastery, even when staying for extended periods of time. Furthermore, if one had friends who discussed the pleasures of eating meat, one should maintain some distance from them.95 Each of these suggestions addresses the small ethical quandaries precept-disciples faced in their everyday social interactions. Attuned to current elite cultural practice, Yuan Zhongdao presented a number of strategies for meeting a very low threshold—one that still qualified as cultivating the first precept. Yuan Zhongdao’s ideas may appear inconsequential to the modern reader; nonetheless, they were important first steps to those who viewed the cultivation of the first precept as a gradual, decades-long practice. Zhuhong too suggested many extraordinarily small steps a practitioner could take to at least restrict the kind of meat in his diet. In a letter to preceptdisciple Wu Shijin 吳士瑾 (n.d.), Zhuhong addressed the problem this way: Of the five precepts, not killing is the first. To not kill at home is sufficient. If you cannot stop eating meat, it is acceptable to eat just the three clean kinds (san jing 三淨). After gradually entering this marvelous realm, do not eat meat [at all]. Now this is the best of the best.96 The “three clean kinds of meat,” a concept already prevalent in the Āgamas and other early Indian texts, are defined as meat from an animal that was not 95 96

Yuan Zhongdao, “Xin lu,” Kexue zhai jinji, 3.1–3. In his commentary on the bodhisattva precepts, Zhuhong offered not only the list of three clean meats but also a list of nine clean meats. These are defined in the separate reading guide produced for understanding this text and are derived from the Nirvāṇa Sūtra. This list includes the five kinds of clean meat (see below) with the addition of (1) meat from animals absolutely not killed for oneself; (2) dried meat from an animal that had died a natural death; (3) meat from an animal not killed for an anticipated visit, and which had already died beforehand. Zhuhong, Fanwang pusa jie jing yishu fayin shiyi (X680: 38.227. b21–22) Zhuhong, Quanji, 4690.

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killed for one’s own culinary pleasure, and that one had neither seen nor heard being slaughtered.97 This level of compliance did not require the practitioner to abruptly renounce eating meat; it allowed for a few initial dietary constraints in how meat was procured. It also allowed for some relief to those who vowed to give up meat but struggled to do so. Others also followed the practice of eating only clean meat. The eldest Yuan brother, Yuan Zongdao, wrote in a letter to his brother Zhongdao that, despite his vow to not kill, he could not forget the flavor of meat. In a compromise, for ten days of each month he ate one of the three kinds of clean meat.98 In a circa 1597 letter to Tu Long, the monk Deqing praised his yearlong commitment to a meatless diet.99 However, in one essay wherein Tu Long held up a meatless diet as the highest ideal, he admitted his own failings in this area. Already fully habituated to eating meat, Tu too found himself unable to give it up. He suggested that those who shared in his predicament cultivate the expedient practice of eating one of five kinds of clean meat (wu jing rou 五淨肉). The fourth and fifth clean meats are, respectively, an animal killed by another animal, or an animal that dies a natural death. There was, however, one caveat. If one refused to consume any meat other than the five clean kinds, but then offered unclean meat to a guest, this—Tu claimed—inadvertently drew the guest into a cycle of karmic resentment. The host too would suffer. Hence, Tu wrote that he would serve his guests more vegetables and slip in only clean meat.100 In a happy coincidence, the Buddhist definition of clean meat resonated with Confucian guidance on animal slaughter and meat eating found in the Mencius and the Analects. Jiao Hong cited Mencius 1A:7 in summary of the proper attitude a gentleman should have towards animals: “Once having seen them alive, he cannot bear to see them die, and once having heard their cry, he 97

98 99 100

Most of the injunctions against eating meat in early Indian vinaya texts were aimed at the monastic community, not lay adherents. The Four-Part Vinaya (Si fen lü 四分律) explains that monks should not eat meat from an animal that they saw killed, that they heard being slaughtered, or that was killed for them. See an extended explanation in Yifa, The Origins of Buddhist Monastic Codes in China, 56. Yuan Zongdao, Bai Su zhai leiji, 130–131. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 787–788. Tu Long, “Jiesha wen shi zhuzi,” Hongbao ji, 29.54. Though Tu Long ate clean meat, there were also days when he abstained completely from meat. When, in 1590 on his fiftieth birthday, Tu performed a ceremony to feed hungry ghosts, he kept a vegetarian diet. Zhuhong did not want his disciples to sacrifice animals for birthday occasions—and apparently, Tu made at least this effort to comply. Tu Long, “Fang yankou shu,” Hongbao ji, 30.5–7.

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cannot bear to eat their flesh. That is why the gentleman keeps his distance from the kitchen.”101 The proscriptions against observing the death of an animal or consuming the flesh of an animal that one heard die (presumably in pain) echoes the first two Buddhist definitions of clean meat. The further emendation to stay away from the kitchen—which Zhou Rudeng too cited as a Confucian ethical standard—all but precludes participation in the act of killing an animal, and is equally consonant with Zhuhong’s directive against personally killing an animal at home. However, Mencius did not go so far as to advocate a meatless diet, and thus he never claimed that animals could not be killed and consumed.102 Rather, he asks only for the proper accord needed to foster the virtue of benevolence. Nevertheless, despite the heated rhetoric displayed in many of the essays on not killing animals, when the topic turned to dietary constraints, the two traditions navigated common ground, agreeing on some of the most basic accommodative methods. One of the most detailed accounts of a dietary program aimed at limited meat consumption inadvertently reveals the surfeit of meat and seafood available to those of means. In “A Record of Society Rules (She yue ji 社約記),” written for a very small unnamed group about which we know little, Feng Shike professed that he did not eat beef, lamb, dog, or pork. His family was not vegetarian, and when at home, he ate the vegetables on the side of meat platters (rou bang cai 肉傍菜). That said, the family did not slaughter the small domestic animals that they raised and were especially forbidden from killing chickens, believing they possessed five virtues (wu de 五德).103 Geese and duck were acceptable meats, though Feng claimed not to have liked them. He did not eat two kinds of carp, fish without scales, or seafood with claws. Shellfish (xian 蜆) should not be consumed because killing one kills many (presumably the eggs or offspring). Feng Shike chronicled his daily eating regimen: Every morning I eat two bowls of rice porridge. At noon, I eat the same and add one or two slices of meat. In the evening, I eat half as much rice porridge as in the morning and do not set out other dishes (she zhuan 設 饌). If there is a guest, then the dishes should not exceed three (san wei 三 味). If there is a guest from afar, then the dishes should not exceed five. 101 102

103

Lau, trans. In his discussion of this Mencian passage, the Buddhist Yuan Huang 袁黃 (1533–1606) added yet another type of banned meat to the list of three: the flesh of an animal that one raised oneself. Yuan Huang, Qisi zhenquan 祀嗣真詮, ed. Chen Lu 陳錄, 1–29. The five virtues of chickens are literary talent, martial prowess, courage, benevolence, and trustworthiness. Han Ying 韓嬰 (fl. 150 bc), Han shi waizhuan, 2.23.

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I often make a pact with other society members to keep this as our standard (zhun 準).104 What sliced meat Feng ate for lunch is unclear, though it does tell us that he was not a vegetarian—at least not by our standards. Feng’s society was quite small: there were only seven or eight others. That he made a pact with them to follow this regimen, again, points to the social dimension of eating, as does the need to clarify the treatment of guests, though he does not elaborate on whether they should be served meat. Neither do we know if Feng’s was a shortlived exercise (he claims to have been doing it for some time) or something he maintained throughout his adult life. At monthly gatherings, there were also rules about eating. Only four dishes were to be served, two of which Feng identified as vegetable dishes, though he did not say what the other two dishes might be. Feng’s detailed account ended with a justification for his dietary practices. Like Jiao Hong, Tu Long, and others, he cited the Book of Rites and the Analects in support of Buddhist dietary practices. Feng made two points: all beings are interconnected, thus to harm an animal is to harm oneself; and the gentleman (junzi 君子) distinguishes himself from others when he exercises restraint in matters of eating and drinking. The first point argues a Buddhist doctrinal position about the interconnectedness of all beings, already discussed above. Clearly, like many others in this network, Feng Shike did not see a conflict between his Confucian sources and his Buddhist practices. A precept-disciple of Zhuhong, his many essays on Buddhist subjects extended well beyond a narrow consideration of diet. Feng Shike also wrote about other precepts and raised financial support for the excavation of releasing-life ponds. In the latter context, he is seen in the company of other Zhuhong disciples.105 In a more surprising development, in a circa 1597 commemoration for the Medicine Buddha Hall at Cloud Dwelling Monastery, Yuan Hongdao wrote that, during his three visits that year to the West Lake in Hangzhou, he stayed at Cloud Dwelling Monastery precisely because Zhuhong did not insist that he give up meat. Despite the fact that Zhuhong’s essays strongly advocated not 104 105

Feng Shike, “She yue ji,” in Feng Yuancheng xuanji, 19.53a. Also cited in Smith, “Liberating Animals,” 57. In Joanna Handlin Smith’s 1999 assessment of the late Ming practice of liberating animals, she claimed that releasing-life practitioners, like Feng Shike, “had strong Buddhist streaks.” In her 2009 republication of that article, she changed the wording to the much more felicitous phrase “had strong Buddhist beliefs.” Feng Shike was certainly a committed practitioner more broadly engaged with Buddhist traditions than the scholarly literature has recognized thus far. Smith, “Liberating Animals,” 57; The Art of Doing Good, 23.

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killing, keeping a meatless diet, and adhering to precepts, it appears that in practice Zhuhong was extremely accommodating of the habits of examination elites. Thus, despite the portrayal in hagiographical accounts of Zhuhong as a monk who strictly upheld the precepts and demanded the same from his monastic disciples, he did not censure those visitors whose compliance was nonexistent or at best minimal, even when they resided for extended periods at his monastery. Hongdao wrote: Whenever I visit I am happy, and when I reside there I am at peace. Whenever I must leave, I am reluctant to go, and my fondness [for the place] increases. Why is this? Other monasteries have many pilgrims, travelers, and women. The comings and goings are as noisy as a public court. Master Lotus [Zhuhong] closes the doors to such affairs. This is the first reason. Secondly, monks love purity and many demand that others keep a vegetarian diet. I cannot adhere to a vegetarian (zhai 齋) diet. Master Lotus does not demand this of me. In general, when my servant sullies pots, pans, plates, and bowls with the smell of fresh meat, [Zhuhong] does not admonish me. This is the second reason.106 Yuan Hongdao’s claims in this 1597 commemoration give us some insight into his dietary practices. However, situations could change rather quickly. After the sudden death in 1600 of his older brother, Hongdao gave up meat for several years because he thought it would accrue merit for his brother.107 How often elite men in mourning temporarily gave up meat is yet another avenue for future research. Social norms may account in part for Zhuhong’s leniency. In the late sixteenth century, Buddhist ideas had no real foothold in court proceedings or the metropolitan examinations; consequently, the requirement that officials adhere to a Confucian ethic in matters of state sacrifice, which included animals, could not be changed to accommodate Buddhist preferences. Moreover, defining adherence to the first precept in terms of a meatless diet made this precept difficult to implement when entertaining non-Buddhist friends and family who were accustomed to the Confucian norm requiring elite men be served meat when they were guests. 106

107

Yuan Hongdao, “Ji Yaoshi dian,” in Yuan Hongdao ji jianjiao, 465; partial translation with paraphrased sections, in Ming-shui Hung, The Romantic Vision of Yuan Hung-tao, Late Ming Poet and Critic (Taipei: Bookman Books, 1997), 78. Zhou Qun 周群, Yuan Hongdao pingzhuan 袁宏道評傳 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe, 1999), 58.

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Nevertheless, this initial series of small dietary modifications should not be interpreted as the Confucianization of precept practice, a narrative that tends to overlook long-established historical precedents. In fact, references to the acceptability of eating three, five or nine kinds of clean meat were derived from early Indian texts. When Zhuhong, Tu Long, and others recommended buying meat in the market or eating the meat of an animal who had died naturally, they were following age-old canonical precedents, not creating new rules. For those no longer in office, like Tu Long, the main difficulty appears to have been a great love of meat, not conformity to a Confucian norm. Thus, what to modern-day scholars looks like a low threshold was not a watered-down Buddhist standard developed under Confucian pressure. In comparison to medieval times, when arguments in favor of prohibiting meat were directed initially at the monastic community and only later criticized lay practitioner habits, the lay practitioners in this sixteenth-century Buddhist fellowship were quite vigorous in pushing for stricter standards for themselves and for society in general. Above all, Zhuhong’s accommodations with regard to eating meat must be understood in light of the advice he gave with respect not only to the first precept but also to the cultivation of the other four lay precepts. The next section will demonstrate that Zhuhong encouraged decades-long precept practice, whose mastery came through a long, slow transformation, not sudden, disciplined perfection.

Zhuhong’s Precept Advice

In taking the long view of a religiously oriented life, Zhuhong promoted precepts as a foundational practice requiring years of cultivation. He believed that for some practitioners doctrinal understanding came quickly, whereas bodily disciplines required a long slow adjustment; conversely, others found precepts easy to follow, but doctrine difficult to comprehend. Zhuhong’s references to variations in the speed with which practitioners grasped doctrine and mastered precepts was not without historical precedent. In his advice, Zhuhong relied loosely on the set of “four phrases on teaching and discipline” (乘戒四 句) articulating the idea that, for some practitioners, precepts and wisdom were both cultivated speedily, for some both were hard to master, and for ­others one was grasped quickly and the other slowly.108 Zhuhong was thus 108

These sentences are discussed more thoroughly in Huayan and Tiantai exegesis, which offer slight variances in interpretation. In his letters, Zhuhong does not delve into either

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keenly aware of the difficulty his disciples faced in cultivating precepts. He did not expect immediate success, but gradual incremental change. Mastery could take decades. However, he did emphasize the mastery of Buddhist teachings or wisdom as of primary importance and precept cultivation as secondary, not begrudging in the least minor infractions. Zhuhong’s response to the shortcomings in his disciples’ self-discipline is particularly well documented in the epistolary exchanges he had with two ­correspondents, Wu Yingbin and Zhu Xizong. A Hanlin academician from Tongcheng, Wu Yingbin was one of Zhuhong’s more serious precept-disciples, one of the compilers of Zhuhong’s collected writings, and a prominent supporter of many Buddhist activities. He wrote Zhuhong’s stūpa epitaph, calling him the “Eighth Pure Land Patriarch.” Wu participated in releasing-life activities, was financially generous, and wrote Buddhist essays and circulars. Two letters from Wu Yingbin and five responses from Zhuhong were republished in Zhuhong’s collected works. None of them are dated. For the most part, the exchanges concern two issues: cultivating precepts and awakening. Wu had trouble adhering to the precepts. He also longed for liberation from rebirth, but lacked the realization of nonduality (see chapter 6). On intimate terms with other network members, Wu Yingbin and his nephew Wu Yongxian 吳用 先 (b. 1564, jinshi 1592) were close friends of the Yuan brothers. Some of the letters exchanged with them have also survived.109 In letters to Zhuhong, Wu Yingbin expressed unease over deficiencies in his cultivation of the five lay precepts. In one exchange, Zhuhong suggested that if something were lacking in Wu’s precept practice, he should repent.110 Further assuring Wu that disciples develop different skills at different speeds, Zhuhong offered several historical precedents: the Chan monk Linji Yixuan 臨濟義玄 (767–866) found wisdom quick but precepts slow, whereas Mahākauṣṭhila, a disciple of Śākyamuni who became an arhat, was quick to master precepts but slow in his realization of emptiness.111 Zhuhong ended the letter by emphasizing mind cultivation: “Illuminate and understand your own mind (照了自心). Surely you will have a breakthrough (wuru 悟入). Then today’s great cleverness

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110 111

exegetical tradition, instead using the vocabulary to highlight the normative nature of his disciple’s struggle to master precepts. The introduction to this volume discussed the importance of the metropolitan examinations to the formation of this network, an idea reflected in the relations seen here: Wu Yingbin and Yuan Zhongdao both attained the jinshi in 1586, and Yuan Hongdao and Wu Yongxian in 1592. Huang Hui’s letters to Zhuhong also confirm that Wu Yongxian visited Zhuhong, acting as a go-between. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4496. Ibid.

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will become true wisdom. Why worry about what is lacking in your precept practice?”112 In another letter on the subject, Zhuhong again counseled Wu to be diligent in mind cultivation. Evidently, Wu Yingbin thought that his difficulties with precept practice were interfering with his ability to experience enlightenment. However, Zhuhong’s response downplayed small transgressions: “If there are imperfections in your practice of layman’s precepts (在家戒), this is nothing out if the ordinary; you should know that in the past there were clear dis­ cussions of the slowness of precepts and quickness of wisdom (戒緩乘急).” Rather than push Wu Yingbin to be stricter in cultivating precepts, Zhuhong instead stressed the importance of cultivating a focused mind: “Limit your mind to one place and surely there will be hope for a complete breakthrough (dache 打徹).”113 Zhuhong repeated almost verbatim this same advice in his epistolary exchange with Zhu Xizong 朱西宗 (n.d.) of Jiaxing.114 Zhu, another releasinglife participant, also encountered difficulties in refining his precept practice. Zhuhong again emphasized the ultimate goal of awakening the mind: “Within practice, keeping the precepts is certainly important. But among important [methods], the most important is seeing the truth (jian dili 見諦理) and awakening the mind-ground (faming xindi 發明心地). This is what is called ‘eagerly seeking out the Dharma’ (shengji 乘急).”115 In his disagreements with Zhou Rudeng, Zhuhong was adamant that his disciples be taught “to do good and stop evil.” On the other hand, in emphasizing precepts, Zhuhong did not lose sight of mind cultivation, placing precepts within a matrix of practices whose ultimate goal was liberation from saṃsāra through supreme perfect enlightenment—whether achieved now, or later, in the Pure Land. Zhuhong readily admitted that precept cultivation was difficult to perfect.116 For this reason, he exhibited a great degree of leniency towards struggling disciples, offering many minor adjustments that could eventually lead to a more perfect practice. A letter that Tu Long wrote to Zhuhong’s 112 113 114

115 116

Ibid. Ibid., 4499. Zhuhong wrote a preface to Zhu Xizong’s A Clear Warning on Taking Life (Shasheng jiong­ jie 殺生炯戒), a releasing-life text that included images—unfortunately no longer extant. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4219–4220. In an elegy, Zhuhong’s precept-disciple Lou Jian identified Zhu as someone who was both a Confucian and a practitioner of meditation (chanding 禪定). Lou Jian, “Ji Zhu Xizong wen,” in Xuegu xuwen, 14.4–5. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4668. Ibid., 4690.

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precept-disciple Yu Chunxi echoed this same advice on the pace of mastering precepts, demonstrating that Zhuhong’s views circulated among close friends within the network.117

Zhou Rudeng’s Rejection of a Meat-free Diet

Zhou Rudeng downplayed the efficacy of cultivating Buddhist precepts, arguing that such techniques were irrelevant to the actualization of liangzhi. The preceding chapter has already demonstrated that Zhou Rudeng was sympathetic to Chan cultivation yet rejected Buddhist precepts on the philosophical premise that they mistakenly directed attention to external behavioral constraint without addressing the underlying root problem. At jianghui held between 1595 and 1602, Zhou Rudeng fielded a number of queries on the efficacy of meat-free diets and Buddhist precept practice. In his responses, Zhou Rudeng diagnosed the problem to be the need to eliminate desire. He stressed that one should lessen desires by freeing the mind, not controlling the body. Both Confucians and Buddhists emphasized the importance of curtailing desires. Sixteenth-century Yangming Confucian discourse often cited Mencius 7B:35, which presented lessening desires (guayu 寡欲) as the best means to nurture the heart/mind, a view Zhou Rudeng endorsed. On the other hand, Buddhist texts, from the earliest Indian formulations onward, prescribed precept practice to reduce desires that arose from greed, hatred, and delusion. Zhou Rudeng rejected Buddhist dietary restrictions because, he argued, they merely substituted one desire for another: the desire for weak-flavored foods replaced the desire to eat meat. Likewise, when confronted at a jianghui by an attendee who claimed to have “kept the ‘vegetarian’ precept, cut desires, and become very strict,” Zhou Rudeng remarked that the attendee had merely stopped “clinging to ordinary feelings” (fanqing zhi 凡情執), but had yet to “sever the desire to become a sage” (破聖情執).118 Their exchange exemplifies Zhou Rudeng’s stance that the purpose of self-cultivation was to lessen desires through an internal emotional-mental adjustment. In his view, without an internal transformation, mere outward restraint in observance of a conventional norm simply allowed desires to grow unchecked, generating a greater unacknowledged degree of attachment. To eliminate desires, Zhou Rudeng

117 118

Tu Long, Hongbao ji, 40.12–13. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 320.

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promoted the regulation of the mind (tiaoxin 調心)—a method that would ideally allow for the full, unimpeded operation of liangzhi. Zhou reasoned that those who had rooted out their desires and exercised good internal mental control were free to eat whatever they wanted. This was because once liangzhi was fully activated, the practitioner craved neither strong- nor weak-flavored foods. In Zhou Rudeng’s view, so long as meat was eaten with the proper level of detachment, it did not present an obstacle to attainment of the highest level of spiritual realization. In contrast, he thought that Buddhist attention to outward behavioral adjustments was too shallow to be a viable method of self-cultivation. Food was not the problem—the mind was. In yet another jianghui exchange on the topic, Zhou had this to say about the relationship between dietary habits and desire: [Meeting attendee] Zhang Shangzhi 章上之 asked, “Many different worldly desires have already penetrated to the marrow of our bones, and we cannot liberate ourselves from them. What must we do?”  The master [Zhou Rudeng] said, “If in wanting to liberate yourself from desires (shiyu 嗜慾), with respect to the practice of limiting food and drink, if you give up fresh meat and wine (xiannong 鮮醲)119 and find pleasing that which is subtle/weak (danbo 淡簿), although you may think your [practice] is better than [the one I am advocating], in the end you will not [be one who] knows the flavors (zhiwei 知味). If there is a person who knows the flavors, then in relation to fresh meat and strong wine, he has neither fear nor does he indulge. In relation to subtle and weak flavors, he is neither seduced nor does he feel compelled to embrace them (jian 揀). How could there be a need for liberation?”120 “Knowing the flavors” alludes to this passage from the Doctrine of the Mean: “For though no man can dispense with the acts of eating and drinking, few are they who can discern the flavors (zhiwei).”121 Knowing or discerning the flavors is used here, metaphorically, to refer to men of superior spiritual attainment; 119

120 121

Strictly speaking, this should be “fish and wine.” Strong wine, or rich wine (nong 翦), is interchangeable with “thick/rich/dense” (nong 濃). “Fresh, tasty fish” (xian 鮮) can also denote fresh meat. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 172. This translation is loosely based on the translations of Andrew Plaks and James Legge. Andrew Plaks, trans., Ta Hsueh and Chung Yung (The Highest Order of Cultivation and On the Practice of the Mean) (London: Penguin Books, 2003), 26. James Legge, The Doctrine of the Mean, Vol. 1, The Chinese Classics with a Translation, Critical and Exegetical notes, Prolegomena, and Copious Indexes (1861; reprint, Taipei: SMC Publishing Inc., 2001), 387.

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the highly cultivated individual can consume weak or strong flavors for he neither fears nor desires them. The earnest, but misguided, ordinary practitioner swings from one extreme to the next, uncomprehendingly substituting one desire for another, instead of attending to the more fundamental problem of how to lessen his desires. In general, Yangming Confucian advocates rejected cultivation methods that created friction between a practitioner and either his household or official duties; they further insisted that the mind could be cultivated only while engaged in everyday activities. This was a basic criterion for the successful practice of any Yangming method. When demands for a meatless diet broke with established family custom and caused dissension within the household, Zhou criticized the practice as unfilial. In the following jianghui exchange, Zhou Rudeng assumes—quite narrowly, one might add—that elite households all consumed meat. He does not account for the dietary habits of Buddhist families like that of Gu Yuan.122 Likewise, he makes no allowances for families, like that of Yuan Zhongdao, whose wives and concubines adhered to a meatless diet.123 Nor does Zhou Rudeng account for the authority a high official would have enjoyed in establishing new family traditions within his own home. The exchange opened with a proposition, followed by Zhou’s response: “There was someone who kept the vegetarian precept (chizhai 持齋) and recited the Buddha’s name but [his practice] was not congruent with the intentions of family members, fathers, and brothers.”  The master [Zhou] said, “Pursuit of learning (xueshu 學述) is not external to normal everyday activities. Those who give up family truly are not learned (xue 學). For this reason, we Confucians (wuru 吾儒) follow the path of utmost filiality set forth by Yao and Shun. The Sixth Patriarch said, ‘When the mind is equanimous, what need is there to uphold the precepts?’ … How could it be that after eating one mouthful of vegetarian food it is enough to realize the ultimate level of the Dharma? Because one keeps a vegetarian diet (chizhai 吃齋), this causes fathers, brothers, and family members to become cantankerous (guaili 乖戾). How could this be the Buddhadharma (fofa 佛法)? Although [keeping a meat-free diet] is

122 123

Peng Shaosheng, Jushi zhuan (X1646: 88.257.b23); Peng Xisu, Jingtu shengxian lu (X1549: 78.297.c24). Yuan Zongdao revealed these dietary habits in a letter to his younger brother. Yuan Zongdao, Bai Su zhai leiji, 131.

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called respecting the Buddhadharma, it truly goes against Buddhist practice (fomen 佛門) …”124 In his response, Zhou Rudeng invoked, yet again, The Platform Sūtra to drive home the Yangming Confucian point that Buddhist and Confucian liberation both ultimately resulted from internal adjustments, not overt attention to bodily ingestion. Having established this shared aspiration, Zhou argued that adjusting one’s mind (調理自心) was the most effective practice. Later in the same exchange, Zhou did concede that there were effective Buddhist bodily practices for eliminating various undesirable mental obstructions: bowing diffuses “the mind of arrogance,” giving diffuses “the mind of stinginess,” and eating a meatless diet diffuses “the mind of killing.”125 However, he believed that such techniques, because they involved an external physical action and not contemplative reflection, were of value only for short periods of practice and should not be continued for the duration of a lifetime. Zhou Rudeng’s open recommendation of these Buddhist methods, which required the very behavioral changes that he dismissed as irrelevant to true mind cultivation, nearly undermines his own position in bridging the divide between the two traditions. Zhou Rudeng’s response to the monk Zhanran Yuancheng again demon­strates why his branch of Yangming thought rejected adherence to a pre­deter­mined fixed set of ethical imperatives. In 1604 Zhou Rudeng, a group of examination elites, and Yuancheng met in Shan 剡, Zhejiang. On that occasion, Zhou Rudeng sponsored a banquet that included fish. With the odor of gutted fish wafting his way, Yuancheng declared that the guests were in violation of the Confucian dicta to distance oneself from the kitchen, and thus eating the fish would be inappropriate. Zhou at first conceded this point on the grounds that both traditions emphasize the mind of benevolence (renxin 仁心); he also conceded that one should neither see nor hear an animal die. Nevertheless, Zhou remained resolute in his separation of rules for monks and rules for Confucians, declaring their life trajectories quite different.126 Deeply offended by Yuancheng’s criticism, Zhou shifted the conversation to a ­question of the 124 125 126

Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 323. Ibid. Curiously enough, Zhou Rudeng leaves out elite lay Buddhist males and their families, preferring to identify those “at home” (zaijia 在家) only as ru. In the late Ming, Confucian arguments often drew a stark contrast between family-oriented ru and celibate monks, most likely because it made for a stronger argument.

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benevolent mind and its precise location and proceeded to press Yuancheng to clarify the relationship between not eating meat and not killing: [Zhou said,] “I want to ask you, as to the Buddhist interdiction against eating meat, was this not created to stop killing? If so, how could drinking intoxicants and eating alliaceous vegetables, neither of which are acts of killing, be equated with this precept?”  Yuancheng replied, “The precept against drinking intoxicants is directed at one type of person for whom drinking wreaks havoc on their nature, causing them to lose control. This precept keeps them from transgressing, that is all. There is no comparison to killing sentient beings. Today we have not restricted this. As to eating alliaceous vegetables, this will provoke malevolent demons to follow the smell. Now how could worthies and sages delight in this? Hence, one has no choice but to restrict these five flavors.”127  Zhou replied, “In comparing the severity of the transgression of drinking intoxicants to eating meat, how could you say one is consequential [and the other not]? After all, if drinking intoxicants agitates people’s minds and they kill, steal, and commit adultery, how could one say this behavior is inconsequential? If you say that malevolent demons will follow sages and worthies because they enjoy the aroma of meat dishes, now this must be negligible (qian 淺).”128 In this exchange, Yuancheng adopts the same logic that Zhou Rudeng expressed in earlier passages: some precepts should be cultivated to correct certain character flaws. Thus, drinking is prohibited to prevent loss of control. There are stories of Yuancheng’s love of alcohol, suggesting that Zhou’s retort is a personal jab. Zhou Rudeng further dismisses the monk’s explanation that 127

128

The Brahma’s Net Sūtra and the Śūraṃgama Sūtra both record the prohibition against eating alliaceous vegetables, but it is hardly mentioned in sixteenth-century letters to lay Buddhists or in the collected writings of examination elites. It is, however, in the list of prohibitions found in Zhuhong’s Record of Self-Knowledge. Each eating of the five forbidden pungent roots (garlic, onions, ginger, Chinese chives, and leeks) results in one demerit, unless consumed for medicinal purposes. See Chün-fang Yü, Renewal of Buddhism, 257. In one sermon, Deqing calls those who love ghosts (hao gui 好鬼) and eat meat (chi xieshi 吃血食) unequivocally evil people. Deqing, “Shi youposai yi zhentan,” in Mengyou ji, 113. Yifa briefly mentions Zunshi’s 遵式 (964–1032) text admonishing readers to give up meat, wine, and alliaceous vegetables. Yifa, The Origins of Buddhist Monastic Codes in China, 37 and 55–56. See also Kieschnick, The Eminent Monk, 24. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 388–391.

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alliaceous vegetables, which were used to flavor meat, should not be consumed because they attract demons. For Zhou, the real problem is greed, and the only truly repulsive odors are those in one’s heart. Quite agitated himself, Zhou proceeded to lecture Yuancheng on the difference between the inferior practice Zhou attributes to the so-called Hināyāna (xiaosheng 小乘) of explaining precepts in terms of transgressions and blessings and sympathetic response (ganying 感應) and the unquestionably superior (Mahāyāna) realization that “precepts are none other than mind precepts” (戒者心戒).129 At the conclusion of this exchange, Zhou claimed that whatever interdictions existed, they were matters of the heart. In emphasizing the importance of adjustments to the heart/mind, Zhou Rudeng found common ground in Chan prescriptions on mind cultivation. However, he rejected Buddhist precept ­cultivation for its supposed misplaced emphasis on behavioral adjustments: after all, outward appearances of virtue could be deceptive and mask unchecked desires. Zhou Rudeng’s unremitting criticisms of Buddhist precepts and dismissal of a meatless diet notwithstanding, we know that at least two of his close associates disagreed, and there may have been others. Zhou Rudeng’s disciple Tao Wangling often attended jianghui, yet he defended a meatless diet and releasing life. Another jianghui participant, Huang Hui, also endorsed a meat-free diet. Precept-disciples of Zhuhong, these men sided with him over Zhou Rudeng. In a letter to Zhuhong, Huang Hui offered an indirect refutation of Zhou’s philosophical claims. Huang Hui acknowledged that the ability to treat animals in an ethical manner was a direct result of following a meatless diet. As evidence, Huang recounted the story of his father, who, after many years of abstaining from eating meat on upoṣadha days (a select set of monthly ritual days for confession), had finally given up meat and alliaceous vegetables altogether. Because he no longer ate meat, his father was moved to save a pig from slaughter: My father has kept the ten upoṣadha days for many years. Recently I heard that he was so moved (gandong 感動) by the teachings he has received from you that he stopped eating meat for two months. I was very touched by this. People of the area say that there was a butcher who bought a pig and was going to cook it the following day. The pig knelt down like a person and begged for its life. It cried tears like rain. It retreated to the back of the pen and even, when beaten, refused to come 129

Xinjie 心戒 is simultaneously a reference to the Mahāyāna bodhisattva precepts, to the inward mental discipline of the mind, and to Zhou’s own views that it is the mind that requires attention. Ibid., 391.

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out. When my father heard about this, he quickly paid for its release … People all sighed, saying that this is the marvelous [karmic] result of keeping a diet free of meat and alliaceous vegetables (zhai yin 齋因). I have not yet received a letter from home [about this], but I have no reason to think that people of the area made it up. My father possesses the heaven-endowed nature of benevolence and compassion (天性仁慈). Obtaining this kind of help from him is not unheard of.130 In contrast to his mentor Zhou, Huang drew a direct connection between bodily restraint and the fostering of an internal moral commitment. He believed that cultivating outward behavioral changes could have a far-reaching effect on the lives of both humans and animals. His father’s renunciation of meat and alliaceous vegetables was thought to have directly nurtured his compas­sionate response to a pig in distress. Although this story has a karmic element to it, Huang frames the benefits of a meatless diet in terms of mind culti­vation, that is, the fostering of inner states of benevolence and compassion. In the texts cited thus far, Zhou Rudeng followed a fairly predictable Yang­ ming Confucian pattern; he privileged filial piety, the elimination of desires, and an inward focus on the heart/mind over an outward mastery of a prescribed set of bodily disciplines. Just as Zhuhong’s precept-disciples appro­priated Confucian passages to make Buddhist doctrinal points, Zhou cited a prominent Buddhist scripture to make a Confucian point. His philosophical stance, that self-cultivation began with the mind and not the body, is quite clear. Nonetheless, one has to wonder about his powers of persuasion. After all, as participants at his jianghui volunteered, they had given up meat. In congruence with tales of karmic retribution told by Zhuhong, Feng Mengzhen, Tu Long, and others, the pig in Huang Hui’s letter is given human-like attributes: kneeling, crying, and begging for its life. However, unlike the dominant focus on cause and effect relations in that genre, which can appear mechanistic, there is no self-serving impulse here, only compassion. This network’s members indeed seem utterly convinced that what they ate played a determining role not only with respect to future rebirths but also in the more immediate context of self-cultivation.

Conclusion

In late Ming China, as in many societies, eating was a very social activity with multiple professional and personal implications. Yangming Confucians argued 130

Zhuhong, Quanji, 4492.

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for the use of meat in ritual sacrifice, to nourish parents, and to entertain guests. Individual officials had no control over state sanctioned ritual sacrifice. For this reason, Buddhist officials could do little more than attempt to improve the rebirth prospects for slaughtered animals. On the other hand, on a more personal level, late sixteenth-century elites had significant leeway in determining whether to consume meat at family gatherings and celebratory occasions and when making sacrifices to their ancestors. Still, entertaining guests posed a number of ethical quandaries, ranging from whether guests were being treated properly to whether it was impolite to refuse meat served by others. For some lay Buddhists, the sheer pleasure of eating meat presented the greatest obstacle to progress toward complete adherence to the first precept. The three genres explored here—collections of karmic tales, prescriptive essays by both examination elites and monks, and descriptive epistolary sources—offer a range of insights. Buddhist karmic tales illustrate numerous concerns, such as fear of karmic retribution and the possibility that animals were relatives from past generations or buddhas of future ones. Zhuhong’s collection of such tales inspired his disciples and other examination elites to see their surroundings in terms of causal relations. In addition to recording their own karmic tales, these network members wrote essays and prefaces interlaced with Confucian citations in an effort to persuade their Confucian-educated peers to give up meat. They painted meat eating as a concern not only for Buddhists but for Confucians too, one that had been long embedded in clas­ sical teachings. However, given Wang Yangming’s affirmation of the earlier Confucian position that social hierarchy is embedded in cosmic unity, as well as Yangming’s endorsement of meat eating for ritual sacrifice, nourishment of parents, and entertainment of guests, theirs was an uphill battle, with mixed results. Yet despite the difficulties this Buddhist fellowship encountered in the broader cultural landscape, it is clear from these writings that “Confucianism” should not be viewed as an unequivocally dominant force in the life of the network. Moreover, the Fellowship’s many individual and solidary group efforts were strong enough to exert Buddhist pressure on Confucian discourse. Descriptive writings, in particular epistolary ones, add a depth to the issue not seen before. Zhuhong’s epistolary writings allow for a more layered understanding of his advice to disciples on how to cultivate precepts, especially the first precept. Without these letters, one could easily conclude that Zhuhong’s step-by-step method towards cultivation was a capitulation to a dominant Confucian culture, not sound advice rooted in Buddhist canonical precedents. One might also overlook Zhuhong’s vision of a decades-long framework for the gradual cultivation of all the precepts, not just the first precept. Letters depict Zhuhong in the role of pragmatic spiritual advisor, not the strict monk of hagio-

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graphical literature or the uncompromising voice sometimes felt in his essays. In his capacity as monk-mentor, Zhuhong set the threshold for initial practice at the most rudimentary level, buying prepared meat dishes, eating “clean meat” or reciting a dhāraṇī before the sacrifice of an animal, giving anyone who wanted it a path toward cultivation of the first precept. The letters written between network members and some essays further fill in the descriptive blanks that are all too often left open when our research focuses exclusively on prescriptive texts. They shed light on the moral dilemmas regarding animals and meat eating that these men wrestled with, their varying levels of commitment over time, and sometimes even the dietary habits of family members. The more prominent members of this fellowship to appear in this chapter—Jiao Hong, Huang Hui, Feng Mengzhen, Feng Shike, Yuan Zongdao, Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhongdao, Tao Wangling, Tao Shiling, Tu Long, and Yu Chunxi—all left substantial bodies of written work, much of which is still extant today. Because their extant writings often address in great detail the issues discussed in this chapter and in ones to follow, readers will notice their names more often than other, lesser-known cohorts. Nonetheless, the epistolary exchanges between Zhuhong and his precept-disciples Zhao Nianwo, Wu Shijin, Wu Yingbin, Wu Yongxian, Zhu Xizong, and references to his other correspondents, Cai Chengzhi and Wang Mochi are no less important in their ability to help us flesh out the socioreligious context within which this fellowship operated, and they should not go unnoticed. Due to a lack of extant sources, some of these names will not appear again: for some, the only evidence we have of their participation—let alone, existence—is epistolary. The cultivation of the first precept, to abstain from killing, did not end with discussions over dietary choices. It also had a profound effect on the types of smaller, exclusive religious societies these men formed and their dedication to excavating releasing-life ponds—the topic of the next chapter.

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Releasing-Life Societies: Communal Practices and Shared Concerns A steep embankment beautifully encircles the broad, deep, and calm pond. Light shimmers like a painting on one wall while ancient trees stand to the side, their roots curled like a young dragon around the stone seats. On good days, there are outdoor picnics and a mountain market with more bustle than city ones. Only the eastern bank is a place of quiet retreat: the other three sides of the pond all have paths, where ornamented and square shoes [i.e., women and men] walk, stirring up fragrant dust while colorful petals fall at their feet. Each day brings more than a hundred visitors. When the sound of popping bamboo and striking of a bell or the [wooden] fish reverberates [in the area], [alcoholic] spirits, meat, and ritual offerings are laid out accordingly. Beautiful women and cultured men all intermingle. Some rest in the wooded areas, sitting on rocks, idly amusing themselves. Xi’an Pond at Baoguang Temple cannot surpass this place. If one wants to saunter alone followed only by the shadow of one’s staff, loosen one’s collar and admire the moon, or reflect on rarefied matters, this is possible only at dawn and dusk. Now the pond connects through an underground waterway to a neighboring pond bought for releasing life. A patch of lotuses planted along the western side is like lotus seats held on meritorious waters.1 This eloquent 1615 description, written by Zhuhong’s precept-disciple Yu Chunxi, likened the Wangong Pond 萬工池 at Pure Compassion Monastery 淨 慈寺 in Hangzhou to the lotus pond in Amitābha Buddha’s Pure Land. Many Buddhists hoped to escape saṃsāra through rebirth in Amitābha’s Pure Land, emerging from lotuses after a long period of gestation—like the lotuses floating on Wangong Pond. The pond had been newly restored, a twenty-year sustained effort on the part of many network members, with the help of local officials. Bragging that Wangong Pond now surpassed its rivals, Yu depicts a 1 Wangong pond, like many monastery ponds, was originally excavated to prevent fires from ravaging the monastery complex. The text cited above does not name the second pond it flowed into, but another text discusses an underground waterway that extended to Huagang 花港. However, the contemporary location of Huagang is a considerable distance from Wangong Pond and may differ from its sixteenth-century location. Jingci si zhi, 19: 1458.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi 10.1163/9789004308459_006

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lively scene of men and women strolling about amusing themselves while purchasing products from a bustling market of local goods. Lay Buddhists, monks, and non-Buddhists all intermingled, participating in a range of activities, some more religiously oriented than others. The popularity of this venue reflects a late sixteenth-century penchant for private gardens ideally suited to elegant gatherings of the wealthy and educated. The revival of this pond began with a wish to commemorate Zhuhong’s sixtieth birthday. In 1595, Zhuhong commenced a fifty-three day series of talks on the Sūtra of Complete Enlightenment (Yuanjue jing 圓覺經) at Pure Compassion Monastery, with the final talk falling on his sixtieth birthday. From the midMing onward, such auspicious milestones as sixty, seventy, or eighty were increasingly celebrated with elaborate parties and commemorations. After all, many of Zhuhong’s disciples (like the rest of society) passed away well before their sixtieth birthday. In his thirty-fifth year, Zhuhong wrote that no one should sacrifice animals for birthday celebrations; at fifty, he added that birthdays simply should not be celebrated. Upon turning sixty, Zhuhong had a rebellion on his hands: his disciples insisted that they must honor him in some way. As a compromise, Zhuhong granted that they could celebrate the lives of all sentient beings by releasing some of them on his birthday.2 “Releasing life” (fangsheng 放生), as it was called, was practiced both through simple individual acts of letting caged animals go and group gatherings at lakes or man-made ponds, where aquatic animals and birds were released within the context of an elaborate ritual program. In response to Zhuhong’s promotion of releasing life, his precept-disciples—including Yu Chunxi, Feng Mengzhen, Ge Yinliang, Tu Long, and many others—not only spent twenty years on the restoration of Wangong Pond but during that time they also excavated many other releasing-life ponds and formed a number of releasing-life societies.3 As argued in the last chapter, these men wove the precept of not killing into the fabric of their daily lives through specific concrete actions that were a direct expression of their philosophical and ethical commitments. Their commitment to the first precept carried over to the creation of Buddhist releasing-life societies, excavation of releasing-life ponds, and the Pure Land ritual program followed at meetings. A study of these communal endeavors will further deepen our understanding of how this fellowship envisioned a society where the Buddhist desire to let animals die a natural death could transform social relations and the natural environment, and thereby remake the cultural landscape. 2 Zhuhong, “Shu fangsheng juan hou,” Quanji, 4244. 3 See Jingci si zhi, 17: 498–99.

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Rooted in the teachings of such local forefathers as the monk Yongming Yanshou 永明延壽 (907–960), releasing-life activities were intimately tied to the promotion of Pure Land cultivation. Yet, as already glimpsed in the last chapter, the spread of releasing-life societies and the continual excavation of new ponds met with resistance from Confucian skeptics who did not find saving all animals an ethically valid choice. They further criticized pond excavation on the grounds that it was environmentally disastrous, but network members were undeterred. As might be expected, efforts to alleviate societal concerns and combat Confucian resistance resulted in a number of animated exchanges between Buddhists and their critics—a topic we will continue to explore here. As highlighted in the introduction, the associative life of this Buddhist fellowship was not geographically fixed. They interacted in multiple locations: at various monasteries, on pilgrimage, at their own residences, or through epistolary exchange. Nevertheless, some prominent fellowship members spent considerable time together in Hangzhou, where they worked to excavate ponds, release life, and turn the West Lake into an earthly Pure Land. That mission benefited from both informal collaborative efforts as well as the creation of tight-knit, discrete groups. This chapter draws attention to smaller group alliances as an example of the type of cohesive efforts that were undertaken by more active fellowship participants. The twenty-year effort, from 1595 to 1615, initiated by Yu Chunxi and other members to restore Wangong Pond and other venues, took place at the height of Zhuhong’s popularity and evidences their seriousness of purpose and commitment to this particular vision of Buddhist cultivation. This chapter opens with an in-depth look at releasing-life activities and then discusses Zhuhong’s efforts to persuade elite men to wear cotton rather than silk. Arguing that sericulture was unduly influenced by an accretion of bad cultural practices, Zhuhong sought a return to a purer method that did not result in the untimely death of the chrysalis. Finally, this chapter ends with some initial reflections on why, in stark contrast to all the philosophical arguments and ethical accommodations concerning the treatment of animals, the issue of corporal punishment and military campaigns did not exact the same level of passionate outrage.

Geographically Rooted Inspiration: Yongming Yanshou and the West Lake

During the medieval period, the state officially sponsored mass releasing-life ceremonies held at the West Lake in Hangzhou. Zhuhong, Yu Chunxi, and the

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unnamed authors of numerous sixteenth-century temple gazetteer writings expressed a nostalgic desire to reclaim this golden past, a lost part of their local cultural heritage.4 But because during the Wanli reign (1573–1620) the emperor showed no interest in resuming state-sponsored ceremonies, Zhuhong and his disciples could only dream of releasing-life activities on such a grand scale. On the other hand, there were no official prohibitions against releasing life, and thus Buddhists were free to underwrite the excavation of multiple ponds and create numerous private societies. What ponds were revived and how they were connected to Pure Land cultivation was intimately intertwined with this network’s reading of local Buddhist history and Zhuhong’s commitment to the teachings of the monk Yongming Yanshou. Yongming became an inspirational symbol of this lost tradition in part because he was a native son of nearby Qiantang 錢唐 and the first abbot of Hangzhou’s Huiri Yongming Monastery 慧日永明院, built in 954 and later renamed Pure Compassion Monastery. When he defended the creation of releasing-life societies, Zhuhong frequently cited the work of Yongming, whom he admired for his advocacy of releasing life and his conferral of bodhisattva precepts, two religious concerns central to Zhuhong’s own vision.5 Many stories about Yongming were reprinted in sixteenth-century sources promoting releasing-life practices. Sixteenth-century religious biographies of the monk claim that an emperor was so impressed with Yongming’s implacable calm in the face of death that he spared his life. Yongming had ostensibly been caught draining government coffers to buy animals, which he then released, although these appear to have been individual acts of release and we do not have evidence that he established releasing-life societies. Nonetheless, this image of Yongming so inspired the Fellowship that, in Bao Shijie’s letter telling Zhuhong that he planned to burn the nets and boats of the local fishing community (see 4 Citing a stele inscription, the famous literati poet, biographer, and essayist Zhang Dai 張岱 (1597–1680?) wrote that the West Lake itself had been declared a releasing-life pond in 1021 ce. Yu Chunxi also cited stele inscriptions that described Song Dynasty releasing-life practices at the West Lake. Even though much of this group’s understanding of Tang-Song history may have diverged from the facts, there is plenty of evidence that releasing-life practices had been quite popular. See, for example, the Bright Celebration Vinaya Monastery gazetteer Da Zhaoqing lusi zhi 大照慶律寺志, which records a large, tenth-century communal ritual at the West Lake on the eighth day of the fourth month. Participants gathered on boats: fishing boats sold fish and aquatic animals for release; pleasure boats carried buyer-participants. See also Daniel Aaron Getz, Jr. “Siming Zhili and Tiantai Pure Land in the Song Dynasty” (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1994). 5 Zhuhong’s very short biography of Yongming stressed his conferral of bodhisattva precepts and practice of releasing life. Zhuhong, Quanji, 2194.

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chapter 3), he invoked Yongming as his inspiration for the plan. Greatly esteemed by this network, Yongming was also portrayed as a promoter of the harmonious union of Chan and Pure Land practices and an advocate for Pure Land rebirth and recitation of both the Lotus Sūtra and the name Amitābha Buddha. He was further acclaimed for having been reborn in the Pure Land in the highest of the highest rank, and in some texts he was designated the “Seventh Pure Land Patriarch.”6 Undoubtedly, the stories associated with Yongming’s life and his doctrinal writings had a direct impact on the direction of this network’s Buddhist practice. It just so happened that, much to the horrified astonishment of this network, in 1593 a local doctor digging a burial plot for his wife apparently discovered Yongming’s relics, which he reburied in another location. When Yu Chunxi heard of this incident, he informed Yongming’s contemporary dharma heir, the monk Yuanjin Dahuo 元津大壑 (1576–1627). Greatly distressed, Dahuo secretly dug up the reburied relics and subsequently returned to the original burial site to collect any remaining fragments. By all accounts, when the bowl of bones and eleven small fragments were laid out before an audience of Zhuhong, Tao Wangling, Huang Ruheng, and others, they shone with an incomparable radiance, a miracle that prompted those in attendance to confirm that these were indeed Yongming’s relics. Consequently, in conjunction with District Magistrate of Qiantang, Nie Xintang 聶心湯 (jinshi 1604) and Irrigation Circuit Intendant Wang Daoxian 王道顯 (b. 1554, jinshi 1583), this group initiated a project to build a new stūpa behind Pure Compassion Monastery.7 Over the next fifteen years, this group orchestrated a coordinated effort at fundraising. In one such endeavor to solicit contributions, in 1607 Dahuo circulated the text Traces of Yongming’s Path (Yongming daoji 永明道蹟). This text stands as a testament to the types of discrete, coordinated efforts that were made by smaller groups within the network and further strengthens the evidence we have of the depth of their interactions. Compiled by Dahuo, edited by Yu Chunxi and Huang Ruheng with a preface by Tao Wangling, Traces of Yongming’s Path highlighted miracles and noteworthy events in Yongming’s 6 Sixteenth-century hagiography diverged, sometimes significantly, from what our tenth-century sources tell us about Yongming, most especially in the embellishment of the story of his releasing-life activities. For studies centered on the tenth-century, see Albert Welter, The Meaning of Myriad Good Deeds: A study of Yung-ming Yen-shou and the Wan-shan t’ung-kuei chi (New York: Peter Lang, 1993) and Shih Heng-ching, The Syncretism of Ch’an and Pure Land Buddhism (New York: Peter Lang, 1992). 7 Ge Yinliang wrote that they were able to buy back ninety mu of land. Jingci si zhi, 17: 501, and 18: 782–784.

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life. Short eulogies from Yuan Hongdao, Feng Mengzhen, Bao Shijie, Yu Chun­ zhen, Tao Shiling, Ge Yinliang, and the monks Xuelang Hongen, Zhuhong, and others offered the highest praise for Yongming’s accomplishments.8 Apparently the strategy worked: the five-story stūpa was begun in 1608 and completed within two years. Following the stūpa’s completion in 1610, Huang Ruheng 黃汝亨 (1558– 1626)9 organized the Incense Adorned Society 香嚴社,10 which met at the complex constructed around the stūpa. Descriptions by Huang and others state that the hills behind Pure Compassion Monastery included a hall for worship of the Bodhisattva Guanyin, an Amitābha Repentance Hall, and rooms for quiet contemplation. The group took hagiographical descriptions of Yongming’s mythical fortitude in recitation practice quite literally; for this reason, recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha and of sūtra texts became two primary activities associated with this complex. Yongming was thought to have recited the Lotus Sūtra so diligently that the four guardian kings rained flowers upon him, and in fact one of the nearby peaks is named Raining Flowers Peak 雨花巖. Another story has it that in a single twenty-four-hour period, Yongming recited the name Amitābha Buddha a hundred thousand times. In a display of pious respect, Zhuhong attempted to replicate this act. However, he barely managed to complete the task: he had to recite the four-character name as quickly as possible, even while eating, drinking, and dressing.11 Humbled by the experiment, Zhuhong advised his disciples to recite with careful attention, 8 9

10

11

Tao Wangling, “Yongming daoji xu,” in Xie’an ji, 339–440. Huang Ruheng knew Jiao Hong, Wang Shizhen, Yu Chunxi, and Wu Yongxian. The wealth of fundraising circulars reprinted in Huang’s collected writings (Yulin wenji 寓林文集) attest to extensive involvement in a considerable number of Buddhist projects. Huang Ruheng, Ge Yinliang, and Li Liufang (see below) were three of the disciple-editors who vetted Zhuhong’s collected works. The name of the society was likely inspired by both the name Xiangyan Hall, given to one of the buildings Yongming had constructed, and by a passage in the Śūraṃgama Sūtra that discusses a figure who meditated on the fragrance of burning incense as it entered and infused his body, resulting in his attainment of arhatship. For this reason, the Buddha gave him the epithet Incense Adorned. Lengyan jing (T945: 19.125c-22-c28). Xiangyan is also a shorthand reference for xiangguang zhuangyan 香光莊嚴, literally “fragrance adornment.” Charles A. Muller, ed., Digital Dictionary of Buddhism, accessed March 15, 2015 . This short essay, “One Hundred Thousand Repetitions of ‘Amitābha’ in a Single Day and Night (Zhou ye Mituo shiwan sheng 晝夜彌陀十萬聲)” is translated in J.C. Cleary, Pure Land Pure Mind (Taipei: The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, 1994), 104–105. Zhuhong, Quanji, 3918–3919.

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cautioning that a hundred thousand was merely a hyperbolic metaphor for many repetitions—not a literal prescription. Leaning toward exclusivity, society leader Huang bemoaned the presence at the site of uncultured scholars (sushi 俗士), intoxicated officials, meat-eaters, and the like. In an attempt to limit visitors and his society’s membership to like-minded “men of high attainment” (gaoren yunshi 高人韻士), in 1611 Huang and Wu Yongxian established five rules that were carved in stone at the site: no killing; no performance of plays; no borrowing of others’ residences (presumably the resident monks’ quarters); no disturbances by servants and lowly clerks; no damage inflicted by one’s entourage to the bamboo, rocks, flowers or trees; and no imposing on the caretaker monk (shouseng 守僧)12 for tea and meals, which should be managed by oneself. One could surmise from the compulsion to establish rules and carve them on stone that some monastery visitors lacked the reverent vision shared by Huang and his society. Yongming’s biography further provided some Fellowship members with the impetus to restore releasing-life ponds in the center of the West Lake. Yu Chunxi claimed that one of the islands in the middle of West Lake, called Three Pools Reflect the Moon 三潭印月, was the venue for Yongming’s releasing-life activities.13 There were, in effect, two separate manmade islands that became closely associated with both Yongming and releasing life: Three Pools Reflect the Moon and Heart of the Lake Temple 湖心寺.14 Dykes planted with willow trees formed the perimeter of each island; both islands contained ponds for releasing life, and a small temple or hall. The island Three Pools Reflect the Moon featured three separate ponds, and beyond its perimeter were three outlying small stone pagodas that marked the three springs that fed the West Lake. However, by the early 1600s, half of the pond area had silted up and become a radish field. In 1608, the same two officials who assisted in the building of Yongming’s stūpa also wrote a report on the terrible condition of the place and helped start the renovation process. The three ponds were dredged and dykes 12

13 14

From context, one would expect this to be a resident monk known for his adherence to precepts (shoujie 守戒). However, the abbot of Pure Compassion Monastery is named as the shouseng of two different places, suggesting that this refers to the monk responsible for the property, whether or not in residence. Yu Chunxi, “Mu seng zhu fangsheng chi shu,” Yu Deyuan xiansheng ji, 19.11–13. Sixteenth-century gazetteer woodblock prints indicate that there were releasing-life ponds on both islands. Today, Heart of the Lake Temple no longer has bodies of water within its dykes—they have been filled in with dirt and plants. Three Pools Reflect the Moon, the larger of the two islands, still has three ponds, containing both fish and lotus flowers. A third island was added later, some time during the Qing Dynasty, but it was not known to this Fellowship and will not concern us here.

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were re-established. Dahuo was asked to become the caretaker monk (shouseng), and Generating Virtue Hall 德生堂 was built for the purpose of restoring releasing-life rituals. Fishing was obviously prohibited. The eight-year project to dredge the ponds on these islands and restore the embankments was conceived of and implemented by network members Yu Chunxi, Huang Ruheng, and Ge Yinliang. However, for this project and others, they also succeeded in garnering the support of local officials, who were instrumental to their success, especially when the construction ran into problems. In 1612, the county magistrate, Yang Wanli 楊萬里 (jinshi 1607), continued the construction of the outer embankment of Three Pools Reflect the Moon, but in 1615 the West Lake dried up and the ponds had to be dredged again. In the following year, the lake overflowed the island embankments, causing the officials from the Water, Inspection, and Salt Bureaus to raise the embankment by about a meter (three chi 尺). Hangzhou’s prefect, Yang Lianfang 楊聯芳 (jinshi 1601), further expanded the foundation of the Generating Virtue Hall, which housed images of the three prominent Pure Land figures: Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin), Amitābha, and Mahāsthāmaprāpta.15 The construction of Yongming’s stūpa and the excavation of releasing-life ponds on two manmade islands in the West Lake all took place during the same twenty-year period in which Yu Chunxi and others were busy with the restoration of Wangong Pond. Located in front of Pure Compassion Monastery at the edge of the West Lake, this releasing-life pond, revived on Zhuhong’s sixtieth birthday, was fully revitalized by his eightieth, a feat his disciples accomplished through raising the needed funds to requisition the land that had been parceled off piecemeal around the pond. Fishing activities were curtailed and releasing-life activities resumed, most likely under the aupices of releasing-life societies, like Yu Chunxi’s Superior Lotus Society 勝連社. The implementation of these projects illustrates perfectly the fluidity with which Zhuhong’s precept-disciples participated in projects associated with other temples and monastic communities in and around the West Lake. Zhuhong was the abbot of Cloud Dwelling Monastery, yet to commemorate his birthday his precept-disciples refurbished a pond at Pure Compassion Monastery. And while Zhuhong contributed financially to the restoration of Three Pools Reflect the Moon, it was the abbot of Pure Compassion Monastery, Dahuo, who became the caretaker of both Yongming’s stūpa and Three Pools Reflect the Moon. He further oversaw a number of projects initiated by Zhuhong’s precept-disciples, especially projects intimately associated with Yongming Yanshou. Given that Dahuo was a precept-disciple of Zhuhong, one 15

Jingci si zhi, 19: 1611–12.

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might expect a certain level of collegiality, if not loyalty. However, Dahuo also received doctrinal training under the monk Xuelang Hongen, further suggesting a broader level of cooperation.16 Huang Ruheng, Yu Chunxi, the monk Dahuo, and many others worked to bring the restoration of Wangong Pond, Yongming’s stūpa, and Three Pools Reflect the Moon to completion. Through the efforts of this network, the West Lake and surrounding environs rapidly took on the hue of a Buddhist landscape. New economic resources allowed for a selective rebuilding of historic sites that had been previously associated with Pure Land practices or could easily be so inscribed. The religious geography also increased exponentially through the excavation of new ponds, whose releasing-life rituals incorporated Pure Land cultivation. Many releasing-life ponds had lotus patches reminiscent of lotus rebirths in Amitābha’s Pure Land; rituals at these sites often included the chanting of Amitābha Buddha’s name. In his commemoration of Heart of the Lake Temple, Deqing wrote: From ancient times to the present, the West Lake was a place of courtesans (gewu di 歌舞地). It was truly a lake of wine and a forest of meat (酒 池肉林之所). Now, however, in the center of the lake there are three ponds for releasing sentient beings. Once the ponds are full, this place will be transformed from a sea of karma to the Buddha Land of Supreme Bliss 極樂佛國.17 The woodblock print illustrations published with Zhuhong’s Commentary and Its Subcommentary to the Amitābha Sūtra also reflect this idea. Publishers inserted intimate portraits of elite men adorned in official attire wearing the distinctive trademark hats of late sixteenth-century officials. The men are ­portrayed conversing by the side of a free-flowing body of water with an embankment that resembles the West Lake rather than a stylized lotus pond. Also suggestive are other images of men reverently listening to monks explaining texts while others happily bathe themselves.18 Perhaps they are meant to 16 17 18

For Yuanjin Dahuo’s relationship to Xuelang Hongen, see Jingci si zhi, 18: 732–734. Deqing, “Huxin si chongjian fangsheng puyuan chengfo tashu,” Mengyou ji, 2167. The images shown here are from the 1749 reprint of a 1597 edition. The prints depict a rather somber group with eyes closed and plain, unsmiling expressions. However, this is likely a result of the crudeness of the woodblock carving, which offers blunt, solid lines for eyes and mouths. In contrast the 1765 edition—see bibliography—which reproduces the same set of images is of much higher quality with finer lines and greater detailing. The figures in most images have their eyes open and pupils are clearly shown. Their faces tend to be upturned, smiling, and joyous. Other details vary significantly between the two sets,

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Figure 4.1 Listening to the Birds and Trees Extoll the Dharma: Elite men and monks meeting at the side of a lake in the Pure Land. A 1749 reprint of a 1597 woodblock cut illustration of Zhuhong’s Commentary and Its Subcommentary to the Amitābha Sūtra. Reprinted with permission from The East Asian Library and the Gest Collection, Princeton University

Figure 4.2 An Assembly of Those of the Highest Virtue: This theme is portrayed with monks and elite officials bathing and discoursing in the Pure Land. A 1749 reprint of a 1597 woodblock cut illustration of Zhuhong’s Commentary and Its Subcommentary to the Amitābha Sūtra. Reprinted with permission from The East Asian Library and the Gest Collection, Princeton University.

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elicit an association between the landscape of the Pure Land with the “new” atmosphere that Zhuhong hoped would take hold among elite gatherings at the West Lake.

Releasing-Life Societies

Huang Ruheng’s Incense Adorned Society as well as releasing-life societies, like Yu Chunxi’s Superior Lotus Society, represent the kinds of Buddhist societies that were swept into existence by the late Ming proliferation of private organizations: literary societies, religious societies, charitable societies, and jianghui all flourished at the end of the sixteenth century. In step with this trend, the broader Fellowship divided into smaller subgroups who formed their own societies. Some associations were short-lived experiments that lasted only a few years; others met regularly for twenty years or more. Membership likewise varied from a select handful of individuals to groups in excess of a hundred. It was not uncommon for these men to maintain multiple memberships even in societies with similar missions. Between 1580–1618, the close-knit Yuan brothers, who often joined the same society, collectively participated in at least thirty-five different Buddhist and non-Buddhist societies in divergent geographic locations, attending the meetings of up to five different groups in a given year. For instance, around 1598 Yuan Hongdao and his circle of friends formed what was to be a short-lived society called the Grape Society 葡萄社; they met monthly for a few years at the State Veneration Monastery 崇國寺 in Beijing to discuss Buddhist and other topics.19 We know that there were at least thirty-five participants, three of whom also participated in Buddhist societies in the vicinity of Hangzhou: Huang Hui, Tao Wangling, and Wu Yongxian. After the dispersal of the Grape Society, these three went on to organize other Buddhist societies. As seen in the previous section, Wu Yongxian helped Huang Ruheng establish the Incense Adorned Society.

19

yet the group of images remains the same. This cannot be said, however, for the 1897 edition, which not only enhances the figures seen in the images here, but also modifies more drastically the background and other details. Zhuhong, Foshuo Emituo jing shuchao 佛說 阿瀰陀經疏鈔, ed. Cheng Yingqu 程應衢 (1597; reprint 1749, by the monastic supervisor Lailin 來琳 of Tanzhe Monastery 潭柘寺 from a copy preserved at Yijiao Monastery 翊教寺. Rare book, held at the East Asian Library and Gest Collection, Princeton University). Between 1598 and 1601, the three Yuan brothers were hardly ever in Beijing during the same months of the year and likely rarely attended the same meetings of this short-lived society. The same holds true for other members. See He Zongmei 何宗美, Gonganpai jieshe kaolun 公安派結社考論 (Chongqing: Chongqing chubanshe, 2005), 112–152.

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Capitalizing on the popularity of such organizations, Zhuhong encouraged his disciples to create releasing-life societies.20 Releasing-life societies proliferated in the south; in the painter Chen Hongshou’s 陳洪綬 (1598–1652) rosy estimate, five out of every ten families in Jiangnan participated—a reason he gave for a diminished rate of disasters.21 Zhuhong’s precept-disciple, Feng Shike 馮時可 (b. circa 1547; jinshi 1571), also commented on the spread of releasing-life societies throughout Jiangsu and Zhejiang, attributing the formation of societies in Zhejiang to the work of two of Zhuhong’s outstanding disciples (gaozu dizi 高足弟子), Qian Yuqing 錢虞卿 (n.d.) and Layman Rennan 任南.22 The eminent monk Zhenke restored a releasing-life pond near Mount Jing 徑山, and from 1599 onward Deqing began promoting releasing-life practices in Guangdong, where he was exiled, further attesting to the practice among other prominent clergy. In fact, Zhuhong’s tireless devotion to expanding this side of Buddhist cultivation led Deqing to praise him as the prime contemporary authority and propagator of releasing life.23 Zhuhong’s strong advocacy, coupled with the dissemination of On Not Killing and Releasing Life, inspired the creation of a number of societies. Nevertheless, Zhuhong’s revival of releasing-life practices and excavation of ponds in and around Hangzhou would not have succeeded without an elite desire to congregate in this cosmopolitan center, an area known for its famous

20

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23

Research on the Ming-Qing formation of societies has increased exponentially in recent years, making it impossible to list all available sources. For a study directly related to this network, see He Zongmei 何宗美, Mingmo Qingchu wenren jieshe yanjiu 明末清初文人 結社研究 (Tianjin: Nankai Daxue chubanshe, 2003). Studies focused on Zhuhong and releasing-life societies include four recent Taiwanese Master’s theses—yet the topic is far from exhausted. See, for instance, Cai Shufang 蔡淑芳, “Mingmo Qingchu Jiangnan diqude fangsheng huodong 明末清初江南地區的放生活動” (Master’s thesis, National Taiwan Normal University, 2004). For English-language scholarship on charitable so­cieties, there are numerous articles by Joanna Handlin Smith (see the bibliography), a number of which have been reworked and included in Smith, The Art of Doing Good. Smith devotes one chapter to “Societies for Releasing Animals.” Best known as an artist and painter, Chen Hongshou wrote that he once gave up drinking for three days in order to afford to purchase a rabbit and release it. Chen Hongshou, “Mai tu fangsheng,” 5.13a and “Ti shang jiongsi fangsheng ce,” 3.4–5, in “Zawen,” in Baolun tang ji 寶綸堂集, 1888 ed. (Kuaiji: Dongshi Qusi tang chongkan). This is likely Qin Rennan 秦任南 of Wujiang 吳江 (see chapters 1 and 6). Feng Shike, “Pudu’an fangsheng ji,” in Feng Yuancheng xuanji, 18.13b. Also cited in Smith, “Liberating Animals,” 57. See, for example, Deqing, “Fangsheng gongde ji,” and “Fangsheng wen ba,” in Mengyou ji, 1329, 1646. The latter is a postface to one of Zhuhong’s texts. Zhenke, “Xiu Jing shan fangsheng chi ji,” Zibo zunzhe bieji (X1453: 73.408.a21-b4).

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monasteries, scenic vistas, and pavilions. Zhuhong’s disciples hailed from diverse geographic locations: Huguang, Sichuan, Anhui, Jiangnan, Fujian. Many were southerners from the following cities: Renhe, Shaoxing, Qiantang, Yuhang, Kunshan, Ningbo, Fuzhou, Suzhou, among others. However, most made their acquaintance first through friendships established while sojourning in Beijing in preparation for the metropolitan examination and only later regrouped in Hangzhou and other places. Southerners from different cities, Feng Mengzhen, Huang Ruheng, Ge Yinliang 葛寅亮 (1570–1646),24 and Yu Chunxi all eventually settled in residences they built on the south side of the West Lake, spending considerable time there in the company of monks and other like-minded friends.25 Like the Ningbo native Tu Long, who often traveled to see them, these men had rather short-lived official careers, affording them the opportunity to remain in one area for an extended period of time, unlike officials who were continually moved from post to post.26 Most were cashiered early, yet they remained unhampered in their ability to socialize with other examination elites, from whom the network actively solicited funds for temple repair, upkeep, and expansion, stūpa rebuilding, pond excavation, and a host of other Buddhist projects. Robust late sixteenth-century economic activity brought the surplus needed to repair, improve, and expand religious facilities and hold ritual ceremonies.27 At the same time, contemporary Confucian writings exhibit a moral anxiety over the ability of this newfound wealth to upend social stratification, fuel con24

25

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Ge Yinliang (z. Shuijian, h. Qizhan), a Qiantang native, was a precept-disciple of Zhuhong (dharma name Guangji 廣掎). He delivered one of Tao Wangling’s letters to Zhuhong and is mentioned in a letter that Huang Hui sent to Zhuhong. Ge is best known for editing the Jinling fancha zhi, a gazetteer on Nanjing monasteries. For a chronological reconstruction of Ge’s life, see Araki Kengo, “Katsu Inryō nenpukō 葛寅亮年譜考,” Tōyō Kotengaku kenkyū 16 (2003): 41–53. Zhuhong’s precept-disciple the painter and calligrapher Li Liufang 李流芳 (1575–1629) also built a studio near the West Lake and frequently fraternized with this network, though he is tangential to this study. Zhuhong, Quanji, 5207. The official troubles that forced Feng Mengzhen into early retirement did not stop officials and other prominent elites from seeking his advice and requesting prefaces and postfaces. Jingci si zhi, 19: 1809–1811. Unlike the preceding Jiajing reign (1521–1566), which appears to have been one in which temples could hardly raise the funds to manage their own upkeep, the Wanli reign (1573– 1620) saw a surge in financial donations to religious organizations and temples around the West Lake and in Jiangnan more generally. See Brook, Praying for Power, 1993; Brook, Confusions of Pleasure; see also Richard Von Glahn, Fountain of Fortune: Money and Monetary Policy in China, Fourteenth to Seventeenth Centuries (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).

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spicuous consumption, and destabilize society. Uneasiness over the effects of such wealth was aptly captured by the magistrate of She County, Zhang Tao, who wrote, “The lord of silver rules heaven and the god of copper cash reigns over the earth. Avarice is without limit, flesh injures bone …”28 Zhuhong also criticized conspicuous consumption. In his short essay “Loving What is Old (Haogu 好古),” whose title is drawn from the Analects but whose content is Buddhist, the fictional protagonist rebukes a group of collectors: “You are unstinting in gambling a thousand taels [on the purchase of] an incense burner, a vase, a book, or a painting, yet you do not know how to cherish that which is oldest and you are confused.”29 Zhuhong wanted his audience to value what is intangible over the pursuit of rare artefacts. Yet he was no stranger to collecting donations and distributing funds for Buddhist projects of his choosing. In fact, selective in his criticism, Zhuhong did not rein in expenditure on what was in effect another luxurious form of conspicuous consumption: the costly excavation of releasing-life ponds. Although a few were held privately, like the one Shen Zemin 沈澤民 (n.d.) established in 1634 to commemorate the premature death of his mother,30 most ponds were excavated on temple grounds. Zhuhong and his disciples directly funded the excavation of at least six ponds in the following locations: Superior Direction Monastery 上方寺, Long-Life Monastery 長壽寺, Pure Compassion Monastery, Heart of the Lake Temple, Three Pools Reflect the Moon, and Universal Salvation Temple 普度 菴.31 And in retrospect, such projects certainly appear ostentatious. From Yu Chunxi’s description of Wangong Pond, we know that it was not merely a 28

29

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Zhang Dao, Shexian zhi (1609): 6.10b-12a. This translation is by Timothy Brook, see Confusions of Pleasure, 4. For an extended discussion of unease over the newly elevated status of artisanal objects, see Craig Clunas, Superfluous Things Things: Material Culture and Social Status in Early Modern China (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991). Analects 7.1. There are two essays on this theme. The most precious objects are defined as those which existed prior to a śūnya kalpa (kongjie 空劫), a time before the appearance of buddhas but, more importantly a time that predates the origin of Chinese mythology and is thus older than all known artifacts and even “heaven” itself. Zhuhong, Quanji, 3789–3790. Shen Zemin, “Shen shi fangsheng chi beiji,” in Xihe ji, 70.11. Although the three designations miao 廟, si 寺, and an 菴 are often translated as temple, monastery, and nunnery, respectively, late Ming usage does not strictly follow this pattern and requires further research. Pure Compassion (Jingci) and Bright Celebration (Zhao­ qing) were large public monasteries (siyuan 寺院); however, because the small building at Heart of the Lake could accommodate only a monk or two, I translate si as temple. Stone Step (Shi Deng’an) was run by an abbot-monk (page 185); thus, it was not a nunnery. See Yu Chunxi, “Yunqi Lianchi zushi zhuan,” in Yu Deyuan xiansheng ji, 9.6–10.

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religious site for the release of birds and fish. It was a place to stroll, cavort, and buy goods—in short, a place to see and to be seen. Conversely, in the donation circular he wrote soliciting funds for Three Pools Reflect the Moon, Yu Chunxi offered a different moral standard. Criticizing monks and the laity alike, Yu ranked both groups on the basis of their willingness to offer donations and participate in new projects. The best marks were given to contributors with open hearts (xinliang 心量) and high moral standards who showed an interest in the completion of projects. In contrast, wealthy contributors who merely wanted to see their names on a commemorative stele received very low marks, as did monks who gave grudgingly without true concern for the project, whom Yu called “wine and meat” monks (jiurou seng 酒肉僧).32 Offering Zhuhong the highest praise, Yu wrote that Zhuhong donated a considerable sum to aid in the restoration of Three Pools Reflect the Moon.33 Through their propagation of releasing-life societies, Zhuhong’s disciples extended his influence well beyond Hangzhou. The precept-disciples Wu Yongxian and Wu Yingbin established a releasing-life society in their native Tongcheng in Anhui Province. The Anhui monk Wuyi Yuanlai 無異元來 (1575– 1630) wrote that the Tongcheng society modeled its releasing-life practices after Zhuhong’s.34 In addition to securing funds for both Superior Direction and Universal Salvation temples’ releasing-life ponds near the West Lake, in a letter to a friend, Tao Wangling indicated that he had also supported the excavation of a pond at Mount Cao 曹山 in Shaoxing, Zhejiang, at Preserving Life Temple 護生菴.35 Susan Naquin has characterized releasing-life activities as a southern tradition that was spread to the north by a few elite sojourners.36 One 32

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In this circular, Yu is at pains to defend monks who donate against the claims of detractors who think that there is a type of self-serving monk which they call “wine and meat” monks. Such a monk is defined in this essay as those who donate money in order to buy merit to mitigate against the effects of having broken the precepts. Instead Yu offers three categories of donor-monks, protesting that “wine and meat” monks may be callus in their disregard or offer donations to look good, but he stops short of calling them monks who have transgressed and donate as a means of spiritual reparation. Yu Chunxi, Yu Deyuan xiansheng ji, 19.11–13. Wu Yingbin, “Hangzhou Shangfang si fangsheng beiji,” in Zhuhong, Quanji, 3394–3398. Wuyi Yuanlai, “Shengsheng she jiesha fangsheng xu,” in Wuyi chanshi guanglu (X1435: 72.367.a11-b3); he also wrote another releasing-life text, “Fangsheng wen wei baoen ziguan yi zhi liang chanran shuo,” in Wuyi chanshi guanglu (X1435: 72.369.b4-c5). Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2260–2261. Susan Naquin, Peking Temples and City Life 1400–1900 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 196.

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of the main propagators of the practice in Beijing was, unsurprisingly, Zhuhong’s dedicated precept-disciple Huang Hui. Some time after 1606, Huang Hui and Tao Wangling established a releasing-life society at Beijing’s newly restored Stone Step Monastery 石磴庵, and the releasing-life activities continued there unabated after their deaths. When passing through on a 1615 trip, Yuan Zhongdao wrote that he participated in a communal releasing-life ceremony for many small birds and that he was shown the solicitation letter Huang Hui had written to the district magistrate when seeking permission to excavate the pond.37 However, inroads like this aside, the practice of excavating ponds for the release of aquatic animals does not appear to have caught on in the north. In conclusion, this section amply demonstrates the continual regrouping of the larger network into smaller Buddhist-oriented societies. Fellowship members’ mobility enabled them to form societies in Beijing, in their native places, and in the south at a number of temples in and around the West Lake. For this reason, the same names reappear in different locations as some societies died out and others took shape. Unlike the organization of a parish church that might create multiple committees who meet in the same geographic location under the auspices of a single minister or priest, Buddhist societies met in different locations and could be guided by ecclesiastical authorities unaffiliated with the temples where they met; they might also be run by lay Buddhists. Suffice it to say, these last few examples demonstrate the impact of Zhuhong’s teachings in other provinces as his elite disciples returned to their native places or were assigned official duties in other locations. While this chapter focuses primarily on the environs of Hangzhou, future research should help determine to what extent releasing-life practices in other provinces were independent undertakings or a direct result of Zhuhong’s influence, and what the relationship was between Buddhist centers and outlying areas with less famous monks and fewer resources.

37

He Zongmei, Mingmo Qingchu wenren jieshe yanjiu, 113; Yuan Zhongdao wrote a postface to Zhuhong’s On Not Killing (Jiesha wen 戒殺文) entitled, “Shu Jiesha wen hou,” in Kexue zhai qianji 珂雪齋前集 (1618; reprint, Taipei: Weiwen tushu chubanshe, 1976), 2002; for reference to Stone Step Monastery see Yuan Zhongdao, You ju shi lu 游居柿錄, in Biji xiaoshuo daguan 筆記小說大觀, vol. 7 (Taipei: Xinxing shuju, 1985), 981.

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Regulating Meetings, Establishing Rituals

To guide his disciples in their formation of releasing-life societies, Zhuhong put together a Pure Land ritual program and set strict guidelines governing membership and acceptable activities, thereby creating one influential paradigm. He asked his disciples to model their releasing-life societies after the Lotus Society, established on Mount Lu 盧 by the monk Huiyuan 慧遠 (334– 416).38 However, in co-opting Huiyuan’s authority, Zhuhong wasted little time on the historical record of Huiyuan’s society, which did not release animals or recite the name Amitābha Buddha, nor did he adopt the society’s organizational structure. Commonality, thin as it was, was based on the fact that Huiyuan’s society had as its goal rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land—Zhuhong’s true focus. There certainly were sixteenth-century Pure Land groups unassociated with Zhuhong that recited the name Amitābha but did not release animals.39 However, Zhuhong did not establish separate Pure Land groups; instead he used the releasing-life societies as a vehicle for the dissemination of his Pure Land ideas together with other basic Buddhist doctrines. In this respect, the religious rituals incorporated in releasing-life ceremonies (outlined below) played a far more prominent role in disseminating Pure Land teachings than stated in previous scholarship. Many releasing-life societies probably followed the general pattern outlined by Zhuhong in his “Rules for the Good Society of Superior Direction [Monastery] (Shangfang shanhui yue 上方善會約),” though in liturgy, organization, and activities, surely there were variations. Zhuhong’s liturgy called for recitation of both precept texts (jiejing 戒經)40 and the name Amitābha Buddha, accompanied by the rhythms of the wooden fish. Members were expected to contribute money toward the purchase of offerings of fruit and vegetables, and animals for release, or to bring along live birds and fish themselves. Discussions were to remain centered on questions of scriptural interpretation or matters of religious cultivation, and not worldly affairs; the chairmanship could be rotated within the group. Zhuhong suggested that groups remain small and disperse 38 39 40

Zhuhong, Quanji, 3809. For this network, only the Incense Adorned Society appears to fit this category insofar as they did not release animals. See also Naquin, Peking Temples, 229. Jiejing is an abbreviated reference to vinaya texts. Here, the term probably refers to liturgical booklets, much like those used for morning or evening worship. In its instructions on how to proceed with a releasing-life meeting, the “Shangfang shanhui yue” asks everyone to recite the Brahma’s Net Sūtra (Fanwang jing 梵網經). In all likelihood, they recited the section on bodhisattva precepts. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4943–4944.

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quickly at the end of the ceremony. Lingering to fraternize or spend money on lavish meals was discouraged.41 Despite Yu Chunxi’s description of the many beautiful women strolling around Wangong Pond, Zhuhong did not accept women into releasing-life societies. These were, Zhuhong asserted, the exclusive domain of men. Instead, Zhuhong advised women to maintain devotional practice by reciting at home. The founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang 朱元璋 (1328– 1398), had forbidden women from entering monasteries and fraternizing with monks and nuns, yet over time enforcement of this policy had relaxed—Yuan Hongdao in fact mentions women at monasteries (see chapter 3). However, as Chen Yunü asserts, Zhuhong and his precept-disciple the monk Zhanran Yuancheng continued to insist on a strict separation of the sexes.42 Maintaining this gender division had the advantage of creating a clear distinction between Zhuhong’s releasing-life societies and other religious groups like the White Lotus societies and the Luo Sect, which were judged scandalous for their allowance of mixed-gender meetings. White Lotus societies also had a negative reputation—warranted or not—of instigating rebellious activities, and Zhuhong seems sensitive to any hint of association.43 Zhuhong does make one brief mention of a group of men and women convening to recite before the release of animals,44 yet the evidence I have seen suggests that the network’s female relatives did not form their own societies and were involved in releasing sentient beings only outside the boundaries of releasing-life societies: there are numerous sixteenth-century stories of individual women receiving karmic rewards for their private release of animals.45 How closely Zhuhong’s disciples followed his paradigm for such societies is readily apparent in the rules of conduct and descriptions of meetings we have for the Superior Lotus Society 勝連社, managed by Yu Chunxi. Zhuhong supervised this society insofar as he interviewed potential members and offered 41 42 43

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See, for example, Zhuhong, “Jie shehui,” Quanji, 3807 and “Shangfang shanhui yue,” Quanji, 4943–4944. Chen Yunü 陳玉女, Mingdai de fojiao yu shehui 明代的佛教与社会 (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 2011), 322–323; 334–335. Some, but not all, of the societies called “White Lotus” challenged the government, attracting attention for their rebelliousness and insubordination, and they were suppressed. For a discussion of White Lotus movements, see Barend J. ter Haar, The White Lotus Teachings in Chinese Religious History (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992). Zhuhong, Quanji, 3377. See Gui Youguang, “Shu Shenmu zhenjie zhuanhou,” in Zhenchuan ji 震川集, 5.15. For many such stories, see the entries in the eighth fascicle labeled pingji 平集, in Yan Maoyou, Diji lu 迪吉錄. The Diji lu also republished in full Zhuhong’s On Releasing Life.

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spiritual guidance;46 however, he did not always attend the meetings. Membership of the Superior Lotus Society included Yu’s brother Chunzhen 淳 貞, Feng Mengzhen, Shao Musheng 邵穆生 (n.d.), Xu Gui 徐桂 (b. 1551),47 Zhu Changchun 朱長春 (jinshi 1583),48 Huang Ruheng, and Ge Yinliang, among others. Feng Mengzhen also succeeded in convincing Tu Long to join. Convening monthly on the six Buddhist confessional days (zhairi 齋日, Skt. upoṣadha), the group rented a double-decker boat at the West Lake and traveled to one of three monasteries with releasing-life ponds: Superior Direction; Pure Compassion; and Bright Celebration 昭慶. The last two monasteries were on the lake’s southern and northern shore, respectively, and would have been easily accessible by boat. The Superior Lotus Society was highly organized and demanded a considerable commitment in both financial and temporal terms. For a full six days a month, its members convened on a boat as it traveled between three different releasing-life ponds. While aboard, monks and laymen sat in rows on the basis of seniority. “Rules for Superior Lotus Society (Shenglian she yue 勝連社約),”49 written by Yu Chunxi, specifies what to eat, when to eat, and the reasons for eating an ordinary (not sumptuous) vegetarian meal consisting of fruits, noodles, and four vegetable platters, followed by tea. Members who brought their own cooks were fined. This group tried to manage its fees and supplies by distributing a circular in advance and requiring everyone to pay five days prior to meeting: besides a set fee for the meals and the rental of a boat, money was also collected for the purchase of animals, though the text does not stipulate a fixed amount. After the release of animals, everyone chanted the name Amitābha Buddha a thousand times: some chanted aloud; others chanted silently while seated in a meditative posture (jingzuo 淨坐). Chanting was followed by a tea break. Before the release of animals, and after chanting, members were free to relax and engage in conversation so long as they did not discuss worldly affairs. Superior Lotus Society expected participation for the duration of the days’ 46 47

48

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Yu Chunxi, “Shenglian she yue,” in Yu Deyuan xiansheng ji, 22.26–28. The Cloud Dwelling Monastery Gazetteer has short biographies for both Shao Musheng 邵 穆生 (z. Chongsheng 重生 h. Hu’an 虎庵) and Xu Gui 徐桂 (z. Maowu 茂吳; jinshi 1577), Yunqi zhi, 219–220. Shao Musheng was also part of the Vegetarian Bamboo Society 蔬筍 社, which promoted a meat-free diet. See Hangzhou Shang Tianzhu jiangsi zhi, 426–427. Shao Musheng and Zhu Changchun were quite close to both Feng Mengzhen and Yu Chunxi, who wrote each of them numerous letters. Zhu Changchun (z. Taifu 太復) was known for his poetry. There is a short biography in Qian Qianyi, Liechao shiji xiaozhuan, 661. Yu Chunxi, Yu Deyuan xiansheng ji, 22.26–28.

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activities and fined anyone who departed early. The rules indeed paint a picture of a tight-knit group of literate men of means who strove to maintain a level of deportment congruent with the mission of the society. The exclusive, elite nature of this society is readily apparent in its high level of organization, financial demands, rental of a boat, and control Zhuhong exerted over membership through interviews. It is hard to imagine that commoners of meager means could afford the luxury of participating. In addition to these demands, there were cultural expectations that ranged from the ability to write poetry to familiarity with difficult metaphysical subjects. Though there are no extant membership registers for the Superior Lotus Society or other societies discussed here, ad hoc lists compiled by searching through collected writings, commemorations, poetry, and letters result in fairly complete rosters. Most participants, like those listed above, were persons whose names appear in published examination lists and other official sources.50 There is no evidence that commoners, including merchants, joined such releasing-life societies, nor does it appear that wives accompanied their husbands on these excursions. Feng Mengzhen’s Diary offers some tantalizing glimpses into the practices of the Superior Lotus Society. Scattered references from his 1599, 1601, 1602, and 1603 entries show that Feng Mengzhen attended a number of meetings at the West Lake and elsewhere. In one 1599 entry, Feng wrote that he called on Zhuhong to invite him to a releasing-life meeting for which Wang Erkang financed the meal. In that entry, Feng Mengzhen also commented that the Superior Direction Monastery releasing-life pond had just been completed and was fabulous. Many of Feng’s entries named those who presided over meetings, demonstrating that, as Zhuhong suggested, the position rotated: Han Jing 韓敬 (jinshi 1610), Wu Jing 吳鯨 (juren 1603), Ge Yinliang, Yu Chunzhen, and Wu Tingyu 吳廷羽 (n.d.).51 Some entries offer minor details: on one occasion, participants did not pool their money but brought along animals themselves; on another, heavy rain resulted in low attendance. Most notably, for Zhuhong’s seventieth birthday they planned a releasing-life meeting and pooled money to release animals on his behalf.52 On Yu Chunxi’s fiftieth birthday in 1603, they 50

51

52

A number of Superior Lotus Society members were jinshi degree-holders of the same year, suggesting that they had befriended each other during examination periods. Jingci si zhi, 19: 1810–1811. Han Jing was a student of Tang Xianzu and knew Zhuhong. Wu Jing (z. Bolin 伯霖) was a correspondent of Huang Ruheng. Wu Tingyu (z. Taining 太寧) is mentioned in Feng Mengzhen’s Diary and was known as a musician and Huizhou-school painter. Feng Mengzhen, Riji, 48.51 and 53.18–19 ; 57. 6, 12, 46–47; 59.8–11; 60.11–12, 15, 21; 61.2, 4, 9, 10, 16.

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also released animals.53 Though Feng Mengzhen’s references are brief, they offer some clues as to how and when meetings were held. These men also released animals under less formal circumstances, what they referred to as “moved by joy to release life” (隨喜放生):54 Feng Mengzhen and Yu Chunxi both released animals on their way to see Zhuhong in 1595; Huang Hui often bought and released animals when he had the money; and in a circa 1596 letter, Yuan Zongdao mentions that he also released animals outside the venues of society meetings.55 Zhuhong’s paradigm served as one model of how societies were to organize themselves, and “Rules for Superior Lotus Society” demonstrates the care and attention given to adhering to that model. That said, the regulation of activities did not resolve differences of opinion between Zhuhong’s disciples regarding format and ritual purpose. The following letter portrays one such dispute. In the opinion of precept-disciple Qian Yangchun 錢養淳,56 the success of a society hinged on finding a suitable venue and employing a reputable leader who was strict in adherence to precepts and knowledgeable in scripture. More significantly, Qian asked for permission to add cultivation of a Pure Land liturgy created by the monk Zhongfeng Mingben 中峰明本 (1263–1323):57 53 54

55 56

57

See Feng Mengzhen’s 1603 releasing-life poem written for Yu Chunxi’s fifieth birthday. Feng Mengzhen, Riji, 64.1. This term follows closely that of another Buddhist reference most frequently associated with the title of a chapter in the Lotus Sūtra, “responding with joy at the meritorious behavior of others” (隨喜功德). Seeing others’ good behavior motivates one to follow suit. Put more prosaically, this became a polite reference to soliciting donations. In the context above, it simply means to release life as one pleases. Feng Mengzhen, Riji, 48.7; 53.20; Huang Hui, Huang taishi yichuntang zanggao, 7.5a; Yuan Zongdao, “Ji sandi,” in Bai Su zhai leiji, 131. There were numerous men surnamed Qian who participated in this network. Yu Chunxi wrote a text for Qian Yangchun’s marriage, signaling that they knew each other, but he does not offer an alternative name or epithet that would help with further identification. Yu Chunxi, Yu Deyuan xiansheng ji, 18.10–11. Feng Shike called Qian Yuqing 錢虞卿 “a close Zhuhong disciple,” so perhaps this is him or his family member. In 1599, Feng Mengzhen attended a releasing-life meeting presided over by Qian Zhaoyuan 錢兆元 (h. Zhang­ren 長人). Yet, despite extensive database and textual searching, I have not been able to definitively link Qian Yangchun to one of these other persons. His name is not recorded in the informal listings of Superior Lotus Society members, though he certainly appears to be a member. Feng Mengzhen, Riji, 57.46–47. From Hangzhou, Zhongfeng Mingben resided at Tianmu Mountain. His works were greatly admired by members of this network. For a thoroughgoing analysis of his work see Natasha Heller, Illusory Abiding: The Cultural Construction of the Chan Monk Zhongfeng Mingben (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2014).

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Today at the releasing-life meeting, we stopped at reciting The Shorter Rebirth Dhāraṇī (Wangsheng xiao zhou 往生小咒). It was a very important meeting, but it did not touch me in the least. Isn’t that a pity? Now, if we practiced according to this method [Zhongfeng’s], then the boat on the lake would be an inconvenient [venue]. If we were to use the small temple (xiao an 小庵) built in the middle of the lake for this meeting, it would be extraordinary.58 These meetings would then be infused with spirit and plant seeds for a thousand kalpas. But we need to choose a Dharma master [to lead the meeting] whose precept practice is extremely pure, whose recitation voice is clear and bright, and whose scriptural understanding is thoroughly penetrating. This will engender faith and move people to listen respectfully. If we have an undistinguished leader, this will only increase laughter at our authority. We cannot do this. If we just save money and buy animals to be released, this is good and perhaps results in the lesser fruit (xiaoguo 小果) of [rebirth] in the human or heavenly realms, yet is it possible this method need not be seen as best? This is my humble opinion. If it is acceptable, then with your permission we will practice [The Rite of Focusing the Mind During the Three Periods]. It will certainly arouse people’s feelings. The leader must also carefully consider the order of offerings. In the past, regulations were carelessly followed. This has been a bit of an obstacle.59 Qian’s letter indicates that releasing animals was not the sole reason to meet, nor, for him, the most spiritually gratifying part of the meeting. He also worried that the spiritual benefits of this practice were too minor to result in liberation from saṃsāra. Qian preferred to cultivate additional practices, especially a lengthy Pure Land liturgy, The Rite of Focusing the Mind During the Three Periods (Sanshi xinian foshi 三時繫念佛事), a ritual centered on Amitābha Buddha.60 Largely recitative, this liturgy includes a number of Pure Land scriptures and dhāraṇīs, occasionally interspersed with sermons by the presiding 58 59 60

Qian is likely referring to a temple built on one of the manmade islands in the West Lake. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4534–4535. Earlier in the letter, Qian wrote that he had just finished reading one of Mingben’s ritual texts, but he gives only an abbreviated title, which could refer to either one of two very similar ritual texts: Zhongfeng guoshi sanshi xinian foshi (X1464), and Zhongfeng sanshi xinian yifan (X1465). The second text defines xinian as concentrating solely on a buddha to the exclusion of all other thoughts, Zhongfeng sanshi xinian yifan (X1465: 74: 62a.10). See also Feng Mengzhen’s preface to the reprint of Zhongfeng guoshi sanshi xinian foshi, in Kuaixue tang ji, 2.25.

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monk. Given the length and complexity of the ritual, Qian may have wanted to use the liturgy in modified form. Zhuhong also created his own much shorter liturgy for the purpose of liberating the spirit of the animal (huiming 慧命).61 Emphasizing Pure Land soteriology, Zhuhong’s text (a section in On Releasing Life) required ­participants to stand in for the animals that they were about to release. Because fish and birds could not perform the ritual themselves, participants took refuge, recited, and generally absorbed the teachings in their stead. Opening with a short lesson on the meaning of dependent origination, the cause of death, and a reference to the heavy sins of nonhumans, Zhuhong added a confession and promise of a better rebirth for the animal in a heavenly or human realm. At the conclusion of the recitation, participants were to release animals. Zhuhong made an exception for hot summer months, when survival depended on an early release, allowing this at the start of the ceremony.62 Sixteenth-century Confucians, too, such as Zhou Rudeng, did take a degree of interest in animal well-being; however, the performance of religious rituals for the purpose of administering to an animal’s spiritual needs and future rebirth prospects was an exclusively Buddhist concern. Of course, recitation of the liturgy, whether of precept texts, sūtras, dhāraṇīs, or the name Amitābha Buddha, was also a means for these men to attain merit for themselves. From the writings of both Zhuhong and Qian Yangchun, it is evident that the ceremony itself was quite elaborate and included much more than a simple procedure of setting animals free. Zhuhong drew together lay precepts, recitation, releasing life, and rebirth in the Pure Land to form an integrated ritual program that he promoted among releasing-life societies. The overall schema reinforced basic Buddhist teachings on causation, the need to cultivate self-restraint through adherence to the five precepts, and the importance of generating compassion. Attention to the ritual context and larger doctrinal program promoted here demonstrates that this was not the devolution of a tradition to a popular, and thus debased, form of worship accepted by the masses, who lacked the ability to grasp doctrinal intricacies. Far more elaborate undertakings than once thought, late sixteenth-century releasing-life societies arranged a number of Buddhist doctrines and practices, most particularly Pure Land recitation, into a coherent ceremony, culminating 61

62

Zhuhong made a distinction between liberating the physical body and the dharmakāya or wisdom body. The term huiming refers to that aspect of life nurtured by wisdom. Zhuhong’s liturgy was modeled after a text by the Tiantai exegete Si­ming Zhili 四明知禮 (960–1028). Zhuhong, Quanji, 3377. Zhuhong, “Fangsheng yi,” Quanji, 3333–3340.

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in the release of animals. Zhuhong’s promotion of both Pure Land recitation and releasing-life activities had a profound impact on Buddhist practice in Jiangnan and occasionally in other provinces. Shortly after his death, Zhuhong’s overall reputation diminished, yet eighteenth-century sources—two hundred years later—still reference his teaching on this topic. Nonetheless, the impact that Zhuhong’s releasing-life writings had on later time periods is still an open question. The exclusive and elite nature of these late sixteenth-century releasing-life societies may come as a surprise to those readers who are more familiar with twentieth-century releasing-life practices. In Taiwan and in post-1982 Mainland China, such activities are open to anyone who attends the sponsoring organization. Such gatherings tend to encourage the participation of all interested parties, irrespective of gender or class, and are no longer the sole domain of powerful, highly educated, elite men.

Meritorious Benefits of Releasing Life Huang Zhongjin 黃仲藎 had a dream in which he was transported to hell. There he saw a mountain-high stack of records. Peering at them, he noticed that they were petitions (shenzhou 申奏) from the releasing-life ceremonies at Pure Compassion Monastery.63

As seen in the previous chapter, karmic tales amply attest to the karmic horrors visited upon those who killed animals or ate meat. In contrast, stories of saving and releasing animals illustrated the positive karmic rewards garnered through these good acts. Increased longevity was a primary benefit of the practice and could be the result of saving even just a group of ants.64 In one 1606 account, Zhuhong claimed that a man’s life was extended by ten years because his entire family refrained from consuming meat.65 Saved animals could reciprocate by rescuing humans from unjust prosecution, illness, drowning, and the like: swarming flies kept magistrates from writing out punishments, turtles lifted the feet of the drowning, a school of fish appeared in a dream to alleviate a sleeping man’s fever, saving his life. Other tangible benefits of this “hidden merit” (yingong 陰功) included the ability to avoid disasters, increase an offi63 64

65

Jingci si zhi, 19: 1458. Longevity was the stated purpose of the Song Dynasty spring ritual of releasing life at the West Lake and was not necessarily conceived of in Buddhist terms. See Wei Xueyi 魏學 洢, “Shou Qian mu xu,” in Maoyan ji, 5.40–42. Zhuhong, Quanji, 3364. Ibid., 3845.

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cial’s salary, and decrease the chances of getting sick.66 Stories of karmic consequences illustrated a clear, inimitable causal relationship. In Zhuhong’s words, “the [resulting] retributive fruits are as clear as [reflections in a] mirror.”67 Such tightly locked cause and effect relations not only appear to be quite mechanical, but they also hold out benefits that are extremely difficult to guaran­tee. In fact, as this section will demonstrate, Zhuhong emphasized compassion and, like many other monks, prevaricated when it came to exactly when and precisely what karmic rewards a practitioner could expect in exchange for releasing life. The significance of karmic rewards notwithstanding, Zhuhong expected his followers to be motivated by compassion. Compassion and karma balanced each other out and were employed as part and parcel of a single synthetic whole. On the one hand, the law of karma was inescapable. And on the other, those practitioners who exemplified the highest level of selfless compassion received greater karmic rewards. In fact, good intentions alone generated karmic benefits. Simply encouraging others to release animals or praising those who did resulted in merit. Additionally, Zhuhong encouraged practitioners to empathize with the plight of living creatures, irrespective of their size. Thus, this network defended efforts to save ants, centipedes, and small creatures, despite the diminished karmic benefit. Zhuhong developed three short liturgical models for the dedication of merit gained through the practice of not killing and of releasing life: “Dedication of Merit for Releasing Life (Fangsheng zhuyuan 放生祝願)”; “Dedication of Merit for Not Killing (Jiesha zhuyuan 戒殺祝願)”; and “Explanation of the Diagram of Releasing Life (Fangsheng tushuo 放生圖說).”68 In general, Zhuhong asked that practitioners keep a monthly log and calculate merit based on the size of the released animal. A practitioner who had successfully released animals or not killed them for a month, a year, or a lifetime should face an image of a buddha, collect his mind, pay obeisance, and recite the prescribed dedication, inserting his name in the appropriate blank space. After having dedicated the merit to his eventual rebirth in the Pure Land, the practitioner should recite the name of Amitābha Buddha for a hundred, a thousand, or as many times as he would like.69 In its strict accounting of merit, Zhuhong’s Record of Self-Knowledge is analogous to the ledger-style accounting of good deeds depicted in sixteenth-century 66 67 68 69

Ibid., 3845. Ibid., 4775. The original diagram appears to be lost. Ibid., 3379, 3354, and 4775.

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morality books (shanshu 善書). Of increasing popularity, these books dispensed moral maxims and helped the practitioner calculate his daily merits and demerits.70 Most morality books were, however, not strictly Buddhist, as Zhuhong’s was, and did not always include karma and rebirth in their discussions of rewards for good acts.71 In contrast, Zhuhong’s calculations were defined in terms of karmic rewards. Zhuhong wrote not only that one should keep track of merit oneself, but also that on the six upoṣadha days the guardian kings (tianwang 天王) would descend to earth and record one’s good and bad deeds—those who practiced the ten virtuous precepts could be reborn in a Buddhist heaven.72 He also ended On Not Killing and Releasing Life with a short description of a few causes for certain rebirths: those with hateful minds returned as tigers and wolves, and those with poisoned minds became snakes.73 Yet despite these minor forays into establishing precise causal relations, Zhuhong largely sidestepped the question of how to exact material gain in this lifetime or the next. Neither Record of Self-Knowledge nor any other sixteenthcentury Buddhist text that I am aware of included a detailed chart of exactly how much merit was required to receive a better salary or other promised material rewards. Hence, individual practitioners could not predict when either good fortune or disaster would be visited upon them. They could, however, look at their current conditions and extrapolate. In arguing that precept 70

71

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73

Chün-fang Yü, Renewal of Buddhism, chapter 5, gives an extended analysis of morality books and their relation to the Record of Self-Knowledge. The most comprehensive study in English of morality books is Cynthia Brokaw, The Ledgers of Merit and Demerit: Social Change and Moral Order in Late Imperial China (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991). For a review of relevant research, see Sung Kwang-yu 宋光宇, “Guanyu shanshu de yanjiu ji qi zhanwang 關於善書的研究及其展望,” Xinshi xue 5, no. 4 (1994): 163–191. Articles in Japanese are too numerous to mention here. Morality books could be written from the perspective of Confucian, Daoist, or popular religious traditions and often combined ideas from more than one school of thought. The Confucian Liu Zongzhou was particularly critical of calculating rewards. In his pointed criticism of Yuan Huang’s Buddhist-inspired ledgers, Liu dismissed karmic rewards as one of the crassest reasons to do good. In his Manual for Man (Ren pu 人譜), Liu eliminated any talk of rewards for good acts but kept the ledger system for the purpose of recording only misdeeds. See Brokaw, The Ledgers of Merit and Demerit, 128–138, 154, 155, 159. References to guardian kings recording human behavior have precedents in Buddhist literature. The role further resonates with that of the kitchen god. See Robert L. Chard, “Master of the Family: History and Development of the Chinese Cult to the Stove” (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1990); Chard, “Rituals and Scriptures of the Stove Cult,” in Ritual and Scripture in Chinese Popular Religion, ed. David Johnson (Berkeley: Chinese Popular Culture Project, 1995), 3–54. See note 38 in chapter 3 of this volume.

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practice increased the number of good citizens (liangmin 良民), Deqing listed the concrete benefits of adherence to each precept: not killing leads to long­ evity, harmonious relationships, and an abundance of male heirs; not steal­ing leads to prosperity in one’s next life, and so forth.74 Like Deqing, Zhuhong pointed to current prosperity and social status as signs of meritorious prac­tice in a former life, leaving the contemporary reader to draw his own conclusions. Monks like Zhuhong did not in fact guarantee any immediate worldly rewards for the release of animals. However, this did not stop some of Zhuhong’s closest disciples from understanding the rewards they received from releasing life in very concrete terms that drew on the broader cultural logic of “stimulusresponse” (ganying 感應).75 Yu Chunxi wrote a preface to A Record of the Mys­terious Assistance in [Attaining] Official Positions and Status [in Response to] the Release of Life (Fangsheng mingwei youzan lu 放生名位幽贊錄), a collection of tales about those whose reputation and status improved after releasing life, a result attributed to the “mysterious assistance” (youzan 幽贊)76 of heaven. In his preface, Yu Chunxi recounted the experiences of his friend Pan 潘 and himself.77 After obtaining On Not Killing and Releasing Life, Pan and Yu released several deer. Yu also wrote that Pan released numerous fish. Due to these acts, Pan successfully passed the metropolitan examinations, and in response, flocks of birds and magpies gathered like clouds in nearby trees. Likewise, when Yu passed the exam, strange birds flew overhead, a tame rat ran across his pillow, and the previous winter two butterflies had entered his room. Reading such animal behaviors (even retroactively!) as omens of success, Yu attributed their presence to the mysterious praise of heaven. Although the 74 75

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Deqing, Mengyou ji, 2496. The term ganying refers to the process of taking an action (gan) that stimulates a response (ying) in the form of a reward or punishment from heaven or, in the Buddhist case, based on the laws of karma. Despite its early adoption into the Buddhist nomenclature, where it is often used interchangeably with yinguo 因果 (cause and effect), the term continued to circulate in many other religious contexts, especially Confucian and Daoist. This particular essay does not make the connection to yinguo, though it may be assumed. Rather, the essay speaks to the broader cultural logic of ganying seen in non-Buddhist contexts. As Cynthia Brokaw has stated, some sixteenth-century elites rejected the doctrine of karma but believed in divine retribution. Brokaw, The Ledgers of Merit and Demerit. For a succinct history of the use of ganying, see Beverly Foulks McGuire, Living Karma, 7–8. The term youzan, a reference to the hidden or mysterious help offered by heaven or a god, was not the exclusive domain of any one exegetical tradition. A number of Yu’s acquaintances were surnamed Pan, making the attribution here difficult. Yu Chunxi, “Fangsheng mingwei youzan lu xu,” in Yu Deyuan xiansheng ji, 4.34–35.

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story could be read in the karmic terms of cause and effect, karma is not the topic of Yu’s preface, and likely not that of the collection, which is no longer extant. Rather, the point was to demonstrate heaven’s ability to reward the talented with official positions. Buddhist texts do not draw a direct connection between heaven and releasing life, yet Yu Chunxi tied his participation in what he identified as a Buddhist activity to the larger Chinese (and Confucian) understanding of the reciprocal logic between human action and cosmic response.

Environmental Concerns

This section analyzes both Tao Wangling’s defense of releasing life practices against those who questioned its environmental impact, and the broader religious logic that monks and lay Buddhists employed to persuade people to finance excavation projects. Classical and contemporary Confucian texts cited throughout this study have been deeply critical of both gratuitous killing and unrestrained decimation of animal populations. However, Confucians did not believe there was a sound philosophical reason to think that saving animals was a viable method for cultivating the mind. To the contrary, Confucians questioned whether the effect of unfettered growth of the animal population could be detrimental to the environment and whether “release” from captivity had any significant positive effect on the welfare of the released animal, especially when fish were confined to overcrowded ponds or wild animals kept in cages. A leader in the movement to excavate ponds, Zhuhong’s precept-disciple Tao Wangling became one of the foremost defenders of the practice. When pressed about the effect that releasing life had on the environment or on the survival rate of released animals, Tao Wangling offered few practical solutions. His justifications merely rehearsed many of Zhuhong’s philosophical arguments. His 1601 wenda-style postface, Dispelling Doubts about Releasing Life, discussed in the last chapter, primarily underlined the benefits that releasing life had on mind cultivation. Releasing life, Tao asserted, generated a compassionate mind through watching fish frolic in the water and birds soar through the air.78 In fact, this text and others by Tao never depart from a principled, philosophical defense of the practice. In practical terms, Tao Wangling and his cohorts tendered only one solution to the environmental pressures created by 78

Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 1946.

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the enthusiastic release of animals: solicit more funds and excavate more ponds. In the fictional debate set up in Dispelling Doubts about Releasing Life, Tao Wangling countered each of his imagined interlocutor’s points arguing against the practice. When challenged by the claim that hunting kept the world from being overrun by animals, Tao responded that [wild] animals do not share ­living quarters with humans—they have their own habitats in forests and streams—and thus, even if wild animals were not hunted, they still would not encroach upon human environments. Tao further raised two specific examples: in the state of Shu, they do not eat crab, and in Chu, they do not hunt edible water frogs. Yet these animals, Tao thought, posed no specific hazard to the environment or to humans. In another response, Tao claimed that humans do everything they can to extend the lives of the sick and those sentenced to death. Tao likened releasing an animal from the cutting board to pardoning a criminal. Nevertheless, how long the animal survived after release was less important than the fact that it had been released. After all, Tao asserted, all life is impermanent. Criticism that releasing life was ineffective because it saved only a small fraction of animals caught and sold in the market elicited only this response: any degree of saving animals generates compassion.79 The modern reader is likely to find it ironic that these societies went to great trouble to maintain releasing-life ponds both on islands in the West Lake and on its shores. The idea that fish farmed from the West Lake could live better lives in the smaller confined spaces of the island ponds rather than in the ad­jacent, vastly larger lake habitat does raise some questions. Many late sixteenth-century detractors also found this troubling and suggested the alter­native of releasing aquatic animals directly into rivers or the sea. Both Zhuhong and Tao Wangling knew that the Tiantai exegete Zhiyi 智顗 (538– 597) had designated the sea a “releasing-life pond.” Still, despite his nostalgia for the mass releasing-life ceremonies that were part of the history of Hangzhou’s West Lake, Zhuhong did not concede that natural bodies of water were a superior choice. Zhuhong likened the building of ponds to that of walled cities. In walled cities, people are safe from bandits and robbers. Likewise, ponds afford complete protection from fishermen and the horrors of recapture, no matter how unsanitary or overcrowded they might be.80 Tao’s postface Dispelling Doubts about Releasing Life registered this weak, optimistic response: if everyone were to engage in releasing-life practices and the nets 79 80

Zhuhong made the exact same comment. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4775. Tao Wangling’s texts also repeated this analogy. Zhuhong, “Fangsheng chi,” in Zhuchuang er bi, Quanji, 3833.

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strung across rivers were to be removed, allowing fish to swim freely, there would be no need to excavate ponds. No matter how skillfully one argued philosophical points, the fact remained that ponds within city limits were not large enough to accommodate the influx of newly released fish and other aquatic life. Shortly after the Superior Direction Monastery Pond opened in 1601, it ran into trouble. Too many animals were released, and the pond and surrounding environs could not handle the volume. Established under Zhuhong’s supervision, both Superior Direction and another newly opened pond at Long-Life Monastery quickly reached capacity.81 To alleviate the overcrowding at these two monasteries and accommodate newly formed, local releasing-life societies, both Tao Wangling and Feng Shike had raised funds for the excavation of yet another pond on a ten-mu plot of land at Universal Salvation Temple.82 Still, the pace of excavation was not quick enough, creating friction between the enthusiastic release of animals and the inability to accommodate them. Thus, within a year of writing Dispelling Doubts about Releasing Life, Tao once again found himself ­confronted by skeptics who questioned the logic of continued excavation. Tao’s commemoration of Universal Salvation Temple again defended the practice, but with no new practical solutions.83 Feng Shike’s “A Record of Releasing Life at Universal Salvation Temple (Pudu’an fangsheng ji 普度庵放生記)” also described local resistance to creating more ponds. Feng claimed that, after work had begun, some donors developed serious doubts about the viability of the project and withdrew financial support. On the occasion of a society meeting, a number of powerful, wealthy families showed up, but they milled about, neither participating in worship nor giving donations. At that time, Tao Wangling offered a defense of the excavation, successfully persuading these skeptics to contribute enough resources to complete the project. Feng wrote that Tao commented on the need to protect animals from recapture by soliciting more donations. As long as donations were forthcoming, Tao presumed, land and labor could be purchased for the continued excavation of more ponds, thus alleviating the problem of overcrowding and concerns about limited resources. In other 81 82

83

Ibid., 3384–3389. What constituted a mu 畝of land differed on the basis of geographic location and time period. In general, 6.6 mu is equal to an acre. The land was quite substantial; however, the diameter of the pond and its water source are not given. Feng Shike, “Pudu’an fangsheng ji,” in Feng Yuancheng xuanji, 18.13b. Tao Wangling, “Shu Pudu’an xinzuo fangsheng chi juan,” Xie’an ji, 2046–2048. Tao repeated many of the same points Zhuhong had made in his record of the refurbishment of the releasing-life pond at Superior Direction Monastery. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4264–4269.

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words, ponds would only be self-sustaining if the pace of excavation were to meet demand. In their texts, both Feng and Tao described the disapproval and eventual acquiescence of local groups, largely retelling the same story. Nonetheless, in Feng’s estimation, they managed to secure the remainder of the funds because he made a further appeal. Feng reasoned that those who accumulated wealth would not continue to prosper unless they gave some of it away. After all, wealth was only acquired at others’ expense; thus, hoarding it was the equivalent of locking up other people and harming them. If the accumulation of wealth brought harm to others, he reasoned, then how could it lead to good fortune and security for the family? Feng’s rationale drew on a broader cultural logic that would have resonated with some elites and was not Buddhist per se, though his references to impermanence and good acts resulting in good rewards accorded with Buddhist doctrine.84 There were no rigid divisions between what counted as a good, strictly Buddhist reason and other cultural logics. Like Yu Chunxi, these elite members of society had little difficulty synthesizing complementary notions of moral logic to support Buddhist projects. Collecting funds to complete excavation projects was a demanding process. Between 1595 and 1615, Yu Chunxi, Huang Ruheng, and others actively solicited funds for work on Wangong Pond, Three Pools Reflect the Moon, and the building of a new stūpa for Yongming Yanshou’s relics. Concurrently, Feng Shike, Tao Wangling, and other network members were excavating ponds at Superior Direction, Long-Life, and Universal Salvation. However, they were not the only Zhuhong disciples raising funds for excavation projects. Zhou Shunchang 周順 昌 (1584–1626),85 another of his precept-disciples, coordinated fundraising for the completion of a releasing-life pond at Nāgārjuna Temple 龍樹庵, the buildings and grounds of which Zhuhong’s monk-disciple Fugong 傅公 managed. Located in Suzhou prefecture, the temple was built in 1607 on a piece of land surrounded on three sides by a lotus pond. Zhou Shunchang solicited donations from a number of officials and examination elites and organized the “swap of public lands” (公家義田) to acquire a final piece of land flanking the right side of the temple. Around 1617, his efforts resulted in the excavation of

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Feng Shike, “Pudu’an fangsheng ji,” in Feng Yuancheng xuanji, 18.14b-15a. There is an extensive biography of Zhou Shunchang (z. Jingwen 景文) in the DMB that discusses his relationship to the Donglin faction and later martyrdom. His only extant work, listed in the next footnote, contains several texts seeking donations for Buddhist projects and an essay on writing the Huayan Sūtra in blood. For details on Zhou’s Buddhist activities, the location of this temple, and his fundraising efforts, see Peng Shao­ sheng, Jushi zhuan (X1646: 88.277.b12–278.a8).

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this area, creating a belt of water that encircled the temple complex and completed the pond. In Zhou Shunchang’s record of the opening of the pond at Nāgārjuna Temple, he emphasized the coordinated effort needed to bring such projects to completion. He too appealed to a broader reciprocal logic: without the help of officials, monks are unable to raise funds, and without the help of monks, the good roots planted by these officials in past lives would not bear fruit in this life. Turning the tables, Zhou further criticized ru (officials) who denounced Buddhist monks for their “selfish, self-absorbed behavior” (自私自了). If officials would only actively solicit funds, he claimed, then monks would have the resources to minister to others properly.86 Zhou appealed to his elite readers to recognize the cultural interdependence of monks and officials in the creation of social structures and the potential realization of spiritual capital that extended beyond one narrowly focused excavation project. Yu Chunxi also worked closely with officials to see his projects to completion. In fact, securing so much land often required the help of local government personnel. The everincreasing need to acquire land may have deterred would-be supporters, nervous about whether this newly popular movement could maintain its momentum. Managing ponds was not without its difficulties: when released animals attacked and killed one another or were eaten by predators, this defeated the purpose. These and other problems were an unsightly consequence of bad management. In “Rules for the Good Society of Superior Direction [Monastery],” Zhuhong instructed those releasing aquatic animals that fish, shrimp, frogs, clams, large crabs, and small crabs could be released into the same pond.87 However, black fish (heiyu 黑魚), sheatfish, yellow eels, soft-shelled turtles, and the like ought not be released because they would harm the other fish.88 86 87

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Zhou Shunchang, “Longshu an fangsheng chi ji,” in Zhongjie jin yu ji 忠介燼餘集, 3.3. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4943–44. The term shanhui often denotes a philanthropic society. However, the text explains each character in the title, stating these rules are set forth for meetings comprised of local “men of the highest good” (諸上善人), who meet on the last day of the lunar month to recite the Brahma’s Net Sūtra, the name Amitābha Buddha, and various dhāraṇīs. The aquatic names I have provided are provisional. Zhuhong’s text is too cryptic to determine some of them. Xia 蝦, wa 蛙, and ge 蛤 could be shrimp, frog, and clam, as I have offered above. However, depending on context, xia is the first character for the name of a frog and a ge is either a frog or clam. Pangxie 螃蟹 and pengyue 蟛𧑅 are both types of crabs. Bernard Read translates 青魚 as “black carp.” Heiyu 黑魚 I have left as “black fish,” though it can be an alternate name for liyu 鱧魚, which is often translated as “ser­­pent-head” or “murrel.” The nian 鮎 is either a catfish or sheatfish. See Bernard E. Read, Chinese Materia Medica: Fish Drugs (1939; reprint, Taipei: Southern Materials Center,

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Likewise, should snails be released, they would be eaten by black carp (qingyu 青魚). Furthermore, throwing in “dish water, oily water, or the husk of grains [dirtying the water]” will also cause many fish to die. Zhuhong also warned against adding too much so-called “feed.” We can speculate that on days when releasing-life societies held their meetings or on festival days, monasteries were overwhelmed with the arrival of new animals, and many people brought foodstuffs to dump in the ponds. On the other hand, days between religious celebrations probably left the caretakers of ponds scrambling to feed fish and animals. Thus, there was a need to distribute feed evenly as well as find ways to care for sudden influxes of animals. Zhuhong further warned his readers to guard against otters (ta 獺) and birds of prey looking to catch the fish. Zhuhong’s instructions make it clear that success in managing a releasing-life pond required the deft handling of patrons, animals, and the environment. The usual literary trope is that fish and birds were released. However, the practice also involved numerous large animals, requiring continued care. Evidence of this is provided by a stele inscription written in 1813. The inscription, “A Record of the Rebuilding of the Dharma Lecture Hall by the Congregants at Lesser Cloud Dwelling [Monastery] (Xiao Yunqi zhongxintu chongjian yanfa tang ji 小雲棲眾信士重建演法堂記),” encourages readers to model their pond management procedures after those Zhuhong purportedly established for Superior Direction and Long-Life monasteries.89 The inscription claimed that Zhuhong had instituted two types of monetary contributions for releasing life: the practitioner could participate by donating a set fee for buying animals (fangsheng yin 放生銀); or he could contribute money towards a raising fee (shengshi yin 生食銀) for the long-term care of released animals. In fact, due to their small landholdings, Superior Direction and Long-Life monasteries were unsuitable venues for the care of large animals, which therefore were transported—the inscription states—to Cloud Dwelling Monastery, in the mountains, where Zhuhong had constructed a “water-land sanctuary” (shuilu daochang 水陸道場). Apparently, this place had separate enclosures for pigs, chickens, oxen, and sheep and, moreover, as the record states, was teeming with anything that could fly or walk. However, other sources I have encountered say little about what transpired there between 1601 and 1615, and Zhuhong’s writings do not mention the sanctuary.90 Only Deqing described a

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1977). I would like to thank Carla Nappi for her helpful suggestions. Any remaining errors are entirely my own. This text distinguishes between a greater and lesser Cloud Dwelling Monastery—which seems to be because the later rebuilding was on a smaller scale. Yunqi jishi, 164–167. Sixteenth- to eighteenth-century sources make clear that this was a place to keep released animals. However, when Hu Shi 胡適 (1891–1962) visited Cloud Dwelling Monastery in

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“releasing-life center” (fangsheng suo 放生所) that Zhuhong had established in the mountains.91 Deqing wrote that the place had a yearly need for 200 dan of grain and that the monastic community ate less so that they could feed the animals.92 In a significant departure from Tao Wangling’s arguments about mind cultivation, the 1813 stele inscription redefined the practitioner’s moral obligation. Not only was the practitioner to release animals, but also to attend to their survival and continued welfare. If animals died shortly after release, the practitioner had not fully enacted the virtue of loving life. This view represents a shift from Tao Wangling’s defense of releasing life primarily because the practice generated compassion for the practitioner, not because the animal was afforded a better life. Whereas Zhuhong may have made the occasional foray into pond and animal management, Tao’s writings did not provide any ready advice on how to care for animals. Only Deqing singled out the ethical dimension of Zhuhong’s release of and continued care for animals, calling this a filial act.93 Further testament to the “releasing” of larger animals comes from the acclaimed writer Zhang Dai 張岱 (1597–1679), an opponent of releasing life. Zhang wrote that on his visit to Cloud Dwelling Monastery he saw pens and cages for a number of both wild and domesticated animals. Zhang decried the deplorable conditions under which these animals were apparently starving to

91

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1923, he commented that the water-land sanctuary was now used by locals to cultivate another type of ritual: the water-land plenary masses for the dead. The reader should not confuse releasing-life rituals with the plenary mass and its use of the term shuilu daochang to denote a ritual arena, rather than an animal sanctuary. Hu Shi noted that participants in the local area were members of the “Lotus Pond [Zhuhong] school” (Lianchi pai 蓮池派), even if they did not know it. Hu Shi does not comment on releasing-life activities. Admittedly, he merely visited Cloud Dwelling Monastery—he did not study the place. Nonetheless, his observations are worth noting. Hu Shi, Hu Shi riji quanji 胡適日記 全集 (Taipei: Lianjing chuban shiye gufen youxian gongsi, 2004), 98–99. For late Ming Buddhist plenary masses, see Daniel B. Stevenson, “Text, Image, and Transformation in the History of Shuilu fahui, the Buddhist Rite for Deliverance of Creatures of Water and Land,” in Cultural Intersections in Later Chinese Buddhism, ed. Marsha Weidner (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001), 30–70. A single woodblock print in the Pure Compassion Monastery Gazetteer clearly identifies one land-based releasing-life center near the West Lake as a fangsheng suo, but the gazetteer texts make no reference to it. Likewise, there is one woodblock image of Cloud Dwelling Monastery with fangsheng suo carved on it next to a low-lying building. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4956. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 1427–1428. Ibid., 1428.

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death and fish dying in great numbers. According to his account of the conversation he had with Zhuhong, when queried about the practice of releasing animals and then caging them, Zhuhong replied rather weakly that he was simply conforming to the customs of the people. Zhang Dai further gave himself the credit for Zhuhong’s consequent decision to free the rabbits, monkeys, deer, and other undomesticated animals held on the monastery grounds, having convinced Zhuhong that they could fend for themselves.94 This circa 1671 essay, “Releasing-Life Pond (Fangsheng chi 放生池),” was written from memory fifty-six years after Zhuhong passed away and purportedly recalls the details of an actual exchange between a famed Buddhist master and an imperious young student—Zhang Dai was only eighteen years old when Zhuhong died—and is, for that reason alone, suspect. Whether or not the essay unduly exaggerates either the condition of animals or the exchange itself, it does nonetheless confirm that people released more than just fish and birds. The texts presented here clearly illustrate that releasing-life practices were well received, generating an enthusiastic response that quickly overwhelmed current releasing-life venues. The attempt to excavate new ponds, which required enormous expenditures, hardly kept pace with the demand to release more animals. This was especially so when supporters withdrew funds for pond infrastructure—often due to reservations about overcrowding—while more and more animals continued to be released. The immediate need for practical solutions to managing both ponds and animal populations is quite apparent in Zhuhong’s attempt to sort out the ecological order with respect to which fish and animals were compatible and which would devour the others. Late sixteenth-century advocacy for releasing life presented a plethora of philosophical arguments that chipped away at local cultural attitudes towards animals, starting with the commonly accepted notion that animals should be eaten. Yet there was very little discussion of the impact on the environment, fair land use, or the future well-being of released birds, fish, and other animals. Such shortsightedness may sound like that of a bygone era, yet the same problems persist in the activities of some contemporary Buddhist releasing-life groups which are equally long on religious enthusiasm but short on environmental expertise. In the past, it was largely Confucian officials who criticized releasing-life practices. Today, such releasing-life groups have been criticized 94

Zhang Dai was the great-grandson of Zhang Yuanbian, a friend of Wang Ji, who debated Confucian and Buddhist ideas with Zhuhong and ultimately rejected his teachings (see chapters 2 and 7). Seen in this light, Zhang Dai’s criticism followed an established family pattern. Zhang Dai, “Fangsheng chi,” in Xihu meng xun 西湖夢尋 (Hangzhou: Zhejiang wenyi chubanshe, 1984), 173–76.

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by wildlife experts, environmental agencies, and health ministries for their significant negative impact when they amass thousands of birds or fish for release, release invasive species, or through ignorance release animals in inappropriate environments, such as fresh water turtles into the ocean.95

Silk or Cotton: What to Wear?96

Releasing animals and insects was one way to save them; another way was to give up wearing silk. Observance of the precept to not kill did not end with limiting ritual animal sacrifice and the consumption of meat, or excavation of releasing-life ponds: it extended to a discussion of the silk industry. No longer an insular family practice, by the mid-Ming the silk industry was booming. In Suzhou and the surrounding environs, farmers not only raised silkworms, they also planted mulberry trees; the sale of mulberry leaves, the only leaf this insect eats, to silkworm raisers was a lucrative business.97 In order to harvest the long threads needed to produce high-quality silk, the industry boiled the silk cocoons to kill the chrysalis before it could mature and break out of its cocoon. If the moth ruptured the web of threads comprising its cocoon, the resulting short broken strands could only be used to manufacture an inferior quality of silk. This section examines the arguments Zhuhong put forth in his attempt to counter this cultural practice by either changing sericultural practice or encouraging others to wear only cotton. Unlike minor dietary changes or buying animals to set free, exchanging silk robes for cotton ones proved to be an extremely difficult proposition for elite men and was practiced by only a few dedicated individuals. Zhuhong criticized the cruelty of contemporary sericulture methods and campaigned to end this method of harvesting threads. In the Record of SelfKnowledge, Zhuhong awards five merits to those who inherited the profession of raising silkworms but refused to attend to them (kan can 看蠶) for the 95

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Henry C.H. Shiu and Leah Stokes, “Buddhist Animal Release Practices: Historic, Environmental, Public Health And Economic Concerns,” Contemporary Buddhism 9, no. 2 (2008): 181–196. “What to Wear?” is the title of an article by Willard Peterson on decisions about dress made by Jesuits when they first arrived in China late in the sixteenth century; see Willard J. Peterson, “What to Wear? Observation and Participation by Jesuit Missionaries in Late Ming Society,” in Implicit Understanding: Observing, Reporting, and Reflecting on the Encounters Between Europeans and Other Peoples in the Early Modern Period, ed. Stuart B. Schwartz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 403–421. Brook, Confusions of Pleasure, 116–117.

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purpose of silk production.98 He further pressed his disciples to stop wearing silk harvested in this manner. In an attempt to exert some degree of influence on prevailing cultural practices, in three essays Zhuhong suggested the following alternatives: using cotton to manufacture elite robes; limiting the use of silk to ceremonial caps; or reserving the right to wear silk only for those who have reached their fiftieth birthday. Despite Zhuhong’s wish to see officials wear cotton rather than silk robes, this was not a simple matter of personal choice. Zhuhong was well aware that current sumptuary laws prescribed silk attire for the scholar-official class (shidaifu) and that only long unbroken threads could be used to manufacture the high-quality silk robes worn by his elite male disciples. Ming sumptuary laws prescribed the proper material for robes based on social status and, despite the lax enforcement of government strictures after 1580, “robes and roles were ostentatiously correlated in the upper ranks of Ming society.”99 The importance attributed to such protocol is recorded in minute detail by Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), a Jesuit missionary who needed to impress his educated Chinese counterparts. Ricci wrote that his prestige was greatly enhanced when he donned the dark purple silk robe that literati wore when attending formal banquets or calling on officials.100 To complicate matters, elite sensitivities to dress were exacerbated by silkwearing commoners and cotton-clad examination candidates, who were already blurring status boundaries.101 Timothy Brook has argued that the late Ming intertwining of men of learning and wealthy merchants into a single class structure led to a destabilization of previous standards of taste in dress, art, collection of antiquities, and the like, as the newly wealthy attempted to secure their status through imitating patterns of literati consumption.102 Consequently, to expect elite lay Buddhists to forgo their status-laden silk 98

99 100 101 102

Although Zhuhong once helped to fund the republication of the Tract of the Most Exalted on Action and Response (Taishang ganying pian 太上感應篇), a popular morality book claimed variously by the Buddhists, Daoists, Confucians, and others, he does not cite this work’s injunctions against silkworm cultivation. This is likely because he wrote his own tract, the Record of Self-Knowledge, which is unequivocally Buddhist. Zhuhong, Quanji, 2255. Peterson, “What to Wear?,” 404. For a comparison between contemporary European and Chinese sumptuary laws, see Clunas, Superfluous Things, 150–155. Peterson cites Harris’s translation of Ricci’s discussion of robes. Peterson, “What to Wear?” 414. Brook, Confusions of Pleasure, 220, 257. Ibid., 222–229.

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robes in favor of cotton ones was tantamount to asking them to assume the dress of lowly commoners and risk being subjected to less deferential treatment—something Zhuhong’s precept-disciple Ge Yinliang experienced personally.103 In a rather telling omission, none of Zhuhong’s didactic writings singled out cotton-robed commoners for their exemplary piety: theirs was not the real sacrifice. Written for an elite audience, Zhuhong’s three essays challenged Confucian hermeneutics. He raised doubts about the current historical interpretation of sericulture and understanding of passages from the Mencius and the Analects. In contrast to the easy historical fabrications and “reinvented” traditions that Hobsbawm and Ranger highlight in their now iconic study, Invention of Tradition, the late sixteenth-century Chinese context was far more forbidding. Unlike, for example, eighteenth-century Wales, where few people had access to historical sources and printing was almost nonexistent,104 sixteenth-century Chinese elites were highly mobile members of a thriving intellectual community. They had access to the classics and lived at a time when printed materials were in abundance. For this reason, Zhuhong could not afford the luxury of fabricating historical documents in support of his argument: his audience was too astute for that. Rather, Zhuhong’s rhetorical strategies anticipate the objections of an imagined Confucian protagonist, who would have been quick to point to the same written sources as he. Reinterpreting passages from the classics, questioning the constructed, deviant nature of a tradition, appropriating the voice of a respected historical figure, or “correcting” others’ misuse of that person, were all interpretive strategies used by Confucians and Buddhists alike to persuade others to accept a particular interpretation. To bring this well-educated audience around to his point of view, Zhuhong further resorted to the occasional interpolation. In one essay, Zhuhong appropriated the famous Song Dynasty Confucian Zhu Xi’s commentary on Mencius 1A:3. Zhu Xi’s criticism of Buddhism was well known in Ming circles, and sixteenth-century Confucians who wished to distance themselves from the Buddhists often cited his writings. In a skillful 103

104

The West Lake Gazetteer biography of Ge Yinliang states that, because Ge was frugal, he wore cotton, and occasionally others could not tell that he was of high rank. Whether his reason for cotton attire was Buddhist is not clear from this source. Xihu zhi, 1700. See especially Morgan Prys, who describes the wholesale invention of tradition in eighteenth-century Wales, where adroit authors could mythologize the past because manuscripts were locked up in private libraries and publishing was almost nonexistent. Morgan Prys, “From a Death to a View,” in The Invention of Tradition, eds. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 99.

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maneuver, Zhuhong cleverly adopted Zhu’s promulgation of frugality to support Buddhist interdictions against killing silkworms and eating meat, turning both Mencius and Zhu Xi into supporters of the first Buddhist precept. Both Mencius 1A:3, the locus classicus for a discussion of wearing silk and eating meat, and Zhu Xi’s commentary are thus put forward as criticisms of extravagance in Zhuhong’s short essay “Wearing Silk and Eating Meat (Yibo shirou 衣 帛食肉)”: Some say that Hui’an 晦案 [Zhu Xi] criticized Buddhism. [The monk] Konggu 空谷 vigorously defended Buddhism, refuting [Hui’an’s] views. Although this is the case, Hui’an also helped propagate Buddhism. One should know this. As for Hui’an’s interpretation of Mencius, he said, “‘At fifty years of age, if one does not wear silk, then he will not be warm.’ [This means that] if one is not yet fifty, then he should not wear silk. ‘At seventy if one does not eat meat, then he will not be full.’ [Thus,] if one is not yet seventy then he should not eat meat.” Using animal skin and silk threads harms animals and destroys compassion; thus the Buddha forbade it. If one must wait until fifty years of age to wear silk, then those wearing silk will be few. In regard to eating meat, this destroys the seed of great compassion. The Buddha also forbade this. If one must wait until seventy years of age and only then eat meat, those who eat meat will be few. Today babes in arms are already wearing thick fur and fine silk. Boiled meats and fish satisfy their appetites. They do not wait until the prime of their lives, let alone until old age. If Hui’an’s ideas circulate, would this not be of great benefit to the Buddha’s teachings? Those who criticize Hui’an have not examined this; thus I am clarifying it.105 According to Mencius 1A:3, when those of fifty can wear silk and those of seventy can eat meat, then this is a sign of good rulership and a well-ordered society.106 Zhu Xi’s annotations, amounted to little more than a few notes about the benchmarks of this orderly society, however Zhuhong turned this to his advantage; to simply refrain from eating meat and wearing silk until old age exemplified good Buddhist behavior and put one on a better karmic footing. Zhuhong’s observations of the consumptive patterns of his generation are given some credence by both Craig Clunas and Timothy Brook in their studies

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Zhuhong, Quanji, 3786. Lau, Mencius IA:3.

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of late Ming culture, commerce, gardens, and purchase of “superfluous things.”107 In his critique of the “decadent” lifestyles of those who were able to indulge in finery long before middle age, Zhuhong handily turned adherence to this Confucian ideal into the equivalent of complying with the Buddhist precept of not killing. By manipulating classical texts in this way, Zhuhong drew a con­cession to Buddhist dicta out of a Confucian classic and its well-known com­mentary, thus making it harder for Confucian detractors to dismiss Buddhist teachings as wholly outside their purview. In a similar vein, in another short essay, entitled “Silkworms (Cansi 蠶絲),” Zhuhong argued that both Confucius and the sage-king Yu would have endorsed his suggestion that silk be used only for manufacture of officials’ ceremonial caps. Anticipating Confucian criticism, Zhuhong opened with the assertion that the Son of Heaven and the myriad officials relied on silk for ceremonial dress only because it was available. Otherwise, Zhuhong claimed, people would have simply used cotton (bu 布).108 Knowing full well that a passage in Analects 9.3 plainly states that Confucius gave up hemp in favor of silk, in contradistinction to his own assertion, Zhuhong boldly wrote: “Someone may ask, ‘Why is it that Confucius gave up hemp (ma 麻) and used silk (chun 純)?’ It must be the case that in Confucius’ time the use of silk was already well established. Artisans found it more economical to use than hemp.”109 Zhuhong argued that Confucius relinquished hemp-made ceremonial caps for silk ones only because he favored following local custom. Here again, Zhuhong employs the same logic he used when attempting to explain away why Confucius ate meat, as seen in chapter 3—a capitulation to “local custom.” Zhuhong further bolstered his position with the inclusion of a passage from Analects 8.21, about the sage-king Yu. The original passage makes no reference to the materials used to make Yu’s ceremonial cap, stating simply, “He wore coarse clothing yet was lavish in his ceremonial robes and cap.” Through a minor interpolation, Zhuhong altered this passage, making the anachronistic claim that Yu, who presumably predated Confucius by 1,500 years, would have 107

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Brook, Confusions of Pleasure; Clunas, Superfluous Things; Clunas, Fruitful Sites: Garden Culture in Ming Dynasty China (London: Reaction Books; Durham: Duke University Press, 1996). Cotton production started in the south during the Song Dynasty. Like silk in the sixteenth century, cotton came to have commercial value and spawned a thriving local industry. It is not clear from Zhuhong’s writings whether he knows this history or how he is imagining ancient history. Does he really think cotton was available to Yu or Confucius? Brook, Confusions of Pleasure, 114–116. Zhuhong, Quanji, 3820.

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only worn a silk cap and not a silk robe (hemp is not mentioned): “Yu wore coarse clothing, yet spared no expense in his ceremonial robes and cap.110 [However], only the ceremonial cap was made from silk; for the rest, it was not necessary. His intentions are clear.”111 Zhuhong’s readings are admittedly forced, demonstrating that he was not entirely free to choose the terms of the debate but had to engage a common discourse. In his third essay, a short history of the origin of sericulture, again Zhuhong’s strategy stands in opposition to Hobsbawm’s definition of “invented tradition,” which “implies an attempt to establish continuity with a suitable historic past.”112 On the contrary, Zhuhong wanted to recover a past obscured by “tradition,” in this case by exposing current sericulture practices as a misguided deviation from the original methods taught by the legendary Empress Yuanfei Xiling, whom, he argued, instructed people to harvest silk spun around trees by wild silkworms.113 In his revisioning of history, Zhuhong asserted that, because this method of harvesting did not require one to first kill the chrysalis, it was the only sound ethical choice: But the histories say that the Yellow Emperor ordered the Empress Yuanfei Xiling to teach the people sericulture. Now, how does one explain this? I heard that there are silkworms in the wild that can spit silk onto tree branches, and in harvesting one does not have to go to the trouble of boiling the cocoons. In my view, as for the teaching of Xiling, was it not that she taught the harvesting of wild silkworms? As for cultivating silkworms at home, was this not a method developed by someone later, and not something promoted by Xiling?114 110 111 112 113

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Analects 8.21. Ames and Rosemont, trans., The Analects of Confucius, 125. Zhuhong, Quanji, 3820. Eric Hobsbawm, “Introduction: Inventing Traditions,” in The Invention of Tradition, 1. For a protracted discussion of other early medieval mythologies and the views of a few Buddhist monks who supported sericulture, see Stuart Young, “For a Compassionate Killing: Chinese Buddhism, Sericulture, and the Silkworm God Aśvaghoṣa,” Journal of Chinese Religions 41, no. 1 (2013): 25–48. In the expanded version of this article, Young argues that some monks traced the history of sericulture to Indian Buddhist origins, a position Zhuhong did not take. Young, Conceiving the Indian Buddhist Patriarchs in China (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2015), 186–216. Zhuhong, “Cansi,” Quanji, 3821. A complete translation of this text and the other two essays cited here are included in Jennifer Eichman, “Spiritual Seekers in a Fluid Landscape: A Chinese Buddhist Network in the Wanli Period (1573–1620)” (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 2005).

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This essay ends with a reference to Su Shi 蘇軾 (1036–1101), a prominent Song literatus admired by many late sixteenth-century elites as a model lay Buddhist. Writings in Zhuhong’s day often invoked his name in support of Buddhist arguments. Some writers claimed that Su Shi advocated harvesting the broken threads left after the pupa turned into a moth. To the contrary, Zhuhong dismissed this appropriation of Su Shi, implying that he too would have known that this method produced an inferior-quality silk and would have agreed that the only real solution was a return to the true methods taught by Empress Yuanfei Xiling. Wresting Su Shi from others’ hands, Zhuhong too manipulates Su Shi’s story to fit his own vision. Like the vinaya master Daoxuan 道宣 (596–667) and other Buddhist masters before him, Zhuhong found sericulture to be a particularly cruel and objectionable practice. However, monastic views were hardly uniform. While enumerating Daoxuan’s objections to the use of silk in the manufacture of monk clothing, his junior, Yijing 義淨 (635–713), argued that silk was more ubiquitous than cotton and thus perfectly acceptable for the manufacture of robes. Yijing further suggested that when donors offered silk, the monk-­ reci­pients should not be too critical, but gladly accept such gifts.115 Among Zhu­­hong’s contemporaries, we have evidence that the propagator of morality books Yuan Huang criticized the wearing of silk, while the Donglin scholar Chen Longzheng 陳龍正 (1585–1645) could accept the logic of the Buddhist interdiction against killing animals but found ending silk cultivation too extreme.116 In his opposition to sericulture, Zhuhong skillfully reinterpreted passages from the classics. Yet no matter how eloquent the argument, this fellowship would not have found relinquishing silk robes an easy choice. Even though letters and biographies rarely comment on habits of dress, thus making it unclear to what extent Zhuhong’s disciples followed this missive, a few biographical collections mention the practice. Wang Qilong’s biography of the official Cai

115

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John Kieschnick, The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 98–100. Nishimura has written about a Japanese Edo period (1603–1867) monastic debate over whether to lift the prohibition against wearing silk robes, given the Buddhist interdiction against killing. However, his article makes no mention of lay dress. Nishimura Ryo 西村玲, “On Views of the Buddhist Precepts in the Edo Period: Concerning the Prohibition of the Silk Robe,” Bukkyo shigaku kenkyu 46, no. 2 (2003): 49–65. Chen Longzheng, “Xueyan xiangji,” 17.7a; Yuan Huang, Qisi zhenquan, 1–29.

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Chengzhi (jinshi 1583) states that he wore cotton.117 Peng Shaosheng’s biography of  Tao Wangling claims that in his later years he too gave up silk in favor of cotton.118 Both Buddhist biographies, while likely displaying the mythologizing tendencies of their authors, do suggest that giving up silk robes was done only by the extremely committed. The biographies of these two Zhuhong preceptdisciples describe their numerous Buddhist activities: recitation, sūtra reading, Buddhist poetry writing, meat-free eating, releasing-life, and so forth. Hence, a change in dress was likely undertaken by only a handful of highly committed disciples who had a long history of Buddhist activity; it was not expected of the mere initiate. As a visual testament to Buddhist faith and the value placed on all sentient life, such a startling choice—literally wearing one’s faith on one’s sleeve—would not have gone unnoticed.

Military and Judicial Affairs: Pacifying the Country

The discourse generated by the first precept centered largely on two related issues: killing animals and eating meat. One rarely finds this network engaged in political discourse on the karmic consequences of killing humans. This is, admittedly, a rather startling omission, and discussion of it should not be swept aside. The Buddhist prohibition on killing should in theory have presented problems for Buddhist officials charged with administering corporal punishment, sentencing criminals to death, and leading military campaigns. However, this relative silence may well derive from a close Confucian-Buddhist agreement on the status and treatment of humans. Zhuhong’s texts on releasing life continually remind the reader that, while humans commit crimes (zui 罪), animals are, at least in their current life, innocent. Zhuhong readily acknowledged that an animal rebirth was the karmic result of past trans­ gressions, yet it is unclear why neither Zhuhong nor his disciples emphasized animals attacking humans, eating meat, or killing each other—all potential issues.

117

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Several biographies of Cai Chengzhi are still extant (see chapter 3), but only Taking Texts When Moving Posts (Xi jing suiren 攜經隨任) states that he was a vegetarian, “wore only cotton” (衣但布袍), and carried sūtra texts around with him like some ancients carried their zithers. Wang Qilong, Huangming Jingang xinyi lu (X1633: 87.501.a17-b2). See also his biography in Peng Shaosheng, Jushi zhuan (X1646: 88.258.a17-b21). Tao “wore cotton and kept a vegetarian diet” (布衣蔬食). Ibid. (X1646: 88.262.b23).

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Humans, on the other hand, get the punishments they deserve based on the gravity of their errors. Zhuhong’s Record of Self-Knowledge claimed that observance of the laws and institutions of the dynasty generated merit. He did not object to corporal punishment and death sentences laid out in the penal code, nor did he state that sentencing someone to death would automatically result in the accumulation of bad karma.119 His focus was solely on whether the penal decision was correct. Wrongfully sentencing someone to a caning or death, whether intentional or not, resulted in demerit. Likewise, reducing someone’s sentence generated merit. Nonetheless, the punishment had to fit the crime: if bribery resulted in leniency, there was no merit to be gained. These and other demerits are listed in Zhuhong’s Record of Self-Knowledge.120 In step with Zhuhong’s position, Tu Long underlined correct intention and fairness in decisions of judicial penalty. Tu asserted that only officials who abuse the power of their office should fear retribution. In contrast to the essays Tu wrote emphasizing the pain animals feel when killed, his writing on humans directed attention to the nature of the crime, the harm to the state, and the propriety of the verdict. Human emotion was not a consideration, nor did he ask for leniency or the sparing of life. The only question before an official should be whether the punishment was fair; overly personal attachments to the accused should not interfere with the ability to assess the magnitude of a crime, nor should personal anxieties about one’s own fate or good name at the hands of later historians be a factor. One of Tu’s examples should suffice to illustrate this point. In his review of the facts in the famous Han Dynasty case against the powerful minister and military commander Dong Zhuo 董卓 (d. 192), who was sentenced to death, Tu Long justified Dong’s punishment on the premise that he had harmed the state. Because Dong’s friend the scholar-official Cai Yong 蔡雍 (132–192) cried when he heard the verdict, he was also sentenced to death. Tu further defended the second verdict due to Cai’s selfish lack of consideration 119

120

In accepting legal punishments, Zhuhong defended his position by reminding his audience that when the Chan monk Yuangui 元珪 (644–716) bestowed the precepts on the god of Mount Song 嵩, he did not demand that he stop killing, only that he not misuse punishments or harm the innocent. Zhuhong, Pusa jie wenbian (X681: 38.239.a3–15). A long section of Zhuhong’s commentary to the Brahma’s Net Sūtra offers a nuanced detailed discussion of numerous issues that arise in relation to the killing or injury of humans, legal punishments, and military affairs, but these issues did not drive the discourse between the Fellowship’s lay Buddhist proponents of the first precept and their Confucian counterparts. Chün-fang Yü, Renewal of Buddhism, 234, 245.

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for anyone other than himself; Cai failed to see the damage to the state, to the ancestors, and to the people. Tu’s summary of this case blamed Dong and especially Cai, who let his emotions cloud his judgment. In reinforcing this point, Tu emphasized that the state had executed a criminal, not a famous scholar. Tu Long, like Zhuhong, justified judicial treatment based on the guilt of the accused. Both agreed that such decisions had to be made carefully and with the right intention, but they did not condemn the state for inflicting physical pain or even death.121 Military affairs, when they were even discussed, were not linked to the first precept. In a letter to Zhuhong, Regulator of Cavalry Guo Zizhang described the benefits of Buddhist help in military affairs: “I am temporarily staying in Guifang 鬼方 to pacify the kingdom of Yelang 夜郎. Within the military, Buddhist protection (li 力) is always useful.”122 The letter presents a matter-offact description: Guo is silent on the grave harm that acts of pacification might cause other humans and on the ethics of a military campaign. A more graphic description of the coupling of Buddhist power with military prowess appears in a letter written in 1614 or 1615 that Wu Yongxian sent to Zhuhong when he was a provincial governor: When I left Hangzhou in the winter of 1613, I said that after I had had an audience with the emperor, I would hasten to attend your Dharma talk. Little did I know that I would be burdened with an imperial order to pacify Shu [Sichuan]. At that time, all of my petitions to retire were ignored. Because the Guoyi 猓夷 tribes had rebelled, I was under strict orders to investigate quickly. Traveling at night, I hurried to assume my post. I was preoccupied with military affairs for one year and only then was I able to subdue the enemy. Rebel leaders were quickly executed; those who had been coerced to join were more leniently punished. The place is already peaceful. This was all due to the protection (加被之力) of the Three Jewels (sanbao 三寶). I waited until the fighting had ended and the troops were at rest to again petition to return home.123

121

122 123

The discussion of verdicts in the story of Dong Zhuo is, historically speaking, a little more complicated than attested to in Tu Long’s description. Tu Long, “Jie wang sha,” Hongbao ji, 39.48–50. Zhuhong Quanji, 4509–4510. Ibid., 4500–4501.

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The letter attests to the execution of rebel leaders and punishment of others, attributing the swift success in quelling a rebellion to the protection of the Three Jewels, a reference to Buddhism. Again, Wu Yongxian does not reveal a troubled conscience or discuss the first Buddhist precept to not kill. In the eyes of this high-ranking Buddhist official, Buddhism had the power to bring about peace, even through violent means. Clearly, this was not an isolated view. Yuan Zhongdao wrote his friend Wu to congratulate him on the success of the expedition, calling his military strategy the work of a great bodhisattva (dashi 大 士). In the same letter, he praised Wu’s effort because it was infinitely greater than the isolated practice of a “withered Chan” (寂寥枯禪).124 For some in the Fellowship, quiet meditation was labeled “withered Chan” because they thought it negated engagement in worldly affairs. Not all military uses of Buddhism were violent or resulted in death. The Pure Land biography of another official inspired by Zhuhong’s teachings, Huang Yisheng 黃翼聖 (h. Ziyu 子羽, n.d.), describes his use of monks to ward off an invasion during the Chongzhen reign (after 1628). The monks were asked to beat drums and chant Amitābha’s name: “In Xindu 新都 [Sichuan], Ziyu ordered the people to protect the city. A thousand monks, moved by Ziyu’s virtue, climbed the city walls, beat drums, and chanted [Amitābha Buddha’s] name throughout the night. [Treated to such] thunderous sound, the invaders left, and the city was successfully defended.”125 In short, despite their pointed criticism of Confucians who killed animals and ate meat, Zhuhong and his circle were not committed pacifists, nor did they protest against the just use of a death sentence. In fact, when it came to the treatment of humans, especially criminals and rebels, Confucians and Buddhists were primarily in agreement: criminals and rebels deserved to be punished.

Conclusion

This chapter extends our exploration of how this fellowship cultivated the first Buddhist precept, to abstain from killing. Although criminals and those pacified in military campaigns were not the beneficiaries, and Zhuhong’s efforts to end current sericulture practices probably had little impact, the Fellowship’s formation of releasing-life societies and twenty-year commitment to restoring 124 125

Yuan Zhongdao, Kexue zhai jinji, 187. Peng Shaosheng, Jushi zhuan (X1646: 88.276.a18-b24).

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old releasing-life ponds while excavating new ones left a noticeable Buddhist imprint on the cultural and physical landscape. In contrast to Timothy Brook’s assertion that “institutional patronage is a form of social practice that is only obliquely tied to intellectual currents,”126 the projects initiated by this network were all religiously motivated. The network solicited donations for a coherent series of projects intrinsically connected to their releasing-life activities and Pure Land Buddhist aspirations. Releasing-life societies had a very visible effect in particular on the greater environs of the West Lake, which was literally reshaped in the hopes of establishing an earthly Pure Land. Through the collective actions of this network and its many subgroups, the landscape was given a Pure Land overlay: planting lotuses in temple ponds, adding Pure Land images to halls, and naming the buildings at the newly constructed Yongming stūpa site with functions central to their religious purpose; setting up releasing-life ponds in the middle of the West Lake and on its banks; and creating new societies with Pure Land ritual programs that included recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha. Despite the fact that the members of this network were spread across various regions and frequently moved posts, there is no doubt that Hangzhou drew them together, and that the West Lake became a testament to their religious aspirations. Even though groups worked in concert with monks and local officials, many releasing-life projects were initiated by examination elites who did the hard work of raising funds, not the monastic community. The deep commitment of these lay members is further seen in their day-long participation in releas­inglife meetings, requiring participants to develop a mind of compassion irrespec­tive of the potential material and spiritual rewards gained through the release of captured animals. Releasing-life societies were clearly organized into what sociologists call “discrete structured group solidarities.” Not only were there specific meeting days and a full ritual program, but also relations were codified through established rules, as seen here with respect to the Superior Lotus Society and the Incense Adorned Society. And yet there was a fragility to these groups. The excavation of new sites could increase participation or lead to skepticism and loss of new membership. Members often spent only short periods of time in Hangzhou, leading to some transiency in group participation. On the other hand, this very itinerancy spread Zhuhong’s teachings and the practice of releasing-life to other provinces. Through all of it, when groups fell apart and new ones materialized, the network remained intact. 126

Brook, Praying for Power, 88.

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Epistolary collections have once again played a determining role in balancing out prescriptive texts with more descriptive accounts. The letters in this chapter certainly offer crucial insights into how various members conceived of releasing-life practices and military affairs. Yet epistolary sources do more than simply add content. They help us link persons who shared similar Buddhist interests. Without Zhuhong’s epistolary collection, it would not be possible to connect, say, his precept-disciple Ge Yinliang so definitively to the Buddhist interests of Tao Wangling and Huang Hui. The letters help us put faces to the twenty-seven releasing-life participants named here, as well as verify that eighteen of them were Zhuhong’s precept-disciples. In contrast to later chapters, which focus on the network’s desire to realize awakening, this chapter presented more modest spiritual goals: generating a compassionate mind and improving one’s karma. Not killing was a means to accrue sufficient merit to ensure material advantages in this lifetime and a good rebirth, either in the human or heavenly realms of saṃsāra or in a Pure Land. Precept cultivation stood as the ethical foundation for the additional cultivation of meditation and wisdom. But the network knew precept cultivation would not result in complete liberation from saṃsāra. Though this network criticized their peers’ narrow desire for sudden awakening and flirtation with Chan cultivation methods, they themselves also aspired to be awakened. Later chapters will amply attest to the network’s enthusiastic embrace of Chan literature and critical phrase cultivation— focusing the mind on a word or phrase in hopes of triggering sudden enlightenment. What then, motivated these men to devote so much time and energy to worthy, but ultimately less liberating, practices? I will end this chapter with a citation from Yuan Zongdao, which speaks to this question. In a letter to his youngest brother written circa 1596, Zongdao compares the immediate benefits of releasing life to the more unpredictable results of critical phrase practice. In the course of his explanation, he adds in passing that Huang Hui also regularly released life. Such seemingly small comments are crucial evidence of individual practice and of what friends knew about each other’s religious habits: However, in investigating critical phrases, the exercise is difficult to keep pure; moreover, I consider my understanding of this world to be superficial and likely of no benefit to my future, so I am also doing small meritorious acts. I use a portion of my official allotment for meals to buy fish and shellfish. I release them in the Golden Waters Pond 金水池. Whenever I enter, the [palace] attendants do not ask who I am, but

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merely say: “That is the one from the Yuan family who releases life.” Huang Shenxuan 黃慎軒 [Huang Hui], Xiao Xuanpu 蕭玄圃 [Xiao Yunju]127 and others also follow this practice. On the first and fifteenth of each month, what is released is incalculable. It is not that I [truly] desire to do this kind of conditioned [merit-generating] offering (有為功德), [but] I think of the cruel injury my appetites [literally, mouth and belly (koufu 口腹)] have visited upon animal life, and I desire to use this to alleviate somewhat my sins and cause the thought of loving life to emerge time and again.128 127 128

Xiao Yunju 蕭云舉 (1554–1627; jinshi 1586). He was a member of the Gongan school and fraternized with the monk Deqing. Yuan Zongdao, Bai Su zhai leiji, 132.

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Family Practice: Pure Land Recitation The Pure Land ritual program Zhuhong developed for releasing-life societies was one method he used to promoted Pure Land recitation. It was not, however, the only one. The last three chapters have laid out how this network followed Zhuhong in rejecting the Yangming Confucian proposition that one should embrace the idea that the mind is neither good nor evil, concluding instead that self-cultivation should begin with doing good and eliminating evil—through the practice of Buddhist precepts. That choice resulted in debates about what to eat and how to treat animals. This chapter extends our analysis of mind cultivation to a detailed treatment of Zhuhong’s elaborate explanation of the relationship between an undistracted mind and the spiritual potency of recitation. In drawing his precept-disciples further in the direction of a lifelong commitment to Buddhist cultivation, Zhuhong promoted Pure Land recitation practice and the aspiration for a Pure Land rebirth over Chan methods. This chapter analyzes the strategies Zhuhong employed to convince elite men that the simple act of intoning the name Amitābha Buddha was the most effective practice. Not only did Zhuhong have to contend with attitudes—like those of Wang Ji and Zhou Rudeng—that such “simplistic” methods were best left to those of inferior spiritual aptitude and the illiterate masses, he also had to contend with intra-Buddhist arguments that privileged Chan cultivation. To elevate the stature of Pure Land cultivation, Zhuhong adopted a number of strategies. One of those strategies, illustrated in the following letter excerpt written to his ­precept-disciple Wang Zhijian 王志堅 (jinshi 1610),1 was to draw a strong connection between Śākyamuni Buddha and Amitābha Buddha, while down­playing the importance of Chan patriarchs: Pure Land [practice] was propagated by the golden mouth of the Tathāgata Śākyamuni. It was also advocated by the long, broad tongues

1 Wang Zhijian (b. 1573) and his brother Wang Zhichang 王志長 (1585–1663) both traveled to Cloud Dwelling Monastery to become disciples of Zhuhong. Wang Zhijian and Qian Qianyi both received the jinshi in 1610 and served as officials in Suzhou. This may be one of many instances where Qian Qianyi was exposed to Zhuhong’s disciples. Peng Shaosheng, Jushi zhuan (X1646: 88.265.c9).

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi 10.1163/9789004308459_007

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of the innumerable tathāgatas of the ten directions.2 Mañjuśrī, Saman­ tabhadra, Aśvaghoṣa, Nāgārjuna, Tiantai 天台, Qingliang 清涼,3 Yanshou and other innumerable great sages and worthies all advocated it. Just Bodhidharma, and those after who created the Chan school (chanzong 禪 宗), did not advocate Pure Land [practice] because they desired to foster only the one path of transmission through “directly pointing” (單傳直指) [at the mind].4 By invoking the names of Indian bodhisattvas and both Indian and Chinese exegetes, Zhuhong sought to elevate the spiritual authority of Amitābha Buddha above that of Chan patriarchs, who are depicted here as the only group who rejected Pure Land cultivation.5 In his promotion of the Pure Land path, Zhuhong presented an alternative to both Zhou Rudeng’s vision of mind cultivation and Chan methods of “directly pointing.” Zhuhong wrote, “As for the most direct and simple [method], nothing surpasses recitation of the name.” However, he argued that the technique was meant for those of the highest spiritual aptitude as well as those “who are incredibly stupid or dull.”6 To convince an elite audience that this simple technique deserved their attention, in 1584 Zhuhong wrote a lineby-line exegesis to the Sūtra in Which the Buddha Expounds upon Amitābha Buddha (Fo shuo Emituo jing 佛說阿彌陀經), hereafter referred to as the Shorter Amitābha Sūtra. That work was entitled A Commentary and Its Subcommentary to the Amitābha Sūtra (Emituo jing shuchao 阿彌陀經疏鈔).7 Like Regulator of Cavalry Guo Zizhang, many in the Fellowship had copies of Zhuhong’s com2 Amitābha Buddha is said to have a long, broad tongue. This description makes it a characteristic of all the buddhas. 3 These two are shorthand references to the Tiantai monk, Tiantai Zhiyi 天台智頤 (538–597) and the Huayan monk, Qingliang Chengguan 清涼澄觀 (738–839). 4 The Chan method of direct pointing at the mind refers to a cultivation method unmediated by external objects of reflection and will be discussed further below. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4519. 5 In Rebirth Biographies Zhuhong repeats a similar list created by Tianru. Zhuhong also added a list of eleven venerable monks who promoted the Pure Land, starting with Baizhang Huaihai 百丈懷海 (720–814). Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.151.b12–13; 151.a17). 6 Zhuhong, Quanji, 4614. 7 Both Leon Hurvitz and Chün-fang Yü have adopted a more descriptive translation to the title, Phrase-by-Phrase Commentary to the Amitābha Sūtra. I have chosen to be more literal. The second through fourth fascicles of Zhuhong’s commentary incorporate a subcommentary also written by Zhuhong. To further facilitate reading, he added a glossary, “Explanation of Phrases (Shiyi 事義),” which defines various terms and references from both the commentary and subcommentary.

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mentary.8 The commentary stands as Zhuhong’s most in-depth argument for his innovative conception of the “one-mind.” In the commentary, he synthesized Huayan, Tiantai, and Yogācāra exegesis to lend philosophical weight to what others assumed was a superficial method, namely the invocation of Amitābha Buddha’s name. Zhuhong’s elaborate synthesis eliminated the need for any other practice and put recitation on a par with Chan cultivation techniques. The commentary, analyzed in detail below, represents one Pure Land proselytizing strategy. Zhuhong’s other major instrument of persuasion, the 1584 compilation Rebirth Biographies (Wangsheng ji 往生集), catalogs a millennium of Pure Land deathbed scenes, including those of Zhuhong’s newly deceased disciples and their relatives. In its formulaic adherence to the genre of rebirth biographies, Zhuhong’s text does not meet our modern standards of historicity; nonetheless, the variety of biographical categories—including elite men and women, and illiterate commoners—allows us to imagine what ideally a “family religion” might look like. Epistolary sources present a bifurcated world wherein elite men held office, wrote letters, and traveled and drank together. In contrast, Rebirth Biographies presents evidence that the entire household cultivated recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha, sūtras, and dhāraṇīs. At times men too joined their wives in recitation exercises, erasing the division of religious labor seen throughout this book. This chapter opens with an analysis of Rebirth Biographies and will con­ centrate largely on biographies of deceased relatives and members of the Fellowship, expanding still further the list of those who participated in this network and its discourse. There is also some evidence of a stratified alignment, whereby not only the household but also its servants recited the name Amitābha Buddha or sūtras. The second half of the chapter lays out Zhuhong’s doctrinal conception of the one-mind and nianfo. The chapter ends with Zhuhong’s defense of recitation against Chan critics who dismissed the technique as a dualistic method.

8 The monk Jiaoguang chanced upon Zhuhong’s commentary and was so impressed with the text that he had woodblocks cut and distributed a hundred copies in Lu’an 潞安, Shandong. In a second letter, Jiaoguang added, “When I have the strength, I will encourage Yuanfeng 元 峰 (n.d.) of Shanyin to print another hundred copies of the new blocks and donate them to the enfoeffed ruler, Shen.” Zhuhong, Quanji, 4438–4442.

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Rebirth Biographies

Late sixteenth-century tensions over whether to cultivate Chan or Pure Land methods were real enough. Zhuhong’s epistolary collection, as well as Li Zhi’s and the Yuan brothers’ writings, all demonstrate that would-be practitioners questioned the validity of Pure Land cultivation. Monks like Zhuhong’s precept-disciple Zhanran Yuancheng broke with him to advocate Chan cultivation over Pure Land. In rejecting the Pure Land, the monk Xuelang Hongen told his disciples that he did not want a Pure Land funeral, and the Chan monk Wuming Huijing 無明慧經 (1549–1618) taught the use of recitation in critical phrase practice but did not promote rebirth in Amitābha’s Pure Land.9 Clearly, some contemporary monks actively promoted Chan and disparaged Pure Land, keeping alive an intra-Buddhist debate about the correct path to spiritual liberation.10 Yet despite such resistance from monks and others in the community, Rebirth Biographies stands as a testament to Zhuhong’s successful propagation of Pure Land recitation. The 1584 preface to Rebirth Biographies lists the number of entries, starting from the fourth century onwards, at 166, yet over the ensuing thirty-year period, up to 1614 (the year before Zhuhong died), the collection grew to 226 biographies. Later entries include Zhuhong’s male precept-disciples and their family members who were apparently reborn in the Pure Land. Depicted as one of many world-systems found throughout the Buddhist universe, Amitābha Buddha’s Pure Land of Supreme Bliss (Jile jingtu 極樂淨土; Skt. Sukhāvatīvyūha) is a realm free from suffering. The land is composed of seven precious jewels, flowers rain down three times a day, fantastic birds preach the Dharma and inhabitants possess the following qualities: “bodies of pure color, marvelous voices, supranormal powers, and merits. The palaces in which they reside, the clothes they wear, and the food they eat, the flowers that adorn them, the perfumes and ornaments they wear are like the possessions of the gods … If they wish to eat, vessels made of the seven precious substances appear spontaneously before them … They have the clothes they wish for …”11 9 10

11

Qian Qianyi, Liechao shiji xiaozhuan, 743–744. Some contemporary arguments invoked the Platform Sūtra which claims that the deluded recite the name (nianfo) and seek rebirth in a distant land, whereas the enlightened purify their minds, again creating a division between those of superior and inferior spiritual capacities. Liuzu dashi fabao tan jing (T2008: 48.352.a20–24). Luis O. Gómez, trans., Land of Bliss: The Paradise of the Buddha of Measureless Light: ­Sanskrit and Chinese versions of the Sukhāvatīvyūha sutras (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996), 183.

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In contrast to the risks of rebirth in saṃsāra, where one might become a hellbeing, hungry ghost, asura, animal, or struggling human, the Pure Land of Amitābha Buddha presented itself as a religious utopia: rebirth in the presence of a living buddha, ideal living conditions, and guaranteed spiritual fulfillment without the anxiety of backsliding. In availing himself of a pre-established genre of Pure Land biographies, Zhuhong situated recently deceased Ming adherents within the long stream of tradition. Conceived of as a work of historical fact, the addition of new biographies was justified by asserting that the disciple who conveyed the events to him was upright and honest. Nonetheless, despite their oral origins, in written form newly added biographies adhered to the genre’s well-known narrative template to project an aura of universal legitimacy and continuity. In fact, many works in this genre are merely retitled copies of pre-existent texts or repeat verbatim numerous biographies from other collections, a position later assumed by Rebirth Biographies itself, when it too became a template for later seventeenth- and eighteenth-century collections.12 Yet what makes Rebirth Biographies truly significant is its non-formulaic interlinear notes that offer considerable insight into Zhuhong’s thinking on the subject of Pure Land recitation and deathbed rituals, further revealing some shifts in practice from earlier times to the present. Throughout Rebirth Biographies, Zhuhong stressed dedication to a lifetime of cultivation and piety, often noting that so-and-so practiced recitation for twenty or thirty years. He counseled, “Among members of the official class whose distinction and sagaciousness surpasses that of ordinary people, many were monks in their past lives, but they often had doubts. Those who were confused and did not come back [as monks] are nine out of ten.”13 Zhuhong reasoned that if Chan monks failed to attain complete liberation and slipped in rank, like the two Northern Song Dynasty Chan monks, Shijie 師戒 (n.d.), who assumed the body of Su Shi 蘇軾 (1026–1101), and Qing Caotang 青草堂 (n.d.), who returned as the statesman Zeng Gongliang 曾公亮 (999–1078), then his precept-disciples should not deceive themselves.14 He further cited 12

13 14

In A Record of the Virtuous Ferried on the Western Boat (Xifang huizheng lu 西舫彙征錄), the monk Ruizhang 瑞璋 (n.d.) copied verbatim some of Zhuhong’s Ming biographies; in one case he simply subsumed Zhuhong’s interlinear commentary into a biography. Peng Shaosheng, too, relied on Zhuhong’s text for his compilation, Biographies of Laymen. Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.141.b11). These two stories were not original to Zhuhong. Numerous Pure Land publications repeat them and other similar tales in great detail. See Wang Rixiu’s 王日休 (?–1173) compilation, the Longshu Zengguang jingtu wen (T1970: 47.275.a19; 275.b4). Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.141.b13–15).

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Zhongfeng Mingben’s claim that one should not care if awakening took three to a hundred lifetimes.15 Rather than accept such risks, everyone who cultivated Pure Land practices—whether fully awakened or not—could leave saṃsāra through rebirth in Amitābha’s Pure Land.16 Zhuhong argued that although awakening was the ultimate liberative goal, the pursuit of that goal was best accomplished later, after rebirth in that land. The debates of previous centuries on whether there was indeed a disjunction between Chan and Pure Land paths to liberation persisted well into the Ming Dynasty and are readily on display in Rebirth Biographies. Here, Zhuhong counters contemporary objections by relying upon the Pure Land apologetics presented in Doubts and Questions about the Pure Land (Jingtu huowen 淨土惑 問), written by the monk Tianru Weize 天如惟則 (d. 1354).17 Chan discourse records emphasize master-disciple relationships, yet they hardly attend to a disciple’s devotional relationship to past buddhas and bodhisattvas. As enlightened exemplars, Mazu Daoyi, Dahui Zonggao, Zhongfeng Mingben, and many other medieval Chan monks were valorized, mythologized, and generally enjoyed extraordinary reputations among their sixteenth-century reading audiences. In an attempt to weaken that relationship and redirect attention toward Amitābha Buddha, Zhuhong asserted that Chan practitioners still needed the guiding presence of a buddha. By comparing Amitābha to Con­ fucius and elite Buddhist disciples to Confucius’ disciple Yan Hui, Zhuhong thereby suggested that Amitābha Buddha could mentor disciples in much the same way: If there is someone who is clever like Yan Hui, and a hundred li or a thousand li away there is a teacher who, like Confucius, propagates the Way and has seventy disciples and three thousand worthies in attendance, and you hear his name and travel to see him, might there not be some

15 16 17

.

Zhuhong, Quanji, 2038. Ibid., 4577. Tianru was a noted disciple of Zhongfeng Mingben, who, despite his Chan lineage, exhibited a thoroughgoing knowledge of Tiantai doctrine. Zhuhong specifically names Tianru as his source for the idea that disdain for the Pure Land amounted to disdain for Mañjuśrī, Samantabhadra, Aśvaghoṣa, and Nāgārjuna, not disdain for the illiterate masses—an ideal already seen in the letter Zhuhong sent to Wang Zhijian cited above. Other fellowship members were also aware of Tianru’s writings, as Tu Long’s essay on Tianru’s work demonstrates. Tianru, Jingtu huowen (T1972: 47.293.b18–20). Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.151. b12–19). Tu Long, “Tianru dawen 天如答問,”‭‬Hongbao ji‭, ‬37‭.1‬ -6‭.‬

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benefit in this? But, because you rely only on yourself, you do not go to visit. Is this acceptable?  Although this is the case, if there is someone who obtains awakening but does not vow to be born in the Pure Land, dare I profess that he has not yet awakened? Why? Tianru had this to say, “Whether awakened or not, with respect to rebirth in the Pure Land, ten thousand oxen could not retrieve you.”18 These words are so profound.19 In this passage, Zhuhong argued that, just as every Confucian would prefer to be mentored by Confucius, every Buddhist practitioner, whether awakened or not, should ultimately prefer to be in the presence of Amitābha Buddha—an opportunity that rebirth in the Pure Land provides, whereas Chan does not. Zhuhong ended his entreaty with a citation from Tianru, who claimed that ten thousand oxen cannot drag one from the Pure Land. There are two reasons for this: firstly, for those reborn in the Pure Land, there is no backsliding that could result in future rebirths in the lower realms; and secondly, from the perspective of the doctrine of emptiness, the Pure Land is paradoxically both a place to be reborn and the mind itself. From Zhuhong’s perspective, the mind is the Pure Land and the Pure Land is the mind, a doctrinal point that we will return to later. The implication here is that practitioners who deny the existence of the Pure Land create a duality, thereby demonstrating that they are not awakened. This last point would not have been lost on Zhuhong’s Chan audience. To convince elite men to take Pure Land cultivation seriously, Zhuhong repeatedly reminded them that Pure Land soteriology was grounded in scriptural sources and promoted by buddhas and bodhisattvas; in contrast, Chan was merely the non-scriptural teachings of the patriarchs. Zhuhong rejected the shortsightedness of a Chan practice that ignored relations with a buddha: “Those who shoulder hoes keep company with fisherman and foresters, thinking that this is sufficient. They stop looking at the palace and conceitedly say, ‘As for the bright ruler, I do not need to meet him.’ This is ridiculous.”20 Chan texts had a tendency to valorize those who “shoulder hoes” because they were unfettered by scholastic learning, an idea that was often used metaphorically to refer to Chan monks and practitioners. Zhuhong’s carefully chosen analogies were clearly directed at an elite male audience: he compared the closeness of a buddha and his disciples to the relations between a ruler and his ministers and invoked Confucius and his disciples. 18 19 20

Tianru, Jingtu huowen (T1972: 47.292.c8–9). Zhuhong, Quanji, 3871. Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.151.b13–19).

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Female Recitation Practice and Pure Land Rebirths

In his desire to maintain separate religious domains, Zhuhong reinforced the idea that women should confine their Buddhist activities to the domestic sphere. Encouraging them to release animals at home, he barred them from joining his releasing-life societies. There is scant evidence that Zhuhong exchanged letters with them or entertained female family members at Cloud Dwelling Monastery. And although women were present in his Rebirth Biographies, they were depicted as Pure Land practitioners only in domestic contexts. Despite the seventeenth-century gains in female literacy and access to events outside the domestic sphere, women were still largely dependent on familial support, judged for their virtuous behavior, and kept from public life.21 To highlight the expectation that women would confine their religious practices to the domestic sphere, Dorothy Ko has labeled female practice “domestic religion.” In fact, Zhuhong’s writings, like those of some Confucians, specifically discouraged women from traveling to Buddhist monasteries.22 Pure Land scripture clearly states that women’s bodies do not appear in the Pure Land. Zhuhong accepted that view: “When women are reborn, they all take the form of a man.” Furthermore, in addressing artistic depictions of women in the Pure Land, he wrote, “Today, people paint pictures of the nine levels and add female forms; this is wrong. They only preserve their original appearance to illustrate that those of different categories are all reborn [there].”23 As mentioned in the last chapter, the extant illustrated editions of Zhuhong’s commentary to the Shorter Amitābha Sūtra contain images of elite men bathing, reading, and walking around in the robes and hats appropriate to their elite stature, enjoying the scenery in that utopian paradise—but elite women are noticeably absent. Zhuhong’s depiction in Rebirth Biographies of domestic rituals and praise for the pious commitment of women had a didactic purpose. It was used to goad elite men to make the same sincere commitment as their inferior female counterparts. And yet the following excerpt reveals Zhuhong’s rather dim view of female spiritual potential:

21 22 23

Dorothy Ko, Teachers of the Inner Chambers: Women and Culture in Seventeenth-Century China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), 29, 30, 197–202. Yiqun Zhou, “The Hearth and the Temple: Mapping Female Religiosity in Late Imperial China, 1550–1900,” Late Imperial China, vol. 24, no. 2 (2003): 109–155. Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.146.b15–23).

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Women have three sicknesses. First, they are not as filial to their husband’s parents as they are to their own. Second, the way they manage the household help is not as good as the way they treat their sons and grandsons. Third, they understand making contributions, but they do not understand how to stop their greedy hearts. They know the jealousy of wanting a male form, but they do not know how to cast off their female habits. They know how to run away to temples and make offerings to śramaṇa [monks] but they do not know how to turn inward and search within themselves.24 This excerpt about sums it up: Women were greedy, jealous creatures; morally inferior, they lacked filiality and compassion and were incapable of deep reflection. Zhuhong alludes to female donor presence at temples, and women certainly did make donations, although I have yet to see documentation of female donations to Cloud Dwelling Monastery. Notably, the complaint that women donated too frequently to monks was also repeated in some later Confucian writings.25 In all, Zhuhong’s collection includes thirty-two biographies of laywomen, of which the vast majority are of Song Dynasty women (twenty-three).26 More prescriptive than descriptive, the biographies depict an ideal scenario of familial recitation shared between husband and wife, wife and servant, or by the entire household. Their didactic function is reinforced in Zhuhong’s interlinear notes, which highlight three themes: diligence, commitment to daily recitation, and lifelong practice.27 Zhuhong added six late Ming biographies of women. However, these contemporary biographies repeat the narrative pattern established in earlier biographies: all largely depict the same cultivation techniques, deathbed experiences, and signs of rebirth. In a word, contemporary biographies do not register a shift in women’s religious practices brought on by higher literacy rates, new writing habits, or publishing opportunities. Rather, they continue to reflect the same pious devotion to recitation, espe24 25 26 27

Ibid. Yiqun Zhou, “The Hearth and the Temple,” 140. Pre-Tang (1), Tang (2), and Yuan Dynasty biographies (2) comprise the rest. All but four of thirty-two biographical entries for women in Rebirth Biographies are repeated in Peng Xisu’s Record of Pure Land Sages. The sixteenth-century entries in that text often list Rebirth Biographies as their source but add exact names and geographic location, details Zhuhong did not include. The Record of Pure Land Sages provides an additional ten late sixteenth-century women, of which only one is clearly connected to this network.

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cially of the name Amitābha Buddha, and to Pure Land rebirth seen in earlier compilations. The following Song Dynasty biography, along with Zhuhong’s interlinear comment, will serve to illustrate this point. A woman née Lu 陸 from Qiantang “often recited the Lotus Sūtra and firmly set her sights on the Pure Land. Whenever she engaged in worship and repentance, she recited the name ten thousand times. She continued this practice for thirty or so years.” Zhuhong commented: “Indeed. As for women who can imitate this practice of daily, sincerely worshipping, and repenting by reciting the name ten thousand times for thirty years without a change of heart, I guarantee that they will be reborn in the Pure Land.”28 The six late sixteenth-century female biographies that Zhuhong added to the collection all concern practitioners who diligently recited the name for many years. Three recited their entire lives and three committed themselves to the practice only when widowed. Previous centuries, too, document recitation after widowhood, suggesting that widows might have been encouraged to spend their time pursuing a religious path. Miraculous signs indicating a successful rebirth in the Pure Land accompanied each of their deaths: the sound of marvelous music, the scent of incense, or the appearance of lotus flowers. All six biographies follow the usual narrative template: most women kept a meat-free diet, recited daily, and gathered family for the final deathbed ritual. A few biographies offer unscripted details: one widow forgave debts owed her husband; another woman put a flower in her hair for her deathbed ritual. The two most substantial late Ming biographies not only adhere to the same prescriptive template, they also add enough descriptive detail to shed some light on each woman’s situation. The 1587 biography of a woman from a prestigious family née Xue 薛 who married into the Zhou 周 family, is the only biography to suggest Zhuhong officiated at deathbed rites for women. Appar­ ently, Zhuhong had been summoned to preside over a precept ceremony at her deathbed, but his boat was delayed, forcing him to disembark after the ceremony had already taken place and she had died. The uproar caused by this unfortunate turn of events must have motivated Zhuhong to include a long interlinear note explaining his actions. Apparently, several thousand attended her funeral. Yet despite this family’s local prestige and closeness to Zhuhong, their identity remains a mystery. Zhuhong wrote that Madam Xue made 28

Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.145.a3–6). For a discussion of Song Dynasty recitation of the Lotus Sūtra in Pure Land devotional practices, see Daniel Getz, “Rebirth in the Lotus: Song Dynasty Lotus Sūtra Devotion and Pure Land Aspirations in Zongxiao’s Fahui jing xian­ ying lu,” Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal 26 (2013): 33–65.

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offerings to Guanyin and, when widowed, recited tirelessly for fifteen years. When she became ill, she refused medicine. Near death she requested a monk perform a repentance ceremony: Then she faced the west, toward an image of Amitābha. Night and day she continually kept it in her mind (xinian 繫念). She told her sons to assist and forbade their wives from entering the room. On the ninth day of the ninth month, she put on clean clothes, lit pure incense, and sprinkled water on a Chan chair (chanyi 禪椅).29 The next morning, she requested water to wash her hands. She recited the Sweet Dew Mantra (Ganlu zhenyan 甘露真言). She donned clean clothes and a hat in the style recognized as zhigong 誌公.30 Kneeling in front of [an image of] the Buddha, she recited. She burned incense and praised the Buddha with a gāthā. She said homage three times, prostrated three times, and turned her rosary a hundred and eight times. At midday she sat in a lotus posture, formed a mudrā [with her hands],31 and died. Her countenance was bright and, compared to when she was alive, twice as radiant. In an instant, all those in attendance smelled a lotus fragrance filling the room.32 The biography describes the wealth of practices cultivated during the last four days of her life, among which was meditating on an image of Amitābha Buddha. Many such biographies emphasize bathing, donning clean clothes, and lighting incense. The Sweet Dew Mantra was often recited as part of a repentance ceremony, indicating that she went ahead with one despite Zhuhong’s absence. Zhuhong’s note commended her son’s filial behavior in honoring her request that they not propitiate malevolent gods, burn paper money, or sacrifice animals—traditionally popular ritual practices. The inclusion of the biography of the mother of Zhuhong’s precept-disciple Wu Yongxian,33 a woman née Fang 方, reveals the keen observations that men made of female domestic practice. Men must have admired the diligence of 29

30

31 32 33

A wide chair suitable for seated meditation. This type of Ming furniture is highly sought after by collectors today. Sarah Handler, “The Revolution in Chinese Furniture: Moving from Mat to Chair,” Asian Art 4, no. 3 (1991), 9–33. Zhigong 誌公 is an epithet of the eminent monk Baozhi 寶誌 (418–514), who earned the name because he often wore a hat. He painted twelve Guanyin images for Emperor Wu of Liang and performed repentance ceremonies. In the context of this biography, the hat appears to be part of ritual attire for a repentance ceremony. The mudrā used here is not identified in the text. Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.146.a16-b9). Qian Qianyi, Liechao shiji xiaozhuan, 775.

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their mothers, wives, and sisters, given the fact that this biography and others were recorded due to their efforts. Widowed when she was thirty, Fang is said to have spent the next twenty years diligently reciting Amitābha’s name.34 Like exemplary females of the past, she recited with her servant and both of them maintained a meat-free diet.35 Fang’s biography suggests that for the Wu family, Buddhist practice was a household affair: both male and female members of the family carried out some form of Buddhist practice, albeit the men did so in the context of time spent outside the home with monks and other likeminded elite male practitioners. Widow Fang’s biography states: During the Ming, Fang, the wife of the government student, Wu Yingdao 吳應道, was widowed at the age of thirty (1568). She set her mind on taking refuge in the Buddha and singularly cultivated Pure Land practice. One of her elder servants also kept a meatless diet (zhaijie 齋戒), and together they followed this practice for twenty years. In 1585, she was fifty years old. She became mildly ill and called to her servant. They recited the name together without ceasing. Without another word to her servant, she died. The day before, she had bathed and put on clean clothes. In the morning she burned incense and worshipped the Buddha and returned to sit on a low platform, where she died. She had a son named Yongxian 用先. He had attained the jinshi degree and was the sort of person who in speech was never deceitful. This is everything he told me.36 When Fang’s son, Wu Yongxian, presented this story, his upstanding character and reputation for honesty were all Zhuhong needed to assess the historical accuracy of the account. There are some indications that the Wu family ­maintained its Buddhist devotion over generations and intermarried with other Buddhist-oriented families. For example, Wu Lingyi 吳令儀 (1593-1622), the daughter of Wu Yongxian’s uncle Wu Yingbin, was the mother of the 34

35 36

Biographical collections offer conflicting views on her birthdate and on which Wu male was her husband. A Record of Pure Land Sages claims that she was born in 1535 and was the wife of another Zhuhong precept-disciple, Wu Yingbin. Jingtu shengxian lu (X1549: 78.311.c16–21). That text lists its source as Zhuhong’s Rebirth Biographies but leaves out the son, Wu Yongxian. Rebirth Biographies names Wu Yingdao 吳應道 (n.d.) as the husband, and further states that Fang was widowed in 1568 at the age of thirty, placing her birth in the year 1538. Zhuhong’s is the more accurate text, since Wu Yingdao was indeed the father of Wu Yongxian. See also the biography of the mother of Sun 孫, who “kept a meatless diet and recited the name her entire life.” Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.148.c6–9). Ibid. (T2072: 51.148.b4–10).

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prominent literatus Fang Yizhi 方以智 (1611–1671), who became a precept-disciple of the monk Juelang Daosheng 覺浪道盛 (1592–1659). Rebirth Biographies presents women’s voices through what were ostensibly redactions of conversations they had with family members, and further demonstrates the mutual influence women and men could exert on each other’s religious choices. The layman Zhang Shouyue 張守約 (n.d.) converted his second wife, née Tao 陶. Four days before her death, she told her second son, “Every day I contemplate (can 參) the two phrases ‘this mind creates the Buddha’ and ‘this mind is the Buddha.’ Today, I finally understand. Four days from now I will go.”37 After the son of layman Chen Junchuan 陳濬川 (n.d.) visited Cloud Dwelling Monastery, he encouraged his eighty-one-year-old mother to recite the name and concentrate on the Pure Land, instructions he may have conveyed from Zhuhong.38 Yet how many of the women included in Rebirth Biographies met Zhuhong or conceived of him as their Buddhist master is unclear.39 It is equally unclear whether women identified with Zhuhong’s teachings in households where the husband or son became his precept-dis­ ciple or whether they had a more generalized understanding of Buddhist cultivation. There are a few other sources that offer a glimpse of the domestic worship of the Fellowship’s female family members, further confirming the patterns established above. In one letter, Yuan Zongdao claimed that all the women in his household abstained from eating meat.40 The miracle-filled Pure Land rebirth biography of the Yuan brothers’ niece, surnamed Zhu 祝,41 says that she was inspired by listening to her uncles’ Buddhist discussions to try Pure Land recitation; they also praised their mother for her sūtra recitation practice— already mentioned in chapter 3 in the story about the pious spider. A few sources suggest that women received some doctrinal education. Tao Wangling’s biography of Wang Erkang says that he taught his wife Buddhist doctrines.42 In a letter to his younger brother, Tao Shiling, Tao Wangling asked him to explain the Sūtra of Complete Enlightenment to their mother, and when she was sick, he invited a monk to come recite on her behalf.43 Feng Mengzhen and Yu Chunxi each wrote a Pure Land rebirth biography for women they had known— 37 38 39 40 41 42 43

Ibid. (T2072: 51.148.b11–18). Ibid. (T2072: 51. 149.a26-b7). Rebirth biography collections do have biographies of Zhuhong’s wife, who became a nun, and of one of her disciples. Yuan Zongdao, Bai Su zhai leiji, 131. Peng Xisu, Jingtu shengxian lu (X1549: 78.312.b1–11). Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 1198–1199. Ibid., 2345, 2264.

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published in their own collected works. In contrast to such depictions of domestic religion, Feng Mengzhen is the only one who indicates he took his concubines to worship outside the family compound at the Upper Tianzhu Monastery, though not to Cloud Dwelling Monastery.44 There are some indications that the wives and daughters of network members wrote poetry, traveled with their husbands to new official posts, and were generally literate. Tu Long’s wife and his daughter Tu Yaose 屠瑤瑟 (1572–1600) were both literate. The daughter was married to the son of Huang Ruheng, another network member. Tu Long’s son married the literate Shen Tiansun 沈 天孫 (1580–1600). When both girls died prematurely, the families compiled a collection of their poetry and published it, with prefaces written by Tu Long and Yu Chunxi.45 These sources certainly tell us that some Fellowship families formed strong alliances, but they reveal little about female religious activities. For this particular network we have no evidence of female-authored Buddhist texts or female-driven Buddhist initiatives outside the home. Although more research on late sixteenth-century female Buddhist cultivation remains to be done, with respect to the families of this network, this much can be said: female family members were encouraged to cultivate Pure Land and other recitative practices within the domestic realm. They were praised for their devotion and piety, a few tried more contemplative exercises, and some were schooled in Buddhist doctrine.

Male Recitation Practice and Pure Land Rebirths

To Rebirth Biographies, Zhuhong added thirteen biographies of educationally successful officials who died between 1601 and 1614. These biographies attest to Zhuhong’s success in persuading elite men from prominent families to embrace recitation practices, especially recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha, and the goal of rebirth in the Pure Land. In keeping with the didactic intent of Rebirth Biographies, Zhuhong followed official biographical conventions and indicated the official title, educational attainment, family background, geographic origin, and virtuous character traits of his elite male entrants. This strategy further reinforced the notion that well-educated men and those who held office accepted Pure Land practice. (In contrast, later compilations, like 44 45

Feng Mengzhen, Riji, 62.1–2. Qian Qianyi identifies three late Ming women poets as jushi 居士, a term usually reserved for men. What to make of this requires further research. Qian Qianyi, Liechao shiji xiaozhuan, 775, 778.

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the Record of Pure Land Sages (Jingtu shengxian lu 淨土聖賢錄), hardly mention official life, focusing almost exclusively on religious practice and miraculous events.) Despite their educational level and official titles, Zhuhong’s precept-disciples Gu Yuan 顧源, Tang Yanren 唐延任, He Xizai 郝熙載, Ge Yi’an 戈以安, Yang Jiayi 楊嘉禕, Zhang Shouyue, and Chen Junchuan are little known outside this text.46 Likewise, those simply identified as “Layman Du” or “Layman Wu” are irrecoverable in real terms. However, Sun Shuzi 孫叔子 (n.d.), Sun Jingwu 孫鏡吾 (n.d.), and Wu Yingbin are easier to trace due to their letter exchanges with Zhuhong. A number of Zhuhong’s most active precept-disciples who aspired to a Pure Land rebirth, like Yu Chunxi, outlived him and would not be included for this reason. Other families may not have asked to be included. Peng Shaosheng’s eighteenth-century Pure Land text, Biographies of Laymen, claims the following Fellowship members were reborn in the Pure Land: Tao Wangling, Yuan Hongdao, Li Zhi, Wang Zaigong, Huang Yisheng, and Wen Ziyu. Zhuhong’s interlinear notes indicate that some families hoped to have an elite male relative’s rebirth story published in the collection. Apparently, after 1584 various editions of Rebirth Biographies were in circulation, and Zhuhong’s disciples knew that it was a revered text of exemplary figures. The sons of the education instructor Tang Yanren thought it would be an ideal place for others to hear about their father’s 1603 rebirth and the way in which he had died.47 Zhuhong recorded the circumstances that led to their decision: When the layman was about to die, his sons asked him, “You, sir, as to the circumstances at the end of your life, in order for others to hear about them, should they not be included in Yunqi’s [Zhuhong’s] Rebirth Biographies?” The layman replied, “You must ask my teacher. But do not make any special embellishments. Tell him exactly what happened. As to inclusion in the biographies, Master [Zhuhong] will have his own opinion. Whatever happens, if your entry is rejected, do not allow this to produce anger or indignation.”

46 47

We do not have specific dates for any of these men. The biographies of Tang Yanren, Yang Jiayi, and He Xizai identify their status as that of wenxue 文學; what Charles O. Hucker (see A Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China) suggests is a low-level education official or clerk, though the exact status and position is unclear.

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 Indeed! From this, we can observe his cultivation. His whole life, he truly believed in the Pure Land without wavering. He smiled and died. How could one doubt his ascent?48 Zhuhong accepted the sons’ account and praised Tang for his sense of humility and desire that his sons convey the unadorned truth. The biography of Tang Yanren is somewhat unusual in that it discusses his cultivation of samādhi, a topic hardly mentioned in Rebirth Biographies. One of Zhuhong’s main projects was to elevate the status of recitation by demonstrating that it could lead to various levels of samādhi, a form of meditative concentration. Tang Yanren’s biography comes closest to placing recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha in that context: During the Ming, Tang Yanren, a person from Lanxi in Zhejiang whose epithet was Layman Tiru 體如, was filial and friendly. He had a pure and sincere heaven-endowed nature. When he was young, he made a name for himself in school. Later he realized that the world was impermanent. He set his mind on the Way and went to Cloud Dwelling Monastery. There he received instruction in the samādhi of reciting the name (nianfo sanmei 念佛三昧). Subsequently, he put his efforts into cultivating this. He practiced for thirteen years as though it were only a single day. He was singularly devoted to the western direction as his destination.49 For thirteen years Tang Yanren tirelessly recited the name to attain samādhi. However, we do not know what specific spiritual exercises Zhuhong taught Tang, what he told him about the importance of the practice, or how Zhuhong answered Tang’s questions concerning his efforts to achieve samādhi. Later in this chapter we will analyze Zhuhong’s doctrinal concepts and approach to samādhi to provide some insight into these questions. Zhuhong further accepted the 1611 deathbed account told to him by Wu Yingbin of his young precept-disciple Sun Shuzi, the son of another preceptdisciple, Sun Jingwu. The Sun and Wu families both resided in Tongcheng, Anhui Province, and likely intermarried. A letter that Sun Jingwu wrote to Zhuhong is still extant, affirming the Sun family’s commitment to Pure Land cultivation. Before his death, the boy took the five lay precepts, kept a meatfree diet, and diligently recited both the Diamond Sūtra and Amitābha’s name. At death, he claimed that Amitābha Buddha and the bodhisattva Guanyin had 48 49

Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.148.c19–24). Ibid. (T2072: 51.148.c10–18).

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come to escort him to the Pure Land. This biography also includes a number of miraculous events. In his interlinear notes, Zhuhong wrote that an auspicious mushroom miraculously appeared in the boy’s room at birth and continued to grow until his death.50 As previously mentioned, Zhuhong relied on his source’s good character to judge the truthfulness of these accounts, something he discussed in his interlinear notes to several other biographies. For instance, in the 1605 account of the death of a precept-disciple, the education instructor Yang Jiayi 楊嘉褘 (n.d.), Zhuhong noted that Jiayi’s brother Jiazu 嘉祚 (n.d.) recorded these events, vowing, “If my words are deceitful, then may I fall into the hell of pulling out tongues.”51 In the case of layman Wu Jixun 吳繼勛, Zhuhong included the biography because the man’s son was considered trustworthy.52 Nonethe­ less, despite such claims to truthfulness, there were discrepancies. For example, the biography of Gu Yuan first described his accomplishments in poetry and calligraphy—artistic endeavors of the official class—and then stated that in “his mid-years, he set his mind on the cultivation of Pure Land practices.”53 In contrast, Peng Xisu’s Record of Pure Land Sages provides a much more extensive account, claiming that at forty Gu Yuan retired and built a room to practice Chan visualization. Though some of the details are the same, and both accounts agree that Gu Yuan was reborn in the Pure Land, the extensive dialogue recorded in each version differs significantly, as does the tone, leading one to conclude that, contrary to Zhuhong’s repeated claims to accuracy, he, like Peng Xisu, had an editorial hand in shaping biographies to fit a particular vision. Evidence of this fellowship’s aspirations for a Pure Land rebirth is not easy to find. Fortunately, epistolary exchanges offer some insight, further suggesting that such aspirations were discussed openly among the network. In a letter to Feng Mengzhen, Zhenke’s monk-disciple Mizang Daokai 密藏道開 (d. ca. 1593) wrote that he needed to solicit a preface for one of the Yogācāra treatises he

50

51 52 53

Zhuhong wrote that Wu Yingbin also recorded this detail in his Biographies of Western Rebirths (Xisheng zhuan 西生傳), a text which is no longer extant. Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.149.c8–21). Ibid. (T2072: 51.149.a12–13). The name is somewhat garbled, but appears to be that of his son. Ibid. (T2072: 51.149. c29–150.a5) Ibid. (T2072: 51.148.a19-b3). Zhuhong’s biography is the earliest, has the most dialogue, and offers an immediate source—the official Yin Qiuming 殷秋溟 (n.d.), a correspondent of Wang Ji. Peng Shaosheng and Peng Xisu differ little in their biographies, both of which contrast with Zhuhong’s in the content of the dialogue between Gu Yuan and his sons.

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planned to include in a new printing of the Buddhist Tripitaka.54 Having heard through the grapevine that Yu Chunxi, who aspired to rebirth in the Pure Land, was keen to meet him, Daokai urged Feng Mengzhen to tell Yu Chunxi that writing the preface would improve his Pure Land rebirth prospects. Yu was to present the preface to Daokai when they met.55 In another epistolary exchange, this time between Huang Hui and Yuan Hongdao, Huang twice mentioned his father’s Pure Land rebirth aspirations. The first exchange discussed his father’s illness and concentration on the Pure Land. The second letter attempted to verify his father’s successful rebirth. In his father’s final days, he recited the Zhunti dhāraṇī and ceaselessly kept his mind on the Pure Land.56 In his last moments, the father’s head was hot like a fire: Huang took this to be a sign of a successful rebirth.57 This particular sign is, however, quite unique. The most recognized signs of Pure Land rebirth include visions, incense aromas, light rays, and falling flowers—not fire. The Yuan family also held Pure Land deathbed rituals: a niece has already been discussed above. Yuan Hongdao wrote a 1591 account of his nephew’s Pure Land deathbed ritual and rebirth—a text that reveals Hongdao already knew in 1591 about Zhuhong’s Pure Land teachings.58 The following story recounted by Yuan Zhongdao in his 1613 Record of a Dream at Jade Snow Studio (Kexuezhai jimeng 珂雪齋紀夢) bears out his belief that his more famous brother Yuan Hongdao was reborn in the Pure Land. Yuan Zhongdao described an experience he purportedly had one night after finishing his evening worship. He was sitting on his meditation mat in a deep trance-like state, when suddenly he was transported to the Western Pure Land and met his recently deceased brother Yuan Hongdao (d. 1610). Worried that Zhongdao was negligent in his cultivation of precepts and meditation, Hongdao had sent for him. When Zhongdao asked his brother to explain their whereabouts, Hongdao replied:

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Mizang Daokai managed Zhenke’s ambitious project to reprint the Buddhist canon. The carving of woodblocks for the Vijñaptimātratāsiddhi-śāstra (Cheng weishi lun 成唯識論) was well underway; however, Daokai could not release the text without a preface. Mizang Daokai, Mizang kai chanshi yigao (JB118: 23.28.b6–15). For more on the cult of Zhunti, see Robert Gimello, “Icon and Incantation: The Goddess Zhunti and the Role of Images in the Occult Buddhism of China,” in Images in Asian Religions: Texts and Contexts, eds. Phyllis Granoff and Koichi Shinohara (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2004), 225–256. Huang Hui, Huang taishi yichun tang canggao, 7.5b-7a-b. Jonathan Chaves, Pilgrim of the Clouds: Poems and Essays from Ming China by Yuan Hungtao and His Brothers (New York: Weatherhill, 1978), 82–83.

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This is the Border Region (biandi 邊地) of the Western Land. Those whose faith and understanding have not yet fully matured and those whose precept practice is not yet fully established are born in this place. It is also called the Land of the Lazy and Arrogant 懈慢國.59 Those reborn in the Border Region cannot see the Buddha, hear the Dharma, or meet bodhisattvas for five hundred years. This place is reserved for those with some level of cultivation who have not yet grasped Buddhist wisdom and have doubts, wavering in their faith. Doubt was a sign of arrogance; inattention to practice was a sign of laziness—hence, the name the “Land of the Lazy and Arrogant.” Further dialogue during this vision-induced journey makes clear that Yuan Zhongdao and his brothers drew a direct connection between adherence to precepts and rebirth in Amitābha’s Pure Land. His brother Hongdao further explained that he now lived in the Pure Land but that when alive he himself “was eager to listen to the Dharma but slow to adhere to precepts.”60 This failing almost cost him an opportunity for rebirth and meant that he was relegated to the outer regions. Wishing to send his peers a forceful message, Hongdao told his brother: The precept against killing is the most serious … There has never been anyone who toiled daily as a butcher or lusted after the taste of meat that has been reborn here. Although one may discuss the Dharma as deftly as the gathering of clouds and falling of rain, what benefit will it have in this matter?61 Scriptural sources, however, are not all in agreement on requirements for rebirth—admittance to various levels was open to debate. The Sūtra on the Visualization of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life (Guan wuliangshou jing 觀無 量壽經) describes nine levels, each with its own set of requirements. Cultivating precepts was only one of a number of practices that could lead to rebirth among the highest six levels, yet it was not necessarily the most crucial. Certainly, Rebirth Biographies presents several accounts of butchers who repent, change their ways, and are reborn in the Pure Land. The claim that lust 59 60 61

For scriptural references to this region, see the Sūtra on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life (Wuliangshou jing 無量壽經). Yuan Zhongdao, “Kexue zhai jimeng,” in Yuan Hongdao, Xifang helun (T1976: 47.389. b4–8). Yuan Hongdao, Xifang helun (T1976: 47.389.c14–16).

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for the taste of meat would keep one from a Pure Land rebirth was likely an innovation of the Yuan brothers, for neither Zhuhong nor Deqing made such a claim. Hongdao also warned his brother to shore up his precept practice or they would not be reunited in the Pure Land. Zhongdao and his circle conceived of the Pure Land as a place where families could reunite and peers reconvene. Keeping the family together lent additional urgency to the practice. Despite the fact that the reunification of family members, neighbors, or friends in the Pure Land has no canonical basis, this idea is prevalent in Zhuhong’s Rebirth Biographies. Many biographies from the eighth century onward express the desire to reunite with a loved one in the Pure Land and suggest this as a powerful rationale for the practice. Age is another factor that may well have influenced family expectations concerning how much time and energy should be devoted to religious culti­ vation—in this case recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha. Zhuhong encouraged men with official positions and family commitments to fit recitation practice into their everyday routines. On the other hand, he encouraged two of his elderly, retired male correspondents to devote all of their time to Pure Land recitation, just as Zhang Shouyue had encouraged his eighty-oneyear-old mother to concentrate on reciting the name. In a letter to the seventy-year-old Feng Yunju 馮筠居 (n.d.), Zhuhong acknowledged that “living to be seventy is rare. Those who live to be a hundred are no more than a handful.” He advised Feng to “simply pass the time by reciting [the name] Amitābha Buddha. Take the Western Land of Supreme Bliss as your home. If you recite today, in the end you will be reborn in that Western Land. What greater joy is there than this?”62 To eighty-year-old Liu Shoufu 劉守復 (n.d),63 Zhuhong said, “I received your letter and know that you have closed yourself off and laid aside worldly ­matters. You are completely devoted to the path of recitation (niandao 念道). This is marvelous. This is marvelous.”64 These two elderly men were asked to prepare for a better future rebirth by reciting the name Amitābha Buddha. In both instances, Zhuhong refers to the joy of rebirth, not the sadness of death.

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Zhuhong, Quanji, 4590. A onetime Imperial Academy student, Liu Shoufu was the older brother of Liu Shoutai 劉首泰 (jinshi 1571); theirs was a family from Macheng, Hubei. Ibid., 4572.

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Servants and Tenants

Unlike the rebirth biographies of elite men, for whom additional sources help verify identities, Zhuhong’s rebirth biographies of ironworkers, farmers, the blind, butchers, and the like do not generally present traceable figures, representing instead a “type.” Such biographies are of interest mainly for their message of diligence and what they reveal about various methods for keeping track of one’s recitations:65 counting beans, puncturing sheets with a raised perforated design,66 and hammering with an anvil.67 However, among commoner biographies, two do stand out. Two commoners in the employ of the Mao family, a prominent household based in Gui’an 歸安 (Zhejiang) and headed by a Zhuhong correspondent, had their biographies published in A Record of New Miracles [Associated with] The Diamond Sūtra of the August Ming, written by Wang Qilong. Religious biographies of servants or tenants were the exception, not the rule. Even more unusual is our ability to trace these two biographies to a specific geographic area and prestigious family. The biographies provide a rare glimpse of the extent to which a wealthy family and those in its employ might share a religious practice, further suggesting that recitation—whether of a buddha’s name, a dhāraṇī, or a sūtra—could be shared by elite families and their male servants and tenants. These biographies of a Mao family servant and a tenant are part of a regionally specific collection of miraculous responses to recitation of The Diamond Sūtra.68 Wang Qilong intended to preserve these stories as part of the historical record of his region, the city of Gui’an and its surrounding area, and for the 65

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Many biographies of both elites and commoners mention the use of a rosary. Each circular string of beads had one larger bead or a similar marker to indicate the completion of a cycle. For a comprehensive history of the Buddhist rosary in China, see Kieschnick, The Impact of Buddhism, 116–138. Perforated sheets, which likely had a design on them, are often mentioned in biographies of the blind, who could finger the design and punch holes in the perforations when they recited the name. See, for example, the following three biographies in Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.143.a26-b4; 142.c1–7; 142.a2–5). There are many other compilations of stories of miraculous events associated with the Diamond Sūtra that include biographies of commoners. See, for instance, the Song Dynasty collection republished in 1592 Verification of the [Karmic] Fruits of [Reciting] the Diamond Sūtra (Jingang zhengguo 金剛證果), mentioned in Hongyu Wu, “Leading the Good Life: Peng Shaosheng’s Biographical Narratives and Instructions for Buddhist ­Laywomen in High Qing China (1683–1796)” (Ph.D. diss., University of Pittsburgh, 2013), 167–168.

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most part he includes historical personages traceable through official biographies in local and provincial gazetteers.69 The Maos were a wealthy, prestigious family long established in Gui’an. Mao Wei 茅維 (1574–1640?), the youngest son of Mao Kun 茅坤 (1512–1601), corresponded with Zhuhong, asking him to preside at his father’s funeral, to which Zhuhong demurred that he was too ill to travel.70 Mao Wei knew others in the network, including Wang Zhijian. In fact, Mao Wei’s daughter married the son of another Zhuhong correspondent, Dong Bin 董份 (1510–1595), whose family remained Buddhist throughout successive generations, with his great-grandson Dong Fuhu 董赋弧 (1620–86) becoming a monk.71 Zhuhong wrote a lengthy response to Dong Bin explaining the relationship between the mind and death, ending the letter by urging him to recite the name Amitābha Buddha.72 The correspondence between Zhuhong and several members of these two locally established families, the Maos and the Dongs, help link them to this Buddhist fellowship. The first biography concerns a Mao family servant. The servant, Feng Qin 馮 勤, received a prediction that he would die young. He visited an old monk and asked him how to extend his life. The monk replied, “Since you are a servant and do not have the strength to accumulate virtue, you should collect discarded pieces of paper with words written on them and you should recite the Diamond Sūtra.” The biography describes in great detail how the servant acquired a box and tongs, and collected paper scraps with unsavory words written on them. He washed the paper scraps and dried them in the sun; then after burning them, he threw the ashes in the river. Collecting paper and burning it was not that unusual. Zhuhong’s Record of Self-Knowledge assigned one merit for every sheet of a hundred characters one burned.73 At night the servant knelt, recited the Diamond Sūtra, and dedicated the merit. After many years, he came to understand the text. As a reward for this practice, he was 69

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Mao Wei was celebrated for his poetry. A list of Mao Wei’s works and biography are in Gui’an xianzhi, 198 and 370–71. This gazetteer also has his father’s biography and records numerous Maos in the literary works section. See also the extensive DMB biography of Mao Kun, which mentions various family members. For Dong Bin 董份 (1510–1595), see the DMB biography for his grandson, Dong Sizhang 董斯張, the son of Dong Daochun 董道醇 (jinshi 1583) who married a daughter of Mao Kun. Zhuhong wrote to Mao Wei that he should be restrained in his mourning and copy the Diamond Sūtra by hand. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4569. For more on the Dong family Buddhist patronage, see Beata Grant, Eminent Nuns, 52–54 and also Wai-yee Li, “Gardens and Illusions from Late Ming to Early Qing,” HJAS 72, no. 2 (2012), 305–307. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4565. Chün-fang Yü, Renewal of Buddhism, 243.

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respected by the family, became wealthy, had two sons and four grandsons, and lived to be ninety-five.74 Scriptural understanding, wealth, progeny, and longevity were all attributed to the miraculous results of his recitation and paper collecting. The other biography concerns a lowly tenant who rented accommodations from Mao Yigao 茅一睪 (n.d.). The tenant had no offspring. However, he “was a vegetarian and recited the Diamond Sūtra. He was poor and had no heirs. In 1585, he opened the Diamond Sūtra, and suddenly a gold-armored god carrying a staff descended and told him that Mao Yigao’s son Ruizheng 瑞徵 would attain eighth place in the Beijing examinations, and that he could secretly tell him so.” Apparently, the commoner followed the deity’s suggestion; consequently, Mao promised to provide this tenant with food and housing and take care of his funeral arrangements.75 The biography conveys the message that recitation of the Diamond Sūtra can help a practitioner resolve such worldly problems as impoverishment and lack of an heir to manage a funeral. Wang Qilong heard this story from his classmate, the younger brother of Mao Ruizheng. Accepting the veracity of both accounts, Wang Qilong recorded them for posterity as an important part of local history. The biographies recounted thus far demonstrate that within the domestic sphere husbands, wives, concubines, servants, and tenants might all engage in Buddhist recitation, suggesting that the practice was shared at all levels of household stratification. Despite some individual variation, Zhuhong’s Rebirth Biographies adheres to the conventions of the genre with respect to the in­clusion of social class, type of person, category of practice, and deathbed description. Such universalizing tendencies helped Zhuhong embed his disciples’ deathbed rituals and rebirths in the long stream of tradition. Although his interlinear notes certainly served the instructional purpose of repeatedly directing readers to emulate the lives of those they were reading about, the biographies provide little insight into the complexity of Zhuhong’s doctrinal understanding. To fill this omission, the next section deepens both our understanding of the spiritual potency of recitation and the doctrinal concepts Zhuhong employed to defend his assertions.

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Wang Qilong, “Feng Qin yan nian,” Huangming jingang xinyi lu (X1633: 87.496.c22–497. a5). Wang Qilong, “Lin lao chi jing,” Huangming jingang xinyi lu (X1633: 87.499.b4–14).

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A Doctrinal Justification: Zhuhong’s Commentary

Zhuhong’s Commentary and Its Subcommentary to the Amitābha Sūtra provides an in-depth, doctrinally grounded explanation for why elite practitioners should take seriously what many considered a superficial practice—repeated recitation of a single buddha’s name. The cornerstone of Zhuhong’s theory rests on one four-character phrase drawn from the Shorter Amitābha Sūtra. He wrote, “‘One-mind, undistracted’ (yixin bu luan 一心不亂). This is the culmination of steadfastly reciting the name. It is the central import of this sūtra.”76 “One-mind undistracted” became both the pivotal organizing principle of his exegesis and the ultimate goal of cultivation. In his conception, the “one-mind” was an underlying, numinous, metaphysical foundation or fertile ground upon which realization potentially manifests itself in undistracted clarity. To persuade others that his alternative vision of the mind and its place in matters of self-cultivation was accurate, Zhuhong constructed an exegetical framework based on key doctrines and techniques extrapolated from five Buddhist exe­ getical traditions: Huayan, Tiantai, Yogācāra, Pure Land, and Esoteric. Zhuhong’s exegesis further sought to resolve the intra-Buddhist Pure Land versus Chan debates on the apparent incongruity between two competing conceptions of the Pure Land. In Rebirth Biographies, Zhuhong promoted Amitābha Buddha’s Pure Land as an actually existent location where the unenlightened (those with impure minds) could, literally, be reborn. And yet Zhuhong, like other monks, was well aware of the alternative Buddhist claim that “when the mind is pure, the land is pure.”77 This second idea, favored by some proponents of Chan, refocuses efforts on achieving realization in one’s present lifetime and does not offer the same soteriological assurance of liberation from saṃsāra that rebirth in a distant land does. To resolve this conflict, Zhuhong had to address the Chan claim that recitation was a language-oriented practice that interfered with the realization of nonduality. He also had to bridge the geographic divide between internal and external locations for the Pure Land. It is noteworthy that Zhuhong’s exegesis is strictly Buddhist—he did not attempt to persuade his audience with Confucian references to the mind or mind cultivation. However, many of the points Zhuhong made resonate with the Yangming Confucian discourse of Wang Ji and Zhou Rudeng, in

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Zhuhong, Emituo jing shuchao (X424: 22.661.b7). A passage from the Vimalakīrti-nirdeśa Sūtra is the locus classicus for this idea.

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terms of their use of the categories you and wu and debate over sudden versus gradual cultivation.78 Zhuhong accorded the one-mind a pivotal role, but the one-mind had never been considered a doctrinally significant concept in Pure Land scripture. The term “one-mind” itself is embedded in one unremarkable prescriptive reference in the Shorter Amitābha Sūtra. In the original passage, “one-mind” is not a noun, but an adverbial modifier, “single-mindedly,” which means “to concentrate” or “stay focused.” In the Shorter Amitābha Sūtra, after the Buddha finishes a long exposition on the many utopian features of Amitābha’s Pure Land, he then offers the following path to rebirth there: Śāriputra, if good men or good women who hear this explanation of the qualities of the Buddha Amitābha embrace (zhi 執) his name and uphold (chi 持) the appellation single-mindedly and without distraction (yixin bu luan 一心不亂),79 be it for one, two, three, four, five, six, or seven days, then, when their lives come to an end, the Buddha Amitābha together with his holy entourage, will appear before them.80 Zhuhong elevated the adverbial phrase yixin bu luan to the level of an ontological entity and nominalized it.81 Thus, not only is his concept of the one-mind 78

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There are many Buddhist references to the mind that allowed for fruitful Buddhist-Confucian comparison, such as the following: xindi 心地, xinti 心體, zhenru yixin 真如一心, and qingjing weixin 清淨惟心. A few of these references are drawn from Zhou Qun, Yuan Hongdao pingzhuan, 159 and are cited briefly in Charles Jones, “Yuan Hongdao and the Xifang helun: Pure Land Theology in the Late Ming Dynasty,” in Path of No Path: Contemporary Studies in Pure Land Buddhism Honoring Roger Corless, ed. Richard K. Payne (Berkeley: Institute for Buddhist Studies; Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2009), 89–126. This four-character phrase is not found in the other two most influential Pure Land scriptures, the Sūtra on the Visualization of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life and the Sūtra on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life. Zhuhong smoothed over doctrinal and practical differences between them by either absorbing differences within a single larger category or redefining terms. So, for example, texts that differ in the number of days or times one should recite were merely offering a variety of possibilities, not conflicting notions of time and efficacy. My translation is based, with a few modifications, on Luis O. Gómez’s translation of the Kumārajīva recension (T366) of this text. Gómez, Land of Bliss, 148. Zhuhong’s commitment to the one-mind as the ground from which all proceeds is quite clear from an essay he wrote rejecting Zhou Dunyi’s formula that the “non-polar and yet supreme polarity” (無極而太極) give rise to yin and yang and the myriad things. Instead, Zhuhong re-adjusted this idea by placing the one-mind first in a statement that can be

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missing from this original passage but also, most significantly, the sūtra passage does not say to recite the name. Zhuhong’s exegesis both explains away this apparent incongruity and solidifies the relationship between recitation and the mind through an analysis of the mental processes that occur during recitation. Strictly speaking, the Shorter Amitābha Sūtra directs the practi­ tioner to “embrace” (zhi) and “uphold” (chi) the name Amitābha Buddha. In his commentary, Zhuhong first glossed the terms to mean “accept the name and not forget it,” but then he added that the term “uphold” (chi) both embodies zhi within it and has several other meanings, the primary one being “to recite out loud.” That definition is here equated with the idea that the practitioner should continually invoke (nian 念) the name Amitābha Buddha—the practice of nianfo.82 By at least the eighth century, Buddhist references to nianfo could refer to a technique of simple, repetitive, verbal invocation of a buddha’s name, but that was not so historically. Zhuhong’s writings on nianfo sanmei 念佛三昧 attest to his extensive knowledge of early scriptural and commentarial references to the practice of nianfo. The term nianfo sanmei is a combination of a translation of buddhānusmṛti (nianfo) and the transliteration of samādhi as sanmei.83 In the circa fourth-century literature, nianfo sanmei was conceived of as a visualization or contemplation (guan 觀) through the silent review of both a buddha’s physical attributes (of which he has thirty-two major and eighty-one minor ones) and his virtues. Neither the exercise of concentrated reflection on an external image (guanxiang 觀像) nor the internally directed exercise of visualization (guanxiang 觀想) included invocation. For example, in the fifth-century Sūtra on the Visualization of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life, Queen Vaidehi is

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read sequentially: “the one-mind gives rise to the non-polar; and the non-polar gives rise to supreme polarity and supreme polarity to yin and yang (一心而無極,無極而太 極,太極而陰陽).” Zhuhong wrote that he was following Guifeng Zongmi 圭峰宗密 (780–841) in positing that what precedes tathāta (zhenru 真如) and birth and death is the one-mind, an idea drawn from the Awakening of Faith (Qixin lun 起信論). Zhuhong, Quanji, 3882. Zhuhong, Emituo jing shuchao (X424: 22.659.c7–12). When samādhi is translated into Chinese, it is usually rendered ding 定: “to fix, settle, not move.” In English discussions of Buddhist technical terms, ding is probably best translated as “concentrate,” signifying a mental state reached through the practice of meditation. A number of Buddhist meditation manuals describe in euphoric or ecstatic language the higher states of mental absorption attained through samādhi. Yet Zhuhong rarely discusses advanced levels of samādhi in any detail. Most of his writings, whether commentarial or epistolary, describe nianfo as a technique for calming the mind and ridding oneself of extraneous thoughts.

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asked to fix her mind in one place and concentrate on visualizing first the Pure Land and then Amitābha Buddha through sixteen progressively more complex exercises.84 Conversely, Zhuhong denied the need for a separate exercise of silent contemplative review of the body of a buddha.85 Offering an alternative approach, he elided the distinction between invocation and visualization by asserting that recitation itself embodied the virtues and physical attributes of this Buddha, albeit as an indiscernible, hidden aspect of the practice. In conflating the two methods, Zhuhong eliminated the need for visualization, while at the same time broadening the goal of recitation to encompass not just rebirth in the Pure Land but also the attainment of a calm, tranquil, focused mind, and eventually awakening. Consequently, when Zhuhong advised his disciples to practice nianfo sanmei, he was advocating that they recite the name Amitābha Buddha to foster states of quiescence or mental absorption. Clearly, in Zhuhong’s view, “one-mind, undistracted” was not only a doctrinal concept: it was also the ultimate goal of Pure Land cultivation. He further developed this idea by integrating all references to nianfo within the Huayanoriented framework of the interpenetration of phenomena and principle (理 事無礙).86 Huayan exegetes asserted that the world was comprised of two aspects: a phenomenal, tangible, crude aspect full of differentiations (shi 事), and an underlying pattern or principle that is invisible and ungraspable, yet inherent in all things (li 理). Zhuhong divided nianfo practices on the basis of the following two terms: the one-mind in its phenomenal aspect (shi yixin 事 一心), and the one-mind in its principle aspect (li yixin 理一心).87 84

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The Sūtra on the Visualization of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life presents sixteen visualizations that are described in terms of guanxiang and nianfo sanmei. The text also has invocation of the name (chengming 稱名), but not in reference to the sixteen visualizations. Zhuhong’s ideas are often at variance with the categories presented in this scripture, which he attempted to explain away through resort to the Tiantai doctrine of the three discernments (sanguan 三觀), a topic beyond the scope of this project. There are also a number of other scriptures with nianfo sanmei that Zhuhong reinterprets in terms of invocation. Zhuhong, Emituo jing shuchao (X424: 22.614.b16-c9). Zhuhong’s choice does not reflect late Ming practice. Deqing certainly taught this method. For an excellent scholarly comparison between Zhuhong and Zhixu’s Pure Land ideas, especially in relation to the interpenetration of phenomenon and principle, see Shi Sheng Yen, Mingmo fojiao yanjiu, 144; 168. Zhuhong was not the first to use these categories. The Tiantai exegete Zhiyi uses them to define practices associated with the twenty-fifth chapter of the Lotus Sūtra. However, these categories were later introduced in discussions on how to classify oral recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha. Zhiyi, Guanyin yishu (T1728: 34.922.c7–18). Zhiyi’s ideas were cited by the Tiantai monk Zhachuan 霅川 (992–1064) to dispute the off-mountain Tiantai

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The phenomenal aspect of the mind comprises continual invocation and uninterrupted concentration on the name without extraneous thoughts, and results in the strengthening of faith (xinli 信力). Through maintaining an unbroken, continuous stream of thoughts on the name during all activities, ideally the mind will become impervious to mental disruptions caused by greed, anger, and delusion. The practice culminated in a focused mind undisturbed by external phenomena. Collecting or concentrating the mind (shexin 攝心) was thus the main goal of the phenomenal aspect. For this reason, Zhuhong called the phenomenal aspect of the one-mind “the cultivation of samādhi” (dingmen 定門). Cultivation of the phenomenal aspect could unify the mind, making it impervious to praise/slander and benefit/loss, thus leading to the temporary subduing of vexations and eradication of sins. However, the phenomenal aspect does not extend to an understanding of doctrine or internally oriented contemplative techniques.88 That division of labor be­longed to the principle aspect. The principle aspect encompasses the realization of emptiness epitomized by the four Madhyamaka propositions,89 and leads to the realization of nonduality as well as the understanding that from the perspective of ultimate truth there are no objects outside the mind. For this reason, Zhuhong called the principle aspect of the mind “the cultivation of wisdom” (huimen 慧門).90 Unlike the phenomenal aspect, the principle aspect not only subdues delusion but also permanently eliminates it, as well as eliminating sin.91 Advanced meditation techniques requiring an inward turn toward the mind—Zhuhong singled out “investigating the essence” (tijiu 體究)—are categorized under the

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monk Gushan Zhiyuan’s 孤山智圓 (976–1022) interpretation of the Amitābha Sūtra. Tianru sided with Zhachuan and provided his own extended explanation. Zhuhong cites Zhiyuan, suggesting that he knew of the dispute. Yet despite some Tiantai references, Zhuhong’s exegesis is far more dependent on Huayan understandings of the relation between phenomena and principle. Tianru, Jingtu huowen (T1972: 47.296.b1–29). For an overview of Zhiyuan’s and Zhachuan’s positions, see Zunshi 遵式, Wangsheng jingtu jueyi xingyuan ermen (T1968: 47.145.a17-b11). Zhuhong, Emituo jing shuchao (X424: 22.614.b24c8). Zhuhong, Emituo jing shuchao (X424: 22.661.b21). The four propositions (siju 四句; Skt. catuṣkoṭi) are used to demonstrate the inherent emptiness of all things. This dialectical form of argumentation, which some scholars translate as the “four antinomies” or “four differentiations,” proceeds like this: (1) A, (2) B, (3) both A and B, (4) neither A nor B. Zhuhong repeated this idea a number of times throughout his commentary. Zhuhong, Emituo jing shuchao (X424: 22.613.c23–25). Ibid. (X424: 22.661.c7–11). Ibid. (X424: 22.661.661.c24–25).

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principle aspect. Investigating the essence is described as using the name to reflect inwardly and investigate to ascertain the very nature of the mind in itself until one reaches the realization that all is nondual and there is no name or buddha outside the mind.92 In this respect, the principle aspect is primarily concerned with apprehending the essence of the mind (tixin 體心). However, despite this division of labor, Zhuhong reminded his readers that the phenomenal and principle aspects of the mind were completely interfused and fundamentally inseparable.93 Zhuhong’s doctrinal schema elevated the mere “superficial” repetitive invocation of Amitābha Buddha’s name to the highest level of cultivation. In discussing one traditional set of four types of nianfo, he argued that through invocation of the name (chengfo 稱佛), the practitioner benefited from Amitābha Buddha’s virtues, physical attributes, and the fulfillment of his vow to create a Pure Land. The simple invocation of the name also embodied, albeit in an indiscernible and more mysterious manner, the other three progressively more difficult practices: contemplation of an actual image or statue (guan­ xiang 觀像); using the mind’s eye to visualize, internally, Amitābha Buddha (guanxiang 觀想); and the internal investigation of “ultimate reality” or the “true marks” (shixiang 實相).94 In arguing that these practices were simulta­ neous and inseparable, Zhuhong classified them under the principle aspect of the mind. The potent presence of the latter three when intoning the name was predicated on the interfusion of principle and phenomenon, hidden and manifest: Although reciting the name is the first practice, it truly incorporates all without exhaustion. The phenomenal aspect of the one-mind is superficial. The principle aspect of the one-mind is profound. When principle and phenomenon are interfused, superficial and profound are also interfused. For this reason, it is said that [the four nianfo practices] embody each other in a complete interfusion. Why is this? This is because, with respect to the principle aspect of the mind, the one-mind is none other than the “true marks,” and thus, the very first is also the very last.95 92 93 94

95

Ibid. (X424: 22.661.c12–662.a1). Ibid. (X424: 22.664.b10). In this context, Zhuhong defined shixiang (Skt. tattva) as “ultimate reality:” the buddha of one’s own self-nature, devoid of all the marks of conditioned existence such as various dualities and conventional distinctions made in speech and in designating names. Zhuhong, Emituo jing shuchao (X424: 22.662.a10–11). Ibid. (X424: 22.662.a13–18).

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Thus, despite its apparent simplicity, the repetitive invocation of the name was not a spiritually deficient method suited only to commoner practice; it was a spiritually potent, advanced method appropriate for his elite audience. Nevertheless, Zhuhong’s adoption of this Huayan framework did not resolve all his audience’s questions. To convince Chan practitioners to accept this doctrinal framework, Zhuhong further embedded within his commentary various responses to Chan misgivings. Some Chan monks endorsed the goal of sudden awakening achieved through an unmediated and “direct” viewing of the mind as encapsulated in the famous dictum attributed to Bodhidharma, “directly point at the human mind” (直指人心).96 From their perspective, the Pure Land reliance on reciting a name introduced a mentally intrusive object (jing 境) that set up a dualistic barrier between the practitioner and his mind. To attain a state of quiescence and to experience nonduality, all discursive thought—that is, mental objects— must be eliminated. When actively intoning the name of a buddha, they argued, how could discursive thoughts be stilled? In his long commentarial response to this question, Zhuhong further developed the idea that the one-mind is the Pure Land. Like his Chan counterparts, Zhuhong believed that all sentient beings were imbued with buddha-nature and hence possessed the innate potential to become buddhas. In fact, the term “one-mind,” Zhuhong argued, was simply another way to refer to buddhanature, self-nature (zixing 自性), original mind (benxin 本心), original enlightenment (benjue 本覺), true wisdom (zhenzhi 真知) and a number of other terms.97 Through recitation, Zhuhong claimed, the practitioner collected his mind and awakened to his own self-nature, by enacting (zuo 作) what he already was (shi 是).98 However, Zhuhong argued that novice disciples were so mentally distracted that they could not advance toward ever-deeper states of samādhi without the aid of a recitative device.99 Hence, Zhuhong saw no con-

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Zhuhong, Quanji, 3851. Zhuhong, Emituo jing shuchao (X424: 22.663.a5–8). Zhuhong, Emituo jing shuchao (X424: 22.604.b23-c3). Zhuhong drew this idea from the Visualization Sūtra, which states, “This mind creates the Buddha; this mind is the Buddha.” Foshuo guan Wuliangshou fo jing (T365: 12.343.a20–23). Zhuhong linked this idea to recitation and further explained that the first clause presents a gradual causal path of enactment, whereas the second clause demonstrates that ultimately there is no cause and effect relation—the mind is the Buddha. Zhuhong, Emituo jing shuchao (X424: 22.662.c15–18). Zhuhong also repeated this same idea using language drawn from the Awakening of Faith. Tianru also states this in Jingtu huowen (T1972: 47.295. b1). Zhuhong, Emituo jing shuchao (X424: 22.642.b15; 657.b13–19).

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flict between a verbally oriented method of practice—oral recitation—and the goal of achieving a concentrated, quiescent mental state: Some say there is no object other than the mind. Observing the mind (guanxin 觀心) is sufficient. How could one take up an [external] object? They do not understand that the mind and the object are one, and moreover mutually give rise to each other. Virtuous persons of the past said that there are samādhis for directly contemplating the three paths (sandao 三道) to illuminate [one’s] original buddha-nature. There is the samādhi of simultaneously keeping a dhāraṇī, the samādhi of simultaneously reciting sūtras, the samādhi of simultaneously reciting the name, and so forth. Now this indicates that this use of recitative objects is the same as that of nianfo sanmei. All aid in the illumination of one’s original buddha-nature. Some [methods] directly illuminate, some assist in illumination. Their goal is the same. How could this not be the case for ordinary beginners (初學凡夫)? Their obstructions run deep. Fully aided by this superior object, they realize the unsurpassable mind. It is ­certainly an important cultivation technique and should not be overlooked.100 In the above passage, Zhuhong listed a number of samādhi practices that included a recitative “aid,” or device (zhu 助). Such devices, he argued, do not set up a false barrier between the practitioner and his mind; the mind and the object mutually give rise to each other. Zhuhong also claimed that just as one might “use poison to eliminate poison” (以毒攻毒) or “employ an army to stop an army” (用兵止兵), practitioners could “use thought to attack other thoughts” (以念還攻於念).101 In other words, by filling the mind with just Amitābha Buddha’s name through recitation, one could eliminate all other wayward thoughts and bring the mind closer to a realization of enlightenment. After all, from the perspective of the principle aspect of the mind, the relation between the reciter and the object of recitation or reflection is nondual: “First, clearly understand that the one who recollects (nengnian 能念) and the object of recollecting (suonian 所念) are not separate. There is only the one-mind.”102 Seen from this perspective, the object of recitation is not a distinct entity outside the human mind: the human mind itself gives rise to this object, just as the 100 101 102

Ibid. (X424: 22.659.b23-c6). Ibid. (X424: 22.611.c4–16). Ibid. (X424: 22.661.c8). A second passage reiterates this same point: “As for the activity of recollecting something (nengnian) exterior to the mind, there is no buddha that serves as one’s object of recollection (suonian). Zhuhong, Emituo jing shuchao (X424: 22.661.c14).

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mind gives rise to the Pure Land and to its own realization of self-nature: “When self-nature is firmly established and pure, this is the Western [Pure] Land.”103 That said, Zhuhong’s conception of the “mind” or “one-mind” extended beyond any restrictive notion we might have of a mind (or brain) housed within the human body: the mind was also an immeasurable cosmic unit, beyond which nothing else exists. Zhuhong described the ontological dimensions of the mind this way: “Now, it is said that outside the mind there is no object, outside the mind there is no illuminating wisdom, and outside the mind there is no empty space. For this reason, there is no need to leave the mind. All is included within it.”104 The exegetical precedents for Zhuhong’s ontology, many of which draw on the Yogācāra doctrine that nothing exists outside the mind and combine that with the Huayan argument for the interpenetration of the mundane and supramundane, are too numerous to name here. Be that as it may, the following citation from Tianru, who indisputably had a strong influence on Zhuhong, explains the ontology of the mind through several citations from the Śūraṃgama Sūtra, a text that was quite popular in late sixteenth-century Buddhist circles: The Śūraṃgama Sūtra says: “Everything outside the corporeal body (se­­ shen 色身), including mountains, rivers, empty space, and the great earth, are all the things of this marvelous, clear, true mind.” It also says, “All the dharmas that come into being are manifest by the mind (weixin 惟心). How could there be a buddha-land (fotu 佛土) that is not in my mind?” One should know that the Pure Land is the mind. Outside the mind there is no land. This is like the appearance of bubbles on the great sea. There is not a single bubble that can appear outside the sea.105 Just as sea foam cannot exist without the sea, the individual mind is merely one manifestation of a vast, cosmic, ocean-like mind. All things are inse103 104 105

Ibid. (X424: 22.635.a2–3). Ibid. (X424: 22.662.c12–13). In brief, Tianru further explained that the one-mind is comprised of four types of pure lands, which he then further subdivides, demonstrating how layered this concept could be. He followed this with the explaination that all the buddhas are the buddha of one’s own mind. Tianru, Jingtu huowen (T1972: 46.294.a26-b1). Araki Kengo has pulled together citations from Tianru, Yongming Yanshou, and Zhongfeng Mingben in his explanation of the late sixteenth-century interest in equating the “mind” with the buddhas and with the myriad things of the universe. Araki Kengo, Chūgoku shingaku no kodō to Bukkyō 中國心 學の鼓動と佛教 (Fukuoka: Chūgoku Shoten, 1995).

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parable from this larger cosmic unit. In Tianru’s view, the “mind” residing in a particular corporeal body exhibits all variety of mental phenomenon; the “mind” conceived in terms of a universal cosmic principle encompassed vast, empty (and occupied) space outside a single human body. Tianru, Zhuhong, and many Buddhist exegetes before and after them did not find these seemingly contradictory conceptions of the mind to be incompatible. Tianru further illustrated the relationship between the particular and the cosmic mind with the metaphor of Indra’s net—a device commonly used in Huayan discourse to express the unobstructed interpenetration of the one by the many.106 Indra’s jeweled net, comprised of a thousand jewels, emits a thousand rays. Each jewel reflects the rays of all the other jewels, yet each jewel retains its individual identity. Similarly, the one-mind reflects all other minds, all other buddhalands, and all buddhas; yet each of these items retains its particularity and, in turn, reflects all the others. The one-mind, then, is both particularistic in its individual manifestations and universal in its connectedness to and larger encompassing of all phenomena. These ideas proved to be an effective means of rebuttal to the Chan practitioner who wanted to cultivate his “mind” but rejected the idea that there was a territorial region called a “Pure Land” some distance from this “mind” where he might want to be reborn. As seen above, Zhuhong and the exegetes he read all attempted to resolve the thorny issue of whether the Pure Land was a material entity inconceivably distant from this earthly world, by claiming that the one-mind was both an unfathomable cosmic space and a circumscribed entity that resides within the hearts and minds of individual humans. For one illustration of this idea, see the woodblock print on the cover of this volume. The image, one of a series published in a 1597 reprint of Zhuhong’s commentary, is labeled “one-mind reborn” (一心往生). The image bridges disparate geographic worlds to make a direct connection between the meditating subject and Amitābha Buddha in his Pure Land and between single-minded concentration and the transformation of the self.107 106 107

For a detailed discussion of Tiantai and Chan arguments concerning the mind, see Brook Ziporyn, “Anti-Chan Polemics in Post-Tang Tiantai,” JIABS 17.1 (1994): 26–66. Only the 1597 edition reprinted in 1749 and 1765 includes the image gracing the cover of this book. It is noticeably absent from the set of woodblock prints published with the 1897 edition. Whether Zhuhong had a hand in choosing this image or approved of its inclusion is unclear. However, his commentary does not suggest either that monks in añjali mudrā descend to meet meditating subjects or that men are literally transformed into monks either while meditating or through rebirth in the Pure Land, both plausible readings of this image. Other then the title given each image, the set was published without comment or identification of sponsorship. The woodblock cut seen on the cover is much cruder

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Zhuhong was not the only one to use this critical point to defend Pure Land cultivation against its Chan detractors. The Yuan brothers, Li Zhi, and many others wrote that when a Chan practitioner rejected the Pure Land because he wanted only to cultivate his own mind and see into his own buddha-nature, he set up a false dichotomy between mind and land.108 In the preface to Resolving [Doubts] about the Pure Land (Jingtu jue 淨土決), Li Zhi claimed that, regardless whether the practitioner recited the name (nianfo) or investigated Chan (canchan 參禪), the results were the same: both practices lead to a purification of the mind; purification turned the mind into the Pure Land. When the mind is pure, the land is pure; therefore, an awakened being who has “seen his own nature” is someone who has purified his “land” and could not possibly reject the Pure Land without creating a subject-object dualistic distinction, ipso facto declaring himself to be unawakened.109 However, it should be stressed that such discussions of the mind did not cause Zhuhong or those in his circle to forgo Pure Land funerals or stop writing rebirth biographies attesting to miraculous events—including the descent of Amitābha Buddha to escort the dying to a land located in a far distant cosmic space. The philosophical resolution of dualities did not deny the reality of the external world or karma.

The Practice of Recitation and Its Potency

Zhuhong used the above doctrines to argue for his understanding of the onemind and the practice of nianfo. In his Commentary and Its Subcommentary to the Amitābha Sūtra, he further promoted recitative techniques and described mental processes that would lead the practitioner toward progressively deeper states of calm quiescence and eventual awakening. The passage below begins with two scholastic terms—the “controlling faculty of the mind” (xinwang 心 王) and its “mental activities” (xinsuo 心所),110 and asks the question: What is the relation between these two aspects of the mind? Zhuhong argued that

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than the 1765 image, which is rendered with a finer line and greater detail, including ­joyous faces. Yuan Hongdao’s Comprehensive Treatise on the West (Xifang helun 西方合論) was written in part to push back against “crazy Chan.” Yuan Hongdao had visited Zhuhong shortly before writing the treatise and was influenced by his ideas. For an overview of the text, see Jones, “Yuan Hongdao and the Xifang helun,” 89–126. Li Zhi, Jingtu jue 淨土決 (X1157: 61.491.b6–23). These are mental factors, or states, that denote the activities of the mind and accompany the mind and its sensory consciousnesses, which is why they are often called “mental

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despite the numerous, conflicting mental phenomena that arise in the mind, these two aspects—the controlling faculty of the mind and the activities of the mind—are inseparable. He believed that, through recitation, the practitioner could gradually still his mind and realize this truth. Zhuhong’s explanation was derived from Yogācāra postulations concerning the relation between activities of the mind and the eight levels of consciousness:111 Now, as for those persons who [wish to] recite the name, first, through the ear-consciousness, hear the Buddha’s name. And then, using the mind-con­sciousness, concentrate on remembering the name (yinian 憶 念). When recitation becomes focused, then one is able to collect (she 攝) the [rest] of the six organs: eye, nose, tongue, body. In this way, the six consciousnesses cease to operate (buxing 不行).  Continue to recite without interruption, recite to the utmost, letting go (wang 忘) of the [mental activity] of constant analytical calculations, then thinking will become quiescent. Continue to let go, let go to the fullest extent and [there will be] a change. This [stage] is called “true and false melding in harmony.” Other delusions are expiated. Now the seventh consciousness and the eighth consciousness also cease activity (buxing 不行). If the leader does not exist, what can followers rely on? As for the fifty-one [types of mental factors], what more is there to say? When [one] reaches this [stage], great waves and slight ripples turn to still water. Thick clouds and thin fog give way to a clear sky. This is all, the one-mind. There are no other dharmas [outside this]. For this reason it is said that there is no separation [between the mind and its mental activities].112 Leaving nothing to chance, the passage walks the reader through a systematic unfolding of each progressive step experienced by someone who, through recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha, gradually concentrates his mind and

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concomitants” (xinsuo 心所; Skt: caitasika). Zhuhong is following the Yogācāra system of the Mahāyāna abhidharma, which lists fifty-one specific mental concomitants. Zhuhong was not the only prominent monk to discuss the benefits of recitation in Yogācāra terms. Deqing did too. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 287–88. Late Ming Yogācāra is a topic little explored in the current scholarly literature. Shi Sheng Yen and Ge Zhaoguang have both indicated that the Yogācāra writings of Xuanzang and Kuiji did not circulate at this time (see chapter 2, note 84). However, Zhuhong knew of at least the following two Yogācāra texts: his disciple Shaojue’s 紹覺 Yinming lun 因明論 and the Weishi lun 惟識 論. Jennifer Eichman, “Humanizing the Study of Late Ming Buddhism,” 4512–4513. Zhuhong, Emituo jing shuchao (X424: 22.663.a17–24).

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reaches ever-deeper levels of mental absorption. The first stage of cultivation begins with aural exposure to the name and is followed by mental retention and invocation. Through recitation of the name, the six organs cease to interact with the external world. Once the physical body (including the mind organ) becomes quiescent, the practitioner focuses on eliminating all thoughts. At this point, mental activities (xinsuo) cease to be an obstacle to awakening, yet the controlling aspect of the mind (xinwang) still needs to come to rest. When both the mind and its mental activities cease, the mind is like a placid body of water or a clear, undifferentiated sky—images denoting a quiescent, nondual state. The passage illustrates Zhuhong’s belief that, through recitation, each practitioner is able to transcend his own particular mind. The practitioner’s one-mind unites with the cosmic mind. It is both particular and universal; it is both differentiated and undifferentiated. The passage ultimately resolves the issue of the geographic location of the Pure Land through the experience of recitation itself. Zhuhong’s explanation of the experiential process favored a gradual approach to cultivation, seen here in the unusual step he took in presenting a Yogācāra analysis of recitation. On the face of it, this ruled out Chan claims to sudden awakening. However, Zhuhong used the Huayan exegete Fazang’s 法藏 (643–712) system of classification to categorize the Shorter Amitābha Sūtra under the teachings of sudden (dun 頓) and perfect (yuan 圓). He reasoned that, although this text was originally aimed at ordinary sentient beings, when recitation was cultivated for the sake of realizing nonduality, then it was a sudden teaching; because the one-mind encompassed the myriad things, it was also a perfect teaching. Recitation of the name, was, in effect, the shortest, most direct path to the stage of nonregression and buddhahood, making the practice both sudden and perfect.113 In fact, in elevating the simple intoning of Amitābha’s name, much of his commentary actually dismisses gradual practices, like the sixteen visualizations Śākyamuni taught Vaidehi.114 Instead, Zhuhong argued that the mind is purified each and every time one recites the name.115 He continually justified his new vision with arguments based on the 113 114 115

Ibid. (X424: 22.664.a9–15; 614.a4–8). In his commentary, Zhuhong is at pains to explain away various categories established in the Visualization Sūtra, a text whose ideas are at variance with his own. Zhuhong expressed this idea in several places. He ranked cultivation techniques from superficial to profound. However, techniques categorized under the principle aspect of the mind were presented as nonsequential and sudden. For example, Zhuhong dismissed the idea that with respect to visualization of a buddha’s body, the cultivator first visualized the nirmanakāya, then the sambhogakāya, and finally the dharmakāya: Zhuhong argued that they are all cultivated simultaneously. Ibid. (X424: 22.662.b3–5).

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doctrine of emptiness and the interfusion of phenomena and principle. Yet despite such lofty doctrinal claims, Zhuhong presents the practitioner, in realworld terms, as someone who needed to rely on an existent thought and mind in order to realize no-thought (wunian 無念), or the emptiness of all things. In constantly moving back and forth between the practical challenges presented in everyday practice and the ultimate truth, Zhuhong’s detailed analysis demonstrates not only the thorough consideration he gave to the spiritual potency of recitation but also the effort he was willing to expend in convincing his detractors that he was right.116 Even though Zhuhong encouraged foremost recitation of the name Ami­tā­ bha Buddha, he did not entirely forgo recitation of dhāraṇīs. The Shorter Amitābha Sūtra ends with a dhāraṇī, and for this reason his commentary too concludes with a section on dhāraṇīs. Zhuhong advocated recitation of a select group of Pure-Land-themed dhāraṇīs: Rebirth Dhāraṇī (Wangsheng zhou 往生 咒); and the Amitābha, King of Thunderous Sound Dhāraṇī Sūtra (Amituo gu yin wang tuo luo ni jing 阿彌陀鼓音聲王陀羅尼經), a one-page dhāraṇī text frequently cited in Zhuhong’s work.117 Zhuhong’s commentary also cites The Śāriputra Dhāraṇī Sūtra (Shelifu tuoluoni jing 舍利弗陀羅尼經) because it promoted “single-minded recollection of the buddha.”118 In Zhuhong’s opinion, when dhāraṇīs were cultivated in isolation, they offered limited protection; when recited in conjunction with the name Amitābha Buddha, they lent support to that more soteriologically efficacious practice. He categorized both dhāraṇī recitation and recitation of the name under the label “esoteric,” due to their transliteration of Sanskrit terms. Yet, because recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha was also categorized as “exoteric,” it was the more spiritually efficacious method. Zhuhong offered one set of three styles of recitation: oral recitation, silent recitation, and alternating between oral and silent recitation while barely 116

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Chün-fang Yü has already discussed the Pure Land doctrinal precedents to Zhuhong’s ideas and made the very interesting claim that Zhuhong was resolving an intra-Pure-Land tension among the competing ideas presented by those monks who were designated Pure Land Patriarchs. See chapter 3 of Chün-fang Yü, Renewal of Buddhism, 47–57. The final section of that chapter (pages 57–63) discusses Zhuhong’s attempt to combine Pure Land and Chan and includes some translated passages not cited here, most notably Zhuhong’s citation of Zhongfeng Mingben’s claim that Chan and Pure Land are inseparable. The thirteenth-century Compendium of Pure Land Texts (Lebang wenlei 樂邦文纇) also recognizes a select list of Pure Land dhāraṇīs as part of its Pure Land textual corpus. That list too included the Pure-Land-themed Thunderous King Sūtra (T370: 12.352). Zhuhong, Emituo jing shuchao (X424: 22.665.a3). Ibid. (X424: 22.662.b12).

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moving the lips and tongue.119 According to Zhuhong, the Dhāraṇī school (Zhou jia 咒家) called this third method “adamantine reciting” (jingang chi 金 剛持). His definition is quite cryptic but approximates the directions found in the Liao monk Daozhen’s 道㲀 (1085–1096) Anthology on the Essentials of the Heart of Attaining Buddhahood and Perfect Penetration of the Esoteric and Exoteric (Xianmi yuantong chengfo xinyao ji 顯密圓通成佛心要集). Daozhen defined “adamantine recitation” this way: “The lips and teeth do not move. The tongue should not touch the palate. There should be only slight movement within the mouth.”120 As Robert Gimello has explained, this means to recite in a barely perceptible manner, “under one’s breath.”121 According to Zhuhong, esoteric teachings (mijiao 密教) offered two methods of recitation: “Some count the number of recitations (ji shuchi 記數持) and others do not count. Both are in keeping with the explanation of esoteric teachings. In doing what is most convenient, either is acceptable.”122 A Commentary and Its Subcommentary to the Amitābha Sūtra advanced a well-defined, thoroughgoing doctrinal position for the scope and breadth of spiritual power garnered through recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha. At the same time, Zhuhong did not neglect the more mundane potency of the name. In Rebirth Biographies, Zhuhong argued that only invocation of the name Amitābha Buddha could deliver both spiritual and more real-world benefits in the form of protection and material security. To highlight the spectrum of benefits that the practitioner enjoyed throughout a lifetime of Pure Land recitation, Zhuhong again relied on Tianru, republishing his list of ten rewards from Doubts and Questions about the Pure Land.123 The list combined the benefits attributed to Pure Land recitation with those traditionally attributed to incantations, thereby elevating recitation of the name Amitābha as the superior practice while simultaneously neutralizing criticisms that reciting the 119 120 121

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Ibid. (X424: 22.659.c11–13). I have yet to find another source that uses the term ”adamantine recitation” in this manner. Daozhen, Xianmi yuantong chengfo xinyao ji (T1955: 46.995.c8–9). Gimello, “Icon and Incantation,” 237. For relevant sources on Daozhen’s biography and a discussion of the variant second character for his name, see Richard D. McBride II, “Is There Really Esoteric Buddhism?” JIABS 27, no. 2 (2004): 353. Daozhen’s definition is, again, more extensive than Zhuhong’s: recitation without counting is a method whereby the practitioner recites continuously throughout the day whether sitting, standing, walking, or laying down. Recitation with counting consists of the cultivation of a set number of recitations during a discrete period of time. Xianmi yuantong chengfo xinyao ji (T1955: 46.995.c11–13). See also Mizhou yuanyin wangsheng ji (T1956: 46.1007.b13–14). Zhuhong, Emituo jing shuchao (X424: 22.659.c11–13). The ten benefits are recorded in Tianru, Jingtu huowen (T1972: 47.300.c14–26).

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name had no immediate advantage. Those who recite the name apparently receive daily protection from fires, thieves, malevolent ghosts, yakṣas, humaneating rākṣasas, a violent death, and bad dreams. Poisonous snakes and dragons cannot harm them. They also bask in the protective light of Amitābha Buddha, are guided and protected by twenty-five bodhisattvas, and die peacefully, met by a retinue carrying a golden platform to welcome them to the Pure Land.124 Though Zhuhong stressed a lifetime of recitation, when promoting the mundane benefits of intoning Amitābha’s name, he allowed that a single recitation was extraordinarily potent. In a letter to Wu Jili 吳季立 (n.d.), Zhuhong wrote that Wu need not worry about the depths of his karmic debt: a single recitation of Amitābha’s name would “eliminate eighty thousand kalpas of heavy sin.”125 Practitioners were told to recite with a sincere heart. Simple yet highly potent, the practice really needed no further explanation. And yet there were critics and spiritual competitors. To stave them off and deflect criticism that recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha had no palpable benefit in this life, Zhuhong argued foremost that the fulfillment of Amitābha’s forty-eight vows, which resulted in the creation of the Pure Land, invested the recitation of his name with a superior spiritual potency that could deliver more tangible benefits than the recitation of incantations, spells, or dhāraṇīs. To make this case, Zhuhong added a section to Rebirth Biographies entitled “Responses in this Lifetime,” which includes short testimonials by the recipients of these numerous miraculous benefits.126

Conclusion

An analysis of A Commentary and Its Subcommentary to the Amitābha Sūtra illuminates Zhuhong’s doctrinal vision and defense of Pure Land practice, especially recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha. Offering a thoroughly Buddhist response to the question of what constitutes mind cultivation, Zhuhong promoted the doctrine of the interfusion of principle and phenomenon to claim that recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha embodied all other practices, no matter how superficial or abstruse. Zhuhong further attempted to allay Chan questions over the subject-object dualisms that 124 125 126

Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.151.b20–152.b20). Zhuhong, Quanji, 4587. Zhuhong’s commentary repeated this idea. Zhuhong, Emituo jing shuchao (X424: 22.663.b1–3). Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.151.b20–152.c1).

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seemingly arose from using a recitative device and from positing the Pure Land as a geographic location external to the mind. Notably, the commentary neither engages in specifically Confucian arguments nor cites Confucian texts in an effort at proselytizing to potential practitioners in the way we have witnessed in other Zhuhong writings in previous chapters. In drawing his audience deeper into the world of Buddhist exegesis, Zhuhong’s new theory of recitation became a touchstone for a deeper understanding of the doctrine of emptiness (wu), and vacillation between sudden and gradual approaches to cultivation rooted in this conditioned world (you), creating fertile ground for the Fellow­ ship’s own continued explorations of the issue of mind cultivation. Com­mentaries like Zhuhong’s amply demonstrate that despite “Confucian,” or, better put, ru, dominance in politics and public life, there was still plenty of room for a predominantly Buddhist discursive space, wherein Buddhist monks and their disciples drew on a rich array of canonical sources in their attempts to grapple with the internal tensions between Chan and Pure Land approaches to cultivation, and ultimately, awakening. One of Zhuhong’s primary tools for persuading educated elites to embrace recitation in the hopes of a Pure Land rebirth was Rebirth Biographies. Written over a thirty-year period, the collection includes biographies of recently deceased disciples or their family members and is an invaluable document for the study of household recitation practices. It helps us imagine a less religiously stratified world, linking domestic practice at all levels, inclusive of household servants and, more importantly, female family members. Women did not participate in this Buddhist fellowship nor exchange letters with Zhuhong, leaving us with only one firm instance of Zhuhong’s possible contact with a female disciple: Madam Xue on her deathbed. In contrast to other sources, Rebirth Biographies gives voice to those female practitioners who would be otherwise invisible. The collection likewise helps fill out the roster of Zhuhong precept-disciples that would be lost to history—eight new names are introduced here—as well as helping us further piece together the puzzle of who knew whom.127 Stories of deathbed scenes conveyed by or about the Wus, Suns, and Fangs of Tongcheng deepen our understanding of some of the interconnections forged by this Buddhist fellowship, bonds that were further strengthened by occasional marriage alliances. The epistolary sources here not only confirm relationships between members of the Fellowship, but also offer precious insight into their Pure Land 127

Four other entries in Rebirth Biographies are likely of Zhuhong disciples, but we have no specific information about them: Zhu Wang 朱綱, Zu Xiang 祖香, Liu Tongzhi 劉通志, and Guo Dalin 郭大林.

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rebirth aspirations. Several of Zhuhong’s letters alert us to the notion that older men were asked to concentrate on recitation of the name and rebirth in the Pure Land. This is often the case for older women, but we rarely have evidence that men too were asked to pursue this spiritual path. Other letters reveal further rare insights such as Fellowship members improving female religious literacy by teaching their mothers Buddhist doctrine. Instruments of proselytization and personal revelation, epistolary sources help flesh out the Fellowship’s Pure Land practice in the everyday context in which they lived.

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The Struggle for Attainment: How to Cultivate the Mind

Using Pure Land and Chan Techniques

We have already encountered Zhuhong’s precept-disciple Wu Yingbin, an active participant in releasing-life activities and financial contributor to Zhuhong’s coffers. Wu Yingbin also wrote Zhuhong about his desire to experience a complete awakening. In a response that epitomizes Zhuhong’s advice to lay adherents, his letter opened with a Chan story yet ended with the directive that Wu cultivate recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha: Your letter again expressed your desire for the ultimate stage (jiujing 究 竟) of [awakening], which [you have] yet to attain. The texts at our dis-

posal are vast, comprehensive, and complete. However, what is not complete does not reside in these works but in your mind (yixin 一心). Because the words [of these texts] flow from a marvelous true mind (zhenxin 真心), they fill the heavens with eloquent discernment. In his commentary to the Diamond Sūtra, Qinglong 青龍 [746–806?] earnestly poured out ten thousand words, but [Deshan] attained (de 得) [awakening] in the split second Longtan extinguished a lamp. For this reason, I say that that which is not yet ready resides in the mind. If you can awaken this one-mind, then nothing will be incomplete. If there is no mutual resonance (xiangying 相應), then singularly recite the Buddha’s name (一心念佛). This is most important, most important.1 Zhuhong’s letter drew on the story of the monk Deshan Xuanjian 德山宣鑒 (782–865). Famed for his lectures on the Diamond Sūtra, Deshan possessed a copy of Qinglong’s commentary to the sūtra. One night after arriving at Dragon Pool Monastery 龍潭院, he decided to go out. Because it was dark, the Fourth Patriarch, Longtan, offered him a lamp. Deshan insisted that he did not need it, so it was blown out, and in that instant Deshan was awakened. The next day he 1 After his awakening at Dragon Pool Chan Monastery 龍潭禪院, Deshan became the Fifth Patriarch of the Qingyuan Chan lineage. The letter refers to the Fourth Patriarch, Chongxin 崇信 (753–823), by his epithet Longtan 龍潭. Wudeng huiyuan (X1565: 80.142.b6–142.c3). Zhuhong, Quanji, 4497–4498.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi 10.1163/9789004308459_008

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was said to have burned the Diamond Sūtra and its commentary. The story was an astute choice. Zhuhong often cautioned that a superficial appreciation of eloquent prose would not result in spiritual liberation. In reaction to con­ temporary enthusiasm for Chan texts, Zhuhong emphasized that mere accu­mulation of knowledge was the empty talk of crazy wisdom (kuanghui 狂慧); true wisdom (zhenghui 正慧) needed to be apprehended (de 得) by the heart/ mind.2 In another letter, this time to the frustrated, unawakened Layman Jiang 江, Zhuhong further clarified the difference between textual mastery and practical experience. He compared understanding desire to observing a picture of a horse, and the work of ridding oneself of desire to leading a horse on a thousand-li journey.3 As argued in the second chapter, Zhuhong rejected the existence of liangzhi and further parted ways with Zhou Rudeng over precept practice. However, both leaders directed their disciples to concentrate on interior processes of the heart/mind, that is, to cultivate the mind, not just accumulate knowledge. Recent scholarship has argued that lay Buddhist interest in meditation and the pursuit of enlightenment is a uniquely modern Western phenomenon.4 Yet, upon reading the letters written by the non-monastic members of this fellowship, I was struck repeatedly by their keen desire to master the kinds of spiritual exercises that induce religious transport, that is, states of heightened spiritual awareness, whether a mere minor flash of insight or the ultimate realization of nonduality.5 This chapter and the next will demonstrate that the 2 Ibid., 4664. 3 Layman Jiang is identified only by his dharma name, Guangyou 廣䆜. Ibid., 4670. 4 Such scholarly assessments do not account for the cultivation practices of thirteenth- through nineteenth-century Chinese Buddhist communities, especially lay communities, which have been little researched. Most of the scholarly discussion on the experience of enlightenment concerns Chan monks and Chan literature (see the bibliography for references to Sharf 1995, 1998; Buswell 1986; Foulk 1987) or Sri Lankan traditions (Carrithers 1983; Gombrich 1971; Maquet 1980). This insightful work has served to correct previous misconceptions about the role of meditation in the lives of monks, who did not always cultivate this technique as frequently as had been previously assumed. Nonetheless, this scholarship does not address the question of the broader community’s interest in meditation, which is presumed to be a uniquely modern phenomenon. See for example, Bernard Faure, Double Exposure: Cutting Across Buddhist and Western Discourses, trans. Janet Lloyd (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004). 5 I was first introduced to the concept of “religious transport” when attending the lectures of Robert Gimello at Harvard University. Since then, I have grown to appreciate the term as a way to discuss modes of religious experience that extend beyond the ordinary in their mental, emotional, or physical heights, but which often fall along a rather imprecise and ill-defined

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members of the network under study here, whether lay or ordained Buddhists, made many attempts at realization. These men’s first-person descriptions of religious transport adopted the language of Song Chan texts. Because sixteenth-century monks and examination elites desired entry into an imagined historical milieu of awakened masters, they saw their task as one of authentic replication. Quickly stymied by the gap between actual practice and the textual ideal of the awakened master, many a frustrated practitioner sought Zhuhong’s advice. Some were in search of an initial method; others, already at an impasse, needed guidance on how to proceed. This chapter reveals that, despite the eagerness to cultivate, many Fellowship members hardly progressed beyond a very rudimentary level. It is generally accepted that religious experience encompasses the fostering of compassion, cultivation of self-discipline through behavioral and dietary restrictions, or deeper reflection on the meaning of life and meditation exercises. Nevertheless, how to understand enlightenment, or some level of “religious transport,” has generated considerable scholarly debate. A number of scholars have taken a constructivist approach towards personal spiritual or mystical experiences, declaring them to be constituted only in and through language. For instance, according to Robert Sharf, “[p]rivate episodes do not constitute the reference points for the elaborate discourse on meditative states found in Buddhist scholastic sources.”6 In contrast to this stance, Ann Taves has argued that scholars should turn their attention to the process by which experiences are deemed religious—without, of course, returning to previously held scholarly notions that religious experiences are utterly unique (sui

spectrum. Enlightenment or awakening have been described with a variety of terms: small, deep, great, ultimate, and so forth. Those in this fellowship (a) were busy trying to figure out what the yardstick might be for measuring such amorphous “states,” and (b) would have been satisfied with any confirmation of a slight uptick in their own levels of spiritual progress. 6 Robert Sharf, “Buddhist Modernism and the Rhetoric of Meditative Experience,” Numen 42 (1995): 260. Sharf is certainly correct in that Buddhist exegesis was at times written by a monk’s disciples, not himself, yet one of his more striking claims is that enlightenment simply does not exist, Sharf, “Experience,” in Critical Terms for Religious Studies, ed. Mark Taylor (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 94–116 and “Buddhist Modernism,” 228–283. Nonetheless, centuries of Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist practitioners have believed religious transport— in all of its many variations, including mystical states—wholly possible. Their discourse on this is deserving of greater scholarly attention. For one of the more sophisticated though ethnographically thin responses to Sharf, see Victor Hori, “Kōan and Kenshō in the Rinzai Zen Curriculum,” in The Kōan: Texts and Contexts in Zen Buddhism, eds. Steven Heine and Dale S. Wright (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 280–315.

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generis).7 In order to better understand the process by which an experience comes to be identified as religiously transportive, we need to pay more attention to the half-constructed: the gaps between representation and actual behavioral events—the not-yet scripted, re-scripting, forging processes that attempt to bridge the divide between pasts and presents, and between selfunderstanding and a discourse that continually adjusted the goal posts on what was deemed an experience of awakening.8 Letters by members of this fellowship provide insight into just those gaps. They were certainly attempting to shorten the distance between themselves and the enlightened masters they admired by evaluating their own “private episodes” against the descriptions found in authoritative Buddhist texts like Chan discourse records, biographies, scripture, and the like. Such extraordinary interior events were described in Chan terms, clearly distinguishing them from other psycho-mental phenomena. In this respect, I do think it is productive to discuss these events in terms of how they were constituted vis-à-vis Chan discourse while at the same time taking into account how these men’s experiences of mental transport and other transformative episodes ultimately changed how they defined the terms they used.9 In focusing on the network’s attempts at awakening, I want to draw attention to the way that, as Steven Shapin has argued, “knowledge is embedded in streams of practical activity.”10 In their struggles to turn an intellectual heritage into a viable practice, not only did the elusive nature of immediate practical success change how practitioners understood Chan representations, but it also caused them to lower their own spiritual expectations. Epistolary evidence 7 8

9 10

Ann Taves, Religious Experience Reconsidered (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), 16–55. In Ann Taves’ view, the linguistic turn in cultural studies has been both extremely productive and too rigid by insisting that all experience is linguistically predetermined. Neoperennialists and some social scientists argue that it is possible to have an experience that cannot be articulated with the conceptual apparatus at one’s disposal. Sometimes the experiencer needs to learn (or create) another conceptual system before she/he can produce a linguistic articulation. Taves, Religious Experience Reconsidered, 63–74, 81–87. For another influential response to constructivists and linguistic theorists, see Charles Taylor’s argument that understanding arises from a dialectical relationship between feelings and articulations, not language alone. Charles Taylor, “Self-Interpreting Animals,” in Human Agency and Language: Philosophical Papers, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni­ver­ sity Press, 1985), 45–76. Taves, Religious Experience Reconsidered, 16–55. Shapin has argued for more detailed historical studies of the particularities of the practice of knowledge accumulation. Steven Shapin, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), xix.

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amply attests to failed practical efforts that left many feeling confused and humbled. In short, many consummate readers of Chan texts were forced to confront a seemingly inexplicable gulf between the tidily scripted genre of Chan encounter dialogue and their own unskilled attempts at performative re-enactment. This chapter sheds light primarily on the guidance Zhuhong offered his disciples on recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha and critical phrase methods adapted to fit within a Pure Land regimen. At the same time, while Zhuhong promoted Pure Land recitation as the superior practice, he and others in his circle exhibited a thoroughgoing appreciation of Chan texts and cultivation techniques, including gongan. So familiar were many in the network with Chan nomenclature that they made liberal use of Chan terms without ever defining them. Fortunately, Zhuhong’s epistolary sources and other essays offer a number of useful definitions. To broaden our understanding of Zhu­ hong’s stance and to demonstrate that others promoted the same techniques, this chapter also incorporates some of Deqing’s definitional clarifications. Skeptical of quick fixes, Zhuhong countered his disciples’ naïve desire for immediate results by insisting on a lifetime of effort marked by incremental, gradual progress toward spiritual advancement. The letters analyzed here continually describe personal shortcomings, revealing that many in the Fellowship struggled with the most preliminary steps. In a word, awakening, however one defined it, hovered over a far distant horizon.

Laboring to Clear the Mind

Epistolary sources attest to the importance of trial and error in individual efforts at mind cultivation. By all accounts, the intellectual grasp of Chan literature came much more readily than the practical application of such ideas. The struggle to master meditative techniques prompted many to write Zhuhong seeking advice: correspondents asked about what and how to practice, described their mental states, and vented their frustrations. The following letter, written by precept-disciple Qian Yangchun 錢養淳 (n.d.), touches upon a number of important themes: the inspirational importance of Chan discourse records, the need for exemplars, the hazards of certain methods, and Qian’s lack of progress: In the past, in studying the Way, one needed to have an initial awakening (wuyou 悟繇), that is, a “sudden awakening [followed by] gradual cultivation” (頓悟漸修). If one reflects upon all the Chan masters (chansu 禪宿)

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from past to present, there certainly are those who relied on the teachings and called Chan tangled and unclear. There were also those who discussed commentaries and scrutinized scripture as a way to enter the sea and count the grains of sand. However, the central teachings of the five houses [of Chan] and the gongan [found in] the discourse records of Chan patriarchs, these are what many people have used to examine the mind (jiu xin 究心).  It is said that one cannot be awakened from another’s awakening, yet how could these [examples] not be called a contributory cause (yuanyin 緣因)? If one does not have a good teacher and, moreover, rarely hears [the Dharma] but dryly sits in meditation waiting for enlightenment, can one attain it?  Now the years press on and the days weaken me; reading has become difficult. My ability to memorize is not what it used to be. What I read, I do not retain. This being the case, in the end I cannot generate the initial awakening. How can I keep from falling [into the lower paths]? This question is the same as my fourth question. My accumulation of doubts originally resided in just this. For this reason, I am dispirited (fandu 煩 瀆).11 Qian clearly understood the general outline of a Chan path to enlightenment and previous Buddhist debates over textual study versus practical application and sudden versus gradual. He simultaneously questioned the hazards of “counting the grains of sand” while equally lamenting his waning ability to memorize the textual corpus, a skill he linked to an initial awakening. His failure in this endeavor had become a source of great frustration. Feeling isolated, Qian desired face-to-face interactions with a qualified teacher and pressed the issue of whether such contact might provide the kind of stimulus he needed to progress. Like Qian, many network members, did not live in close proximity to each other or always have the ability to travel, and thus longed for greater contact with teachers and friends. In a general sense, Qian’s quandaries were not his alone: they exemplify those of many in the Fellowship. But despite this letter’s focus on Chan, other letters reveal that to calm his mind Qian practiced recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha, a technique he found nonetheless difficult. When he finished reciting, his mind quickly became distracted; no sooner did he eliminate distracting thoughts than his mind gave rise to confusion (hunchen 昏沈); eliminating confusion produced distracting thoughts, catching him in a vicious cycle. Zhuhong instructed Qian 11

Zhuhong, Quanji, 4666.

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to use recitation to break this cycle and trace back the radiance (fanzhao 返照) of his mind.12 The exchange between Zhuhong and Qian Yangchun, like so many other exchanges, illustrates the sustained engagement of members of this network in both Chan textual study and attempts at practical attainment through recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha. As already seen, Zhuhong’s doctrinal framing of the soteriological goal and methods of cultivation drew extensively on Huayan, Esoteric, Tiantai, and Yogācāra exegesis. Yet his and others’ descriptions of actual experience rarely incorporated nomenclature specific to these exegetical traditions, nor did Zhuhong’s correspondents repeat his detailed Yogācāra explanations of the mental stages associated with recitation. Rather, it was Chan discourse that dominated both the practical application of spiritual exercises and the description of heightened spiritual states, a division of labor kept throughout Zhuhong’s epistolary collection and that of many other monks. This choice reflected, on the one hand, the sixteenth-century popularity of Chan discourse records and, on the other, the lack of a distinctly Pure Land nomenclature capable of describing various levels of mental transport. Zhuhong’s epistolary output and that of his disciples made ample use of these Chan expressions to describe either their active pursuit of enlightenment or the resulting realization: awakening (wu 悟; kaiming 開明); apprehending the mind (dexin 得心); ­illuminating the mind or mind-ground (照了自心; 了明心地); having a breakthrough (dache 打撤); catching a glimpse of the ground (piedi 瞥地); tracing back the radiance (回光返照), seeing one’s original face (見本來面目), real­ izing it under one’s heel (腳跟下體究), arriving home (dao jia 到家), resounding forth (boran 嚗然), and so on.13 Mixing Chan and Pure Land methods and goals, Zhuhong bridged the gap between recitation focused narrowly on rebirth in the Pure Land and a broader understanding of recitation as a conduit to a tranquil mind devoid of mental objects. Zhuhong advocated sincere recitation as the foremost method for calming a distracted mind and attaining enlightenment prior to rebirth in the Pure Land. In a letter to layman Qin Mingzhong 秦明中 (n.d.), Zhuhong advised Qin to sit quietly and calm his mind through the continual recitation of a short phrase:

12 13

Ibid., 4662–4663. For a sampling of epistolary sources with this vocabulary, see Zhuhong, Quanji, 4663, 4510, 4497–5000, 4496, 4565.

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There are an infinite number of practices. What is most important is illuminating the mind (mingxin 明心).14 As for the most important technique for illuminating the mind, none compares to reciting the name. When taking a break from studying or when the mind is disturbed, sit quietly (jingzuo 靜坐) and recite. This will be of great benefit. In each moment of concentration on the buddha, extraneous thoughts (zanian 雜念) will recede, and the mind will become calm and free of sense-objects (心空境 寂).15 In his characterization of this meditative-style recitation, Zhuhong used the term “illuminating the mind,” a Chan reference that often refers to a final, complete, unsurpassable enlightenment. In Zhuhong’s usage, however, this term might denote many different levels of attainment, and in some letters it is difficult to know, when he refers to awakening, whether he means a small, progressive flash of insight or a final, ultimate realization. Zhuhong believed that a sudden, inexplicable epiphany, or leap signifying ultimate liberation, would happen only after many years of practice, a process that might include other pivotal yet ultimately minor flashes of insight, like the dispersal of crude thoughts.16 In a number of letters, Zhuhong first described an ideal stage of spiritual maturity, but, in keeping with his correspondents’ relatively low levels of attainment, suggested that they start with a more modest spiritual goal. In response to Yuan Xinyuan 袁心遠 (n.d), who feared death, Zhuhong explained that fear arises in those who have yet to realize the truth of the doctrine of nonarising—a doctrine that only highly advanced practitioners can apprehend. Tailoring his advice to Yuan’s level, Zhuhong counseled: However, [the truth] of non-arising is not easy to realize. Today you must just sincerely recite. After a long time, your mind will become undistracted (yixin bu luan). You will certainly have a realization (kaiwu 開悟). If you do not have this realization but have the strength of a lifetime of recitation (一生念力), you should know that at the end of your life you will be reborn in the Pure Land …17 14 15 16 17

In his letter to Guo Zizhang, Zhuhong uses the phrase “illuminating the mind-ground (了明心地). Zhuhong, Quanji, 4510. Ibid., 4606. Zhuhong likened the difference between a great and small realization to the difference between governing a small area and governing a state. Ibid., 4686. Ibid., 4574.

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Zhuhong did not think that his precept-disciples, by mere virtue of their success in the examination system, possessed great spiritual aptitude; hence, he was not swayed by their blind ambition or social status to offer difficult techniques or suggest that they would advance quickly. In presenting a gradual path, the letter outlines three stages: recitation, entering a state of mental absorption, and enlightenment. In a letter, to precept-disciple Xu Yuanzhen 許 元真(n.d.), the Fujian Brigade vice-commander, Zhuhong offered yet another three-step process, this time a cognitive roadmap: destroy delusion, verify wisdom, and awaken one’s own mind (明悟自心).18 Both disciples were encouraged to work toward liberation from saṃsāra. However, the letter to Qin Mingzhong not only elevates reciting the name as a technique that can lead to an undistracted mental state and awakening, it also offers the fall-back position that if Qin Mingzhong failed to achieve such heights, his recitation practice all but guaranteed rebirth in Amitābha’s Pure Land.19 Many of Zhuhong correspondents floundered at the most elementary level. The following men are representative of those who wrote, venting frustrations and asking for advice: He Wu’e 何武峨 (n.d.), Liu Shoufu, Sun Wugao, and Qin Rennan. They struggled to eliminate extraneous thoughts and to calm their minds, and were apparently unable to apprehend subtle forms of wisdom.20 To eliminate mental distractions, Zhuhong frequently advocated collecting or gathering the mind (shexin 攝心), a process of acquiring focus through the elimination of scattered thoughts (zanian 雜念). Zhuhong counseled that such focus could be achieved through recitation. To He Wu’e, Zhuhong wrote that collecting the mind was the first step in cultivation.21 In response to his precept-disciple Liu Shoufu, Zhuhong wrote that, among the numerous exercises for collecting the mind, recitation was the easiest, most efficacious choice.22 Zhuhong’s letter to yet another precept-disciple, Sun Wugao, further advised that a focused mind was a necessary prerequisite for the realization of wis-

18 19

20

21 22

Ibid., 4565. Despite a lifetime of practice, the last moment before death was a crucial determinant of rebirth opportunities. However, Zhuhong assumed that if someone had accumulated a lifetime of merit through recitation, there was very little chance that he would not be reborn in the Pure Land—only an enormous amount of bad karma accumulated in past lives could derail such a practitioner. To Layman Sun 孫 (dharma name Guangliang 廣諒; not Sun Wugao 孫無高) Zhuhong wrote that “to eliminate scattered thoughts (消滅雜念) and to retain purely correct thoughts (純一正念) is the true teaching (zhendi 真諦).” Zhuhong, Quanji, 4577. Ibid., 4653. Ibid., 4573.

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dom.23 In two letters to precept-disciple Qin Rennan, Zhuhong also linked collecting the mind through recitation with wisdom. The first letter offered a description of liberation beyond Qin’s practical reach, followed by the downto-earth suggestion that he simply recite: As for dispelling darkness and liberating oneself from the bonds of karma, if you can do this, then darkness is none other than brightness. Karmic bonds are none other than liberation. If you cannot, then in each moment gather your mind through reciting the Buddha’s name (攝心念 佛). After a period of time, you will become quiet and focused (jing ding 靜定) and can naturally produce wisdom.24 Zhuhong clearly thought that wisdom could only be realized through some internal mental process that took place after the mind had become quiescent. Wisdom, the apprehension of the truth (as reflected by Buddhist doctrine), required more than a mere intellectual command of the philosophically oriented literature: it required quite specifically the ability to realize these truths while in an absorptive mental state. In this respect, Zhuhong promulgated a conventional understanding of Buddhist cultivation. In the second letter to Qin Rennan, Zhuhong further clarified the relationship between cultivating the mind and the attainment of an inward luminosity. Zhuhong’s letters are fairly concise and rarely reiterate the detailed doctrinal arguments that underpin his advocacy of recitation so carefully laid out in his commentary. There are, however, traces of his doctrinal intent in letters like this one, wherein Zhuhong described collecting the mind and scrutinizing it as essentially one and the same activity, an example of the interfusion of principle and phenomenon: “In cultivation one need not be troubled about making great efforts. It is only crucial that one apprehend (de 得) one’s original mind (benxin 本 心).” However, it is not acceptable that you see this explanation and sit on your laurels thinking all will appear before you (拱手現成). As to “collecting thoughts and essential scrutiny” (攝念體究), one cannot neglect these tasks. Moreover, “to collect one’s thoughts” and “scrutinize the essence,” these are not two separate techniques. When one continually collects (she 攝) the mind, it will naturally become luminous (zi ming 自 明). When one scrutinizes [the mind], this is none other than to collect 23 24

Ibid., 4678. Ibid., 4607.

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[the mind]. Just proceed with complete faith (xinxing 信行). This will bring great benefit.25 The opening citation reflects the kind of natural, non-purposive attitude toward cultivation often seen in Chan literature and some Yangming Confucian writings. Yet that approach diverges significantly from what Zhuhong advocated for Rennan and many others, mainly, that recitation had to be practiced with due deliberation and effort. Liu Shoufu received similar advice from Zhuhong, who recommended that Shoufu disregard those among his peers who embraced a one-sided subitist view of the famous exchange of poems in the Platform Sūtra. In response to the monk Shenxiu’s 神秀 (605–706) poem, which compared cultivation to the “continual polishing” (時時勤拂) of a mirror, the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng 惠能 (638–713), countered that, because there is no place dust might collect, there is no need for the act of polishing. In Zhuhong’s estimation and that of a growing number of late sixteenth-century monks and examination elites, too many Buddhists used Huineng’s statement as an excuse to ignore self-cultivation. As a corrective, Zhuhong and others instructed their disciples to follow Shenxiu’s response and continually exert themselves, while keeping in mind that sudden awakening should be followed by gradual practice.26 Zhuhong chose to emphasize diligence, life-long practice, and incremental progress in concentrating the mind.27 He criticized those who anxiously sought (ji qiu 急求) results, comparing progress to walking along a road: “If one continues walking, he will naturally arrive at home [i.e., be awakened].”28 In stressing a more organic model of exertion, Zhuhong frequently cited Mencius’s advice against pulling on young shoots to help them grow: “Never let it out of your mind nor forcibly help it.”29 Zhuhong’s correspondents rarely succeeded in mastering visualization techniques (e.g. the sixteen visualizations Śākyamuni taught to Vaidehi; see chapter 5), but Zhuhong declined requests for guidance. In a letter to layman Zhu Xizong 朱西宗 (n.d.), Zhuhong claimed that for those with impure minds, 25 26

27 28 29

Ibid., 4607. Guan Zhidao 管志道 (1536–1608), Lü Kun 呂坤 (1536–1618), and the monk Ouyi Zhixu all suggested that practitioners pay more attention to Shenxiu and see the gradual and sudden paths as two aspects of the same process. For a discussion of this, see Araki Kengo, Bukkyō to Jukyō, 445–446. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4573. Ibid., 2032. Ibid., 4537; see also 3872, 3851, 3852, 4108, and 4109. Lau, Mencius 2A:2. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4614.

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visualization was too difficult, recommending instead recitation of the name.30 Zhuhong’s precept-disciple Xu Guoru 許廓如 (n.d.) wrote to him of his unsuccessful attempt to collect his mind through visualization of an image, seeking Zhuhong’s advice. However, in keeping with his belief that recitation was the superior practice, Zhuhong wrote back to Xu Guoru that he could enter samādhi through reciting and equated the practice with “visualization” even if the practitioner did not directly engage in that exercise: Moreover, when attending to worldly affairs it is difficult to succeed in visualization. It would be better to directly employ those moments of rest from study and household affairs to silently keep in mind and recite the name (執持名號). Just emphasize the clear [enunciation] of each and every syllable and accurately [recite] each and every phrase. The mind will then naturally begin to focus (心則自攝). If you practice this for a long time without regressing, you will succeed in entering samādhi. This is none other than visualization (guan 觀).31 In comparison to other spiritual exercises, visualization required long, uninterrupted stretches of time, making it an impractical choice for a busy official. Hence, Zhuhong substituted an easier technique, asking Xu to recite silently during a lull in other activities. The letter, exhibiting Zhuhong’s sensitivity to cadence, describes a process of careful, concentrated recitation—separating each syllable—that will lead to an absorptive mental state. The letters discussed thus far were written to men that were long on ambition but short on progress. The exchanges reveal the frustrations of practitioners who, far from demonstrating their keen aptitude and steady assured progress, complain foremost about an inability to concentrate. They had trouble entering samādhi. None were successful at attaining minor flashes of insight, let alone realizing nonduality. It may well be that Zhuhong’s advice to recite the name Amitābha Buddha was based not only on his doctrinal commitments but also on his awareness that, given his correspondents’ basic spiritual needs, recitation would be the most viable method for calming the mind.

30 31

Zhuhong, Quanji, 4668. Ibid., 4571.

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How to Recite the Name

Recitation of the name was a relatively simple, straightforward practice. Some practitioners recited the four-character transliteration of Amitābha, “E-mi-tuofo.” Others, including Zhuhong, intoned six characters: “Na-mo E-mi-tuo-fo.” The first two characters, na-mo 南無, are a transliteration of the Sanskrit namo, an honorific meaning “to take refuge or pay homage.” When reciting the four-syllable name E-mi-tuo-fo, Zhuhong wanted each syllable to be clearly enunciated. Sometimes he advocated silent recitation or told someone to lightly hold the name.32 Edited by Zhuhong, compiled by his precept-disciple Zhuang Fuzhen 莊復真 (n.d.), and published in 1584, the Comprehensive Collection of Pure Land Material (Jingtu ziliang quanji 淨土資糧全集) included a detailed section on how to collect the mind through recitation (攝心念佛).33 Practitioners are instructed to bathe, change clothes, confess before an image of buddhas and bodhisattvas, sit upright on a special seat in a quiet room, let go of mental and emotional distractions, close their eyes, concentrate the breath, and, while slightly moving the mouth, silently recite the six-syllable name Na-mo E-mi-tuo-fo. The practitioner was expected to count recitations in cycles of a hundred, but if his mind should wander for even one count, then he needed to start over. The goal of the practice was to focus the mind by ridding it of all other thoughts. If the practitioner found this task impossible, he was instructed to leave his seat, walk, bow, recite out loud, or do other things to refocus the mind before sitting down to again recite silently while counting repetitions. Though the emphasis was on silent seated recitation, the text does allow for the use of rosary beads, spoken repetitions, and other bodily postures. While on occasion Zhuhong’s letters too mentioned bodily posture, for the most part they addressed only mental obstacles to calming the mind. There is a long Chinese tradition of tailoring advice to the needs and temperament of the disciple in question, a practice that often makes it difficult to discern a single message in epistolary collections. In contrast, Zhuhong was remarkably consistent. Whatever their difficulties, he encouraged his correspondents to focus on recitation. Though he thought it took years to become 32

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This was already discussed in chapter 5. For advice to specific persons, see letters to Wu Nianci 吳念慈 (n.d.), Layman Sun 孫 (dharma name: Daheng 大珩, n.d.), and Xu Guoru. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4614, 4568, and 4571. This text is a compilation of long excerpts from other texts and merely edited by Zhuhong. The section cited above is excerpted from the Essential Ideas from the Mysterious Gate of the Pure Land (Jingtu xuanmen jieyao 淨土玄門捷要), a text that appears to be no longer extant. Zhuang Fuzhen, Jingtu ziliang quanji (X1162: 61.610.c5). There is a biography of Zhuang in Peng Shaosheng, Jushi zhuan (X1646: 88.259.b2–13).

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awakened, if at all, Zhuhong did not suggest that frustrated practitioners experiment with other techniques. In this respect, he differed from monks like Zhiyi and presumably many others who allowed for a multiplicity of practices.34 Believing that experimentation hindered progress, he favored a long-term, systematic approach focused on one or two techniques. To bolster his position, Zhuhong cited Layman Pang 龐 (740–808), a celebrated ninth-century Chan figure: “‘Do not take the myriad practices as your companion’—are these not the words of Layman Pang?”35 Zhuhong’s thoughts on the subject are clearly articulated in the following text, in which he compared mind cultivation to the practice of calligraphy or skill in playing the qin 琴: [The Song Dynasty calligrapher] Mi Yuanzhang 米元章 [Mi Fu 米芾 1051– 1107] said, “In studying calligraphy one must concentrate only on calligraphy and not cultivate other interests. Only this will lead to success.” I also heard that those of the past who were excellent qin players said, “Concentrate your efforts on two to three pieces; only then will you be superb.” Although these words address a minor [situation], they can be used to describe a great [matter]. The Buddha said, “If you fix your mind in one place (制心一處), there is nothing that cannot be accomplished.”36 For this reason, when the mind diverges along two paths, affairs remain unfinished (心分兩路事不歸一). Yet when the mind is focused and the will set, samādhi will be attained quickly. Those who investigate Chan while reciting the name (參禪念佛) should know this.37

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In a very fine study of the four methods of samādhi, Daniel Stevenson concluded that although Zhiyi organized the four samādhis around a common set of principles, he allowed for a multiplicity of practices: “A diversity of available meditative practices ensures that the individual practitioner may deal more adequately with the vicissitudes of his own practice.” Daniel Stevenson, “The Four Kinds of Samadhi in T’ien-T’ai Buddhism,” in Traditions of Meditation in Chinese Buddhism, ed. Peter Gregory (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986), 85. See Ruth Fuller Sasaki, Yoshitaka Iriya, and Dana R. Fraser, trans. A Man of Zen: The Recorded Sayings of Layman P’ang, A Ninth Century Zen Classic (New York: Weatherhill, 1971), 47. Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.143.b21–22). This phrase first appears in the Yijiao jing (T389: 00.1111.a20). It was repeated in many texts, especially Chan texts, but it was also later adopted by many Chinese Pure Land exegetes. Zhuhong would have seen it repeatedly. See, for instance, Yongming Yanshou, Zongjing lu (T2016: 48.588.b22). Zhuhong, Quanji, 3803.

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Zhuhong’s advocation of recitation deviated only in the possible inclusion of critical phrase techniques, or use of a Pure-Land-themed critical phrase. Nonetheless, when he encouraged disciples to “investigate through reciting the name” (canjiu nianfo 參究念佛), this exercise always started with recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha. This was followed by the application of critical phrase techniques. That having been said, recitation could be done silently as in the instructions given above. It may also be the case that a practitioner started with oral recitation but then switched to silently contemplating the name at the point when critical phrase techniques were introduced, especially in attempts to generate doubt.38 As the following section will demonstrate, Zhuhong succeeded in creating one seamless practice that circumvented the conflicting soteriological aims apparent when Chan and Pure Land techniques were cultivated separately.

Definitions and Controversies: Critical Phrase Techniques

By the late sixteenth century, Chan cultivation had achieved a new popularity. Many examination elites were confident that the re-enactment of Chan encounter dialogues would be a sufficient catalyst for sudden flashes of insight. Others turned their attention to critical phrase practice and were especially drawn to focus on Zhaozhou’s 趙州 (778–897) response to the question posed in a very famous gongan regarding whether a dog has buddha-nature. Zhaozhou’s response, wu (or “no”), had long been used as a well-recognized meditation device called a huatou 話頭 (critical phrase).39 However,

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Morten Schlütter argues that what distinguishes Zhuhong’s teaching of Pure-Landthemed critical phrases is the incorporation of oral recitation. However, although nianfo is used at this time primarily to mean oral recitation of the name, Zhuhong also allows for silent recitation. When Tao Wangling and others turned the sound of the name into a critical phrase or asked “Who is it that recites?” and worked on it throughout the day while going about their official duties as Zhuhong suggested, surely they were keeping this critical phrase silently in the back of their minds, not reciting out loud. Morten Schlütter, “Who Is Reciting the Name of the Buddha? as Gongan in Chinese Chan ­Buddhism,” Frontiers of History in China 8, no. 3 (2013): 366–388. Based on his reading of Dahui’s work, Jeffrey L. Broughton has recently argued that huatou is best translated as “cue” rather than “critical phrase,” “head phrase,” or by other terms because a huatou functions like a theatrical prompt. However, to the average reader, “cue” is no more self-explanatory than “critical phrase”—both terms require further explanation. In any case, his insightful reflections are a welcome addition to the conversation on this topic. Jeffrey L. Broughton, trans., The Chan Whip Anthology: A Companion to Zen

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to persuade examination elites to use recitation rather than wu or other standard critical phrases, Zhuhong assured his audience that Pure-Land-themed critical phrases were equally efficacious: “… it is not necessary to limit oneself to this one word, ‘wu.’ Some [take up] ‘wu,’ some ‘the myriad dharmas’ … And some investigate through reciting the name (canjiu nianfo). Following this [method], [the practitioner] just sticks to one [phrase], hoping to be awakened. That which gives rise to mental perplexity (yi 疑) is different, but the awakening is the same.”40 Zhuhong often advised his correspondents to set aside Chan critical phrases and concentrate on one of two Pure Land choices: E-mi-tuo-fo or shui 誰, meaning “who,” from the question “Who is it that recites the name?”41 In his correspondence with Xie Qinglian 謝青蓮 (n.d.), Zhuhong wrote that “in the Chan school, raising a critical phrase is the most intensive practice by which to foster awakening (fawu 發悟). Those who cultivate Pure Land [practices] create a critical phrase out of the sound of the name. This is a marvelous method …”42 Unwavering in his promotion of recitation, Zhuhong sought, through the inclusion of Pure-Land-themed critical phrase practice, to make recitation an attractive choice for those in the Fellowship whose primary goal was to experience enlightement in this lifetime. Ideologically opposed to creating his own discourse record (yulu 語錄), Zhuhong kept his disciples from framing his interactions with others according to the dictates of that Chan genre.43 However, in 1600 Zhuhong published what would be his only Chan text, a short three-part anthology and inspirational guide to Chan cultivation, Spurring Through the Chan Barrier (Changuan cejin 禪觀策進).44 A down-to-earth instructional work, the text exhorts its

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Practice, with contributions by Elise Yoko Watanabe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 3–4; 30–32. This short comment is one Zhuhong added at the end of the very first entry—that Pure Land rectiation is introduced is no accident. Zhuhong, Changuan cejin (T2024: 48.1098. b6–9). This phrase could be written simply as “Who is reciting the name?” (念佛是誰) or with other shorthand references. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4558. Deqing also equated raising “who” with raising wu. Deqing, “Shi Ning Xutong chanren,” Mengyou ji, 495. Not only was Zhuhong against having his disciples create a gongan collection, he also declined to write verse commentary (songgu 頌古) for past gongan because he judged his own level of awakening to be insufficient. Zhuhong, Quanji, 3696–3697 and 4010–11. I want to thank Juhn Ahn for sharing his translation of the title. In his preface, Zhuhong expressed the desire to spur practitioners on like one spurs a horse, that is, motivate them to advance through the barriers to cultivation. Jeffrey L. Broughton has translated the title more interpretively as Whip for Spurring Students Onward through the Chan Barrier Checkpoints and published a translation of the text under the title The Chan Whip Anthology. See note 39.

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readers to be diligent and is full of practical how-to advice. The first section is comprised of thirty-eight entries, many of them excerpts from the works of Linji Chan monks known for their cultivation of critical phrases; entries often end with a short testimonial of a monk’s successful awakening.45 The second section offers Chan excerpts on practice, and the third section further lends support to claims made in the first section through the citation of a series of short scriptural passages, a significant number of which are Pure Land in orientation. Most tellingly, the text ends with Zhuhong’s defense of recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha, beseeching Pure Land practitioners to see the results of their practice as comparable to that of Chan. Clearly, Spurring Through the Chan Barrier exemplifies one of Zhuhong’s legitimizing strategies: by embedding Pure-Land-themed critical phrases within pre-existing Chan literature, he was attempting to convince his more Chan-oriented disciples to reconsider the viability of Pure Land recitation.46 With Spurring Through the Chan Barrier, Zhuhong created a natural historical progression from the advent of Chan critical phrase techniques to the later incorporation of Pure Land ones. Though Pure-Land-themed critical phrases were well known in the centuries prior to Zhuhong, monk advocates had not manufactured a new corpus of Pure-Land-themed gongan and encounter dialogue, or as Zhuhong does here, tied them to a pre-existing Chan literature. The nineteenth entry, for Tianru Weize, is the first in this collection to exploit the incorporation of critical phrase techniques during recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha, turning the name itself into a critical phrase. The following entry, for Zhiche Duanyun 智徹斷雲 (b. 1309), explains how to cultivate with the phrase “Who is it that recites the name?” (念佛者是誰). Another five entries specifically discuss the integrated cultivation of recitation and critical phrases, while three more entries are of monks discussed below that Zhuhong recognized for their promotion of Pure-Land-themed critical phrases, even if that is not stated in this text. With respect to the origin of the critical phrase “Who is it that recites?” there are several theories. Zhuhong’s entry for Konggu Jinglong 空谷景隆 (1387– 45

46

In this text, the first entry is of the monk Huangbo Xiyun 黃糪希運 (d. 850), whom Zhuhong identified as the progenitor of critical phrase practice. Most entries are of Song and Yuan Dynasty monks, though Zhuhong did include nine early to mid-Ming monks, ending with his own teacher, the Linji monk Xiaoyan Debao 笑巖德寶 (1512–1581). References to Pure-Land-themed critical phrase practice should not be taken lightly here. After the text was transmitted to Japan, monks like Hakuin Ekaku 白隱慧鶴 (1685–1768) and his dharma heirs severely criticized such inclusions. Although Japanese monks proceeded to ignore such aspects in their reading of the text, for Chinese monks like Zhuhong and his disciples this was a bold move aimed at mainstreaming the practice. Broughton, The Chan Whip Anthology, 9–10.

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1466) mentions in passing Youdan Pudu’s 優曇普度 (1255–1330) instructions on this technique, and some scholars think the practice may have in fact started with Youdan. In contrast, Japanese scholarship has argued that the progenitor was either Zhiche Duanyun or the Caodong monk Zhenxie Qingliao 真 歇清了 (1097–1152). Be that as it may, Deqing attributed the teaching of this critical phrase to Yongming Yanshou, further demonstrating Yongming’s importance to late Ming Buddhist culture, on the other hand Zhuhong relied once again on the authority of Tianru Weize, and that of other monks listed in his text.47 Despite its introduction centuries prior, cultivation of Pure-Land-themed critical phrases remained controversial. Late sixteenth-century detractors repeatedly raised longstanding objections, arguing that critical phrase practice should be a rigorous cultivation exercise aimed at spiritually transportive states and the eventual realization of nonduality, whereas recitation of an ever-present name presented a dualistic impediment to that very goal (see chapter 5). Dedicated Pure Land practitioners argued that the sincere repetition of the name Amitābha Buddha was the only method leading to rebirth in the Pure Land. This group wanted to maintain the distinction between the reciting subject and Amitābha Buddha, while Chan practitioners wanted to collapse that distinction. For this reason, some feared that mixing the two methods would be disastrous, resulting in neither awakening nor a Pure Land rebirth. The terminological reference to Pure-Land-themed critical phrase practice, “investigate through reciting the name” (canjiu nianfo), was equally problematic. Some favored the term nianfo, “to recite the Buddha’s name,” because it was scriptural, but rejected the term canjiu, “to investigate or search within the mind,” because it was not. Well aware of such criticisms, Zhuhong addressed them in a short circa 1607 essay that alludes to early Ming Pure Land teachings: During the reigns of Hongwu [1363–1398] and Yongle [1403–1425], there were three great monks: Konggu [1387–1466], Tianqi 天奇 [d. 1509?], and 47

It must be noted that the attribution of this practice to Tianru Weize is found only in the recension edited by Zhuhong of Tianru Weize’s Doubts and Questions about the Pure Land and, thus, may be an interpolation. Qian Qianyi, “Hanshan dashi Mengyou ji xu” (X1456: 73.521.b11). For an extended discussion of origination theories, see Shi Yinqian 釋印謙, “Chanzong ‘Nianfozhe shi shui?’ gongan qiyuan kao 禪宗「念佛者是誰」公案起源 考,” Yuanguang Foxue Xuebao 4 (1999): 107–139. Morten Schlütter has recently published a short article on this topic that translates some of the same references Shi Yinqian has collected, while further expanding the list of possible origins. Schlütter, “Who Is Reciting the Name,” 366–388.

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Dufeng 毒峰 [1443?–1523].48 They all discussed recitation. Tian and Du both taught people to observe, “Who recites?” Only Konggu said that “direct reciting” (zhinian 直念) alone also leads to awakening. These two methods followed what was suitable [at the time] and are both correct. Konggu only said that direct reciting was also acceptable; he did not say canjiu was wrong. I have already mentioned this in my commentary. But still, there are doubters who say that canjiu stresses seeing one’s own nature, while just reciting strictly [leads to] rebirth [in the Pure Land]. Subsequently, they want to give up canjiu and attend solely to reciting, explaining that the scriptures only say to keep and recite the name (執持 名號) and have never spoken of canjiu. This explanation certainly makes sense. Those who rely on this in practice will absolutely be reborn [there]. But if they want to keep this and drop that, then this is unacceptable. When those who recite the name see into their own natures, this is truly to be born in the highest of the highest. How could one instead worry they will not be reborn [there]?49 Given Konggu’s stature, Zhuhong was not in a position to reject the legitimacy of Konggu’s assertion that recitation alone can result in awakening. However, without the addition of canjiu, recitation remained largely a merit-generating exercise with limited value to practitioners in search of enlightenment. For this reason, Zhuhong defended the importance of canjiu, while making explicit that the goal of both practices was awakening. As already discussed, Zhuhong’s commentary stressed, based on the Huayan doctrine of the interpenetration of principle and phenomenon that there was no reason either to reject recitation 48

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The biographies of Konggu Jinglong and Dufeng Benshan 毒峰本善 along with the Linji monk Chushan Shaoqi 楚山紹琦 (1403–1473) are discussed extensively in Chün-fang Yü, “Ming Buddhism,” 922–297. Tianqi Benrui 天奇本瑞 is missing; however, primary sources often group him with them, and he was influenced by Shaoqi, who called this practice nianfo gongan 念佛公案. Shaoqi suggests that the practitioner take up the phrase “E-mituo-fo” and silently scrutinize its essence (tijiu 體究) until he becomes perplexed, adding that the practitioner cannot determine who is doing the reciting through any logical or rational calculus but must empty his mind. Chan biographical collections limit their descriptions to these monks’ Chan experience. In contrast, Pure Land biographical collections disregard their Chan activities, claiming them for their own purposes. Zhuhong chose to identify all three as promoters of Pure Land practice. This short text is from the second volume of Zhuhong’s Jottings by a Bamboo Window (Zhuchuang suibi 竹窗隨筆) series. According to Araki Kengo, Zhuhong began publishing the series when he was seventy years old. Araki Kengo, Unsei Shukō no kenkyū, 99–100. Zhuhong, Quanji, 3851.

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of the name as inferior or to see canjiu practices as superior, since theoretically at least, they were wholly interfused. Yet, for practitioners and monks alike, many questions remained concerning how to resolve a fundamental tension between the use of spiritual exercises that were thought to produce strikingly different results. Undaunted by such resistance, Zhuhong worked to win over both parties by arguing that the terms “to investigate and penetrate” (canjiu) and “cultivate Chan” (canchan) were perfectly reconcilable with recitation. In the strictest sense, canchan referred to the practice of stirring up doubt while working on a critical phrase; however, many late sixteenth-century practitioners used the term more broadly as shorthand for “Chan practice.”50 Can could also refer to the moment of breakthrough (canpo 參破).51 There were two established ways of referring to the added cultivation of critical phrases while reciting the name Amitābha Buddha: the first is “to investigate and penetrate while reciting the name” (canjiu nianfo 參究念佛); the second is “to investigate Chan [i.e., take up a critical phrase] while reciting the name” (canchan nianfo 參禪念佛).52 To dispel criticisms that canjiu and canchan were not scripturally grounded, Zhuhong argued that Śūraṃgama Sūtra passages adequately defined them. His description offers some welcome insight into how he conceived of these terms, which I have translated variously depending on context: Monks have a common saying: “A small doubt results in a small awakening. A great doubt results in a great awakening. If there is no doubt, then there is no awakening.”53 This is what is meant by can 參. But “investigat50 51

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Can was also used in some contexts to mean “to consult” or “to visit” a teacher or master. The monk Wuyi Yuanlai wrote that Zhuhong took canjiu nianfo and made it a Pure Land practice. Wuyi Yuanlai defined can as “breakthrough” (參謂參破). Wuyi chanshi guanglu (X1435: 72.333.c5). Dahui appears to have been the most clear-cut in the linguistic distinction he maintained between the entire dialogic encounter, which he called gongan, and a critical phrase, that is, the succinct word or phrase called a huatou. However, many Song exegetes and later sixteenth-century monks were less terminologically precise. They used the term gongan to refer to either the entire dialogic encounter or a succinct phrase. Zhuhong called the question “Who is it that recites the name?” a critical phrase. But unlike Shaoqi and ­Deqing, Zhuhong does not use the term nianfo gongan. For a definition of gongan, see T. Griffith Foulk, “The Form and Function of Kōan Literature: A Historical Overview,” in Heine and Wright, The Koan, 27. In Spurring Through the Chan Barrier, Zhuhong attributes this idea to a Southern Song monk, Zuqin 雪巖祖欽 (d. 1288?), Changuan cejin (T2024: 48.1100.b1). By the mid-to-late Ming the idea was a pervasive one repeated in many Chan and Pure Land texts that discuss critical phrase practice. The Discourse Records of Chan Master Dahui Pujue may have

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ing Chan” (canchan 參禪), this two-character phrase, when did it [first] appear? Some say, “The sūtras do not have it.” I say that they do. The Śūraṃgama Sūtra (Lengyan jing 楞嚴經)54 says, “[Ānanda], within this, exhaustively penetrate, subtly illuminate (精研妙明).”55 It also says, “Internally and externally, investigate (內外研究).”56 It also says, “In­vestigate deep and far (研究深遠),”57 It also says, “Investigate [deeply] to the absolute utmost (研究精極).”58 Isn’t this can? From that time onward, venerable [Chan] monks taught people to observe gongan and give rise to the sensation of doubt (yiqing 疑情). The phrase comes from this.59 In Zhuhong’s citation, to investigate, penetrate, examine or reflect upon exhaustively, externally and internally, deep and far, and to do so to one’s utmost—these ideas flesh out the practical dimensions of what it meant to “generate doubt.” Lest this sounded like a protracted textual exercise directed at mastery of the already voluminous Chan oeuvre, Zhuhong added the following qualifications: “If you concentrate on a word to deduce its meaning or mentally calculate its import, like rolling something in the hand to determine its weight, then you have misunderstood what is meant by diligence (yonggong 用功), breaking through (pou 剖), or continually observing (fanfu kan 反覆 看).”60 Both Zhuhong and Deqing agreed that canchan and canjiu were scriptural terms, based not on the actual presence of the terms themselves, but on the

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inspired this idea. In that text Dahui remarks that great doubt results in a great awakening. He criticized people for outwardly doubting others, rather than turning inward to create the sort of mental perplexity that might give rise to their own enlightenment. Dahui Pujue chanshi yulu (T1998: 47.886.a28). Dafo ding rulai miyin xiuzheng liaoyi zhu pusa wanxing shou lengyan jing (T945). Hereafter, Lengyan jing. Lengyan jing (T945: 19.147.c27–30; see also 147.c7, c11). The Śūraṃgama Sūtra does not have this exact nomenclature though there is a similar phrase: “internally and externally, carefully investigate” (內外精研). Lengyan jing (T945: 19.147.c16). Ibid. (T945: 19.148.a19–22). The Śūraṃgama Sūtra passages all refer specifically to mind cultivation. Be that as it may, Zhuhong’s essay was not written to shed light on their meaning within the context of that text. Lengyan jing (T945: 19.148.a.23). I have benefited from Jeffrey L. Broughton’s translation of this text; however, the trans­ lation here is my own. Zhuhong, “Canchan,” Quanji, 3872. Broughton, The Chan Whip Anthology, 151, note 16. Zhuhong’s essay was repeated almost verbatim by the Qing monk Zhenji Yirun 真寂儀潤 (n.d.) in Baizhang qinggui zhengyi ji (X1244: 63.511.a8–16).

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supposition of a shared semantic field. It was not unusual for Buddhists and Confucians to argue that, if the semantic equivalent could be found in a classical text, then the term or idea was perforce historically situated. At other times, both groups pulled terms from obscurity, like Wang Yangming had with liangzhi, and elevated their stature to that of a significant philosophical concept. Strategically, both Buddhists and Confucians tried to ground their ideas in classical texts; as one might expect, neither party emphasized the extent to which their ideas may have differed from previous interpretations. Zhuhong was convinced that the meaning of canchan was in circulation well before Huangbo Xiyun 黃糪希運 (d. 850) developed and Dahui popularized the method of observing a critical phrase (kan huatou 看話頭)—that is, well before the thirteenth century.61 In agreement on that subject, Deqing also sought to defend his own advocacy of canchan through scriptural references, this time, to the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra. Deqing claimed that irrespective of the technique employed, the goal of canchan remained the same: from Bodhidharma to Dahui, Chan masters wanted their disciples to examine themselves (參究自己), end the disruptive flow of deluded thoughts, and awaken to their own heart/mind (了悟自心). Criticizing their cultivation of the phrase “Who is it that recites?” Deqing thought some practitioners mistakenly generated the sensation of doubt (yiqing) by focusing on “Who is the Buddha?” rather than on “Who am I?”62 Clearly, Deqing conceived of yiqing as a catalyst for self-examination and the resolution of existential quandaries about the nature of the [unenlightened] self. Zhuhong too defined the practice of creating doubt to mean that one must personally penetrate and investigate, while searching within one’s self (參究體察).63 Jeffrey L. Broughton has recently argued that we would be better served by translating yi or yiqing not as “doubt” or the “sensation of doubt,” but as “indecision-and-apprehension” to highlight that it means hesitancy, uncer-

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For more on Huangbo, see Dale Wright, Philosophical Meditations on Zen Buddhism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). Deqing, “Shi canchan qieyao,” in Mengyou ji, 287–288. For similar ideas, see also “Shi nianfo qieyao” and “Shi nianfo canchan qieyao,” in Mengyou ji, 336–340, and 440–442. This idea is promoted in a short text entitled “Sensation of Doubt (Yiqing 疑情),” where Zhuhong first criticized those who thought this practice referred to the speed of recitation. He then denounced those who thought the name should be moved upward from the cinnabar field to the top of the head, a technique used in Daoist inner alchemy that was of no liberative value to those seeking either a Pure Land rebirth or the realization of nonduality. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4108.

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tainty, vacillation, trepidation and so forth.64 However, this choice is too abstract to fully express the religious urgency of what is, in effect, an existential quandary about the nature of reality and the self. Both Zhuhong and Deqing saw this practice as one that delved into questions about the nature of reality—Deqing specifically refers to “life and death” (shengsi 生死)—and the gap between the awakened Buddha and the unenlightened self. Such quandaries were framed in terms of the following questions: Where am I from? Who am I? Where did the sound go? From whence did it arise? In other words, they are not asking practitioners to entertain “doubt” in a fuzzy, abstract sense, but to participate in a quite focused, inwardly directed spiritual inquiry. The resolution, of course, required foremost the realization of nonduality, not an exegesis. Inquiry of this sort was also advocated by Zhou Rudeng, who asked his disciples to reflect on the questions: What am I? What does it mean to be human?65 Given the similarity between Zhou Rudeng’s advocacy and that of Zhuhong and Deqing, it comes as no surprise that they shared disciples and that many examination elites moved easily between Chan practice and Zhou’s style of Yangming Confucian cultivation. Through letters, sermons, and essays to both monastic and lay practitioners, Deqing repeatedly disseminated instructions on how to cultivate a critical phrase. A brief excursus into Deqing’s views will further deepen our understanding of how Pure-Land-themed critical phrase methods were taught in the late sixteenth century. The following short excerpt from Deqing’s instructions to two monks on how to use the technique to subdue (tiaofu 調伏) the mind, exemplify his guidance. To rid the mind of all extraneous thoughts, he suggested that these two monks start their critical phrase practice by reciting the name Amitābha Buddha. Like Zhuhong, Deqing advocated recitation first. After some time, the practitioner turned the sound into a critical phrase and began to apply other techniques. Explaining that canchan was a spiritual, not intellectual, exercise whose goal was to let go of all mental and emotional 64

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Broughton’s main objection to the use of “doubt” stems from concern over the Christian polarity between faith and doubt. His explanation relies on Chan Master Gaofeng Yuanmiao’s Essentials of Chan (Gaofeng Yuanmiao chanshi chanyao 高峰原妙禪師禪要; X1401). However, Robert Buswell has already used that text to present an extended discussion of the meaning of yiqing, one that I currently find more convincing. See Robert E. Buswell, Jr., “The Transformation of Doubt (yíqíng 疑情) in Chinese Buddhist Meditation,” in Love and Emotions in Traditional Chinese Literature, ed. Halvor Eifring (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 225–237. See also Buswell, The Zen Monastic Experience: Buddhist Practice in Contemporary Korea (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 154–160. Broughton, The Chan Whip Anthology, 30–33, especially note 52. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 347, 394–397.

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distractions, Deqing instructed that, when calm, the practitioner should turn inward as though fishing in a deep pond and observe, “What is the source of this sound?”: If deluded thoughts again arise, this is because the accumulated [karmic] habits from time immemorial are too strong. Again, let go of them. Absolutely do not force the mind to sever deluded thoughts, just straighten up your back. Do not let the mind wander in all directions, just focus on the source of the deluded thought and let go of it. Keep letting go.  Again, slowly recite the name. Concentrate on observing this sound. Where ultimately does it originate? After five to seven repetitions, deluded thoughts will disappear. Now, generate doubt (xia yiqing 下疑 情). Examine who is it after all that recites. People view [the name] as [merely] something to say; little do they know that this exercise of generating doubt is exactly where one gains strength (deli chu 得力處).  If deluded thoughts again arise, expel an exasperated breath and pointedly ask, “Who is this?!”66 All traces of deluded thoughts will immediately be swept away.  The Buddha said, “When awake, constantly collect the mind.”67 When asleep, one cannot collect the mind. In waking, immediately take up the critical phrase. In this respect, not only when seated should one do this but also in walking, standing, drinking tea, eating, and in movement and stillness one should continue like this.68 Like Zhuhong, Deqing thought awakening could not be forced, although Zhuhong did not claim wayward thoughts could be dispelled with five to seven repetitions. This short excerpt, in its detailed attention to mental processes, redoubling of effort, generation of spiritual power, and elimination of extraneous thought, suggests that inexperienced monks, too, found an undistracted mind difficult to sustain. The use of this technique was meant to address that problem and propel the practitioner toward enlightenment. In a letter to Zhuhong’s precept-disciple, the official Yuan Shizhen 袁世振 (jinshi 1598), Deqing succinctly laid out each step of the process: first, the 66 67 68

Expelling the breath and asking who recites could be interpreted literally “to say something out loud” or “to talk silently to one’s self.” This line, “when awake, constantly collect the mind (除睡常攝心),” is from a verse in the seventeenth chapter of the Lotus Sūtra, Miaofa lianhua jing (T262: 9.45.a18). Deqing, “Shi Yu Jue chanren,” in Mengyou ji, 256–258.

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elimination of external distractions; secondly, the elimination of all internal thoughts; and finally, even the elimination of the thought of eliminating thoughts. At the final stages, a practitioner recited the name, incorporating critical phrase techniques until even cognizance of the sound disappeared, resulting in enlightenment, characterized in this letter as “seeing one’s original face.” When Deqing claimed that canchan was indeed nianfo, and vice versa, he meant that both were techniques for eliminating all distracting thoughts, even the thought of Amitābha Buddha.69 Deqing also told Yuan Shizhen that, whether one clung to a critical phrase or clung to the name, the mistake was the same—not letting go. Consistent with this position, Zhuhong’s one extant letter to Yuan Shizhen offered that those whose minds wander while they recite and those who love to talk of Chan are equally in error, and instructed him instead to concentrate and recite the name attentively.70 The advice Yuan Shizhen received from both Deqing and Zhuhong was mutually reinforcing, and thus he may have experienced these exchanges as more or less congruent.71 In these exchanges, we have concrete evidence of a network member benefiting from interactions on the same topic with two different monks. Zhuhong and Deqing varied little in their understanding of how to use PureLand-themed critical phrases. However, Deqing was more enthusiastic in his promotion of a broader array of Chan critical phrases and techniques than Zhuhong was. To Yuan Shizhen, Deqing cited Dahui’s strong endorsement of critical phrase techniques, further adding that the awakened mind was a direct consequence of such practice. Yet despite his more noticeable Chan leanings, Deqing’s own experience with recitation must have tempered his instruction. In 1564 at the age of nineteen, during an intense period of daily repetitions of the name Amitābha Buddha, Deqing had his first vision of this Buddha, accompanied by Guanyin and Mahāsthāmaprāpta. In the following year he was taught by the monk Yungu 雲谷 (1500–1579) how to turn recitation of the name 69 70 71

The same instructions are repeated in two other Deqing texts: Mengyou ji, 495–96; 518– 520. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4545. Yuan Shizhen 袁世振 (z. Cangru 滄孺 h. Yangzhi 仰之, n.d.) had a long official career. He was a friend of Tang Xianzu. His one surviving letter to Zhuhong states that he was satisfied with recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha, but that he wished to try the three Tiantai contemplations (sanguan), described as simply another form of nianfo. Yuan also wrote Deqing about this. In a lengthy and fascinating reply, Deqing offered quite detailed instructions. Deqing, “Da Yuan Cangru shijun,” in Mengyou ji, 967–972. Deqing also wrote another letter to him, Mengyou ji, 973–975.

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into a critical phrase (念佛公案).72 This sequence of events must have inspired Deqing to endorse this practice, further teaching it to others. As a result, fellowship members could receive similar advice on how to use this technique from either Deqing or Zhuhong.

Practical Matters: Trying the Technique

Elaborate apologetics and detailed definitions notwithstanding, much of Zhuhong’s correspondence simply introduced this technique to those unfamiliar with it. Concerned that Chan spiritual exercises were more suitable for men of his stature, Wu Nianci 吳念慈 (n.d.) of Nancheng 南城 wrote Zhuhong about his misgivings. To alleviate Wu’s concerns, Zhuhong compared a popular Chan critical phrase “The myriad things return to one, where does the one return?” to the Pure Land substitution “Who is reciting the name?” claiming they were equally efficacious: In the past, it was said, “If someone who recites the name Amitābha Buddha wants to investigate Chan (canchan), he does not need to raise a different critical phrase (別舉話頭).”73 This is indeed the case. While continually reciting the name, regain luminosity and yourself observe (回光 自看),74 “Who is reciting the name?” Exert yourself in this way: “Never let it out of your mind nor forcibly help it.”75 After some time you will naturally have a realization (you sheng 有省).76 Correspondents like Wu wanted to try Chan critical phrase practice but knew little about the parallel exercise of applying critical phrase methods to recita72

73 74

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Deqing was officially ordained in a teaching lineage (jiang 講) and was not a Chan dharma heir, though he was reputed to be a Chan monk. Both of these episodes are translated in Hsu Sung-peng, A Buddhist Leader in Ming China, 64–65. This unnamed source may be a paraphrase from a short text entitled “Canchan nianfo sanmei jiujing famen,” in Lushan Lianzong baojian nianfo zhengjiao (T1973: 47.311.c21). “Tracing back the radiance emanating from the mind” (huiguang fanzhao 回光反照) is a common refrain in the texts of Yuanwu and Dahui. See, for instance, Dahui Pujue chanshi yulu (T1998: 47.893.a11; 922.c1). Zhuhong does not use the exact same phrasing, yet the passage makes clear that he is following Dahui’s directives. For more on this topic, see Buswell, “Short-cut Approach of K’an-hua Meditation: The Evolution of a Practical Subitism in Chinese Ch’an Buddhism,” in Sudden and Gradual, 347, and 369 note 97. Lau, Mencius 2A:2. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4614.

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tion. Hence, Zhuhong often dispensed such elementary how-to instructions. Irrespective of the technique, he wanted practitioners to find the right level of exertion. Should the above method fail, Zhuhong suggested that Wu follow the practice advocated by Konggu: direct reciting (zhinian) while keeping one’s thoughts on Amitābha. Pure-Land-themed critical phrase practice always started with recitation. Ideally, the practitioner gradually quieted his mind through the enunciation of each syllable (E-mi-tuo-fo), eliminating extraneous thoughts. When focused, the practitioner then tried critical phrase techniques, in effect either turning the name itself into a critical phrase or raising the question “Who is reciting?” In a perfect illustration of this, Zhuhong advised Liu Shoufu to apply critical phrase techniques to the four transliterated syllables of Amitābha’s name: When thoughts arise, one does not need to do something else to eradicate them. Just take up (ju 舉) the four sounds, E-mi-tuo-fo, and exert your utmost in piercing (aiza 挨拶) them.77 This is the practice of collecting the mind (shexin 攝心). If one is suddenly awakened (wuqu 悟去), this is called “apprehending the mind” (dexin 得心).78 Adopting the very same technical vocabulary unique to Chan critical phrase practice, Zhuhong instructed practitioners to take up (ju 舉) or to raise (tisi 提 撕) the name and to use it to “pierce” through their thoughts. Because the addition of critical phrase practice was intimately connected to the act of recitation, it did not disrupt the flow but simply extended the exercise, moving from concentration, to scrutiny or investigation, and ideally awakening. As Chün-fang Yü has suggested, Zhuhong advocated a single, two-step practice, not the simultaneous cultivation of two different practices or the “joint” practice of two methods that were cultivated intermittently.79 Zhuhong further smoothed over any soteriological disparity. Whether awakened first and then reborn in the Pure Land or reborn in the Pure Land and then awakened, all practitioners were to keep both goals in mind. 77

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It has been suggested that I translate aiza 挨拶, as “probe.” However, “za” refers to a method of punishment whereby a finger is pressed between two pieces of wood, thus calling for a stronger term than “probe.” In raising a critical phrase, the practitioner attempts to break through accumulated doubt in an effort at sudden realization. This process is closer to piercing, that is, breaking through something, than merely probing it to see what is there. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4573. Chün-fang Yü employs the term “joint practice” to refer to monasteries which had both recitation and meditation halls. Chün-fang Yü, Renewal of Buddhism, 30, 60.

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Recitation augmented by critical phrase practice was not, however, easily mastered. Zhuhong advised Layman Sun 孫 of Yuyao that when “deluded thoughts fly about” (妄想紛飛), he should quietly recite Amitābha’s name and dwell on it: “Observe yourself and ask, ‘Who is reciting the name?’ If, after some time, thoughts arise (nianqi 念起), again raise the name and observe.”80 That both Deqing and Zhuhong anticipated the return of unwanted thoughts suggests that this was a common problem. Zhuhong’s precept-disciple Wang Zhijian wrote several long letters about his spiritual difficulties. A committed practitioner, Wang Zhijian copied the Huayan Sūtra twice and in later years cultivated the visualization of Tuṣita. He corresponded about his struggle to master critical phrase techniques: I thank you for your previous guidance in suggesting I take up (ti 提) the critical phrase “Who is it that recites the name?” I have been busy with worldly affairs and cannot truly devote myself to this practice. However, sometimes I take it up and quickly sense its everyday implications [as discussed] in books, or I understand its meaning according to how I have been verbally instructed. But [both are like] a shadow that disturbs me. When I completely sweep away these [distractions], I then find myself as though up against a bronze mountain or iron wall (銅山鐵壁).81 I am completely at a loss and do not know how to proceed (無下手處). In Wang Zhijian’s assessment, his conceptual grasp was sound, but his book learning impeded progress. No sooner had he eliminated that distraction than he was confronted with other mental impediments—here symbolized by a mountain or wall. The disparity between textual facility and the need to translate that understanding into a workable method with discernible results prompted many would-be practitioners to seek expert advice. Like Wang, other correspondents wrote about their mental and/or emotional difficulties and only rarely asked for advice on proper bodily posture. Zhuhong assured Wang that the gap between what he knew and his spiritual progress was to be expected. He further encouraged Wang to keep raising (tisi) the critical phrase “Who recites?” Enveloped by a “cloud of confusion” (miyun 迷雲), Wang did not know how to proceed. Zhuhong counseled him to continue from precisely 80 81

This is the same Layman Sun (dharma name: Daheng 大珩) mentioned earlier. He eventually took the tonsure and became a monk. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4568. This phrase describes something that is solid and immovable, that is, an impenetrable barrier, and is usually written “silver mountain iron wall.” Perhaps there is a misprint or the author remembered the expression incorrectly.

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the point at which he had truly eliminated all thoughts except the critical phrase.82

Zhuhong and Encounter Dialogue

From the sixteenth century to the present, scholars and Chinese practitioners alike have rightly characterized Zhuhong as a Pure Land advocate: the material presented throughout this book certainly supports this view. Yet few know that he also participated in contemporary Chan encounter dialogue. The expression “encounter dialogue,” as John McCrae has noted, is a loose translation of the term wenda jiyuan 問答機緣. The translation is a misnomer of sorts, in that Chan-style “dialogue” differed greatly from the straightforward conversational wenda genre employed by many late Ming writers, examples of which have already been discussed in this volume. Chan-style interactions were paradoxical, disruptive, performative acts meant to either demonstrate one’s awakened mind or to catapult a disciple toward that state.83 Participants variously sparred with others in either staged or more spontaneous exchanges; they rehearsed well-known gongan, tried out new responses to these gongan, or innovated through adding new cases to the existing literature. Some interactions took place in a monastery hall, where a Chan master ascended the platform in front of an audience of either monks or monks and laymen. This monk might retell gongan stories, adding his own comments, or test someone who joined him on the platform. Likened to short skits, these performances could be quite theatrical. At other times, informal small group gatherings might engage in a similar set of exchanges. Irrespective of the number of participants, encounter dialogue was an extremely social, performance-oriented cultivation method that required expert knowledge of Chan literature, great mental agility, and the ability to offer quick, succinct responses. In effect, it was a striking departure from more sedate, contemplative methods of cultivation. The material for one new addition to this literature originated with an exchange between Zhuhong and Wang Zongmu 王宗沐 (n.d.). At what point the exchange became codified as part of this genre is unclear. However, two of 82 83

Zhuhong, Quanji, 4517–4521. Participants and scholars alike have long remarked on the performative aspect of these interactions. See, for example, Zeng Minxing’s comparison of Chan dialogue to comic theater cited in Halperin, Out of the Cloister, 267, note 5, and Liao Chao-heng 廖肇亨, “Chanmen shuo xi: yige fojiao wenhua shi guandian de changshi 禪門說戲:一個佛教 文化史觀點的嘗試,” Hanxue yanjiu 17, no. 2 (1999): 277–298.

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Zhuhong biographies, written by Yu Chunxi and Deqing, respectively, turned this story into a major biographical episode presented in the form of a Chan gongan. Both accounts recall an incident that took place during one of Zhuhong’s lectures on the Huayan Sūtra. On that occasion a rat ran across the room, prompting the ensuing exchange. Zhuhong refused to let his disciples record these kinds of interactions, and thus his own writings make no mention of this episode.84 Nonetheless, not only do we have the biographical accounts, we also have further evidence of the repetition of this story within the context of Chan encounter dialogue. As this Huayan Sūtra story circulated, other monks attempted to upstage each other by devising new responses. In the version published under “Evening Consultations (Yecan 夜參)” in Zhanran Yuancheng’s discourse records (yulu),85 a monk who had listened to the retelling of an exchange about the rat incident and then took note of another monk’s snappy reply became confused. He described the context in which the story was retold and repeated the response he had heard to Yuancheng, who then outdid them all by offering his own “enlightened” response: Today a monk [in the hall] brought up this exchange between Vice Minister Huang and the Great Master Yunqi [Zhuhong]:86 [Huang said], “Last night a murmuring rat explained the entire Huayan Sūtra, what do you think?”  Yunqi replied: “If a cat suddenly came in, then what?”  Huang had no response.  Yunqi answered for him: “Get rid of the ‘Dharma Master’ and keep the sūtra table.” [The confused narrator-monk continued], “I heard [another] monk in the hall offer the following response: ‘Ash a cun thick rests on the staff head.’ What does this mean? I do not yet understand this turning phrase (zhuanyu 轉語). Did he side with Vice Minister Huang or with Yunqi?” 84 85 86

Zhuhong, Quanji, 3696–3697. Ge Yinliang, who died in 1646, wrote the preface to Yuancheng’s discourse records. He was one of only a handful of network members still alive in the 1620s. The biographical accounts written by Yu Chunxi and Deqing say that Wang Zongmu raised the question, not Huang (here presumably Huang Hui). Because he was living in exile, Deqing likely heard this story from Yu Chunxi, who for many years functioned as Zhuhong’s assistant. All three versions have slight variations in wording, but the meaning is essentially the same. Both Yu Chunxi and Deqing add the gāthā Zhuhong wrote, whereas the above account repeats only the exchange. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 1429. Yu Chunxi, “Yunqi lianchi zushi zhuan,” in Yu Deyuan xiansheng ji, 9.5–8.

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 Yuancheng commented, “Whatever the response, it must complement the gongan. How could the response be so sweeping? If [the monk] had asked me, I would have responded differently. In response to ‘If a cat suddenly came in, then what?’ I would directly scold the cat, calling him an animal. I do not understand the Buddhadharma, but I can discern others’ mistakes.”87 Feigned humility aside, Yuancheng was clearly pleased with his own re­sponse— shooing away the cat—and thought it surpassed the responses of both Zhuhong and the unnamed monk in the hall. Zhuhong demonstrated his allegiance to the Huayan Sūtra by handily dismissing any meaning attributed to the presence of the rat come “Dharma master,” or even the question. His reply exhibited a reverence for scripture, whereas Yuancheng’s response revealed a classic Chan skepticism of language.88 Although Yuancheng dismissed the unnamed monk’s canned response for not being tailored to the specific case, the monk’s cryptic rejoinder, however mediocre, still fell within the parameters of what passed for encounter dialogue. Intent on upending dualistic habits of thought, Chan masters employed paradox, gestures, verbal grunts, and even physical violence. Deft wordplay, literary allusions, and, especially for the late sixteenth century, allusions to Song Dynasty gongan were de rigueur. The size of the audience, exact date, and geographic location of the original exchange between Zhuhong and his disciple is not known. Yuancheng’s text offers three possible settings: an exchange in a monastery hall, a private conversation, and an evening consultation. And yet the final, edited written version adhered so closely to the demands of a sparsely contextualized genre of short vignettes that it is virtually indistinguishable from Song Dynasty gong­an. For this reason, it is extremely difficult to determine how many late sixteenth-century exchanges were merely skillfully constructed textual renditions and how many reflected an actual dialogic transaction. However, the monk-compilers of a 1714 collection of 2,720 gongan, entitled Source-Mirror Dharma Forest (Zongjian falin 宗鑑法林), certainly thought the exchange originated with Zhuhong. Compiled in part to showcase newly created gongan from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this collection repeated the story of the rat and the Huayan Sūtra, as well as four other gongan attributed 87 88

Zhanran Yuancheng chanshi yulu (X1444: 72.792.c22–793.a1). Zhuhong too had a sophisticated understanding of how Chan responses worked. In one essay, he argued that when the verbal and physical gestures used in gongan responses became teachable, they were no longer “a transmission outside the teachings” and must themselves be transcended. Zhuhong, “Zongsheng bu yu jiao he,” Quanji, 3804.

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to Zhuhong.89 After 1625, Caodong-Linji lineage disputes stoked by Miyun Yuanwu and his disciple Feiyin Tongrong 費隱通容 (1593–1661) eventually left Zhuhong relegated to “lineage unknown,” further contributing to the notion that he was not a Chan monk. In contrast to such opinions, Source-Mirror Dharma Forest honored this relentless Pure Land advocate as an authoritative Chan monk accomplished in encounter dialogue.90

The Fellowship and Encounter Dialogue

Unlike his precept-master Zhuhong, the Caodong monk Yuancheng was a vociferous advocate of Chan practice and a frequent participant in encounter dialogue, as clearly evidenced by his discourse records. On the other hand, despite the claims of the Source-Mirror Dharma Forest, Zhuhong focused his advocacy more narrowly on Linji Pure-Land-themed critical phrase practice and said little about encounter dialogue. Additionally, these two monks disagreed on the importance of Pure Land teachings, although there is little discernible difference between their understanding of Caodong and Linji gong­an cultivation methods. Despite such later divergences, it was Zhuhong who gave Yuancheng his start in 1585 by conferring on him full monk ordination. Loyal to the end, Yuancheng not only forthrightly defended Zhuhong against his detractors, he even lectured once on precepts at Cloud Dwelling Monastery.91 And in an open display of his allegiance, Yuancheng commenced his 1614 lectures at Extending Loyalty Expanding Filiality Monastery 傳忠廣孝寺 by making offerings first to the patriarchs of his Caodong lineage and then to his precept-master Zhuhong. This is all somewhat remarkable in that it was Zhuhong’s nemesis, Zhou Rudeng, who arranged for Yuancheng’s first abbacy. However, Zhuhong’s greater regional popularity and his role as preceptor likely ensured Yuancheng’s loyal deference, at least publicly. And, as this section will once again demonstrate, Zhuhong’s lay disciples saw no dilemma in fraternizing with monks 89

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Zongjian falin (X1297: 66.266.a4). See also my extensive discussion in “Reclaiming the Center: A 1714 Collection of 2,720 Chan Cases” (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Asian Studies, San Diego, CA. March, 2013). These lineage debates are ably laid out in extended detail in Jiang Wu, Enlightenment in Dispute. In the first instance, a disgruntled practitioner attempted to run down Zhuhong, and in the second, Yuancheng lectured on Zhuhong’s commentary to the Brahma’s Net Sūtra, although an audience member criticized his interpretation. Zhanran Yuancheng chanshi yulu (X1444: 72.812.b11–18; 810a20-a23; 772.a16-b17).

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whose teaching styles and exegetical commitments were strikingly different from each other. Late Ming hagiographies often describe the use of famous gongan to test a monk’s level of spiritual attainment. In Yuancheng’s case, the various breakthroughs that he experienced during meditation retreats were turned into central episodes in his biographical narrative. Nevertheless, it was some years before these experiences of enlightenment would be verified by an authoritative Chan master and Yuancheng was able to compose a gāthā, demonstrating his attainment, another requirement. In 1590, Zhuhong tested Yuancheng by asking him to respond to the gongan attributed to the thirteenth-century Linji Chan monk Gaofeng Yuanmiao: Harnessing the moon, the mud ox enters the sea.92 At this point, Yuancheng was finally able to demonstrate his awakened mind and receive Zhuhong’s verification. From this account, we also learn that Zhuhong was considered an authoritative judge of spiritual attainment, despite not having himself received such verification from another Chan master. In 1591, Yuancheng was again tested with a series of Chan gongan—this time by the Caodong monk Cizhou Fangnian 慈舟方念 (1553–1595), who upon traveling through Zhejiang stopped to visit his old friend Nanzong 南宗 (n.d.), a monk who had tested Yuancheng previously, but without success. Finally satisfied, Cizhou accepted him as his dharma heir. Although this conferral secured a place in the Caodong lineage for Yuancheng and his disciples in the post-1625 compilation of Chan lamp histories and lineage texts, Yuancheng’s connection to Cizhou was far too tenuous, having met him only that once, to constitute a true master-disciple relationship.93 Yuancheng’s apparent loyalty to Zhuhong notwithstanding, by 1595 the sharp contrast between their respective teaching styles led some audiences to question whether Yuancheng was in fact slandering his precept master. Yuancheng refuted this notion in his Chan Queries (Zongmen huowen 宗門或 問), a 1595 conversational wenda-style text edited by Tao Wangling. A lengthy section of exchanges between Yuancheng and a skeptical interlocutor sought to clear the air. Yuancheng asserted that Chan was the superior and only practice one needed. However, when the skeptical interlocutor countered that 92

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Zhuhong’s great admiration for Gaofeng and subsequent republishing of his work—the only Chan text Zhuhong republished—add some credence to this account. Zhanran Yuancheng chanshi yulu (X1444: 72.800.c22). In contrast, one monastic gazetteer carried both this version of events by Tao Shiling and a radically different version depicting Tao Wangling practically begging Cizhou to accept Yuancheng as his dharma heir. These two divergent portrayals call into question the veracity of either account. Yunmen Xiansheng si zhi, 111–112 and 266. See translation of this latter account in Jiang Wu, Enlightenment in Dispute, 72.

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some monks promote recitation of Amitābha’s name exclusively, Yuancheng launched into a diatribe against ignorant, untrained monks who mistakenly claimed that recitation was sufficient. The trap now set, the interlocutor suggested that Yuancheng’s critique applied equally well to Zhuhong. Surprisingly, Yuancheng did not retreat. Contrary to expectation, he launched a spirited defense of Zhuhong’s Chan expertise. Yuancheng again recalled the time Zhuhong asked him about the mud ox, added other instances when Zhuhong responded to Chan cases,94 listed some of Zhuhong’s Chan poetry, and then proceeded to mention the breadth of Zhuhong’s writings and ritual activity. How then, he asked rhetorically, could you say that Zhuhong did not cultivate Chan and merely promoted Pure Land? Spirited defense aside, Yuancheng conceded that a visit to Cloud Dwelling Monastery would leave one with the impression that everyone there recited the name Amitābha Buddha to the exclusion of all else. He attributed this to the low level of disciple attainment, not to Zhuhong’s lack of Chan expertise. In his commemoration of Cloud Dwelling Monastery, Tao Wangling too defended Zhuhong’s right to promote Pure Land activities against those who expected a more vigorous effort to disseminate Bodhidharma’s teachings at what had been officially designated a Chan monastery (chanyuan 禪院).95 Those in this Buddhist fellowship who were interested in encounter dialogue sought out Yuancheng. Zhuhong’s precept-disciple Tao Wangling was one of them, but there were others: Yuancheng’s discourse records include exchanges he had with the network members Yuan Hongdao, Wu Yongxian, and Huang Hui, confirming once again that there was a lively engagement between the Fellowship and monks other than Zhuhong. In some instances, there were more informal, private gatherings of monks and examination elites with on-the-spot verbal dueling. This network favored a Chan of subtle wit, textual referencing, and verbal sparring. Though there was the occasional slap or concluding “Ha!” those present were unlikely to engage in physically aggressive performances or abrupt, wild gesticulations. One such exchange took place one night in 1602, when the monks Yuancheng, Zhenke, and Yuechuan 月川 (1547–1617)96 joined Tao Wangling, Huang Hui, 94

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Given Zhuhong’s surprisingly frequent appearance in Yuancheng’s discourse records, including in three short encounter dialogues, one might expect Zhuhong’s writings to comment on their relationship. However, there are no extant letters, poems, or monk biographies by Zhuhong that mention him. Zhanran Yuancheng chanshi yulu (X1444: 72.800.c22; 800.c24; 801.a16). Tao Wangling, “Hangzhou Yunqi chanyuan fatang ji,” Xie’an ji, 826–832. Late Ming literature largely refers to the monk Zhencheng 鎮澄 (h. Kongyin 空印) by his sobriquet, Yuechuan, a custom I will follow here. Like Deqing and Zhuhong, Yuechuan

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and other officials for an evening excursion to admire the moon at Splendid Brilliance Monastery 嘉熙寺:  While reclining, Huang Hui asked, “What is the story of Mazu admiring the moon?”97  Yuancheng replied, “You are reclining, I am standing. I cannot give you a teaching.” Huang Hui quickly stood up, apologizing for his mistake (xieguo 謝過).  Yuechuan said, “The Hanlin official missed his chance (cuoguo 錯過).”  Zhenke added, “I could not have said it better.”98 Admiring the moon was a frequent pastime and the perfect occasion to raise a Chan case with a comparable setting. Read literally, Huang Hui is accused of forgoing proper decorum, for which he immediately apologizes.99 The monk Yuechuan then points out that Huang squandered an opportunity to receive a teaching, a response Zhenke praised. Yet Yuechuan’s remark likely alludes to another famous case, “Baizhang’s Wild Duck.”100 When Mazu asked Baizhang Huaihai 百丈懷海 (749–814) where the ducks flying overhead had gone, he replied that they had flown away (feiguo 飛過). Mazu then grabbed Baizhang’s nose and gave it a good twist. In effect, xieguo, cuoguo and feiguo all refer to the

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also studied with Xiaoyan Debao. He lectured on the Huayan Sūtra and spent considerable time together with Deqing on Mount Wutai. It is Deqing’s quite substantial stūpa epitaph that became the basis for later biographies of Yuechuan (cf. Buxu gaoseng zhuan X1524: 77.399.b22). Huang Hui’s reference was shorthand for a well-known exchange between Mazu and Baizhang—a different gongan from the one mentioned below. Mazu Daoyi chanshi guanglu (X1321: 69.3.c2–4). The version translated here of this exchange is recounted in a biography of Yuancheng; it is also repeated in a number of other sources. The biographical version allows all three monks an authoritative platform. However, in a second, lesser-known account in Yuan­ cheng’s discourse records, Yuancheng is the only monk to respond, after which Yuechuan and Zhenke silently nod in agreement; Zhanran Yuancheng chanshi yulu (X1444: 72.802. a4). The above translation is from Ding Yuangong 丁元公 (n.d.), Kuaiji Yunmen Zhanran cheng chanshi xingzhuang (X1444: 72.842.a7). Some editions have Huang sitting, not reclining. Many vinaya and precept texts explicitly state that a monk should not explain the precepts to someone who reclines or sits while the monk is standing. There are also numerous other unacceptable bodily postures. In Zhuhong’s commentary to the Brahma’s Net Sūtra, this idea is understood in relation to all preaching. Zhuhong, Fanwang pusa jie jing yishu fayin shiyi (X680: 38.232.b6–8). This case is repeated in a number of places; see, for instance, Biyan lu (T2003: 48.188. a5–8).

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impermanence of a passing moment, or a lost opportunity. The written record of this exchange at Splendid Brilliance Monastery was thus meant to be savored as much for its textually rooted wordplay as for the immediacy of its performance. To fully appreciate it on both levels required extensive knowledge of other cases—something Zhenke exhibited in his appraisal of Yuechuan’s response. This particular exchange became famous enough to be reprinted in a number of later texts. To prepare for such exchanges, successful practitioners would memorize numerous gongan, internalizing their complex rhetorical logic.101 They also needed a sense of humor and the ability to demonstrate these skills on demand in social settings. Indices of enlightenment, twelfth-century gongan often ended with the sudden awakening of the party whose comment had been shouted down, whose nose had been twisted or “finger cut off.” Yuancheng defended Zhuhong’s authority to confirm or deny others’ spiritual attainments through testing them with critical phrases and role-play in encounter dialogue. After all, Zhuhong had sanctioned his own great awakening. On the other hand, Yuancheng’s discourse records were a platform for the unequivocal demonstration of his own spiritual authority; however, in contrast to Song Dynasty gongan collections, some of the interactions are much more tentative: they read like experiments in mastering encounter dialogue and include the occasional failed attempt, along with a few instances wherein someone raised a case to which Yuancheng admittedly had no response.

Time, Place, and Postures Conducive to Mind Cultivation

When asked for advice on how to recite the name Amitābha Buddha, Zhuhong’s instruction focused primarily on three issues: the mechanics of recitation, the elimination of mental distractions, and the proper level of exertion. Other 101

Chan-style interactions were fairly easy to imitate, but without insight into the original doctrinal tensions, the meaning of past cases became much more opaque. Late Ming exchanges deserve a much more thoroughgoing analysis. However, one preliminary observation is that effective participation did not require what Robert Sharf claimed was necessary for pre-Song interactions: “mastering a considerable body of canonical literature and internalizing the complex rhetorical logic of Buddhist dialectic” (page 234). By Yuancheng’s time, emphasis had shifted from mastery of canonical literature to mastery of gongan literature and its rhetorical logic. Doctrinal debate continued, but in other forums. Robert Sharf, “How to Think with Chan Gong’ans,” in Thinking with Cases: Specialized Knowledge in Chinese Cultural History, eds. Charlotte Furth, Judith Zeitlin, and ­Hsiung Ping-chen (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007), 205–243.

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than his tacit endorsement of the excerpts published in a Comprehensive Collection of Pure Land Materials, discussed above, Zhuhong wrote very little about ritual routines that could be implemented to support the practice of recitation, though he did have suggestions about cadence and enunciation. His correspondents worried most about mental distractions, about how much time they could commit to the practice, and occasionally about how to set up a proper private ritual space. Only rarely did they write that bodily postures hindered their practice. Given their predominant concern with mental distractions, most of Zhuhong’s replies focus on how to calm the mind. Zhuhong insisted that mind cultivation could be practiced anywhere, at any time, individually or collectively. If someone complained that household demands and official disruptions were not conducive to contemplative activities, Zhuhong typically responded, as he did to Hanlin Academician Yin Jiabin 尹嘉賓 (b. 1563, jinshi 1610), that the frenetic activity of official and everyday household life was the proper locus of Buddhist cultivation.102 He also counseled against an over-idealized view of monastic life.103 It was the lack of resolve, not a quiet environment, Zhuhong argued, that kept practitioners from spiritual advancement: “The wise clean out their minds; the foolish change environments.”104 Leaving for a mountain retreat was merely to exchange the sound of carriage wheels for the natural drum of rain or the bustle of insects, animals, and hunters.105 Zhuhong’s endorsement of practice in everyday situations certainly resonated with Wang Ji’s and Zhou Rudeng’s insistence that cultivation had to take place in familial and official surroundings.106 However, there is an important distinction. Zhuhong advocated silent recitation or individual work on a critical phrase while attending to other activities. In contrast, Wang Ji and Zhou Rudeng insisted that group settings were ideal forums in which to drop all pretense to deliberation and allow 102

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Yin Jiabin (h. Danru 澹如 z. Kongzhao 孔昭). Known for his poetry and calligraphy, his epitaph was written by Qian Qianyi. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4540. See also Zhuhong’s letter to Yan Zheng. Ibid., 4544. Ibid., 4533; 4579. Ibid., 4699. See also Tao Shiling, Xiao chaisang nannan lu, 2.45, where he cautions literati against fantasizing about an ideal, quiet studio. Zhanran Yuancheng made the same point, Zhanran Yuancheng chanshi yulu (X1444: 72.835.b10- 24). Zhuhong, “Yan huan qiu jing,” in Zhuchuang suibi er, Quanji, 3856. In this respect, Wang Ji and Zhou Rudeng are following Wang Yangming’s lead. On a number of occasions, Wang Yangming told those distracted by their environment that this was the ideal time to practice. For instance, he informed a judge too busy with litigation that hearing litigation was in fact the exact time for him to cultivate. Wing-Tsit Chan, Instructions for Practical Living, #218, 137, see also 294.

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liangzhi immediate, free operation. Zhou Rudeng described the family as the locus of practice because meeting the demands placed on one by familial relations required constant adjustment. Zhuhong did, however, advise his correspondents to facilitate a daily routine of morning and evening worship; households would ideally set up a quiet room with a buddha image. Zhuhong instructed a Layman Zhang 張 from Shaoxing, “To set up a quiet room (ying 營) and cultivate Pure Land practices, this is our most important undertaking. However, the room need not be exquisite. It should be sufficient for making offerings to the Buddha, walking, sitting, and prostrating.”107 One source also cryptically mentions reciting while sitting quietly in a family hall (jiatang 家堂),108 and Feng Mengzhen’s Diary makes one passing reference to his worship of both buddhas and ancestors in his “buddha room” (foshi 佛室).109 As seen above, the Comprehensive Collection of Pure Land Materials instructed practitioners to place a special chair in a clean, quiet room (jingshi 淨室), bathe, change clothes, and sit upright.110 These references suggest that households set aside special areas for Buddhist practice, although Zhuhong’s collected writings do not include detailed instructions or diagrams indicating how such a ritual space might look. Men who desired greater seclusion for extended periods of self-cultivation did occasionally have buildings constructed in natural settings at a mountain retreat or near a waterfall. Some examination elites also built modest retreats or pavilions inside privately owned gardens.111 In 1610, devastated by the death of his older brother Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhongdao had a building refurbished at Jade Spring 玉泉 for the purpose of study and Buddhist cultivation and secluded himself there for extended intervals over a five- to six-year period.112 107 108

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Zhuhong, Quanji, 4576. Whether this was an ancestral hall that doubled as a place for Buddhist cultivation or a separate room devoted to Buddhist cultivation is left unanswered. Zhuhong, Yunqi jingtu huiyu (X1170: 62.3a1). See his entry for the first day of the eleventh month of 1599; Feng Mengzhen, Riji, 57.46–47. There is scant reference in the Fellowship’s writings to either meditation chairs or mats regarding the size, material, shape, or production. See chapter 5, footnote 29. Building cultivation retreats, like setting up quiet rooms for worship, was not without precedent. In Rebirth Biographies, Zhuhong mentions one practitioner who built a cottage for reciting the Buddha’s name, and an official who established a worship room wherever he was posted. Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.142.b14–18; 139.b16–24). See Yuan Zhongdao’s description of his pain and torment after the death of his brother Hongdao. Zhongdao realized that his Buddhist practice was just talk and did not extend to making peace with the crucial issue of life and death. During this period, he sent away

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Nonetheless, the notion that one should retire to an almost inaccessible place for the purpose of self-cultivation seems to have been as much romantic ideal as it was an actual ascetic practice. When Tao Wangling spent time sequestered (tuoji 托跡) at the Celestial Garments Cloister 天衣寺 on Mount Lotus Flower 法華山 in Zhejiang, he wrote, “The peaks and valleys are deep and dark. I cannot see the world of people. Just the wind blowing through the pines and the sound of insects keep me company.”113 And yet this letter also recounts more stimulating events: the visit of a disciple of Deqing and the arrival of a letter from Zhu Pinghan 朱平淊 (n.d.).114 Consequently, descriptions of isolated remoteness notwithstanding, Tao was not deprived of outside news or visitors, nor does he appear to suffer from the hardships of ascetic practice. While elite males might retire to a temple or mountain retreat for short periods of cultivation, they rarely stayed for years on end. The following account is quite remarkable in that the practitioner spent thirty years in seclusion without taking the tonsure. Though he is referred to as a layman, his status is closer to that of a hermit-monk: During the Ming, Layman Du 杜 from Xuntian Prefect, Wanping County, resided in an old hall (zhaitang 齋堂)115 to the side of Auspicious Light Cloister 瑞光寺 on West Mountain 西山. He gave up all family affairs and did not ask about them. For thirty years he singularly concentrated on reciting the Buddha’s name. A person from my area, Tong Guangce 童廣 策 (n.d.), went to visit him. The layman asked him, “Where do you come from?” He replied, “Hangzhou.” The layman said, “I lived in Hangzhou. Do you know Zhuhong of Cloud Dwelling Monastery?” He replied, “He is my teacher.” The layman put his palms together, recited the Buddha’s name, and said no more.116 This is the only story of its kind in Rebirth Biographies and highlights an exceptional set of circumstances. Perhaps Zhuhong could not resist the urge to demonstrate the extent to which his name might be recognized in unexpected

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his wife and concubines, as well as his sons. Yuan Zhongdao, “Yu Zeng taishi changshi,” in Kexue zhai jinji, 151. A separate text of Tao Wangling’s gives the location of a Celestial Garments Cloister near Yuhang that is in disrepair. Perhaps this is the same place. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2390. From Feng Mengzhen’s Diary, we know that Zhu Pinghan was a frequent visitor and that he may have known others in the Fellowship. This could be an old dining hall, but is more likely to simply be a place formerly used for recitation and worship that has now been replaced by another building. Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.149.b28-c7).

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quarters. For most elite men, however, everyday life and its distractions could not be avoided. Mental distractions, Zhuhong counseled, could be eliminated by reciting the name Amitābha Buddha with a moderate recitative cadence, coupled with exacting attention to each syllable. Thus, he often advised his correspondents to recite slowly, letting each of the syllables radiate from the mind while distinctly separating them. To shield against a break in concentration, the practitioner should breathe in the name, forging an intimate relationship between mind and name.117 Zhuhong’s emphasis on mental processes is notable in the following formulation: “Those who recite with an upright mind free of evil are good persons; those who recite with a focused mind free of distraction are worthies; those who recite with an awakened mind free of doubt are sages.”118 Although there is no mind-body split here in that Zhuhong saw a direct correlation between regulation of the breath and clearing the mind, what to do with the rest of the body received far less attention. In part, this was because Zhuhong thought all postures were conducive to either recitation or critical phrase practice. He often repeated the standard Buddhist list of four postures: sitting, walking, standing, or lying down. Such normative prescriptions were popularized in late sixteenth-century circles through the circulation of texts written by Dahui, Zhongfeng, Gaofeng, Chushan Shaoqi 楚山紹琦 (1403–1473), and other prominent monks.119 However, their advice was directed toward the cultivation of critical phrases, not recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha. Critical phrases were, in their view, to be cultivated throughout the day, irrespective of posture. In fact, it was generally understood that critical phrase practice should occur during all waking hours. Zhuhong extended this idea to recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha as well. Zhuhong and Deqing often mentioned quiet sitting or seated meditation, but neither left detailed instructions on precise bodily posture. Was sitting with legs down in a relaxed posture with a calm demeanor sufficient? Were practitioners to sit in a full or half lotus? On a chair or a mat? How strict were guidelines about the placement of hands, back, neck, and the like? What impact did this have on one’s spiritual progress? In a rare instance, Qian 117 118 119

Zhuhong,“Shi zaijia liang zhong,” Yunqi jingtu huiyu (X1170: 62.3.b19-c3). Zhuhong, Yunqi jingtu huiyu (X1170: 62.3.a21–22). Spurring Through the Chan Barrier also emphasized that critical phrases were to be worked on throughout the day; see, for instance, Changuan cejin (T2024: 48.1100.c1–10). Dahui mentions stories like that of the butcher’s son, who did not practice seated meditation yet was suddenly awakened when he heard the words of the Buddha. Dahui Pujue chanshi yulu (T1998: 47.922.a15–29).

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Yangchun received more explicit instruction on physical posture. Zhuhong suggested to him that it was easier for a novice to focus the mind if he recited while walking rather than during periods of seated meditation: One can apply the mind (yongxin 用心) during walking, standing, sitting, and reclining, but sitting is the best. However, beginners must first practice mostly with walking and a little with sitting.120 If one lusts after sitting, then muddledness (hun 昏) cannot recede. During both times of idleness and attention to affairs, it is suitable to apply the mind, but idle times are best. First practice in a quiet place, later practice while doing activities. As for an expedient technique (upāya) to refine and focus one’s thoughts while in the midst of activity, there is no other method, just [recite the name Amitābha Buddha]. At first, although it is difficult to keep, after some time it will become natural.121 Yangming followers already habituated to Wang Yangming’s repeated assertion that self-cultivation must take place in each and every moment of the day would have immediately found common ground in Zhuhong’s advice to practice in the midst of activity, making this an easy bridge between the two traditions. At least one Zhuhong precept-disciple, Layman Wu 吳, took to heart the advice to practice at all times, though he began to wonder, “ … in taking off one’s hat, or underwear, in reclining in the bath, even to the extent of defecating and urinating. Can one recite the name during all of these [activities]?”122 Zhuhong simply responded that silent recitation was fine. Time was another concern. Many network members wondered how much time they were expected to devote to recitation and other practices. For those free of commitments, Zhuhong put forth a rather rigorous standard, suggesting that after children had grown up and taken over household affairs, couples could recite several thousand to ten thousand times a day. Those who were somewhat occupied with official and household affairs could recite several hundred to several thousand times, while extremely busy officials should recite at least ten times in the morning.123 Zhuhong tended to emphasize continual vigilance, not just coordinated efforts at finding time for seated meditation or sūtra recitation. He also rejected the notion that cultivation required a trip to a

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Zhuhong repeated this same advice elsewhere too, see Zhuhong, Quanji, 4701. Ibid., 4664. Layman Wu is identified only by his dharma name Guangying 廣穎. Ibid., 4674. Zhuhong. Yunqi jingtu huiyu (X117: 62.3.b4).

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monastery or group participation.124 Reciting alone at home was equally acceptable. As these guidelines illustrate, Zhuhong pushed his correspondents to find the time for Buddhist cultivation whenever and wherever they could. Coincidentally, he accepted a range of commitments and did not rigidly insist on a specific length of time, place, or bodily posture. When Sun Wugao, temporarily employed as a tutor, was preparing for the upcoming metropolitan examinations, Zhuhong offered him a bare minimum standard of practice, albeit a temporary solution: “Maintain your resolve (zhi 志) [to practice] without regressing.”125

Conclusion

Above all, the thirty-two network members discussed in this chapter hoped to experience some level of awakening. Zhuhong’s correspondence with nineteen of them fully attests to how important the goal of enlightenment was to such a broad cohort and further reveals how stymied they were in their pursuit of mind cultivation for, despite their spiritual ambitions, these men could not bridge the divide between their reading of Chan texts and their personal levels of cultivation. Avid readers of Buddhist literature and participants in many debates, correspondents were often quite conversant in Chan literature, yet none of them exhibited great mastery of even the most rudimentary forms of cultivation. Certainly, anyone could repeatedly intone the phrase “E-mi-tuo-fo,” but it was altogether different to do so to calm the mind, attain a state of mental absorption, or experience some level of religious transport. In that respect, many of these elite men exemplify the motivated yet challenged practitioner. In response to their struggles, Zhuhong tried to lower expectations for immediate results. He encouraged his disciples to take the long view toward spiritual progress and realize, more modestly, a mind free from extraneous thoughts. Sincere recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha—and perhaps investigating the word shui (who)—would serve as a gateway to a calm, undistracted mind, and maybe one day awakening. However, after several centuries of debate, the propagation of Pure-Land-themed critical phrases to eliminate doubt and realize nonduality remained controversial. For this reason, Zhuhong and Deqing found themselves, of necessity, rehearsing old arguments and proffering a scriptural defense of canchan, though they were unable to offer any new resolution. Their various audiences did not always take it for granted that Chan was the superior practice. Despite the scholarly characterization of 124 125

Ibid. (X117: 62.3.a10). Zhuhong, Quanji, 4585.

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the late sixteenth century as a time of increased attention to Chan cultivation driven largely by Yangming Confucian interest, the sources amply demonstrate that many committed Pure Land practitioners intent on rebirth in another land were quite skeptical of any integration of Chan and Pure Land. On the other hand, many examination elites in and out of this network found Chan texts extremely attractive. Because network members sought spiritual guidance from a number of different monks—five are mentioned here—they surely felt pulled in more than one direction. On the two ends of the spectrum were Zhuhong and Yuancheng, while Deqing’s advocacy was somewhere in the middle; however, because Deqing was exiled in 1595 and largely remained in the south until 1614, he had less face-to-face contact with the Fellowship. The elite members of this Buddhist network moved with ease not only among various monks but also with each other. Releasing-life societies were one instance of a select group gathering for a particular delimited event. Likewise, the two encounter dialogues analyzed in this chapter further demonstrate precisely the kind of small solidary grouping found throughout the life of the network, wherein the roster of participants and audience size continually varied. Elite laymen and monks gathered for evening consultations, moon watching, and lectures, such as that recounted in relation to Zhuhong and the scampering rat. Each of these short-lived gatherings solidified friendships and alliances, and enriched these men’s lives socially, intellectually, and spiritually. The epistolary sources provide unique insight into these Buddhist practi­ tioners’ individual attempts at religious transport. Ultimately, these elite men were seeking enlightenment—for which purpose they experimented with a number of cultivation techniques. Despite Zhuhong’s insistence that prac­ titioners stick with one cultivation method, not all of his lay disciples equally endorsed recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha over the cultivation of Chan and other techniques. In fact, most were quite eclectic. They tried recitation, critical phrase practice, seated meditation or other postures, and so forth. Some engaged in encounter dialogue, but this was only one of many techniques in their experimental arsenal. Quite willing to discuss the vicissitudes of their own practice, network members sought out both their peers and eminent monks for affirmation that they were on track. Judging each other’s progress toward awakening turned out to be a very public activity. And as the next chapter will make clear, there was no shortage of opinions.

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Evaluating Attainment: Hearsay, Judgment, Consensus For every stymied practitioner, there were many more who boldly advertised their own or a friend’s spiritual attainments. Zeng Fengyi 曾鳳儀 (jinshi 1583)1 was just such a person. After writing a commentary and several prefaces, Zeng sent them to Zhuhong for critique. Zeng’s accompanying letter expressed his dissatisfaction with the response he had received previously from two wellregarded monks, Deqing and Yuechuan.2 Both monks had questioned Zeng’s use of Chan and sūtra texts. Confident that the authority of his own spiritual realization superseded their criticism, Zeng Fengyi wrote: Since 1599 when I sat (zuo 坐) at Shaolin Monastery for forty-some days and by chance heard the sound of a bell and suddenly had a realization (shengru 省入), I have been convinced (xin 信) that there is no opposition between the mundane things of this world and the true marks (shixiang). How could the words of the Buddha be an exception to this? Hence, upāya is the true mark and the true mark is upāya …”3 Zeng argued that one should not divide the Buddha’s words into superficial and profound, or segregate Chan texts from sūtra texts as if they were literatures belonging to two separate paths. Although much of what Zhuhong wrote back to Zeng is unavailable, the fact that Zeng continued to consult with Zhuhong on textual matters suggests that he found his responses acceptable. 1 Zeng Fengyi (z. Shunzheng 舜徵 h. Jinjian 金簡). There are scattered references to him in a number of sources. He knew Zhenke, even inviting him to Hudong. Zeng exchanged letters with Deqing and met him in 1613, if not before. The two extant letters Deqing wrote to Zeng are both about cultivation practices. He encountered Tao Wangling at Pure Compassion Monastery, visited Zhuhong on a number of occasions, and fraternized with Jiao Hong and Zhou Rudeng. He also knew the monk Juelang Daosheng. Apparently, he knew Wang Hongtai, since Yu Chunxi added Zeng’s opinions to a letter he wrote to Wang analyzed later in this chapter. Even if we do not have a full profile, these brief references indicate that Zeng Fengyi was an active member of the network. Zeng’s ten-fascicle commentary to the Śūraṃgama Sūtra (Lengyan zongtong 楞嚴宗通; X318A) was published in the supplement to the canon. Yu Chunxi, Yu Deyuan Xiansheng ji, 25.33. 2 Zhencheng 鎮澄 (1547–1617), see chapter 6, note 96. 3 Zhuhong, Quanji, 4511.

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Zhuhong did praise Zeng’s prefaces to Tao Wangling’s Yogācāra commentaries. And in another letter, Zeng wrote that he received Zhuhong’s “seal of approval” (yinke 印可)4 and likened his company to strolling through the Pure Land listening to the sound of the Dharma, a description that demonstrates the warm intimacy of their relationship. But what is most of interest in the above letter is Zeng’s assessment of the spiritual level he had reached and how he expressed it. Hearing an unexpected sound was one well-recognized catalyst to awakening—an experience shared by Zhuhong and others discussed in this chapter. Late sixteenth-century epistolary sources, religious biographies, and diaries offer similar forthright assertions of religious transport, so much so that Zou Yuanbiao 鄒元標 (1551– 1624) lamented the cavalier abandon with which numerous late six­teenthcentury examination elites proclaimed themselves awakened.5 This trend is apparent in a 1603 remark in Feng Mengzhen’s Diary, where he nonchalantly notes in passing that the Chan experiences of two friends had resulted in their sudden awakening (一旦豁然),6 and then swiftly moves, without further comment, to another topic. Although there were many succinct assertions like this one, this chapter will limit itself to a sustained examination of a few select relational network clusters. The opinions expressed by those studied here ran the gamut from positive assessments of the spiritual aptitude or exemplary attainment of particular individuals to misgivings and negative judgments with respect to others—in other words, gossip. Informal consultation and epistolary hearsay were crucial in shaping the discourse on religious experience. Carey Finch and Peter Bowen have claimed that “[g]ossip binds communities together under a mild system of surveillance and self-control.”7 On the other hand, as John Haviland has observed, gossip

4 In Chan contexts, this term usually refers to the formal verification of enlightenment; it can also be an affirmation of a disciple’s understanding of the Dharma. See Griffith Foulk, “Fo xinyin 佛心印,” Digital Dictionary of Buddhism, accessed 5.15.2015 . 5 Cited in Mao Wenfang’s excerpt from Zou Yuanbiao’s biography of the monk Wunian Shenyou. Mao Wenfang 毛文芳, “A Discussion of Late Ming ‘Crazy Chan 晚明「狂禪」探論’,” Hanxue yanjiu 19, no. 2 (2001): 176. 6 These two friends are Huang Jinzhou 黃近洲 (n.d.) and Wang Yuefeng 王月峰 (n.d.). Feng Mengzhen, Riji, 60.10. 7 In making this assertion, Finch and Bowen cite Max Gluckman, “Gossip and Scandal,” Current Anthropology 4, no. 3 (1963): 308; Casey Finch and Peter Bowen, “‘The Tittle-Tattle of Highbury’: Gossip and the Free Indirect Style in Emma,” Representations 31 (1990): 1.

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also “exploits the interpretive potential of rules.”8 That is, gossip has the creative potential to shape reputations, question ethical standards, and adjust social mores. This chapter takes into account both points of view. Sixteenthcentury epistolary sources demonstrate that peers and monk-mentors engaged in informal monitoring, or surveillance, of those in the Fellowship. At the same time, a commitment to emulating the master-narrative of Chan patriarchs imposed a set of strictures on the conceptual apparatus used to evaluate practitioners. Yet within such limits, judgments exhibited a surprising degree of flexibility. Evaluations drew extensively on the relationship between how well a practitioner’s daily habits were judged to conform to his grasp of doctrine (xingjie 行解).9 In a word, self-declarations of awakening were not enough. Such momentary experiences had to be translated into a meaningful life skill; for instance, Zeng’s realization guided his writing practice, or so he believed. Consequently, claims of spiritual achievement were judged not only on the basis of a claimant’s first-person narrative of awakening but also on the keen observation of his conduct following such an event. Buddhist monks and their disciples were not alone in their attention to this second criterion. In a fortuitous intersection of Buddhist and Confucian ideas, Yangming Confucians too advocated for what they saw as the alignment of knowledge with action (知行 合一), a theme central to Zhou Rudeng’s teachings.10 In monastic contexts, monks ideally determined a disciple’s level of attainment through face-to-face testing that usually relied on encounter dialogue and followed a rather predictable evaluative arc. In contrast, the network’s evaluations of a member’s claim to awakening fall under the category of informal judgments, embedded as they were in written exchange. Based on self-narratives and hearsay, these epistolary judgments were less formulaic, did 8 9

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John Haviland, Gossip, Reputation and Knowledge in Zinacantan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977), 170. The promotion of xingjie as a positive criterion of evaluation and prized approach to cultivation had its roots in a much earlier time period, predating the advent of Yangming Confucian thought. The Linji Chan monk Nanshi Wenxiu 南石文琇 (1345–1418) had already written on the need to combine both cultivation and study. For references, see Chen Yunü, Mingdai fomen neiwai sengsu, 69–71. Zhuhong’s final “Words of Exhortation” stipulated that his successor be someone who valued both cultivation and understanding, that is, xingjie. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4950. Yuan Zhongdao also spelled out this standard. Yuan Zhongdao, Kexue zhai jinji, 2.205; and Yuan, Kexue zhai waiji (1618. Hishi copy held at the East Asian Library and Gest Collection, Princeton University. Original held at the Naikaku Bunko, Tokyo), 4.1. See, for instance, Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 260, 264.

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not require face-to-face meetings, came from multiple parties, and do not bear the stamp of a single authoritative monk. The letters confirm that assessments of religious transport were often based on first-person narrative descriptions of supposed awakening and of the extent to which spiritual realization had subsequently altered one’s behavior. One fundamental insight to emerge from a close examination of epistolary hearsay is that those of middling attainments—who were themselves groping in the dark—were quite willing to pass judgment on men whom they considered more spiritually advanced than themselves. Many scholars have commented on the veil of anonymity often associated with the circulation of gossip or rumor. In contrast, evaluative hearsay by known peers took on a prominent role for this fellowship. The discourse on spiritual attainment further reveals the internal relational dynamics between network members who tried to determine how and whether they or their friends were making progress. Personal spiritual satisfaction and peer recognition were both at stake in the discourse on enlightenment. Never­ the­less, those like Tao Wangling, who never made much progress, were not shunned: rather, they received helpful comments and sympathy. In the context of these exchanges, friends often pushed each other to new heights. Through years of dialogue, their thinking too evolved with respect to what constituted awakening. In the end, these semi-formal appraisals served to bridge the gap between an earlier Chan rhetoric of enlightenment and the realities of contemporary life. This chapter opens with an analysis of epistolary hearsay exchanged between two spiritual leaders, Deqing and Zhou Rudeng, followed by a focus on the struggles, or lack thereof, of three laymen: Yu Chunxi, Tao Wangling, and Wang Erkang. Epistolary writings are crucial to this analysis and serve as the primary source. Where relevant, I will also draw on biographies, short essays, wenda texts, and words of exhortation.

Epistolary Hearsay

After his 1595 exile, the monk Deqing could not travel freely;11 however, letters allowed him and the Yangming Confucian Zhou Rudeng to exchange information about potential disciples and the Buddhist activities of others they knew. 11

Deqing was not strictly confined to Leizhou. Over the years he traveled to various places in Guangdong and eventually resided at Caoxi. He took a trip to Hainan Island and an excursion to Jiangxi (1606). The 1607 entry in his annalistic autobiography states that he had a meal at Cloud Dwelling Monastery that year; however, he makes no mention of Zhuhong. See Sung-peng Hsu, A Buddhist Leader in Ming China, 85–92.

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Through their exchanges, these two men solidified their judgments of potential disciples, exhibiting an unusual degree of consultation across traditional boundaries. In their evaluations, neither commented on how rare it was for a Buddhist and a Confucian to be consulting in this way, nor did they segregate disciples with Buddhist potential from those more suited to Confucian pursuits. Remarks range from character appraisal and assessments of spiritual aptitude to direct pinpointing of individuals’ struggles with attainment. When circulated among others in the network, these semi-formal observations made by spiritually authoritative figures further impacted reputation and status, creating a social hierarchy and opening up mentoring opportunities for spiritually gifted disciples. One such exemplary letter, written circa 1599 by Deqing to Zhou Rudeng,12 offers a broad range of comments about six lay practitioners, three of whom belong to this network. The letter further sheds light on the dynamic inner workings of various dyadic relationships: In the fifth month, the provincial graduate Ke 柯 and I saw each other at his official residence. It seemed as though he had risen from the dead. This gentleman’s root nature is incredibly strong. To suddenly break through the fetters of life and death while in the throws of an ordeal with grief and disease demonstrates that he is truly a man of outstanding talent (真豪傑士). I remember that you said, “People all have superior roots (shanggen). But they lack a way to stoke the great furnace.” Without you, how could this gentleman have opened up in this way? If he did not have superior roots, how could he have exhibited such courage? In the future, the lifeblood of the true Dharma will rely on this fellow. I hope that his Buddhist fortitude (foli 佛力) will aid him in remaining physically strong and robust. Do not fear that he does not measure up to the ancients.  In recent years, it is as though I am giving Dharma talks to persons carved out of wood. Locally, I have recently accepted a few students. I am slowly training them. Of this group, there is only one person who 12

Woodblock reprints of epistolary collections rarely contain dates. Hence, letter dates given throughout this chapter will be based on internal evidence and compared to known biographical details: a significant event, death date, outright inclusion of a date, or more speculatively on the basis of thematic content. Obviously, this is not an exact science— especially if “arrived in Beijing” could refer to more than one official tour in the capital, and so forth. In this case, approximation of the date was arrived at based on the following: Deqing was exiled to Leizhou in 1595; Zhou Rudeng was one of his first visitors shortly after Deqing’s arrival in 1596. However, Deqing did not meet Feng Changli until 1598, and since Zhou Rudeng and Tao Wangling traveled together in 1599, the letter was probably written shortly thereafter.

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immediately accepted the teachings and truly progressed in his cultivation: Feng Changli 馮昌歷 (n.d.) of Xunde 順德. When he was young, his wisdom was quite penetrating and those of the area all respected him. Whether young or old, those who entered the gate (jimenzhe) all treated him as their teacher. He truly inspired others. For this reason, they trusted his teaching. In observing this student’s determination, if it does not fade, he will continue [teaching] in Jiangmen 江門. This presents a prime opportunity for the propagation of the teachings in Guangdong.  Recently I heard that you were traveling with Tao Wangling. His mind is [as pure] as snow and ice; this cannot be accomplished in a single lifetime of following the precepts. At the time we met, unfortunately we did not make a deep connection. If we could have interacted more, we would have had a much happier time.  At present, Tu Long has joined forces with his friend Yu Chunxi in guiding people to enter the path of liberation.  Vice-Censor-in-Chief Zheng Kunyai 鄭崑崖 (n.d.) is truly someone who wants to liberate himself from rebirth. Recently he has come to stay at the monastery and was able to deepen his understanding and felt satisfied. However, when we met [I knew that] he had not yet realized “the opening to going beyond” (向上一竅).13 With that in mind, I hope that you can find a roundabout way to inquire about it and offer comfort. If you can do this, it will be extraordinarily compassionate. With respect to his situation, his [affinity] for the Dharma will gradually awaken (法緣漸 開).  As to whom among my disciples are most receptive to the teachings (受化之機), I wrote about this in my previous letter. I still have two or three that are not yet mature. If heaven bestows on me another three years, perhaps they will gain some level of attainment. This will be enough to say that my journey has not been wasted. This is what the buddhas protect, the tathāgatas encourage, and dharma brothers (法門知己) hope for.14 Arriving in Leizhou in 1596, the exiled Deqing had found himself surrounded by the ravages of a great famine. Deqing’s annalistic autobiography (zixu 13 14

This is a phrase often found in Chan gongan. In this context, Deqing is suggesting that not only is Zheng Kunyai not yet awakened, he has yet to find the entry point. For the sake of readability, I have inserted the names Tao Wangling, Tu Long, and Yu Chunxi rather than use their epithets as originally found in the letters. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 816–818.

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nianpu 自序年譜) states that, as corpses piled up in the summer of 1596, Ke (Ke Fuyuan 柯復元, n.d.)15 decided to organize the burial of the dead.16 This letter reveals that when the two of them met several years later Deqing noticed a profound change in him. Attributing this change to Ke’s superior spiritual aptitude, Buddhist fortitude, and Zhou’s tutelage, Deqing pronounced him a future Buddhist leader. A disciple of Zhou Rudeng, Ke would have been well versed in Yangming Confucian ideas and attitudes toward cultivation, yet Deqing claimed him for the Buddhist tradition—demonstrating how blurred the lines between traditions could be. Of course, given the fact that Zhuhong rejected Zhou Rudeng’s ideas, it is highly unlikely that Zhuhong would have engaged in the same level of consultation about disciples they had in common. Apparently, Zhou had expressed some doubt about his own assessment of Ke and wanted a second opinion.17 Deqing’s final comment, that Zhou should not worry about Ke not measuring up to the ancients, indeed alludes to previous conversations the two have had in assessing him. Is the provincial graduate Ke awakened? Perhaps. After all, he has broken through the fetters of life and death. Deqing, however, does not dwell narrowly on this issue, offering instead a broad assessment of Ke’s remarkable transformation. Yet several other letters reveal that, in Zhou’s judgment, Ke was simply not doing enough. In one post1598 letter to Deqing, he wrote that Ke had made great progress but still needed to be pushed by a Chan master (a reference to Deqing). And in writing to Ke, Zhou first acknowledged that he had received Deqing’s description of Ke’s cultivation and then proceeded to offer him more guidance on which techniques to cultivate. In all, these letters illustrate a sustained attempt by two masters of different traditions to guide the same disciple. Anxiety over the future propagation of Buddhist teachings was a recurring theme in Deqing’s epistolary collection and likely played a role in the more personal interest Deqing was to take in Feng Changli’s development. He praised Feng’s teaching abilities and the respect he received from the local populace, both important qualities for the dissemination of Buddhist teachings. Although Feng’s enlightenment is not mentioned in this letter, in another letter, written to the Hanlin academician Qian Qianyi, Deqing claimed that Feng was a disciple whose level of attainment was worthy of his “seal of approval” (yinxin dizi 印心弟子).18 Deqing twice wrote to Zhenke asking him to mentor Feng, who 15

16 17 18

Deqing wrote two letters to the prefectural graduate Ke Fuyuan about the devastation in Leizhou and Buddhist attitudes toward sickness. In all likelihood, Ke Shifu 柯時復 and Ke Fuyuan 柯復元 are the same person. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 782–784. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 2943. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 863, and 864–866. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 961.

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then apparently went to reside with him.19 That Deqing corresponded with other leaders on Feng’s behalf illustrates how a monk might use his own connections to draw attention to the spiritual talents of a disciple and create mentoring opportunities for him. Even how Deqing and Feng met in the first place—through a web of introductions—demonstrates how networks, like the one studied here, materialize.20 While Ke and Feng are tangential to this network, Tao Wangling, Yu Chunxi, and Tu Long were key participants. Tao Wangling was a close disciple of Zhou Rudeng and Zhuhong, and, although Deqing felt no connection to Tao, he had a great respect for Yu Chunxi, as will be discussed below. His mention here of Yu Chunxi and Tu Long suggests that these two friends—he called them tongzhi 同志 (men of similar aspiration)—worked together to actively propagate Buddhist teachings.21 Despite the brevity of these remarks, they help us more firmly link these two individuals to each other and to Buddhist activities, further delineating the contours of their relationship. As for Vice-Censor-in-Chief Zheng Kunyai, Deqing had been mentoring him since 1594.22 However, in this letter, written five years later, Deqing voices the concern he had for committed lay followers who exerted their utmost yet, despite misplaced confidence, failed to progress. In an attempt to provide a soft landing for this serious but challenged practitioner, Deqing hoped that Zhou would offer some comfort. In sum, this letter presents a snapshot of one monk’s style of interaction with both his peers and with practitioners at various levels of spiritual maturity. It further reveals the collaborative dimension of advice networks and distribution of mentoring opportunities. Deqing, Zhenke, Zhou Rudeng, and Zhuhong mentored many of the same disciples. Because examination elites were a highly mobile group, they often sought instruction in multiple 19

20

21

22

Despite Deqing’s claim that Feng stayed with Zhenke, Feng is not mentioned in any of Zhenke’s extant writings. Feng met Deqing in 1598 and Zhenke died in 1603, so Deqing’s letter to Zhenke was written sometime during this five-year period. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 630–632. Zhou Rudeng first introduced Long Zhang 龍璋 (n.d.) to Deqing. Long Zhang in turn told the official Wang Anshun 王安舜 (b. 1582; jinshi 1610) and Feng about Deqing’s teachings, and all three attended his lectures. Feng apparently progressed quickly. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 2945–2947. It is not clear when Deqing would have met Tao Wangling—perhaps in Beijing circa 1589, when Tao was preparing for the metropolitan examinations or when he served in the Hanlin Academy, from 1590 to 1595. They both attended the same Chan meeting in 1594: see note 74 below. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 2934–2935.

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loca­tions. Monks could facilitate this process by offering introductions to potential monk-mentors in other locations, further encouraging the practice of cooperative mentoring. Equally significantly, the letter exemplifies the range of observations of spiritual achievement found in correspondence between network members, as well as the language in which they were typically couched. Deqing and Zhou Rudeng’s tentative assessments of their disciples attest to a degree of interpretive latitude. Consultation provided a means to resolve such tensions and demonstrates that evaluations did not follow a pre-set formulaic pattern, nor were decisions always made in isolation. Unlike more literary, formulaic descriptions of enlightenment seen in monk biographies, Deqing’s standards of evaluation are implicit and based on his general sense of a practitioner’s overall abilities and progress. Still, there is no ambiguity. Deqing expressed a clear set of preferences regarding who has potential, who has progressed, who is weak, and with whom he could connect.

Variance and Consensus: Assessing Yu Chunxi

Zhuhong’s close precept-disciple Yu Chunxi 虞淳熙 (1553–1621) is a prime example of a Fellowship member whose spiritual maturity and claim to awakening became a topic of discussion among his peers and monk-mentors. In 1585, Yu Chunxi had what he thought was the ultimate experience of awakening. How Zhuhong, Deqing, Tu Long, Yuan Hongdao, and others assessed that seminal episode and judged Yu’s subsequent behavior is the topic of this section. Their writings reveal that judgments were far from unified and in fact varied greatly from congratulatory enthusiasm to downright skepticism. Despite Zhuhong’s stature, his judgment on the matter did not quell disagreement over Yu Chunxi’s spiritual maturity. Tu Long’s writings offer further evidence that examination elites felt free to judge each other and discuss evaluative criteria in the absence of religious specialists and in a variety of venues, even on a boat. In spite of the fact that Yu Chunxi was a close precept-disciple of Zhuhong, there is scant epistolary evidence of their relationship. This is because from 1593 until 1615 they both resided near the West Lake and had many opportunities to meet face-to-face. On the other hand, during roughly the same period, Deqing rarely left the south; hence, he relied on epistolary news and visitors to keep him abreast of events. For this reason, Deqing’s letters are a better source of information about the relationship between Yu Chunxi, Tu Long, and their monk-mentor Zhuhong.

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These three had a decades-long relationship. Yu Chunxi and Tu Long were good friends who, in all likelihood, met in the capital in 1583, when the former was a successful degree candidate and the latter a secretary in the Ministry of Rites. Shortly afterward, Tu Long was cashiered. When Yu Chunxi’s father died in 1584, Yu returned to Qiantang to commence a three-year mourning period. Mourning, however, did not mean closing one’s doors in seclusion. In 1584, Yu took the five Buddhist lay precepts under Zhuhong, becoming his disciple and, in the twelfth month of the same year, the two finished their collaborative work, Answers to Forty-Eight Pure Land Questions. In 1586 Yu Chunxi left after accepting another official post and did not settle permanently on the south side of the West Lake until 1593, when he retired. As for Tu Long, although he was a frequent West Lake visitor, precisely when he and Zhuhong first met is unclear. However, two of Deqing’s letters attest to interactions between all three in the 1590s, while Feng Mengzhen puts Yu Chunxi and Tu Long in the same location in 1603.23 Not only was Yu Chunxi a precept-disciple of Zhuhong, he also knew the monk Deqing well enough to engage with him in discussions of the basic conditions needed for spiritual advancement. In a circa 1598 letter to Tu Long, Deqing sketched out his criteria for spiritual attainment, adding that Yu Chunxi concurred with him that, in order for a practitioner to be successful, determination was essential and spiritual aptitude alone inadequate.24 Well informed of Yu and Tu’s activities, Deqing repeats the kind of epistolary hearsay and evaluative assessment so crucial to understanding this network: In the past [pre-1593] I said that the most important matter [of life and death] was the domain of those of utmost spiritual aptitude (上上根人). Those that are determined may not have great aptitude; those whose aptitude is great may not have solidified their determination. I think there are many with extremely great aptitude that truly can instan­ taneously directly awaken (一超直入). Unfortunately, they use their un­sur­passable subtle wisdom to further worldly ambitions. Around that 23

24

Feng Mengzhen met with Yu Chunxi and Tu Long at Pure Compassion Monastery on the second day of the fifth month of 1603. Feng Mengzhen, Riji, 60.12–13. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 816–818; 786–789. There are several datable references in other sections of the letter: Deqing has just finished a draft of A Record of Reflections on the Laṅkāvatāra (Guan Lengjia ji 觀楞伽記), the preface to which is dated 1598. In addition, Deqing mentions meeting Ding Cilu 丁此呂 (z. Youwu 右武; jinshi 1577)—Deqing’s annalistic autobiography puts that meeting in 1597. Deqing likely included news about Ding Cilu because Tu and he were friends, having both received the jinshi in 1577.

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time, I saw Yu Chunxi in the capital, and he completely agreed with me …25  From [your letter], I know that you have refrained from eating meat and worship the Buddha (長齋繡佛), and that you and Yu Chunxi and his brother have met at the West Lake for cultivation, have delved deeply into this matter [of life and death], and have joyfully accepted the teachings of Zhuhong. To this I respectfully raise my hands, palms together, and offer praise without end.  I think we can say that someone like yourself who possesses great aptitude (shanggen) and a strong intent, with friends like Yu Chunxi and a teacher like Zhuhong, has all the necessary conditions. What need is there to worry that you will not be instantaneously directly awakened? Within this world, this is truly a rare occurrence. The ancients said, “If one knows the meaning of buddha-nature, then one must be on the lookout for the right time and conditions.” Regrettably, [since] it is the latter days of the Dharma (mofa 末法), this opportunity and these conditions will be very difficult to replicate. I hope that you do not squander the occasion …26 In this letter, Deqing describes the ideal conditions needed for spiritual liberation. In his view, spiritual aptitude alone was not enough to realize awakening. Determination was also essential, along with having the right friends and mentors, and grasping that wisdom had to be properly applied toward Buddhist goals and not toward mere utilitarian gain. The letter elevates Yu Chunxi and compliments Zhuhong, underscoring Deqing’s respect for him. An optimist, Deqing tended to assuage others’ anxieties, as he does here, giving Tu Long an encouraging appraisal of his innate abilities and the mitigating environmental factors needed for success. An undated, pre-1601 letter from Tu Long to Chen Dake 陳大科 (1534–1601; jinshi 1571) likely refers to the events Deqing describes here. Tu Long wrote that at the end of spring he traveled to the West Lake to meet with Zhuhong and Yu Chunxi in order to study the great Way of escaping 25

26

It is difficult to say exactly when Deqing might have met with Yu Chunxi in the capital. Yu was there in 1583–84 but left some time in 1584 to mourn his father’s death and did not return before 1586. In 1593 he retired to the south side of the West Lake and remained there until his death in 1621. Therefore, their meeting in Beijing could have taken place either between 1583–84 or 1586–93. It is highly unlikely that Deqing and Yu Chunxi saw each other between 1595 and 1617. In 1617—partly through Yu Chunxi’s efforts—Deqing traveled to the West Lake to mourn Zhuhong’s death and to lecture at Pure Compassion Monastery. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 786–789.

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this world (出世大道), a reference to liberation from saṃsāra.27 During that stay, he resided at the southern side of the lake for three months, kept a meatfree diet, and attempted to follow the precepts. A vigilant self-monitor, Tu Long’s letters often expressed doubt concerning his innate ability, level of effort, and actual results.28 From 1598 until his death in 1605, Tu Long devoted considerable energy to the topic of self-cultivation. Numerous essays in his magnum opus, the Collection of Vast Envelopment (Hongbao ji 鴻苞集), define contemporary cultivation techniques and often include personal comments on his own inadequate attempts at cultivation.29 Despite a diminished assessment of his own progress, Tu Long was an enthusiastic supporter of Yu Chunxi, whom he regarded as fully awakened. In fact, in 1585 Yu Chunxi had a vision that was so transformative he was sure he had experienced a genuine breakthrough. Yu immediately hastened to see Zhuhong, expecting verification.30 Yu wrote a detailed account of this episode, along with a summary of his religious activities from youth to adulthood, in a long post-1599 letter written to Vice-Censor-in-Chief Wang Hongtai 王弘 臺 (n.d.), another Zhuhong correspondent.31 That Yu Chunxi would choose to write an elaborate autobiographical account of his spiritual endeavors in letter form likely reflects his admiration for the Chan monk Gaofeng Yuanmiao 高峰 原妙 (1238–1295), whose spiritual triumphs were also recorded in an autobiographical letter.32 Bent on convincing Wang to undertake Buddhist practice, Yu offered his own life narrative as a prime example of how to navigate between 27 28

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Tu Long, Hongbao ji, 40.14–15. Of the three letters that Tu Long wrote to Yu about self-cultivation, two undated letters praise Yu’s high level of attainment and indicate that Tu thought he himself had still to progress; another letter—mainly about Daoist cultivation—again depicts Tu Long as unawakened. Hongbao ji, 39.4–10, 40.1–2. Numerous essays in the latter fascicles of the Hongbao ji define cultivation techniques and offer short autobiographical ruminations on Tu Long’s mastery. See my unpublished paper “True Heroes are Like Caterpillars: Tu Long’s Assessment of Spiritual Exercises,” presented in 2007 at the Sheffield, England, Lifewriting Conference. This was not, however, Yu’s first vision. When still a child, Yu had a vision which his grandmother interpreted to be of the Pure Land. She promptly taught Yu how to meditate. Additionally, when cultivating Buddhist penitential rites in 1581, Yu envisioned the monk Tanluan 曇鸞 (476–542) descending into the room to teach him. Yu Chunxi had a reputation for both his visions of sages and worthies, and his foreknowledge—the latter, he nevertheless suppressed after Zhuhong criticized him for using it. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4622. Wu Pei-yi claims that Gaofeng Yuanmiao may have written the first truly autobiographical letter as well as the first written, as opposed to oral, spiritual autobiography. Wu Pei-yi, The Confucian’s Progress, 92.

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competing spiritual regimens. Although Wang Hongtai remains a somewhat elusive figure, Yu’s detailed letter to him became the primary material for Peng Shaosheng’s later eighteenth-century construction of Yu’s religious biography.33 As recounted in this letter, after hearing that Gaofeng Yuanmiao’s lineage descendants were awakened in seven days, Yu traveled in 1585 to Tianmu 天目 (Zhejiang) to practice seated meditation on the shoulder of the western peak in front of the rock cave in which Gaofeng had once constructed a solitary retreat named “Death Retreat” (si guan 死關):34 I sat there without sleeping. I [fostered] doubt without end and continually cultivated in accordance with (一一遵行) The Discourse Records of Gaofeng. By the twenty-first day I was still my old self. I wondered whether those disciples had produced an empty vow. Sighing deeply, I started to fall asleep. Suddenly I realized that Gaofeng was cutting off my left arm. Before my head could hit the pillow (zhen 枕),35 I suddenly had a realization (豁然有省). I was probably awakened by the master (大約與師悟). The effect seemed to be that when I encountered difficulties (nijing 逆境) I did not waver.  I quickly sought Zhuhong’s verification (zheng 證). Zhuhong said, “If one is awakened from a sleep and does not comb one’s hair or put on a hat but remains on blankets and pillows, then one will certainly fall back asleep. If, in the midst of confusion, a person is awakened (wu 悟) but does not continually adorn himself [with the Dharma]36 and remains in 33

34 35

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Peng Shaosheng, Jushi zhuan (X1646: 88.258.b22); Peng Xisu, Jingtu shengxian lu (X1549: 78.290.a4). Qian Qianyi’s biography relied on Huang Ruheng’s epitaph for Yu Chunxi and reiterates the essential elements of Chunxi’s enlightenment without comment. Huang Ruheng, Yulin ji, 15.31–37. Qian Qianyi, Liechao shiji xiaozhuan, 659–660. Yu Chunxi was not the only one to emulate Gaofeng; see also the biography of Juelang Daosheng in Heidou ji (X1592: 85.328.a16–25). In this letter excerpt, Yu Chunxi describes himself as sighing deeply and falling asleep, that is, leaning toward a “bed” (jiu ta 就榻), or more likely some kind of bedding or mat made of cane that he was sitting on for meditation. As his head is about to hit the pillow—again, this could be made of wood or porcelain, but given that he is on a cliff in retreat, unless the place already had these items, it seems likely that Yu would have brought with him something more easily transportable. Sarah Handler, Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 34–35. In its most literal sense, the Buddhist technical term zhuangyan 莊嚴 means “to adorn or ornament.” In a second letter to Wang Hongtai, Yu defined the exercise this way: “Zhuangyan is none other than to continually remind oneself to maintain right mindfulness without interruption.” He then elaborates on this through reference to the doctrine of emptiness and so forth. There are other definitions and lists of types of adornment,

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this muddy corrupted world, then he will certainly become confused. In fire, a lotus easily withers. New bamboo shoots easily break … Did your small awakening result in wisdom? In special powers? …”37 Yu’s narrative closely mirrors well-known Chan hagiographies. Biographies of Gaofeng Yuanmiao claim that he was awakened after twenty-one days, as was Yu. When Yu Chunxi attributes his awakening to a vision he had of Gaofeng cutting off his arm, he echoes the legend of the Second Chan Patriarch Huike, who cut off his own arm to convince Bodhidharma of his resolve. By Yu’s own admission, Zhuhong was short on praise. Zhuhong was generally unimpressed by claims to religious transport. True to form, he emphasized the spiritual fragility of Yu’s experience, pointing out how quickly small realizations fade without further cultivation. Yu wrote that on this occasion Zhuhong in fact lectured him on the work of Gaofeng Yuanmiao, Zhongfeng Mingben, and the lay Buddhist Zhang Shangying 張商英 (1043–1121),38 all of whom, in Zhuhong’s estimation, had had Chan awakenings yet maintained a lifelong Pure Land practice. Duly impressed, Yu Chunxi became a steadfast Pure Land practitioner and remained a close disciple of Zhuhong’s until his death in 1615. Zhuhong’s high standards as well as his advocacy of lifelong practice are evident in his response. Both are associated with his acute awareness of the dangers in store for the practitioner so enthralled with his initial awakening that he stops cultivating. None of Zhuhong’s essays are directed at articulating new evaluative criteria or single out a particular testing method for verifying an individual’s awakening, nor does he endorse criteria already established in the commentarial literature. Nevertheless, indications of his strict standard

37

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including purity and merit. Yu Chunxi further claimed that this was Zhuhong’s instruction. Yu Deyuan xiansheng ji, 25.26. See also chapter 4, note 10. The letter mentions Yuan Hongdao’s Comprehensive Treatise on the West, which was finished in 1599 and published in 1600, placing the letter some time after 1599. Yu Chunxi, Yu Deyuan xiansheng ji, 25.24. The list for this 1585 conversation is somewhat puzzling in that Yu claims Zhuhong discussed with him the “Preface to the Great Yuan Master Gaofeng’s Discourse Records (Yuan Gaofeng dashi yulu xu 元高峰大師語錄序).” Zhuhong’s own preface was published in 1599, but perhaps he wrote it years earlier. The other two texts are less problematic: The Pure Land Poetry of Chan Master Zhongfeng (Zhongfeng chanshi jingtu shi 中峰禪師淨 土詩), for which Zhuhong also wrote a preface; and Zhang Shangying’s On Vowing (Fayuan wen 發願文), which Zhuhong was known to praise. Yu Chunxi, Yu Deyuan xiansheng ji, 35.33. Yuan Hongdao also commented on Zhang Shangying’s text in a 1595 letter to Qu Ruji 瞿汝稷 (1548–1610). Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 56.

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can be gleaned from a number of short essays published in the series Jottings by a Bamboo Window (Zhuchuang suibi 竹窗隨筆). In Zhuhong’s view, those with the greatest realizations eliminated both crude and subtle thoughts. In one short essay, Zhuhong casts aspersions on the claim made by the famous Northern Song Buddhist practitioner Fan Zhen 范 鎮 (1007–1087) that he had eliminated all thought for twenty years.39 Skeptical, Zhuhong conceded that, although Fan Zhen may have eliminated crude thoughts, he certainly had not eliminated more subtle ones. Even the celebrated Caodong monk Zhaozhou 趙州 (778–897) required forty years to reach that level. In driving home the difficulty of the task, Zhuhong further invoked Confucius’ disciple Yan Hui. Zhuhong claimed that Yan Hui could only eliminate extraneous thoughts for three months before reverting to his former mental state. Fan Zhen clearly was not on a par with either Yan Hui or Zhaozhou nor, one might add, were the many examination elites who came to Zhuhong for advice. By seamlessly incorporating a Confucian figure into his hierarchy of spiritual exemplars, Zhuhong too crossed traditional boundaries, albeit through the textual manipulation of Analects 6.7.40 By the standards of this network, the extent of one’s spiritual transformation should be readily apparent in day-to-day conduct. Fellowship members were keen observers of each other’s behavior, and in many cases it was the ensuing conduct that determined whether peers accepted individual claims to religious transport. Zhuhong characterized this embodiment in the following concrete terms: “If someone is completely awakened, then his everyday stride is firm and stable. He does not create a scene. He can handle enemies from any direction. When situations arise, he maintains this type of calm demeanor: not negligent, not hasty, unafraid, and undistracted …”41 Yu Chunxi professed that he remained unmoved by distractions, yet Zhuhong was not convinced that Yu’s realization was anything more than minor. In stark contrast, Tu Long and Deqing unreservedly praised Yu Chunxi for his utmost realization. 39 40

41

Fan Zhen’s story was reprinted many times. See, for instance, Xia Shufang 夏樹芳 (n.d.)., Minggong faxi zhi (X1649: 88.342.a19-b3). In Analects 6.7, Confucius is seen to praise Yan Hui because he could remain benevolent without lapsing for three months at a time (三月不違仁). Zhuhong revised the text, by dropping the character for “benevolence” and adding the following line: “after three months he again had thoughts” (三月外容有念生). Zhuhong, “Fan Jingren 范景仁,” Quanji, 3854. Zhuhong’s reference to Yan Hui is not unique. Deqing also manipulated this text. In a letter to Xu Kuang 徐爌 (z. Mingyu 明宇; jinshi 1553), Deqing dropped “benevolence” and switched the topic to desires, holding aloft Yan Hui as the only person who maintained a three-month standard of eliminating desire. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 793. Zhuhong, Quanji, 3852.

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The only extant letter written circa 1597–1598 from Deqing to Yu Chunxi unequivocally acknowledged Yu’s awakening.42 And yet the letter raises some important questions: How did Deqing know that Yu Chunxi was awakened? Did he ever test him or did Deqing take it for granted based on Yu’s self-narrative or other hearsay? Yu Chunxi’s letter to Wang Hongtai states only that he sought out Zhuhong’s verification, not that of any other monk. It is conceivable that their paths crossed between 1586 and 1589, after Yu returned to the capital—though Deqing often resided elsewhere. But if that were the case, what then would necessitate the writing of this later letter? Since Deqing’s letter is written in response to one he received from Yu, this strongly suggests that Deqing accepted Yu Chunxi’s claim to be awakened simply on the basis of his own narrative. Irrespective of the level of awakening, Deqing—like Zhuhong— advised disciples to continue spiritual exercises, albeit for Yu under an ideal set of conditions: In observing you from afar, I see the crouching lion of Tianmu (天目之師 子) loudly scold the white ox of the lower valley (露地之白牛) as he wanders between the West Lake and the three Tianzhu monasteries, drinking water and eating grass. Not to mention that the ox has a teacher like Maitreya [Zhuhong] and a younger brother like Asaṅga 無著.43 He hears the teachings of emptiness and precepts and meets with those of high stature. As for his joy in calm extinction (jimie 寂滅; Skt. nirvāṇa), I know that even those with the mark of a long, broad tongue cannot describe more than one ten-thousandth of it.44 The lion of Tianmu refers to Gaofeng Yuanmiao, demonstrating that Deqing knew of Yu’s admiration for this monk, lending credence to the idea that Deqing’s letter was offered in direct response to a written retelling of Yu’s trip to Tianmu and eventual awakening. In a gesture of the esteem he held for Yu 42

43

44

Based on internal references to extreme hardship, the letter was likely sent either while Deqing was residing in Shandong or after he was exiled to the south. Both locations experienced natural disasters and famine. The letter was delivered by the monk Jueyin 覺音 (n.d.). In 1598 Deqing received a letter from Zhenke that was also delivered by Jueyin. How often Jueyin served as a go-between is unclear from either source. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 866, 628. Wuzhuo 無著 (Skt: Asaṅga) was the older brother of Shiqin 世親 (Skt: Vasubandhu). In the Yogācāra tradition, the lineage succession is from Maitreya to Asaṅga and then Vasubandhu. Deqing has reversed the brothers’ order, perhaps because Vasubandhu studied the so-called “Hinayāna” while Asaṅga was a disciple of Mahāyāna. Deqing, Mengyou ji, 866.

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Chunxi, Deqing generously compared him to a white ox, an image drawn from a famous Chan text, the Ten Oxherding Pictures, which illustrates the final and highest level of ten progressive stages toward enlightenment with the image of a white ox. Further likening Zhuhong to Maitreya and Yu’s younger brother to the famous Buddhist exegete Asaṅga, Deqing portrayed an ideal environment for further spiritual growth, represented here by the ox eating and drinking— metaphors for cultivation.45 Tu Long wrote a short essay about Yu Chunxi entitled “Yu Zhangru 虞長孺.”46 Also clear in his admiration, Tu opened the text by praising Yu Chunxi for his “extraordinary innate talent” (天姿絕異), moral cultivation, and “unsurpassable realization” (殊勝光景). Most of the text recreates a 1585 encounter they had on a boat. If the account is to be believed, Yu Chunxi and two other passengers compared their experiences of spiritual transport. Yu is depicted describing his ability to enter an absorptive mental state free from the complications of this world, in which he meets with sages and worthies who instruct him. Another passenger, Yu Xiang 余鄉 (n.d.), shared his own story, seeking Yu Chunxi’s approval. Yu Xiang claimed that he was able to “illuminate [the mind] and trace back the radiance” (回光返照).47 The second passenger, Yu Yin 余寅 (1519-1595; jinshi 1580) suggested that the mind could neither be illuminated nor radiance traced back for any length of time. Objecting, Yu Xiang claimed that he had encountered a situation wherein he was deeply humiliated yet felt 45

46 47

Some readers might object that Deqing’s praise of Yu Chunxi follows rather closely the kind of stock comparison offered in the eighteenth-century letter-writing manual Letters from Snow Swan Retreat (Xuehong xuan chidu 雪鴻軒尺牘). The manual suggests comparing one’s correspondent to Guanyin and oneself to Śāriputra as a polite means of elevation. Deqing’s praise certainly elevates Yu Chunxi, yet extends beyond the formulaic in its referral to Yu’s nirvāṇa and appraisal of his situation. Kádár, Model Letters, 64–65. Zhangru was one of Yu Chunxi’s sobriquets. Tu Long, Hongbao ji, 39.32–33. This phrase is found in many Song Dynasty Chan texts and would have been quite familiar to late Ming Buddhists. See Zhuhong, Changuan cejin (T2024: 48:1104.b21; 1103.b11). However, Daoist inner alchemy has a very similar term which Fabrizio Pregadio translates as “circulating the light and inverting the radiance” (huiguang fanzhao 回光反照). This short essay ends with a discussion of Tao Hongjing and so we cannot rule out the possibility that there is a Buddho-Daoist comparison going on here. In either case, the practi­ tioner turns his attention inward to either concentrate on a critical phrase or perform another exercise of concentrated reflection. See Isabelle Robinet, Taoism: Growth of a Religion, trans. Phyllis Brooks (Paris: Cerf, 1992; reprint, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), 402. Wang Mu, Foundations of Internal Alchemy: the Taoist Practice of Neidan, trans. and ed. Fabrizio Pregadio (Mountain View, CA: Golden Elixir Press, 2011), 135. Robert E. Buswell Jr., Tracing Back the Radiance: Chinul’s Korean Way of Zen (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991).

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no anger—a sign of his spiritual liberation. Stories like this further evidence an attempt to authenticate an abstract internal experience through gauging the correctness of one’s own concrete worldly reaction. Weighing in on the matter, Yu Chunxi responded that to merely remain unmoved in the face of adverse circumstances was a superficial response and not a sign of true liberation (chaotuo 超脫). According to this essay, Yu proceeded to lay out the relationship between precepts, mental concentration, and wisdom, which he asserted must be cultivated in that order, thus largely repeating lessons learned from Zhuhong. Yet, although his Buddhist activities appear to have monopolized his time, Yu Chunxi was also recognized by his contemporaries for his Daoist interests.48 In this short essay, he may well have been talking to a Daoist practitioner, for the text closes with Yu Xiang’s decision to take Buddhist precepts, invoking Tao Hongjing 陶弘景 (456–536)— a Daoist master who took Buddhist lay precepts at Aśoka Monastery 阿育王寺, in Zhejiang.49 This story is significant for a number of reasons. First, it presents four elite males working out evaluative criteria and judgments in an informal, semi-­ private conversation on a boat beyond the purview of monks, presenting irrefutable evidence that monks were not the sole authoritative voices in this landscape: peers also mattered. Second, Yu Xiang is judged on the basis of his own first-person narrative description, not some other testing method. Third, there is a fluid interchange of Buddhist and Daoist terminology and standards with respect to the highest levels of realization. Finally, in keeping with Buddhist teachings of his day, Yu Chunxi affirmed that there was a direct relationship between ephemeral transcendent states and everyday conduct, albeit one harder to judge on the basis of affective modes. Emotional states could indeed be problematic. In another short essay, this time on the Daoist technique of stilling the mind (sixin 死心), Tu Long

48

49

Yu Chunxi participated in many religious activities. He was a supporter of the Confucian Luo Jinxi and wrote extensively on the Classic of Filial Piety. However, he was most strongly rooted in Buddhist cultivation. Lü Miaw-fen, “Religious Dimensions of Filial Piety as Developed in the Late Ming Interpretations of the Xiaojing,” Late Imperial China 27, no. 2 (2006): 1–37. Eminent scholar, bibliographer, expert in pharmacopoeia and alchemy, Tao Hongjing is considered the founder of Shangqing Daoism. He also studied Buddhism. One recently uncovered artifact identifies him as “a disciple of Buddha and the Most High Lord Lao” (page 969). See the Tao Hongjing entry by Grégoire Espesset in Encyclopedia of Taoism, Vol. 2, 968–971.

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recounted a short exchange between Yu Chunxi and the Daoist Jin Xuzhong 金 虛中 (n.d.):50 Yu Zhangru [Yu Chunxi] invited Jin to share a meal with him. At that time, a wall of the neighbor’s pond had been breached and the fish were spilling out. Pitying the fish, Zhangru kept running over to make inquiries. Jin said to him, “What business is it of yours? If your mind jumps around like this, how can you enter the Way?”51 Given Yu Chunxi’s twenty-some-year commitment to constructing releasinglife ponds, one might anticipate his alarm at such a perilous outcome. Quite to the contrary, Jin Xuzhong attributed Yu’s emotional response to a lack of spiritual progress. Jin further disparaged Yu Chunxi’s younger brother Chunzhen for his enthusiastic discoursing on poetry, implying that this was merely a clever ploy to draw attention to himself, a move bereft of any tangible level of cultivation. Horrified by Jin Xuzhong’s criticism, Tu Long concluded the essay by rejecting Jin’s judgments and offering his own evaluation. He defended the two Yu brothers for their diligent cultivation of ascetic practices and continual attempts to refine themselves. In fact, the incident caused Tu Long to question just how one ought to conceive of the practice of stilling the mind. After searching through the historical record, he chose to embrace the definition of stilling the mind attributed to the Daoist Sima Ziwei 司馬子微 (647–735): “Only when the mind dies (xin si 心死) does the spirit live (shen huo 神活).”52 In Tu Long’s view, Yu Chunxi’s outward concern for the fish should not be taken as indicative of inner emotional turmoil but rather must be understood as a reflection of his liveliness of spirit. Tu Long’s two essays reveal how concrete incidents spurred further reflection on the definition of cultivation and on the criteria for judging success. In short, the spiritually liberative quality of a particular episode was determined through ongoing self-assessment and through interactions with other trusted 50

51 52

Tu Long, a self-described disciple of the three teachings, often combined Buddhist and Daoist cultivation techniques and conflated the spiritual goals of the two traditions; in this respect, he stands out from most in the Fellowship. While significant, a full consideration of Tu Long’s work or the late Ming Buddho-Daoist nexus is beyond the scope of this study. The text does not date this encounter. Tu Long, Hongbao ji, 36.13–14. Tu Long, Hongbaoji, 36.13–14. In a circa 1590 letter to Zhenke, Feng Mengzhen tried to explain that Tu Long loved Daoism and was unlikely to give it up no matter how distressed the monk Zhenke was by this (好玄門。文人其好玄). Kuaixue tang ji, 41.15–16.

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individuals. The two texts further afford us an opportunity to see how the presence or absence of emotion could become a factor in such assessments. The Fellowship’s attempts to figure out the proper relationship between emotional excitement and spiritual liberation resonates with Maram Epstein’s observation that Yangming Confucians instigated a “radical re-evaluation of the function and value of qing,” profoundly affecting late Ming and Qing literature.53 Tu Long’s defense of his friend’s concern for the fish draws to the fore tension between Jin Xuzhong’s standards of an immovable heart and Tu Long’s acceptance of emotional “liveliness.” However, Yu Chunxi claimed that, in judging experiences of spiritual transport, what mattered was behavioral ­conformity to Buddhist precepts: clearly, for him, a mere lack of emotion, something Yu Xiang used as proof of his own spiritual realization, was not a determining criterion. The relation between emotional states and spiritual liberation also became an issue in determining what kind of poetry writing was acceptable for those engaged in spiritual pursuits. In Rebirth Biographies, Zhuhong expressed some reservations. He offered a cautionary tale about a person who lost the Way and was not reborn in the Pure Land because he wrote worldly poetry.54 But Zhuhong did not dismiss poetry entirely; he composed his own poems and wrote a preface for The Pure Land Poetry of Chan Master Zhongfeng.55 Even Yuan Hongdao, the founder of the Gongan literary movement, went through his own metamorphosis on this issue, questioning the relationship between poetry and liberation. In an undated letter to an unnamed recipient, Tao Wangling indicates that Hongdao felt the need to give up poetry for the sake of Chan cultivation and that, because he was following the precepts, he had given up talking about Chan.56 Nonetheless, because Yuan Hongdao’s collected

53

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55 56

Maram Epstein, Competing Discourses: Orthodoxy, Authenticity, and Engendered Meanings in Late Imperial Chinese Fiction (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2001), 61. For a discussion of Tu Long’s writings on desire, see Martin Huang, Desire and Fictional Narrative in Late Imperial China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2001). Despite this criticism, the list of Pure Land readings Zhuhong added at the end of Rebirth Biographies included acceptable Pure Land poetry. Zhuhong, WSJ (T2072: 51.135.a4–6). Deqing wrote poetry to express his inner feelings, but distinguished between gāthās and worldly poetry. See Sung-peng Hsu, A Buddhist Leader in Ming China, 86. Zhuhong, Quanji, 4214–4216. See note 38. The letter is to a “certain gentleman” (moujun 某君) from Xin’an. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2316. In a 1599 letter to Tao Wangling, Hongdao wrote that he had not written poetry for almost a year. Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 80.

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works include poems for every year from 1584 until his death in 1610, his hiatus from poetry writing must have been short-lived. It was in the context of thinking through the role of emotion in Buddhist claims to liberation that Yuan Hongdao passed judgment on Yu Chunxi’s spiritual attainments. Yuan Hongdao and his brothers had an enduring friendship with Yu Chunxi and his brother, Yu Chunzhen, based in part on shared literary and Buddhist interests; in one letter Hongdao referred to Yu and his brother as his “Chan friends” (chanyou 禪友).57 In a 1597 letter addressed to both brothers, Yuan Hongdao wrote that he was so moved in reading their recently published volume of poetry that he could not sleep. Yet he wondered whether these “two monks” harbored any concern that the emotion exhibited in their poetry broke their precepts.58 In a separate letter, written in the same year to his own older brother Zhongdao, Hongdao offered this comment: Yu Zhangru and his brother are truly great scholars (gaoshi 高士). However, their erudition is open for discussion. They always say that only after awakening can one adjust the mind (tiaoxin 調心); only after exhibiting supranormal powers (shentong 神通) is one a buddha. Most likely they have misunderstood the Buddhist teachings. Sengru [Yu Chunzhen] has quite the disposition for awakening, but he stubbornly clings to his own views and cannot keep an open mind when consulting (canfang 參 訪) with others. He has yet to meet a great powerful Chan teacher. Thus, the “medicine” he takes causes this sickness. However, he is one of our great friends (yiyou 益友).59 Even though Hongdao does not comment specifically on Yu Chunxi’s awakening—only on his unawakened brother’s prospects—one could surmise that, while Hongdao had a deep appreciation for their poetry, he remained rather skeptical of the spiritual progress of both Yu brothers. In concluding this discussion, it must be pointed out that not everyone left written assessments of their friend Yu Chunxi’s claims to awakening. Feng Mengzhen listed his Buddhist activities in three letters: a pre-1590 letter claims that Yu immersed himself in Buddhist and Daoist teachings; two other letters 57 58

59

This 1597 letter was written to Wu Hua 吳化 (z. Dunzhi 敦之, h. Quluo 曲羅; jinshi 1595). Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 197–98. In 1597, Yuan Hongdao presented the two Yu brothers with a poem that also expressed these sentiments. Yuan Hongdao ji jianjiao, 359. Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 232–233. Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 22–23.

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mention his relationship to Zhuhong, Pure Land practice, and repentance.60 But Feng did not weigh in on whether Yu was awakened. Likewise, Tao Wangling collaborated with Yu on releasing-life projects and Buddhist publishing, yet he left no written comments regarding his spiritual development. Even those who did comment on Yu’s spiritual progress passed different judgments: while Zhuhong, Deqing, Tu Long, and Yuan Hongdao achieved some consensus in that all expressed great respect for Yu’s commitment to Buddhist practice and for his diligence, they disagreed on his level of spiritual attainment. Despite Deqing’s enthusiastic support, the response from Zhuhong was tepid at best. Some friends, like Tu Long, were great admirers, others, like Yu Xiang, decided to ask his advice, and still others, like Yuan Hongdao, remained skeptical. After his death, Yu Chunxi’s reputation was shaped primarily by the narrative account he chose to present in his letter to Wang Hongtai, the main source for later religious biographies. A prime example of epistolary hearsay, the letter provides unique insight into Zhuhong’s style of evaluation and comments not found in Zhuhong’s own writings. In addition, although this sole account of Yu’s realization was framed entirely in Buddhist terms, Tu Long’s two essays prove that Daoist encounters and vocabulary played a role in how Yu evaluated others. All in all, the kinds of semi-formal evaluations depicted here were part of an ongoing process: judging others did not end after a single, clearly defined episode, nor was the authoritative stamp of any one monk enough to halt further discussion and re-evaluation of the criteria used to judge.

A Protracted Search: Tao Wangling

Yuan Hongdao, Huang Hui, Jiao Hong, and other network members kept close tabs on each other. They monitored each other’s religious attainment, gave advice on which spiritual exercises to try, knew what official positions each held, and what poetry each had written. One of the many persons they discussed was Zhuhong’s precept-disciple, Tao Wangling. Letters sent to various mentors and those exchanged between others who gossiped about Tao portray a serious but struggling practitioner, whose spiritual trajectory was far from a linear string of successes. Unlike Yu Chunxi, who was awakened early on and left only one self-narrative on the topic, Tao Wangling is a classic example of someone who documented his many struggles, triumphs, and failures over the 60

The first letter was to Wang Shizhen and the other two to the monk Mizang Daokai and the official Yu Yuli 于玉立 (z. Zhongfu 中甫; jinshi 1583), respectively. Feng Mengzhen, Kuaixue tang ji, 38.13–14, 23–24, 25–27; Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 333–336.

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years in letters addressed to multiple mentors and friends. In the advice and support offered in these exchanges, we see the impact his associative life had on his search for solutions to his problems with self-cultivation. The following in-depth examination of three pivotal changes in Tao Wangling’s attempts at self-cultivation start at the mid-point, when Tao was forty years old. These changes are most apparent in Tao Wangling’s epistolary writings. However, Tao Wangling’s epistolary collection and other texts are only partially dateable, leaving significant chronological gaps. Fortunately, the scholars Qian Bocheng 錢伯城 and Fan Qiao 范橋 have dated Yuan Hongdao’s letters, including those Hongdao sent to Tao Wangling and their mutual friend Huang Hui. Araki Kengo’s detailed study of Tao Wangling’s cultivation practices, along with Peng Guoxiang’s creation of an annalistic biography for Zhou Rudeng, further make possible the chronological mapping of Tao Wangling’s spiritual trajectory.61 On the third day of the tenth month of 1595, Tao Wangling took a three-day trip to the home of Zhou Rudeng in Shanxi 剡溪, Shaoxing Province, Zhejiang. This would be their first meeting. Between 1595 and 1609, the two engaged in an epistolary exchange, of which thirteen letters Tao wrote and three Zhou wrote are still extant. In the following letter, written in 1601 when Tao Wangling turned forty, he took stock of his life, giving a chronological overview of the cultivation techniques he had tried thus far, further expressing disappointment in his lack of spiritual progress: In the past, when I was in the capital, I was troubled with many different tasks. My practice (gongfu 工夫) was interrupted and difficult to maintain. Suddenly one day, I realized the source (ji 機) of the mind’s continual regeneration. It is completely vacuous yet substantial, entirely transformational yet unified. I happily thought that from that time onward perhaps it would be easy to strengthen my cultivation (weili 為力) …  Recently I have found that, to still my thoughts, examining every little twist and turn is not as productive as the directness of a flavorless critical phrase.62 I have become somewhat accustomed that whenever I raise the phrase I bring it to the forefront. I hold it and remain indifferent. To do otherwise would be very difficult.  Additionally, in reading the words of Yangming, I think that if scholars can respond in the moment this is the proper way to study (shanxue 善 61 62

Araki Kengo, “Tō Bōrei to seimeigaku 陶望齡と性命學,” Tōyō Koten gaku kenkyū 13 (2005): 105–130; Peng Guoxiang, “Zhou Haimen xiansheng nianpu gao,” 341–386. For more on sixteenth-century uses of a flavorless critical phrase, see Deqing’s long essay on how to master the technique. “Shi canchan qieyao,” Mengyou ji, 286–294.

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The letter exhibits the heightened anxiety of someone whose prolonged efforts at letting go of thoughts has resulted in the unwanted effect of causing him to tense at their mere presence. Both Chan Buddhists and Yangming Confucians offered cultivation techniques for coping with the mind’s many machinations. The two traditions had goals that could be quite different, yet they are framed here in commensurable terms. The Buddhists promoted the use of critical phrase cultivation as a method to realize nonduality and, as promoted most famously in the Platform Sūtra, achieve the mind of no-mind (wuxin 無心). In similar fashion, Yangming Confucians thought they could make correct ethical decisions by freeing liangzhi from an overlay of unnecessary thought and emotion. In this letter, Tao Wangling discussed his various attempts to cultivate, first with a critical phrase, a process he found relatively easy, and then with what is characterized as a Yangming Confucian approach of an immediate

63 64

In other words, he has not made any practical progress. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2161–2164.

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unfettered response in each and every moment (時時當下)—for him, a much harder task.65 Tao Wangling’s most prolonged mentoring relationship was with Zhou Rudeng, yet in this letter, and in a number of others, Tao Wangling rejected his advice.66 Both men were great admirers of Dahui Zonggao; however, Zhou apparently wanted Tao to give up critical phrase cultivation and all other expedient means (Skt. upāya). Tao conceded that he was intentionally clinging to critical phrase practice but that he was loath to give it up because he thought he needed this prop like a blind man needs his cane. Whenever he completely let go of all thought, his practice would collapse. Tao’s 1601 rejection of Zhou’s advice was preceded by his earlier attempts to follow Zhou’s more subitist approach, already discussed in chapter 2. Zhou Rudeng was not alone in his intimate familiarity with Tao Wangling’s struggles. Two 1601 letters that Yuan Hongdao wrote to Tao offered advice while simultaneously demonstrating that Yuan Hongdao too was in search of the right method.67 Both letters speak to the broader issue of what spiritual exercises were acceptable and what constituted diligence. In the letter cited below, Hongdao wrote to his friend that he had decided against overzealous diligence in favor of a more natural approach—advice congruent with that offered by Zhuhong, Deqing, and especially Zhou Rudeng, who was the greater proponent of everyday Chan.68 Hongdao focused especially on the problems created when diligent pursuit paradoxically pushed the goal farther and farther away:69

65

66

67 68

69

This second method had its roots in twelfth-century Chan texts, which repeat the same phrase. But long before the sixteenth century, Confucians had made it equally their own. The distinction made here is Tao’s. For another articulation of this idea, see also Tao Wang­ling, Xie’an ji, 2160. At most, their relationship lasted thirteen years. See Tao Wangling’s undated preface to Zhou Rudeng’s collected works. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 357. With respect to their disagreements, see also pages 2164 and 2170; and Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 775–780, 795– 797. In what follows, I will discuss in detail only one of the letters. The other letter has already been cited in chapter 2. Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 83–84. Epistolary evidence suggests that Yuan Hongdao had an ongoing relationship with Zhou Rudeng. In the one extant letter Zhou Rudeng wrote to Yuan Hongdao, he remarked that because Tao Wangling had shown him one of Yuan’s letters he knew that Hongdao was making progress. This is one of many examples of the circulation of received letters among a select few confidants. Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 858–859. In a pre-1600 letter to Yuan Zongdao, Tao Wangling also attributed the fractured results of his own beleaguered efforts to overzealousness. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2178.

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In the past, intense effort (jingmeng 精猛) was my method. Recently I came to understand that “letting things be” (renyun 任運) is also a method. Intense effort is very energizing, whereas letting things occur naturally is insipid (lengdan 冷淡). Stimulating human feelings is easy, whereas cooling them down is difficult. For this reason, the more one seeks after the Way, the more it recedes into the distance.  My grasp of this constantly changes. Yet, when one ultimately first chooses a method, this is quite difficult to change. As to the similarities and differences, this is nothing more than to overcorrect (矯枉過直). Is there really any other road one could take?  According to what you have seen, in the past you have not found the right [path] and now seek to find the true point [of departure]. As to your dilemma, how could it be resolved in a single breath? Today it is like this, tomorrow it is also like this: there are still obstacles. Even though you can overcome them, what you overcome today becomes tomorrow’s obstacle.  If excursions into the mountains obstruct the Way, then eating food and wearing clothes also obstruct the Way. If this is the case, you are truly like Chen Suoxue 陳所學 described: “If even coughing is not permitted, then the Way is nothing more than an obstacle to us. What need is there for anyone to seek after it?”70 In commiserating with Tao Wangling, Yuan Hongdao admitted that he had yet to decide between the two extremes of strenuous effort and an effortless vigilance, which emphasized letting things go naturally. Nevertheless, he did concede that heightened emotional states could be an impediment. Hongdao counseled that minor realizations do not automatically eliminate all mental obstacles. Rather, from a Buddhist perspective, incremental advances could quickly become new barriers to spiritual progress. For instance, the desire to eliminate desires is a useful motivator but one that must also be eliminated when one has advanced sufficiently—otherwise it too will become a mental obstacle. Zhuhong’s precept-disciple Cai Chengzhi 蔡承植 (b. 1557; jinshi 1583) suggested that when Tao was stymied after a minor flash of insight he should “use a wedge to push out a wedge (以楔出楔), this is what cultivators must

70

Chen Suoxue 陳所學 (b. 1559 z. 正甫; jinshi 1583) was also a friend of Yuan Zongdao. I have not found the original source for this citation. In 1597, Yuan Hongdao wrote a preface to Chen’s Huixin ji 會心集, which has not survived. The only extant text associated with him appears to be a gazetteer for Longping County, Longping xianzhi. Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 85.

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do.”71 The carpenter’s method of using a small wooden wedge to dislodge a larger piece is a useful Buddhist metaphor for the technique needed to dislodge mental blockage.72 Taking that a step further, in his letter to Tao, Hongdao cautioned him against turning cultivation into an exercise in futility, whereby mundane activities like changing clothes or coughing became impediments to progress. Hongdao clearly thought Tao Wangling had boxed himself into a corner and needed to relax. The source of Tao Wangling’s midlife frustration had its genesis in a much earlier and more optimistic time. During the first five years of official life, Tao’s knowledge of Buddhist texts and interactions with equally enthusiastic individuals increased exponentially. In a review of that earlier period, Araki Kengo speculates that Tao Wangling’s familiarity with Buddhist texts, like the Vimalakīrti-nirdeśa Sūtra, predated his 1589 assignment to the Hanlin Academy.73 From 1589 onward, Tao Wangling and his Hanlin colleagues Huang Hui, Jiao Hong, and the older Yuan brother, Zongdao, spent considerable time together studying Buddhist and other texts. Between 1589 and 1594 Tao Wangling was introduced to Li Zhi, made the acquaintance of Yuan Hongdao, and joined several Buddhist associations, including the Capital Gate Society 都 門社 from 1594 to 1595 and the short-lived Grape Society in the late 1590s.74 In 1595 he edited Zhanran Yuancheng’s Chan Queries; he also read Li Tongxuan’s commentary to the Huayan Sūtra.75 This flurry of intellectual activity was complemented by attempts at selfcultivation done both individually and in groups. In a 1595 letter to Li Zhi, Yuan Zongdao explained how his need for group support led him to invite three or four friends to join him in cultivation, among whom was Tao Wangling: In a few days we assembled. During this meeting, we did not talk about Chan or the Way. We just reminded ourselves, and each other, of “the 71 72 73 74

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Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2162. For additional metaphors and a longer explanation of this cultivation technique, see chapter 5, page 249. Araki Kengo, “Tō Bōrei to seimeigaku,”106. There were many more such gatherings, like the 1588 “evening talk” (yetan 夜談) given by Deqing at Dragon Flower Monastery 龍華寺, attended by Dong Qichang 董其昌 (1555– 1636), Yuan Zongdao, Yuan Hongdao, Wu Yingbin, and Wu Benru, among others. A second 1594 “joy in Chan meeting” (禪悅之會) in the capital was attended by Tao Wangling, the Yuan brothers, Wang Tu and others. Dong Qichang, Huachanshi suibi 畫禪室隨筆, in Biji xiaoshuo daguan 筆記小説大觀, vol. 2 (reprint, Taipei: Xinxing Shuju, 1962), 1.2:1844. Li Tongxuan 李通玄 (635–730), Huayan jing helun 華嚴經合論. This text circulated among the network.

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great matter of life and death and the swiftness of impermanence.”76 We moved back and forth between reflecting on this and being diligent. This was our method for these days. Of those assembled, some were endowed with intelligence (資性聰慧) and some were truly motivated (發心真實), but in general no one had both of these qualities.  Tao Shikui [Wangling] of Kuaiji [Shaoxing] was well liked by everyone, but his body has been weakened by many illnesses, and he cannot endure hardship. Today he returned home. In leaving the group and practicing alone, I do not know if he continued to be as diligent.77 Though vaguely worded, the letter suggests that on this occasion the group, which by 1595 was well versed in Chan texts and techniques, tried a more “natural,” personally reflective approach that avoided intellectualizing about their cultivation. They did not adhere to a single technique, such as recitation or critical phrase practice. Even without a discussion of Chan, the allusion to rebirth and impermanence signal the group’s commitment to Buddhist cultivation. Of all the participants, Tao Wangling is singled out for comment simply because Li Zhi knew him but not the others. Yet Zongdao also intimates that among these men, none met Deqing’s criteria of possessing both intelligence (or high spiritual capacity) and strong motivation (or diligence). Tao was apparently diligent, but in this instance his physical stamina became an impediment, forcing him to withdraw early. In a letter to his brother, Tao Wangling provided a more detailed account of the Buddhist methods tried during group practice—most likely in reference to the retreat discussed above, although, because there is no mention of poor health or an early departure, the letter could well be about yet another similar retreat. The letter exudes with the enthusiasm of someone who has benefited greatly from group interaction, and continues to feel optimistic about his own personal progress: Recently, the venerable Yuan Poxiu [Zongdao] and I, along with three or four other like-minded friends, have had extremely close interactions (從 遊甚密). Although we have not yet fully realized the “great matter,” our gains are not trifling. Moreover, in melting away the troubles that bind us (julei 拘累), we have together gone beyond the superficialities of etiquette (形骸禮數). One could call this extreme bliss. In regard to this 76 77

This phrase is cited repeatedly in Chan texts both as it is here and with the verses reversed. The swiftness of impermanence points to the fleeting nature of one’s current life. Yuan Zongdao, Bai Su zhai leiji, 127.

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affair’s highest level (daduan 大段), recently time and again I have had a moment of realization “underneath my heel” (腳跟下體究). Certainly there must be a resounding forth (boran 嚗然): a day of great clamor (cuiran 啐然).  If one is either externally directed in avid pursuit or retreats internally, how could they progress? Mr. Yuan also said that if one has the doubt of not doubting, then one must take a step out into the great expanse and only then will one become completely pure (jing jin 淨盡). As for this, how could it be called a vulgar, indiscriminate Chan (世俗攏侗禪)? This affair belongs neither to the realm of knowing nor to not knowing. Knowing is feeling and understanding (qingjie 情解). The realm outside knowing is indescribable (wuji 無記). For this reason, it is said, “The only road leading upward”78 and “do not let ordinary beings and sages pass.”79 How could this be called difficult or easy, advancing or retreating?80 Quite pleased with his own moments of realization, Tao soon expected to experience a full awakening. He grasped that cultivation required a method neither too externally directed nor too internally withdrawn. Tao further exhibits his understanding of nonduality and its importance to enlightenment by linking liberation from saṃsāra, what is called in this letter the “great matter,” to neither knowing nor not knowing. The section ends with a shorthand reference to two Chan gongan found repeatedly in Chan literature, often with slight variations in wording. They refer to a realm beyond words—an idea that fits with the general theme of the retreat described in this letter. The first, “As for the single road leading upward, a thousand sages do not transmit it,” was commonly used to remind practitioners that they must realize the supreme path themselves. The second reference points to the need to sever reliance on expedient devices—a point Zhou Rudeng emphasized, as seen above. The letter offers an unproblematic discussion of cultivation processes. At the same time, 78 79

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See, for instance, Dahui Pujue chanshi yulu (T1998A: 47.834.c20-c23); Yongming Yanshou, Zongjing lu (T2016: 48.657b22). This expression reminds practitioners not to rely on the teachings, for what they are after is indescribable and beyond words. The monk Yuanwu Keqin offers this explanation: “After the last phrase, one finally arrives at the impenetrable barrier: here, hold the key post and do not let ordinary beings and sages pass. If one is a first-rate scholar, do not take the teachings of the patriarchs as your model.” Yuanwu Foguo chanshi yulu (T1997: 47.757. a19–20). For the first line of the translation, I have followed Juhn Y. Ahn, trans., Gongan Collections I 公案集, in Collected Works of Korean Buddhism, vol. 7–1, ed. John Jorgenson (Seoul: Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, 2012), 545. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2350.

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there are some hints of Tao’s later difficulties. He casually mentions the role of doubt, especially doubts about not doubting. A few years later, doubt itself would consume him: both the need for doubt to successfully cultivate a critical phrase, and severe crippling doubt about his own progress. In a 1596 response to a letter from Tao, Yuan Hongdao succinctly summed up the problem: “I know that you have already eliminated doubt (yi 疑), but if there is no doubt then there should be awakening (wu 悟). Awakening is none other than insight (liao 了). Now you have neither doubt nor insight. How can one explain this?”81 Yuan Hongdao explained this by comparing one’s idea of awakening to one’s idea of the capital. Before heading to Beijing, Hongdao had a splendid but inaccurate concept of what that experience would entail. Upon arrival he was highly disappointed, until he accepted the actual “splendor” of the city and dropped his fabulous, but false, conception of it. Hongdao’s metaphoric comparison resonates with the story of the conjured city made famous by the Lotus Sūtra. In Hongdao’s view, Tao Wangling still had some adjustments to make. Tao’s cultivation endeavors were aided by a 1595 reprieve from public office, during which he visited Yuan Hongdao in Suzhou and later in 1596 traveled with him around Mount Dongting 洞庭山, accompanied by the monk Jiaoguang.82 But despite Tao Wangling’s efforts at self-cultivation, according to a 1596 letter Yuan Hongdao wrote to his older brother that recounts a recent visit by the two Tao brothers, both were finding that hearing and seeing (jianwen 見聞) had become obstacles to their progress toward Buddhist liberation. This very topic was a key theme from the Śūraṃgama Sūtra, to which the monk Jiaoguang had written a substantial commentary, and which likely stimulated their interest in this text. In response to the Tao brothers’ concern, Hongdao reminded them that the monk Lingyun 靈雲 (n.d.) was awakened when he saw a peach blossom, and the monk Xiangyan 香巖 (799–898) upon hearing the crack of bamboo. Yuan Hongdao further wrote about the discussion he had had with them concerning Yongming Yanshou. He argued that Yongming was not fully awakened and that the Record of the Source-Mirror (Zongjing lu 宗鏡 錄) demonstrated this fact.83 Hongdao wrote, “Yongming exerted his utmost in 81 82

83

Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 68. In 1595 Tao stopped in Suzhou on his way home to Shaoxing, Zhejiang. Tao Shiling and others also took the trip to Mount Dongting. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 1953–1955. Letters also suggest other trips for that year, some of which were cancelled. See, for instance, Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 68, 70, 71, 162. Tao Wangling and Yuan Hongdao each wrote a commentary on the Zongjing lu. In an undated letter to Zhou Rudeng, Tao wrote that he had spent the summer rereading the

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explanation, but how could he not know that the more he explained it, the more fragmented it became, and the clearer he tried to be, the more obscure he was?” Apparently, after hearing this explanation, Tao suddenly had a deep realization (shen shengchu 深省處).84 Hongdao’s letter, written to his older brother, again demonstrates the network’s willingness to debate the spiritual accomplishments of those considered far more advanced than themselves—here, the towering figure of Yongming Yanshou. The judgment was made in part to address a broader contemporary question: how ought one to understand the relationship between exegesis and spiritual advancement? Rejecting previous authoritative biographical pronouncements, Hongdao reassessed Yongming’s level of spiritual realization based on the clarity of his exegesis. Quite skeptical of commentarial discourse, Yuan Hongdao diagnosed Tao Wangling’s weakness to be an overreliance on textual hermeneutics. In Hongdao’s view, Tao was too strongly attached to the world of learning, whereas his younger brother, Shiling, was more open and relaxed. Late sixteenth-century exegetes, both Buddhist and Confucian, debated the merits of textual study versus cultivation.85 As seen in chapter 2, Zhou Rudeng continually chided his educated audience to fully understand the difference between mere book learning and actual cultivation. Several of Tao Wangling’s letters exhibit his own preoccupation with this relationship. In a pre-1598 letter to Jiao Hong, Tao confided that at first he had been quite pleased with the ­progress he had made through reading. Hence, he incorporated the words of previously awakened individuals into his practice, but thereafter a friction developed between him and these words, making progress difficult. Tao wished to meet with Jiao Hong so that he could again find the right method.86 In one pre-1600 letter to Shiling, Tao compared their illiterate mother’s natural expression of buddhahood to that of the Sixth Patriarch Huineng, marveling at her unfettered attainment. In contrast, he thought that many scholars, like himself, were mired in textual analysis. Textual study was highly valued by Tao, yet

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text, but that he still did not understand it nor did he accept Zhou’s interpretation. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2172. Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 19–21. Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 19–21. There had been and continued to be a long-running discussion of the compatibility between Chan and scriptural study (禪教一致), which extended through the late Ming. Monks like Yongming Yanshou and Guifeng Zongmi argued that there was no conflict; other monks begged to differ. In the above discussion, Tao Wangling is less concerned about the larger debate and more focused on his own personal spiritual aptitude. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2367.

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despite his judgment that his recent ability to apprehend (jue 覺) the sūtras was markedly improved, for the most part reading hobbled his efforts. Finding solace in the company of others, Tao’s associative ties were reinforced during a momentous three-month trip in the environs of the West Lake in the spring of 1597, when Yuan Hongdao finally left office. Many Chan friends, poetry friends, and monks periodically joined the entourage, but only the Tao brothers stayed for the duration.87 During this trip, they spent time with Yu Chunxi and his brother and met with Zhuhong, Yuancheng, Jieshan Chuanru 戒山傳如 (1562–1624) and other monks. In a long letter to his own brother Zongdao, Hongdao marveled at his good fortune in meeting so many people, seeing so many places, and embarking on such an intellectually stimulating adventure. He wrote that both Tao Wangling and he composed poems and cultivated Chan, though Tao “cultivated Chan every day” (無日不禪), while he himself did so sporadically.88 Unfortunately, Hongdao does not relay their methods. At the end of the trip, Tao and Yuan wrote a series of parting poems. The poems portray a friendship so deep that they could finish each other’s sentences. Several poems depict their attitude toward traditions of cultivation: they “study the Way, but do not study Chan (學道不學禪)”; “simultaneously buddha and sage, neither Confucian nor Chan (即佛即聖,非儒非禪).” In keeping with Yuan Hongdao’s sense that cultivation cannot be limited to words, texts, or traditions, both sentences point to an ultimate convergence beyond the limits of Buddhist and Confucian categories. By now this was a tight-knit group of men, who openly remonstrated with each other when they felt someone else’s cultivation methods had gotten off course. The letters they wrote to each other not only shed light on just this type of dialogue but also reveal their own self-assessments. In 1598, the three Yuan brothers discussed among themselves both the West Lake trip and Tao Wangling’s health and cultivation practices. Soon after, Tao received a letter from Yuan Zongdao, who wrote, “I know that you and your brother have recently closed your doors and are extremely vigorous in investigating Chan (canchan). I am envious.” But he also questioned the viability of Tao’s approach. Apparently, Zongdao knew that the Tao brothers were trying a number of different critical phrases. He suggested that they would be better off cultivating with just one phrase. Citing an unnamed Chan source, Zongdao asserted that 87

88

Yuan Hongdao’s letter to Wu Hua lists many of the places they visited. Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 197–198. A 1601 donation circular that Tao wrote further evidences a 1597 trip to Tianmu with Yuan Hongdao. Xie’an ji, 1837–1838. Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 22–23.

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“a thousand doubts are just one doubt,” and “if one fixes the mind in a single place, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished.” He himself cultivated only the one-word critical phrase “wu” from the gongan that asks whether a dog has buddha-nature. Offering that he had made progress, he wondered what Tao Wangling thought of his suggestion.89 In the same year, a separate letter arrived from Yuan Hongdao, who also criticized the two brothers’ cultivation techniques as wrongheaded. At this juncture, Hongdao conceived of Chan not in terms of something that had to be realized or understood, but something quite independent of human effort. Just as eyebrows are horizontal, ears hear, and eyes see irrespective of human understanding, so too Chan exists irrespective of any particular individual’s cultivation practice. In other words, Hongdao thought the Tao brothers were still trying too hard and, as a consequence, they had in effect narrowed their sights to the apprehension of a concrete, conceptually constructed entity.90 Zhuhong, whom Yuan and Tao visited on their 1597 trip around the West Lake, likely inspired their sudden interest in Pure Land cultivation, for we have evidence starting from the sixth month of 1598, the year his father died, that Tao was reciting the name Amitābha Buddha. On the day of the funeral, he wrote Jiao Hong to complain about his ill health and unaffordable funeral and burial expenses, adding that reciting the Buddha’s name was the most expeditious (shengli 省力) method of cultivation.91 In fact, when Tao visited Feng Mengzhen in the third month of the following year, Feng observed that Tao recited the name Amitābha Buddha a thousand times per day and that he still maintained Chan practices.92 That same year, Yuan Hongdao finished his only Pure Land commentary, the Comprehensive Treatise on the West (Xifang helun 西方合論), yet his curiosity was apparently short-lived—he soon demonstrated a renewed interest in Chan.93 Conversely, Zhuhong had a lasting impact on Tao Wangling, resulting in his extensive promotion of Zhuhong’s ideas on not killing and on releasing life (see chapter 4). In another letter to Jiao Hong, 89 90 91

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Yuan Zongdao, Bai Su zhai leiji, 128. Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 72. In this same letter, Tao further admitted that though his cultivation was not yet mature and his understanding lacking, his determination (zhi 志) was as solid as a rock and as great as heaven. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2183. The entry for that visit on the seventeenth day of the third month of 1599 further states that Feng Mengzhen met with both Zhou Rudeng and Tao Wangling, together and separately. Feng Mengzhen, Riji, 57.10–11. Yuan Hongdao next wrote a commentary on the Platform Sūtra and his 1604 collection of essays, Coral Grove (Shanhu lin 珊瑚林), included a considerable amount of Chan materials.

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Tao Wangling further wrote that, from Huang Hui’s recent letter, he knew that Huang had taken Buddhist precepts (in 1601) and was diligently cultivating Pure Land recitation. Although Tao admittedly had yet to take the precepts, he noted the similarity in their current cultivation regimens and that the two of them were in “two different places but of the same mind” (異地一心).94 Tao’s increasing commitment to Buddhist practice did not curtail his Confucian interests. His epistolary exchanges discuss both in practically the same breath. From 1601 until his death in 1609, he participated in various Confucian-oriented activities. For example, in the autumn of 1599, Tao Wangling, Zhou Rudeng, and ten others gathered at Wang Yangming’s shrine and vowed to continue propagating his teachings. And in 1601, Tao not only met with Zhou Rudeng and fifty others for an evening at Tianquan Bridge to commemorate the famous dialogue between Wang Yangming’s disciples Wang Ji and Qian Dehong, but he also worked on opening a new releasing-life pond.95 On their 1605 trip to Mount Potalaka 菩陀山 in Zhejiang Province, Tao Wangling and Zhou Rudeng met the well-respected monk Miaofeng and other lesser-known monks. The following year, Tao edited Luo Rufang’s work and wrote prefaces to Zhou Rudeng’s latest publications.96 Clearly, compared to the strains of self-cultivation, editing and publishing, building releasing-life ponds, and restoring Confucian shrines and academies were relatively easy undertakings. From the late 1590s onward, Tao Wangling’s cultivation practice continued to flounder. Epistolary exchanges indicate that, from circa 1597 to 1604, Tao was recognized for his diligence but made little discernible progress. One undated letter he wrote to Zhou Rudeng offered this succinct self-assessment: “My ­current difficulty is that my awakening is not yet complete and my doubts have not yet receded. Neither my comprehension (jiechu 解處) and behavior (xingchu 行處) nor verbal expression (shuochu 說處) and lived execution (shou­yongchu 受用處) correspond.”97 The passage first reiterates the Buddhist criteria for successful cultivation and then repeats them in Confucian terms: the goal was to create a symbiotic relationship between one’s understanding and the way one lived. Despite his ability to articulate a clear shared vision of what constituted the goal of self-cultivation, progress continued to elude him. As he persisted in his efforts to realize this goal, during this period Tao frequently tried critical phrase practice. In another letter to Zhou Rudeng, Tao 94 95 96 97

Xie’an ji, 2376. Peng Guoxiang, “Zhou Haimen xiansheng nianpu gao,” 365. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 358–360. Ibid., 2160–2161.

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claimed that five to seven years previously he thought he had found the direct path, but that now he had once again taken up the critical phrase “the myriad dharmas all return to the one” (萬法歸一) although he was no longer seeking a quick resolution. Distancing himself from Zhou Rudeng, he thanked him for his advice but said he found it “suffocating” (menmen 悶悶).98 Zhou Rudeng and Tao Wangling were at loggerheads over whether critical phrase practice was the right choice, with Zhou preferring a less aggressive, natural Chan method of mental discipline akin to letting thoughts float by like images reflected in a mirror. Apparently Jiao Hong too pushed Tao Wangling in that direction. In his defense, Tao first conceded that, even though the ancients had said that distancing oneself from study and cultivating non-action was the most sublime method, he had rejected it in favor of critical phrase practice.99 His differences with Zhou Rudeng and Jiao Hong may have driven Tao Wangling to seek help from Zhuhong, who singularly promoted the idea of a slow, gradual progress through critical phrase practice over a more subitist approach.100 Of the six extant letters Zhuhong wrote to Tao Wangling, five are on the topic of critical phrase cultivation, several of which were written circa 1600–1605, since they mention texts published in the early 1600s that Zhuhong sent: Spurring Through the Chan Barrier and Jottings by a Bamboo Window. Zhuhong assured Tao Wangling that the critical phrase “the myriad dharmas all return to the one” was equivalent to “Who is it that recites?” However, by the end of these exchanges Tao had chosen for himself the character for death (si 死), a ­critical phrase already popularized by Zhongfeng Mingben. Zhuhong

98 99 100

Ibid., 2164. Ibid., 2383. Tao likely turned to other monks, too. However, little evidence survives of any direct mentoring by Zhanran Yuancheng, whom Tao knew well—there are no letters and only six of Yuancheng’s poems mention Tao. Likewise, Tao met Zhenke only two years before the monk’s death in 1602, and he was not close to Deqing. Tao was introduced to Miyun Yuanwu in 1607 and immediately formed a strong bond with him, praising his writings as easier to comprehend than those of Dahui Zonggao. Unfortunately, Tao Wangling fell ill shortly thereafter and died in 1609, again leaving little time for mentoring. Although the annalistic biography Feiyin Tongrong created for his master, Miyun Yuanwu, states that Yuanwu stayed at Tao Wangling’s studio briefly in 1608 and again in 1609, Araki Kengo has strongly refuted that claim. Araki Kengo, “Tō Bōrei to seimeigaku,” 130. In contrast, based on the same source, Jiang Wu emphasized their relationship. Perhaps Tao helped propel Yuanwu’s career when he was still relatively unknown, but the influence was likely onesided and short-lived, since Tao Wangling died so soon after their first meeting. Wu Jiang, Enlightenment in Dispute, 86–87. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2261.

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praised his ­decision, adding that Zhongfeng had said it would quickly lead to enlightenment.101 In another demonstration of how news of others’ cultivation exercises traveled, in 1601 Yuan Hongdao wrote Tao Wangling that he had heard from Hu Tailiu 胡太六 (n.d.) that Tao was being even more diligent; and in a 1602 letter to Wang Tu 王圖 (1577–1627; jinshi 1583), Yuan Hongdao mentioned that his friend Tao was making immeasurable progress in investigating Chan (canchan), but that he was not yet awakened.102 Although few letters describing Tao Wangling’s cultivation practices can be definitively dated to the period between 1602 and 1606,103 the epistolary trail picks up again in 1606, with a letter Yuan Hongdao wrote praising  Tao’s breakthrough in his capacity to maintain a still mind (anxin 安心). He had made this judgment based on Tao’s ability to remain emotionally unmoved by his surroundings, reduce his desires, and separate himself from worldly causes, all while continuing to carry out his official duties. Judging spiritual maturity based on the level of emotional control and distance from desires mirrors Yuan Hongdao’s earlier criteria in his judgments of Yu Chunxi, fitting squarely within contemporary discourse on this topic. He further wrote that Tao was mistaken if he thought that he had “not had a realization” (bu liao 不了). In fact, although Yuan Hongdao’s letter does not use the typical Chan expressions for “awakened,” other than liao, the letter content indicates that he thought Tao Wangling had finally had a substantial realization, if not final awakening, that is, one that demonstrated a close relationship between his everyday conduct and level of cultivation.104 In yet another elision of the boundary between Confucian and Buddhist ideas, Yuan Hongdao’s letter connected Tao’s success directly to the Yangming Confucian idea expressed by Luo Jinxi: “A sage is a commoner who can still the mind (anxin). A commoner is a sage who cannot still his mind.”105 The letter further reveals that Yuan Hongdao had read Zhou Rudeng’s latest manuscript and was asking Tao Wangling to show Zhou his comments. If indeed Tao then shared this letter with his mentor, Zhou too would have been privy to Yuan Hongdao’s assessment of Tao’s 101 102 103

104 105

Zhuhong, Quanji, 4552–4555. Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 83, 168. Tao Wangling’s twenty-seven undated letters to Jiao Hong dwell on his anxieties over progress and choice of spiritual exercises; however, because these letters are notoriously difficult to arrange in any sort of chronological sequence, it has been difficult to include them here. Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2165, 2168–2169. Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 89. Luo Rufang, Xujiang Luo Jinxi xiansheng quanji 旴江羅近溪先生全集 (1618. rare book, copy held in Taiwan National Library), 6.52.

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cultivation. Evidence of such open exchanges run throughout Yuan Hongdao’s epistolary collection. There are two sources that further shed light on how Tao Wangling may have achieved his so-called breakthrough: at some point, he gave up his earlier insistence on critical phrase practice and adopted a cultivation regimen more closely aligned with the visions of Yuan Hongdao and Zhou Rudeng. The first source is Zhou Rudeng’s short text entitled “On Stilling the Mind (Xin’an shuo 心安說).”106 The text highlights the paradox between attempts to treat the mind as an entity that can be calmed and the assertion that, because the mind is inconceivable, there is no entity in need of calming.107 Zhou further drew attention to a second paradox: those who want to calm their minds should be without doubt, whereas those who desired spiritual transport were told that doubt was an essential catalyst to liberation. The second source—a letter Tao wrote to Zhou some time between 1602 and 1606—confirms that Zhou had sent Tao instructions on this technique, for which he thanked him by first admitting that, for him, receiving Zhou’s teachings was truly the equivalent of offering a reward to a foolish child or guiding the return of a fugitive son. Having disregarded Zhou’s previous overtures on how to cultivate, Tao was now more receptive. Calling critical phrase cultivation and recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha less effective methods, Tao described his current regimen: Yet my qi is crude and floating, and I cannot fully benefit from this. However, recently I have some grasp of this expeditious method (shengli 省力) of “following along” (xunchang 尋常). In my humble opinion, one should cultivate a practice of following the true mind while responding (ren 任) to various [external] conditions. [As a method] to discern the emptiness of the myriad dharmas for the sake of liberation and self-realization, this is quite economical and convenient. Yet after some time I frequently become very tired … 106 107

Zhou Rudeng, Zhengxue lu, 965–967. In Chan literature, the term anxin is most often associated with the dialogue between Bodhidharma and the Second Chan Patriarch Huike—a story Zhou discusses in his instructions, although there are also Confucian texts that use this term. Huike professed an inability to calm/still his mind—some translators use “pacify.” Thereupon Bodhi­ dharma asked Huike to present his mind, but Huike could not locate it. Bodhidharma then offered to still whatever disrupted the mind, not the “mind” itself. This incident is often believed to be the catalyst for Huike’s enlightenment. In Tao’s time, both “calming the mind” and “the inconceivableness of mind” were prime topics. This story is repeated in a number of places; see Biyan lu (T2003: 48.140.b4).

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 The years have quickly passed and I have already lived half my life. These days I just take the phrase from your letter “grasp that which is ungraspable” (liao wusuode 了無所得) as my four-character mantra (zhenyan 真言). How could I venture to test its effectiveness (kexiao 課 效) in such a short time? When convenient, [please] give me detailed instructions on this.108 To grasp or apprehend that which is unfathomable, a reference to the mind, is exactly what Zhou Rudeng wished Tao to do. “To follow along” (xunchang) or “let things be” (renyun 任運) were two supposedly “natural” techniques embraced by third-generation Yangming Confucians. By once again changing his technique, Tao did not resolve all his doubts about whether he had the right method or whether there had been any palpable progress, the very issues raised in sections of the letter not translated here. Still, this technique, which resonated equally with Chan sudden approaches to cultivation and paradoxically with critical phrase practice (through the use of a four-character mantra), seems to have helped. In conclusion, this detailed analysis of Tao Wangling’s cultivation practice and of the various opinions proffered by his friends and mentors offers irrefutable evidence of just how important self-cultivation, and particularly Buddhist cultivation, was to a lay precept-disciple like Tao Wangling. A true lifelong “student of the Way” (学道之人),109 Tao exhibited an avid interest in Confucian, Buddhist, and Daoist sources and wrote commentaries on texts from all three traditions,110 though most of his cultivation practice vacillated between Yangming Confucian methods and various Buddhist techniques. In 1595 Tao Wangling was naïvely optimistic, having already had a few minor flashes of insight that led him to believe he would soon experience an ultimate level of enlightenment. However, by 1601 at age forty, Tao Wangling had become disillusioned, frustrated, and despondent. In the end, Jiao Hong judged Tao Wangling to have been a diligent practitioner who was never fully awakened.111 Along the way, Tao’s friends certainly monitored his progress, offering advice and comfort. During those middle years, Tao wrestled with whether to take the advice of others or stick to his chosen method. Practically obsessed with generating 108 109 110

111

Tao Wangling, Xie’an ji, 2170–2171. Yuan Hongdao, Yuan Zhonglang chidu, 18. In his preliminary analysis, Araki Kengo discovered that Tao’s commentary to the Zhuangzi employed Huayan doctrine, whereas he used Tiantai doctrine to explain the Daode jing. Araki Kengo, “Tō Bōrei to seimeigaku,” 125. Jiao Hong offered this opinion in a letter to a friend. Jiao Hong, Danyuan ji 澹園集 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1999), 863. Also cited in Araki Kengo, “Tō Bōrei to seimeigaku,” 124.

Evaluating Attainment

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transportive episodes, Tao attempted variously to subdue his mind, in part through years of critical phrase cultivation, recitation of the name Amitābha Buddha, and finally a method of “letting go.” But whatever the technique, Tao struggled. He was deeply concerned about the lack of tangible evidence of his progress, both in terms of his mental disposition and his conduct in everyday life. On the other hand, Tao Wangling’s epistolary exchanges reveal not only his awareness of the larger contemporary discourse on cultivation but also his unremitting personal commitment to mind cultivation. By 1606, three years before he died, Tao Wangling appears to have worked through his frustrations and, though Tao could not see it yet, Yuan Hongdao praised his progress. However, evaluations did not always end with someone’s death. In a letter to a lay disciple, the monk Tongxiu Yulin 通琇玉林 (1614–1675) claimed that Tao Wangling was not thoroughly awakened, despite the fact that Tao had died five years before Yulin was born—a proclamation based on little more than hearsay.112

Held in High Esteem: Wang Erkang

Monks and lay disciples differed in their judgment of Yu Chunxi’s spiritual attainments, while Tao Wangling’s friends concluded that he was extra­ ordinarily diligent yet hardly advanced. In contrast, Wang Erkang 王爾康 (1567–1604) was universally recognized by the Fellowship for his high level of spiritual attainment.113 That other Fellowship members described Erkang as such again demonstrates the willingness of these men to make pronouncements even on those they judged to be of a much higher spiritual level than themselves. Asked to serve as official examiners in 1595, Tao Wangling and Huang Hui were particularly impressed with one candidate, Wang Erkang, and successfully promoted him over the objections of some detractors. From 1595 onward, Wang Erkang became part of the network. In spite of his acclaim, no collection of writings by Wang Erkang is known to have survived; to date, I have found

112

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The lay disciple, Tao Youlan 陶友蘭, is not part of the Fellowship. Tongxiu Yulin, “Fu Youlan Tao jushi,” in Yulin yulu 玉林語錄 11th fascicle, in Dajue Puji yulin chanshi yulu 大 覺普濟玉林禅師語錄 (Taipei: Wenshu chubanshe, 1989). Wang Erkang had two epithets: z. Dao’an 道安; h. Layman Xinghai 性海居士. His dharma name was Daxing 大行.

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only two short works in monastic gazetteers.114 What we can discern about his activities must be gleaned from scattered references found throughout the writings of others. For instance, when passing through Wenjiang 文江 (Jiangxi) on his way to exile in Leizhou in the spring of 1596, Deqing visited with him; in 1599 Wang Erkang financed the meal for a releasing-life meeting presided over by Zhuhong; and Tao Wangling listed him among participants at a 1602 jianghui in Beijing.115 Though not exhaustive, these three references offer some evidence as to the range of Wang Erkang’s participation. Tao Wangling wrote the “career biography” (xingzhuang 行狀) used for Wang Erkang’s funeral epitaph—one focused primarily on his spiritual trajectory, not his official career. The text includes many hagiographical elements.116 Apparently, Erkang’s father, after noticing that his son had been reading the Sūtra of Complete Enlightenment, asked him to explain a passage. Standing there in silence, Erkang had a sudden realization, resulting in a deep understanding of the text. Afterwards, he continued to read Buddhist texts and tried meditation. He became a precept-disciple of Zhuhong and diligently cultivated Chan. As in the case of Zhuhong and Zeng Fengyi, sound played a crucial role in his awakening: Wang Erkang was awakened (wu 悟) one day when his sedan chair cracked. His awakening was subsequen