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Study on the Buddhism at Mt. Jiuhua During the Ming and Qing Dynasties

Author: LuZhongShuai
Tutor: HeXiaoRong
School: Nankai University
Course: History of Ancient China
Keywords: Jiuhuashan Buddhism Dizang belief (Ksitigarbha belief) monks secularization
CLC: B949
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2013
Downloads: 52
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Mt. Jiuhua, Mt. Wutai, Mt. Emei and Mt. Putuo are called "Four Great Buddhist Mountains" in China. The Jiuhua Buddhism has a long history. As early as in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Buddhism already spread to Mt. Jiuhua. Venerable Tanhao was the founder of Buddhism there. In719AD, Shi Dizang (Korean spelling: Kim Gyo-gak,696-794), or Jin Qiaojue, a Silla prince (today’s Gyeongju city in South Korea) came to Jiuhua Mountain. He stayed at the Jiuhua Mountain with a life devoted to practice. Having built temples, he committed himself to preaching to the local people. Thus, Buddhism was able to take root at Mt. Jiuhua. Buddhism boomed in the Tang Dynasty due to Kim’s influence. More temples were built and more people gathered there. During the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368), the Jiuhua Buddhism continued to expand. Monks built more temples. The imperial court bestowed tablets to a number of key temples. At the same time, a group of eminent monks started their practice and propagated Buddha dharma there.During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the secularization in Buddhism in China became widespread. It further amalgamated popular beliefs and local people’s lives. The Bodhisattva belief, the practice of burning incense and prayers were quite influential then. Manjusri, Samantabhadra, Avalokitesvara and Ksitigarbha were popular in every corner of the country. With the widespread of secularization, people got confused with Shi Dizang, the monk, and Dizang (Ksitigarbha) Bodhisattva. It was in the Qianlong period (1736-1795) that Mount Jiuhua formally became a holy land of Dizang Bodhisattva worship. It emerged as one of the pilgrimage centers for people to burn incense and worship. People may feel released from fears of suffering in real life, and also find relief from the fear of suffering in the hell after death. In other words, people with Dizang belief are concerned about both present life and after life. Although it was much later for Mount Jiuhua to become one of the famous Buddhist mountains than the other three, its speed in development was the fastest in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Other reasons for its fastest development may be ascribed to emperors’support for the propagation. The Dizang belief as the core of Buddhism at Mt. Jiuhua during the periods of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) was almost omnipresent there. Monks did not only propagate the Dizang belief, but also put the spirit of Dizang into practice. The culture of "flesh bodies"(roushen肉身)rprefers to "the bodies" that the monks left behind upon their death. Scholar-officials and common folks alike spared no effort in worshipping this culture. They came to pay homage to Dizang Bodhisattva from thousands of miles. Scholars wrote enduring stories to praise Dizang Bodhisattva. So many legendary stories about Shi Dizang (Kim Gyo-gak) came into existence, although many of them could not be proved. This reflected how Shi Dizang impacted the local people.Apart from the booming beliefs in Dizang bodhisattva at Mt Jiuhua during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, both the Buddhist studies and Buddhist schools developed. The development was characterized by stages. The early Ming witnessed a period of recovery in which there were few eminent monks. Most of them were Chan monks. Buddhism at Mt. Jiuhua reached its highlight from the mid-Ming to the mid-Qing dynasties (15th-18th centuries?). More eminent monks came to preach at Mt. Jiuhua. Thus, Buddhist studies further flourished-not only Chan Buddhism, but other schools, including the Pure Land School, Huayan School and others. In the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Buddhism at Mt. Jiuhua suffered a heavy loss due to Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Rebellion in the years of1850-1864. Following this social unrest was a period of recovery. The Buddhism in this period, although declined, was able to grow and recover a bit. Some eminent monks who had good knowledge of Buddhism came to Mt. Jiuhua to propagate Dharma. The three schools-Chan, Pure Land, Huayan and Vinaya schools coexisted with the Chan as the mainstream. Generally speaking, influenced by the macro-environment of the Ming-Qing dynasties, Buddhism at Mt. Jiuhua in this period lacked creativity in doctrinal studies. Monks just transmitted what they learned from their masters. This showed that the Buddhist studies at Mt. Jiuhua in this period of Ming-Qing dynasties looked prosperous, but only superficially.It is observed that the number of the monks, who lived in the Mount Jiuhua, increased or decreased with the rise and fall of Buddhism. In the early Ming Dynasty, there were few monks. During the late Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty, as Buddhism reached its height, more monks gathered, including many eminent monks. In the late Qing Dynasty, although this was the period of recovery, there were many eminent monks at the mountain. Monks usually strictly followed "The Baizhong’s Monastic Code Decreed by Emperor Shundi in1335." When their benefits were impaired, the authorities would intervene.There were two types of education for monks:sutra lecture and school training. The lecturers include monks at Mt. Jiuhua, as well as eminent monks from other areas in China. The main sources of life for monks were incense, alms, rent of fields and commerce. Sometimes, the income of these sources was big. However, in general, the financial situation was weak because it was restricted by socio-political and natural conditions.The monasteries of Mt. Jiuhua are located in the Jiuhua Street, Min Park, Tiantai Hill, Back Hill and at the foot of the mountain. During the late Ming and the early Qing, monks built many monasteries that formed an architectural complex, including big temples, such as Huacheng Temple,"Flesh-bodies Hall" and others. They were magnificent and attractive to many pilgrims. The funds for building these temples came from the collections of alms by monks, particularly by abbots. Donations from big families, merchants, local commoners, the imperial court and local governments were important sources.The architecture of monasteries was palatial, and residential. Most of the temples were built in the residential style. The interior decoration was tastefully decorated with superb techniques. The builders designed images with emphasis on functions. The monastery complex was constructed on the side of hills, high and low, winding and round, in a harmonious way. The beauty of the monastery complex was enhanced by its natural scenery and ancient villages. It looked simple, quiet, delicate and wonderful. These buildings demonstrated the tradition of architecture at the Mt. Jiuhua. They were also symbolic of the religious life in a secular society.The Buddhism at Mt. Jiuhua during the period of the Ming and Qing dynasties, though followed by many worshippers, was inevitably on the way to decline in same as it was in other areas in the country. The only sign of development was the coexistence of various schools of Chinese Buddhism and the amalgamation of Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism. On the contrary, when Buddhism became more secularized, the more the holy land of Dizang Bodhisattva thrived. This was a typical characteristics-of Chinese Buddhism in the Ming-Qing dynasties. As one of the four great Buddhist mountains of Chinese Buddhism, the booming of Buddhism at Mt. Jiuhua exerted great impact on the politico-economic, and cultural situation of the locality and even nationwide. However, its impact on culture was much bigger than that in the politic and economic areas.Although the contributions of the Buddhism monks at Mt. Jiuhua made were limited in Buddhist doctrinal studies due to its secularization, it entered the rank of "Great Four Buddhist Mountains" in China during the time when Chinese Buddhist schools declined. The Dizang belief did not decline but was strengthened. It increased its influence on the common folks and enriched Chinese Buddhism. From then on,"The Four Great Buddhist Mountains" became the mainstream of Chinese Buddhism. The flourishing development of Buddhism at Mt. Jiuhua during the Ming-Qing dynasties greatly enriched the Chinese art treasures, thus greatly stimulated Buddhist culture towards secularization. It exerted great impact on folk customs at the areas of Mt. Jiuhua and other parts of the nation.

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