Xuanzang Ordains A Pine 玄奘摩頂松

At the beginning of the Tang era there was a monk called Xuanzang who went to the western regions and brought scriptures, in a single journey of seventeen years.[1] On the day of his departure, in the Lingyan Monastery in Qizhou, a pine stood in the courtyard, and Zang touched his hand to its branches, saying: “I go west to seek the teachings of the Buddha; you should grow to the west; if I return, these twigs should face east: let my pupils and disciples know of it.”[2] When he left, the branches pointed westward year by year, growing several zhang (c. 3.3m). One day, they were suddenly pointed to the east, and his pupils and disciples said: “The Master has returned.” They thus went west to greet him. Zang had indeed returned, and obtained six hundred volumes of Buddhist scriptures. To this day people still call it ‘the ordained pine’.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.17 (Tale 86):

玄奘摩頂松

唐初有僧玄奘往西域取經,一去十七年。始去之日,於齊州靈巖寺院,有松一本立於庭,奘以手摩其枝曰:「吾西去求佛教,汝可西長;若歸,即此枝東向:使吾門人弟子知之。」及去,其枝年年西指,約長數丈。一年忽東向指,門人弟子曰:「教主歸矣。」乃西迎之。奘果還歸,得佛經六百部。至今衆謂之「摩頂松」。

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories) in Du yi zhi, Xuanshi Zhi 獨異志,宣室志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories, Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), edited by Zhang Yongqin 张永钦 and Hou Zhiming 侯志明 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983)

An account in the Taiping Guangji pairs this story with a tale describing an incident during Xuanzang’s journey:

Xuanzang 玄奘

The Śramaṇa (Buddhist ascetic) Xuanzang’s secular surname was Chen, and he was from Yanshi County.[3] As a youth he was intelligent, and studious in behaviour. At the beginning of the Tang Wude era (618-26 CE), he went to the Western Regions to fetch scriptures. When he reached the Kubhā realm, the road became perilous, with tigers and leopards[4] he could not pass. Zang did not know what to do, so he locked himself into a room and sat. When night came he opened the door, and saw an elderly monk, whose head and face bore sores and wounds, and body showed discharge and blood. Sitting alone on the bed, he had no idea from where he had come; Zang therefore bowed courteously and diligently sought his help. The monk dictated a section of the Duoxinjing (the Prajñā-Pāramitā Hrdaya Sūtra), and ordered Zang to recite it. He then found that the landscape broadened and flattened, and the road opened up, the wild beasts hiding themselves, and the monsters retreating into concealment, allowing him to reach the land of the Buddha. He took six hundred works of scripture and returned, and his Prajñā-Pāramitā Hrdaya Sūtra is recited to this day. At the beginning, when Zang was about to depart for the Western Regions, there was a pine tree in the Lingyan Monastery, and Zang, standing in the courtyard, touched its branches with his hand and said: “I am going west to seek the Buddha’s teachings. You should grow to the west, and if I return, you should stop and turn to the east, so that my disciples can be informed.” He then left. Its branches then grew westward as year followed year, reaching several zhang in length (a zhang is c. 3.3m). One year it suddenly turned back around. His disciples said: “The Master has returned!” They then went west to greet him, and Zang had indeed come back. To this day people still call it the ‘ordained pine.’ Taken from Duyizhi and Tangxinyu.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), ii, 92.606:

玄奘

沙門玄奘俗姓陳。偃師縣人也。幼聰慧。有操行。唐武德初。往西域取經。行至罽賓國。道險。虎豹不可過。奘不知為計。乃鏁房門而坐。至夕開門。見一老僧。頭面瘡痍。身體膿血。牀上獨坐。莫知來由。奘乃禮拜勤求。僧口授多心經一卷。令奘誦之。遂得山川平昜。道路開闢。虎豹藏形。魔鬼潛跡。遂至佛國。取經六百部而歸。其多心經至今誦之。初奘將往西域。於靈巖寺有松一樹。奘立於庭。以手摩其枝曰。吾西去求佛教。汝可西長。若吾歸。即却東廻。使吾弟子知之。及去。其枝年年西指。約長數丈。一年忽東廻。門人弟子曰。教主歸矣。乃西迎之。奘果還。至今衆謂此松為摩頂松。出獨異志及唐新語

[1] On Xuanzang (c. 602-64 CE), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xuanzang.

[2] The late Glen Dudbridge states that this was a pine twig planted by Xuanzang, rather than an extant tree standing in the courtyard when he visited; I don’t see this reading in either version (but am happy to be corrected). See Glen Dudbridge, The “Hsi-yu Chi”: A Study of Antecedents to the Sixteenth-Century Chinese Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), p. 22.

[3] On the term Śramaṇa, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9Arama%E1%B9%87a.

[4] The phrase 虎豹could also refer to violent people.

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Painting Connecting To Spirits 繪畫通神

Zhang Sengyou of the Liang was skilled at drawing, and served as prefectural chief of Wuxing. Whenever Emperor Wu (464-549 CE) thought of one of his vassal princes, he would order Sengyou to go and draw their portrait, which was like a double of the subject’s face. Once, while in the Tianhuang Monastery in Jiangling, he painted the Buddha, Confucius and the Ten Sages, and the emperor asked: “Why draw these in a Buddhist temple?” He replied: “Some day this will benefit them.” Later, when Zhou burned out the Buddhists, in order to construct a Confucian hall, this alone was saved from the flames. Moreover, when he painted four dragons at the Jiangling Anle Monastery, he did not dot their eyes. People questioned this, and he replied: “If dotted they will fly off.” The crowd thought he was joking, and insisted he dot them. In an instant they heard a thunderclap, and two dragons climbed the clouds and soared upwards; only the two without the eye-dots remained behind. This is painting that connects to spirits.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.14 (Tale 76):

繪畫通神

梁張僧繇善畫,為吴興太守。武帝每思諸王在外藩者,即令僧繇乘傳往寫其貌,如對其面。嘗於江陵天皇寺畫佛并仲尼及十哲,帝曰:「釋門之內畫此,何也?」對曰:「異日賴之。」至後周焚滅佛教,以此殿有儒聖,獨不焚之。又於金陵安樂寺畫四龍,不點睛。人問之,答曰:「點則飛去。」衆人以為虛誕,固請點之。頃刻雷霆,二龍乘雲騰上;其二不點者猶在。畫之通神若此。

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories) in Du yi zhi, Xuanshi Zhi 獨異志,宣室志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories, Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), edited by Zhang Yongqin 张永钦 and Hou Zhiming 侯志明 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983)

 

A Parrot Is Awakened To The Dharma 鸚鵡悟佛

When Wei Nankang (i.e., Wei Gao, 745-805CE) was garrisoning Shu, he constantly cared for a parrot, which was extremely intelligent. The person who had tamed it had also told it of Buddhist philosophy, saying: “If you wish to worship the Buddha, you must use thought to attain freedom from thought.” The parrot would then raise its head and spread its wings, as if it were listening, as if it were accepting. When receiving teaching on Buddhist thought, it would remain silent without answering, and then chant: “Amitabha” once, as if to indicate that it had been awakened, achieving insight into causality through thought, and into the truth through no-thought. One day it did not shake and did not fall forward, but knocked its wings, curled its feet, covered itself and died. Duke Wei ordered it be cremated, which left ten relics, for the burial of which the duke erected a pagoda, naming it the Parrot Pagoda.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.267 (Tale 486):

鸚鵡悟佛

韋南康鎮蜀時,常籠養一鸚鵡,甚慧。馴養者曉以佛理,曰:「若欲念佛,當由有念,以至無念。」鵡即仰首奮翼,若聽若承,及教之念佛,則默然不答,或詰其不念,則唱言「阿彌陀佛」一聲,意若有悟,以有念為緣生,以無念為真際也。一日不震不仆,款翼委足,弇然而絕。韋公命焚之,有舍利子十枚,公為立塔瘞之,號曰鸚鵡塔。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

 

A Clam Reveals Its Power 蛤蜊顯聖

When Chancellor Shi attained power, the governor of the capital selected a tray of clams as an offering. That night the gentleman saw a gleam of light emerging from one clam among the others in the tray. Picking up and examining it, he realized it was quite unlike the others, and when struck it would not crack open. The gentleman suspected that it was a marvel, so placed it on a table, burned incense and prayed to it. Presently the clam cracked open of its own accord, revealing two people, their faces and eyebrows dignified and handsome, bodies and physiques extremely beautiful, hair in buns, hair tasseled and ornamented, wearing lotus-flower shoes, just like those statues people in this world devote to the servants of the Buddha. The gentleman then had a temple grotto carved from various fragrant woods, and to calm their spirits added ornamentation of gold and jade, until the brightness dazzled the eye. He ordered the gathered monks to take them into the Buddhist monastery and attend to them. It is not known how all of this finished.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.267 (Tale 485):

蛤蜊顯聖

史丞相當國,京尹選大蛤蜊一盤以獻。是夜公見盤中一蛤蜊有光,取而視之,獨異其他,劈而不裂。公疑異之,取而致几上,焚香祝之。俄頃蛤自裂開,中有二人,形眉端秀,體格悉備,螺髻纓絡,足履蓮花,與人世所事佛像一般。公遂以諸香木刻成巖殿,以安其神,加以金玉為飾,光耀奪目,令衆僧送入佛寺安奉,後不知所終。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

A Woman Dies and Becomes A Snake 女死變蛇

A family in Linchuan had a daughter, very shrewd and clever, who died at age thirteen, and was buried next to the White Pagoda at Liutai. After several days, a white lotus flower grew up on the grave, shaped like a big fungus, about a foot in size at its base; due to this praise by the assembled immortals it was called the Buddha-girl Tomb. A scholar passed it and remarked to the crowd: “There must be a monstrous thing beneath; we should excavate and examine it urgently.” When the crowd dug her up, they tore open the coffin to see a huge python atop the jacket; there was no longer a girl at all, and they released it in their confusion. The girl’s mother said: “While pregnant with this girl, in dreams I repeatedly saw a huge python come and touch the bed curtains; crying out and looking with the lamp, all was quiet and there was nothing to see. Now I realise that this was an uncanny thing.”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.243 (Tale 439):

女死變蛇

臨川民家生一女,甚慧黠,年十三死,瘞於流臺白塔之側。數日,有白蓮花生於墳上,似大菌,蒂長尺許,衆神之稱,(「之稱」原作「稱之」,據明刻本改。)曰佛女墳。有一士人過之,言於衆曰:「下必有怪物,急宜掘視。」衆掘之,剖棺見一巨蟒在衣衿上,不復有女子矣,惑遂解。其母云:「孕此女時,寢夢間屢見巨蟒來觸幃帳,呼燈視之,寂無所有,今方知是怪物也。」

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

A Clay Mendicant Buys Chestnuts 泥行者買栗

The Sizhou Buddha of Longquan’s Wugou Hall was very powerful. Every day at dusk there was a mendicant who would take up the begging bowl and monk’s staff, walking and singing in the town, saying that the sects had become one text; nobody knew to which monastery he belonged. One night it happened that, at chestnut roasting store at the end of the Jichuan Bridge, a single lamp still burned, and the mendicant held up his bold and bought chestnuts. Following him on tiptoe, he was seen returning to the Buddhist temple, at which those people said: “The temple has only one monk; where did this mendicant come from?” The next day they went to look, and saw that there were several chestnuts in the alms bowl held by the carved wood mendicant, and then they understood. This secret being revealed, he never again went out.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.225 (Tale 401):

泥行者買栗

龍泉無垢院泗州佛甚靈,每黃昏時,有行者將鉢盂錫杖,行歌於市,曰家化一文,人莫知其為何寺之行者。忽一夜,濟川橋頭有炒栗鋪賣,孤燈猶存,行者持鉢買栗。躡其後追之,見歸無垢,其人曰:「院只一僧,安有此行者?」次早往觀,見木乂行者鉢盂中有栗數枚,方知之。此機一泄,不復出矣。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

Duke Yi Lays Foundations 益公屋基

When Duke Yi of Zhou resigned as minister and returned home, he wandered field and village at leisure. One day, bringing along a diviner to look at the land more than ten li beyond Wunikeng, seeing a large area owned by a peasant family, he said: “This place is ringed by peaks and water; wouldn’t it be perfect as a pleasure garden?” Soon after this speech an elderly man and woman emerged to meet them, saying: “Last night we dreamed that a constellation achieving Buddha merit came seeking land; today the noble minister arrives; we wish to present the land as an offering.” [85] The Duke compensated them generously to build a house elsewhere. Suddenly he saw that there were three unclaimed tombs of two or three zhang in length. Those around him wished to remove them, but he said: “In life we have neighbours, and in death too. Every year we will honour them, preparing wine three times, a jar of food, and ten bundles of paper as offerings.” This was later inscribed on a wooden tablet before the hall, ensuring that his descendants continued in honour and respect; this can surely be called greatness in faith and magnanimity.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.84-85 (Tale 146):

益公屋基

周益公辭相歸,徜徉田里。日攜術者過十里外烏泥坑相地,見一農家住場曰:「此處山水環抱,將可為樂丘乎?」言未幾,翁媼出迎曰:「夜來夢見婁至德佛來尋地,今日相公來,願以地獻。」 [85] 公厚資別為造屋。忽見二、三丈許有三所無主墓,左右者欲去之,公曰:「生有鄰,死亦如之。每年拜掃,當備酒三行、飯一盂、紙十束同祭。」仍鏤榜堂前,使子孫遵守,可謂忠厚之至矣。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).