The Monk Da An 大安和尚

During the reign of Tang Zetian (i.e., Wu Zetian, r. 690-705 CE), there was a woman who called herself Saint Bodhisattva. Wherever a person’s mind went, this woman would always know. The Empress Dowager summoned her to court, and everything she said before and after were verified, so she was served with great respect in the palace. After several months, she came to be called the True Bodhisattva. After that the monk Da An entered the palace. The Empress Dowager asked him whether or not he had met the female Bodhisattva. An replied: “Where is the Bodhisattva? I would like to see her.” It was decreed that they should meet. The monk took on a lofty and distant demeanour. After a long pause, Dan An asked: “If you have skill in mental contemplation, try and see. Where is my mind?” The answer came: “The master’s mind is among the bells by the nine rings at the top of the pagoda.” After a little while, he asked again. She said: “Listening to the Law in the Tushita Maitreya Temple.” When he asked for a third time, he was beyond thinking or not-thinking. All were as she said. The Empress Dowager was delighted. Da An therefore placed his mind among the land of the four Arhat saints, so she would not be able to find it. Da An scolded the woman: “My mind was placed in the place of the Arhats, and you were no longer able to find it. If you were among the Bodhisattvas, how could this be the case?” The woman said she submitted, but then transformed into a female fox, descended the stairs and departed; nobody knows where she went.

From Guangyiji.

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), ix, 447.3660:

大安和尚

唐則天在位,有女人自稱聖菩薩。人心所在,女必知之。太后召入宮,前後所言皆驗,宮中敬事之。數月,謂為真菩薩。其後大安和尚入宮,太后問見女菩薩未?安曰:「菩薩何在?願一見之。」敕令與之相見。和尚風神邈然。久之,大安曰:「汝善觀心,試觀我心安在?」答曰:「師心在塔頭相輪邊鈴中。」尋復問之。曰:「在兜率天彌勒宮中聽法。」第三問之,在非非想天。「皆如其言。太后忻悅。大安因且置心於四果阿羅漢地,則不能知。大安呵曰:「我心始置阿羅漢之地,汝已不知。若置于菩薩諸佛之地,何由可料!」女詞屈,變作牝狐,下階而走,不知所適。出廣異記

Unfilial Service To In-Laws 事姑不孝

The mother of Li Sheng, of Xingzhou, was old and somewhat blind, and Li Sheng served her with great filial piety. Whenever he went out, he worried that his wife, née Jin, might fail to serve her properly, so always repeated his instructions to her several times, only setting off after he had done so. The lady Jin did not heed her husband’s advice, and did not observe the proper manners. His mother complained and grumbled about her a great deal, and Jin resented this. When she was preparing to bake shaobing biscuits to give to her mother-in-law, she noticed that dung from their baby son lay next to her. Jin took this and added it to the flour of the biscuit filling. Li’s mother had eaten half of the biscuit when she became aware if a horrible smell and could eat no more, leaving the rest and waiting for her son to return. When Li arrived, he saw that his mother had been fed with filth, so took up a cane and beat Jin until she fled, vanishing into the distance. Suddenly, a disembodied voice reported: “Yesterday the fugitive entered the King Guan Temple.” When Li Sheng went to the temple, he saw a dog lying beneath the offerings table, glowering so fiercely he did not dare approach. He then called for Jin’s mother and father to come and see, at which the hound wept streams of tears and explained: “I ought not to have served up filth to my mother-in-law in such an unfilial manner. When I entered the temple I suddenly turned into a dog!” Several days later she died.

Long ago there was a woman called A Li, whose son travelled for trade, sometimes not returning for years at a time. Her daughter-in-law, Qisao, stayed in the home. Whenever this woman cooked she prepared two dishes; coarse grains for her mother-in-law, but white rice for herself. Li was troubled by the woman’s disobedience, but had to endure her insults. Even accepting the inedible meals presented to her, as Li did not dare speak up. One day the wife went to a neighbouring house, leaving her mother-in-law at home. A monk came holding his alms bowl and begging for rice, but Li said: “I can’t fill my own belly! How can I give alms?” When the monk pointed to the white rice in the kitchen, Li said: “That is what my daughter-in-law Qisao eats. I daren’t give that away. I worry that she would certainly humiliate and insult me when she comes back. I had coarse rice for my breakfast, and have a little left over to prepare for lunch; you could take that.” Before the monk could answer, they heard Qisao arrive outside. When the woman saw the monk eating, she said, quite furiously: “If you want my white rice, you should take off your kasaya robe[1] and hand it over in exchange.” The monk then removed his robe. As the younger woman picked it up, the monk suddenly [21] vanished. The kasaya wrapped around her body and turned into cowhide. Imprisoned within, she could not take it off. A growth of cow hairs grew across the chest opening, and, gradually, body, head, face, all transformed. Her parents were hastily summoned, but when they arrived she had entirely transformed into an ox!

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.20-21 (Tale 35)

事姑不孝

邢州李生母,年老目盲,李生事之至孝。每出外,慮其妻金氏侍奉有闕,必再三囑付之而後往。金氏不聽夫語,不盡禮,母甚埋怨,金氏憤之。恰值燒餅欲進母,傍有小兒阿糞,金氏乃以麵裹糞為餅餡以進,母食既半,覺臭穢不可食,遂留以待兒歸。李生歸,見其以穢物食母,持杖擊之,金氏奔走,尋邏不見。忽有人報云:「昨日奔入關王廟中。」李生入廟,見一狗伏於案下,睜目不敢親近。遂呼金氏父母來看,此狗流涕自稱曰:「我不合以穢物奉姑不孝,忽入廟中化為狗矣!」數日而卒。

昔有婦人阿李,有子出外經商,累年不歸,止有兒婦七嫂在家。婦每飯則兩炊,姑飯以麥,婦自白飯。李稍與婦忤,必受辱罵,至於麥飯亦不進食,李忍辱而不敢言。一日婦往鄰家,留姑守舍,有僧持缽至門乞飯,李曰:「我自不能飽,安有捨施!」僧指廚中白飯,李曰:「此我兒婦七嫂自吃底,我不敢以施人,恐歸必辱罵我。我但有早食麥飯,尚有一合留備午餉,如用即取去。」僧未答,聞七嫂外歸。婦見僧乞飯,大怒曰:「汝要我白飯,可脫袈裟換。」僧即脫下。婦纔披之,僧忽 [21] 不見,袈裟著身變為牛皮,牢不可脫,胸閭先生牛毛一片,漸變身體頭面。急執其父母至,則全身化為牛矣!

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)

[1] On this robe, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasaya_(clothing).

An Honest Heart Moves Heaven 平心感天

Chen Renfu, of Tiaolu Village, Gao’an County, resided in some wealth in a farmhouse in the village, specializing in the study of Buddhism and Daoism. Each year, in the spring, he would reserve two thousand dan of millet, and, in the fifth or sixth month of the following year, when grain was expensive, he would sell his grain at a reduced price. When the money was handed over, he’d have the buyers enter the granary themselves and would not let them take anything until the scales were perfectly level. The village all called him ‘Chen Weigh-It-Yourself’. At that time there was a terrible drought; the prefectural chief prayed for relief, but without result. One night he dreamed that the town god said: “Chen Weigh-It-Yourself has the rain.” When he awoke from the dream, he sent servants to seek a meeting at the prefecture offices. On seeing him, he was delighted, preparing candles and incense, having monks chant sutras and ordering them to pray for his longevity. Chen said: “Your servant is just a villager, lacking any skill with which to pray for rain.” The prefectural chief told him about the dream, and urged him strongly. Chen had no choice but to light incense and turn his face to heaven, praying earnestly and begging for three days of continuous heavy rain to relieve somewhat the worry and pain of the populace. When evening fell there was indeed a great rainfall, which only stopped after three days, and the people of the prefecture were all delighted. This benevolent elder’s daily reduction of grain prices was enough to move the heavens.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.108 (Tale 189):

平心感天

高安縣調露鄉陳仁父,居村田宅稍富,專事釋老之學。每年春留穀二千石,至次年五六月米貴之時,減價發糶,既交錢,令糴者自入倉內量出,不許多取,務要兩平。一村稱之曰「陳自量」。時大旱,太守祈求不應,夜夢城隍曰:「調露鄉陳自量有雨。」夢覺,差人尋訪赴郡。太守見之,喜具香燭,僧道誦經,就令祈禱。陳曰:「某村夫,無術可以祈雨。」太守以所夢事告,強之。陳不免炷香,對空而禱,乞降霖雨三日,以濟焦沽(「沽」,疑當作「枯」。)少甦民望。至晚果大雨,三日方止,一郡之人皆悅。蓋仁父平日減米價,足以感天也。

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).

Xie Lingyun’s Beard 謝靈運鬚

Xie Lingyun (385-433 CE), facing execution, cut off his beard and gave it to a Buddhist monastery in Guangzhou. The beard was three chi in length (c. 1m), and exists to this day.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.20 (Tale 99):

謝靈運鬚

謝靈運臨刑,剪其鬚施廣州佛寺。鬚長三尺,今存焉。

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)

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.

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)

 

Pei Zhang’s Unhappy Wife 裴章薄妻

Pei Zhang was from Hedong; his father Zhou had once garrisoned Jingzhou. Their private monk, Tan Zhao, had made great achievements in the Way, and able to comprehend good and bad fortune. As a youth Zhang had profound respect for Tan Zhao, who said that his career and prestige would surpass that of his father. When Zhang reached the ‘capping age’ (i.e., adulthood, at around 20), his father married him to a daughter of the Li family. On passing the age of thirty, Zhang followed a posting to Taiyuan, leaving his wife in Luozhong, ‘passing the door but never entering’ (i.e., being too busy to visit), never taking her along with him. Lady Li felt herself to have been born under an unlucky star, often wearing coarse clothes and a mourning hairstyle, reading Buddhist texts and eating simple food. After a further decade, when his father transferred from Jingzhou to garrison Taiyuan, Tan Zhao followed him. Zhang therefore saw Zhao to renew their acquaintance, but Zhao was shocked and sighed for a long time, addressing him: “Fifty years ago this poor cleric often said Your Excellency would scale the heights; now you are quite weakened and exhausted. How has this happened?” Zhang told him of his unhappy wife. Zhao said: “The lady has complained to the Lord on High, and he punishes Your Excellency.” Ten days later, he cut his stomach open with a knife in the bathtub; his five organs fell to the ground, and he subsequently died.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.13 (Tale 73):

裴章薄妻

河東裴章者,其父胄,曾鎮荊州。門僧曇照,道行甚高,能知休咎。章幼時為曇照所重,言其官班位望過於其父。章弱冠,父為娶李氏女。乃三十年餘,章從職太原,棄其妻於洛中,過門不入,別有所挈。李氏自感其薄命,常褐衣髽髺,讀佛書,蔬食。又十年,嚴經自荊州移鎮太原,曇照隨之。章因見照敍舊,照驚噫久之,謂之曰:「貧道五十年前常謂郎君必貴,今削盡,何也?」章自以薄妻之事啟之。照曰:「夫人生魂訴上帝,以罪處君。」後旬日,為其下以刀劃腹於浴斛,五臟墮地,遂死。

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)