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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The Two Sages of Yuelu Monastery 岳麓寺二聖

In Hengyue there was the Yuelu Monastery, rebuilt and refurbished in brilliant gold and jade, its lustre dazzling everyone. A wandering Hu (northwestern) monk visited the temple, and addressed its abbot: “If, at the northeastern corner [214] a Tusita Bridge could be built over a small stream, once completed it would resemble the Western Heaven.” The following day the abbot brought together a multitude to discuss this transformation, and after some years it was complete.

The two sages of the temple gate then appeared to the abbot in a dream, saying: “This temple resembles the Western Heaven above, but now it falls short and the spirit of Mars is coming to burn and seize it. You should urgently take your multitude south to meet him by the ten li bridge.” On awaking, the abbot was terrified, and gathered his monks to go out front and wait. From dawn to evening, nobody came. When the sky darkened, they suddenly saw a priest, hair loose and unkempt around his temples, his clothes old and shabby, approaching them very slowly. The crowd of monks bowed as they saw him, leading him to the temple, making a great gathering with food and chanting, treating him with great honour, and begging him sorrowfully: “This temple has been built and repaired through the begging of alms; it is newly completed after more than a decade of hard work. If it should one day be reduced to a field of ashes, how could that not be regretted? We beg that the star lord would have a special mercy on us, and extend a brief pardon.” The priest was astonished, and said: “How could a poor cleric have such power?” The crowd of monks begged and supplicated over and over, so he asked: “Who was it that told you I was the spirit of Mars? If I could understand, perhaps this can be sorted out.” The abbot had no choice but to speak directly: “The two sages of the temple gate manifested in a dream.” The priest said: “You should make up several dozen widths of sticky paper and build them together to resemble the halls and chambers of this temple. Then burn it with lots of spirit money, so as to dispel this issue.”

The assembled monks did as he instructed, and burned it all. Just after the fifth watch (about dawn), the multitude escorted the priest out through the mountain gate, where he scolded the two sages: “Who taught you to shoot your mouths off like this? Who taught you to see the bone and not the flesh, the flesh and not the bone?” When they escorted him to the bridge of the previous day, cloud and mist arose on all sides, and the priest suddenly vanished. When the multitude returned to the mountain gate, the two sages collapsed into earth and dust, leaving only their wooden frames. When the abbot had them re-sculpted, within ten days they had fallen apart once more. To this day the temple’s mountain gate lacks its two guardian sages.

後2.213-14 (Tale 379):

岳麓寺二聖

衡岳有岳麓寺,重新修建,金碧輝煌,光彩爍人。有胡僧雲遊詣寺,與寺主言:「若於東北角 [214] 上小溪中造一座兜率橋,成則類西天矣。」寺主翌日集大衆題化,積年橋成。山門下二聖忽現夢於寺主云:「本寺類西天上界,今差火德星君來焚取,可急聚大衆南去十里溪橋邊迎之。」夢覺,寺主驚,遂集僧衆前去往候。自朝至晚,無往來者。天將昏,忽有一道人,鬢髮鬅鬙,身衣藍縷,徐徐然來。僧衆見之下拜,迎至寺,大作齋會,待之甚至,哀懇之曰:「此寺緣化修造,以十數年之辛勤方能圓就,若一旦為煨燼之場,寧不可惜!慾望星君特發慈悲,姑與原宥。」道人驚曰:「貧道安有此!」僧衆再三哀告不已,乃問曰:「誰與汝說我是火德星君,言若明白,當與料理。」寺主不得已,直云:「山門下二聖現夢。」道人云:「可打黏紙數十幅,一一綵繪本寺殿宇房廊樣式,多將紙錢前來燒化,庶可消禳。」僧衆如其教焚訖。五更初,衆送道人出山門下,乃指駡二聖云:「誰教汝饒舌,教汝骨不見肉,肉不見骨。」及送至昨日橋邊,雲霧四起,道人倏然不見。衆回山門,則二聖泥土皆落,隻有木胎。寺主再裝塑之,越旬日又落。至今本寺山門下無金剛二聖也。

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).

The Kaifeng Water Monster 開封水怪

Under the Song, during the Xuanhe era (1119-25), when someone arose from their bed in front of a tea shop and wiped down the couch, they noticed something crouching beside them like a dog; looking again in the bright light of dawn, it turned out to be a dragon. The person cried out loudly and fell to the ground. A short distance from the tea shop stood a workshop for military equipment. A group of soldiers from the workshop took away the dragon and ate it, but didn’t dare to report the matter. People in the capital all drew pictures to transmit and appreciate the sight; its body was only six or seven chi in length (about 2m), as [74] they have been painted for generations: the dragon’s scales being grey-black, its head like that of a donkey, its cheeks like those of a fish, the colour of its head a true green, with a horned brow, a very long back, splitting into two segments at the end; its voice was like that of a cow. A night later, at the fifth watch (about 4am), a red cloud came from the northwest and covered dozens of circuits, reaching towards heaven, crossing into the Purple Palace and the Great Bear; looking up, the stars all seemed to be separated by red gauze. When the sun rose it split with a tearing noise, which later became very great. This happened over several following evenings, the noise growing, its shaking lasting a long time and becoming extremely strong, with red clouds spreading from the northwest for tens of thousands of circuits, two clouds of black and white passing from the northwest to the northeast, the noise continuing without end, finally stopping at dawn. Several days later, water flooded into the capital, rising to more than ten zhang (33m). Diviners said that in bingwu the omens matched those of the fall of the Northern Qi (550-77), and later the nature of this matter became extremely clear.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.73-74 (Tale 129):

開封水怪

宋宣和間,開封縣前茶肆人晨起拭牀榻,睹若有大犬蹲其旁,質明視之,龍也。其人驚呼仆地。茶肆適與軍器作坊近,為作坊兵衆取而食之,不敢以聞。都人皆圖畫傳玩,身僅六七尺,若 [74] 世所繪,龍鱗蒼黑,驢首而兩頰如魚,頭色正綠,頂有角,坐極長,其際始分兩䏢,有聲如牛。越一夕五鼓,西北有赤氣數十道近天,犯紫宮北斗,仰視星皆若隔絳紗。方起時折裂一聲,然後大發。後數夕又作,聲益大,震且久,其發尤甚,而赤氣自西北數十萬道,中有黑白二氣自西北而由東北,其聲不絕,迨曉乃止。後數日,水犯都城,高十餘丈。占者謂丙午及北齊末占同,後事驗亦甚明也。

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).

An account of the same events is found in Anon., Xuanhe yishi 宣和遺事 [Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period]. Dating it to the second year Xuanhe (1120), this places the incident within a series of disastrous portents, their meaning relating to the palace. The Xuanhe yishi version also, disappointingly, omits the discussion of painting traditions.

William O. Hennessey (tr.), Proclaiming Harmony, Michigan Papers in Chinese Studies, 41 (Ann Arbor, MI, Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1991), pp. 41-42:

That summer, in the fifth month, a creature somewhat like a dragon appeared in front of a teashop in Kaifeng County. It was about six or seven feet long with blue black scales. It had a head like a donkey, but with fish-cheeks and a horn on top of its skull. It bellowed like an ox. As it happened, the shopkeeper was making up the beds that morning when he noticed something the size of a large dog beside him. When he looked closely, it was this dragon. He was so surprised he keeled over in fright. The teashop was situated very close to an arms manufactory, and when the wor­kers in the mill found out about the dragon they killed and ate it.

That night in the fifth watch, several score columns of crimson vapor rose to the sky in the northwest. When one looked up at the North Star, it was as if it were veiled in scarlet gauze. In the midst of it all were alternate streams of black and white vapor, from which emanated crackling sounds like thunder from time to time. Soon rain began to fall in torrents. The level of the river rose more than ten yards, seeping through the city walls and breaking down the dike on the Bian River. Although all the laborers available within the city were marshalled to help in the crisis, carrying straw and sandbags to stem the tide, they were unable to hold it back. Finally, Huizong called upon the executive of the Ministry of Revenue, Tang Lu, to take charge of the operations. In the morning, Lu went out on the river in a small dinghy to see what the flood was like so that it might be controlled. The emperor watched him from atop, a tower. When he [42] discovered it was Lu himself out on the waters, he wept. Several days later the waters leveled off and Lu went to see the emperor, who praised him highly. ‘The temples of Our ancestors are secure, thanks to your work,’ he said.

Lu responded, ‘Water is an element of the Yin class. Yin influences are ascendant and pervade even to the inner reaches of the city and palace. I pray Your Majesty will communicate directly with his ministers, sequester himself from feminine wiles and small-minded people, and heed well this warning from Heaven to make ready for the tribes.’ Huizong commended this memorial and accepted it.

Anon., Xinkan dasong xuanhe yishi 新刊大宋宣和遺事 (Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period of the Great Song: A New Edition) (Shanghai: Gudian wenxue chubanshe, 1954), pp. 29-30:

夏,五月,有物若龍,長六七尺,蒼鱗黑色,驢首,兩頰如魚,頭色綠,頂有角,其聲如牛,見於開封縣茶肆前。時茶肆人早起拂拭床榻,見有物若大犬蹲其傍,熟視之,乃是龍也。其人吃驚,臥倒在地。茶肆與軍器作坊相近,遂被作坊軍人得知,殺龍而食之。是夕五鼓,西北有赤氣數十道衝天,仰視北斗星若隔絳紗,其中有間以白黑二炁,及時有折烈聲震如雷。未幾,霪雨大作,水高十餘丈,犯都城,已破汴堤,諸內侍役夫,擔草運土障之,不能禦。徽宗詔戶部侍郎唐恪治之。即日,恪乘小舟覽水之勢,而求所以導之。上登樓遙見,問之,乃恪也,為之出涕。數日,水平,恪入對,上勞之曰:「宗廟社稷獲安,卿之功也!」唐恪因回奏:「水乃陰類。陰炁之盛,以致犯城闕。願陛下垂意於馭臣,遠女寵,去小人,備夷狄,以益謹天戒。」徽 [30] 宗嘉納之。