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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