Loufan Temple and Bairenyan Temple

—-The Investigation of Huiyuan’s Preaching in Early Days in Eastern Jin Dynasty

Huiyuan(334-416 A.D.), a famous Monk in East Jin dynasty, was born and grew up in Loufan with his secular surname Jia. According to Huiyuan’s biography, his activities all his life can be divided into three stages. From 334 to 354 was the first stage in which he studied here and there. When he was young, he studied the most important six books of Confucius and many Taoism books, especially Laozi and Zhuangzi, which he based on greatly in his preaching lately. Because the situation was terrible, he got the idea to live in seclusion. The years from 354 to 382 was the stage that Huiyuan followed Daoan and helped him preach. In this stage, Huiyuan took his brother Huichi listened Daoan’s instruction of Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra in Hengshan, Taihang Mountain(west Quyang, Hebei province), and he understood well. He recognized that Confucius and Taoism were all inferior greatly to Buddhism, and became a monk together with his brother whose ordination was by Daoan. Thereby his preaching life began. The years from 383 to 416 was the stage he left Daoan and independently established his preaching base in Donglin temple, Lushan Mountain. In this stage, he secluded in Lushan, devoted himself to Buddhism, preached others, instructed his disciples, led the practice, recited Amitabha through watching and thinking Buddha, founding reciting Amitabha organization, organized people to translated the sutras, wrote papers and books, and made friends with famous monks and politicians, which resulted in a good circumstance for the sangha to develop and constructed a model temple which lived by the monks with a high moral. From then on, Huiyuan and his fellow monks’ living place —-Lushan became the Buddhist center in south China and echoed with Kumārajīva and his fellow monks in changan, which led to a new phenomenon in Chinese Buddhism. Huiyuan also became a Buddhist leader who was famous at that time and benefited people more than thousand years.

Through Huiyuan’s life, the best period of his preaching was after his down south going to Lushan. Three years in Xingning reign title of Emperor Jin Ai Di(365 A.D.), he came down south to Fanmian with Daoan. Three years in Taiyuan reign title of Emperor Xiaowu Di(378 A.D.), Xiangyang was took up by Fuqin army and Daoan was captured by them. Huiyuan took his disciples went the south with the idea to go to Luofushan Mountain in Guangdong. But when he came to Xunyang(today’s Jiujiang, Jiangxi province), he was fascinated by Lushan’s quiet and settled down. 365 A.D. was a dividing line in Huiyuan’s preaching from north to south. That is to say, there was at least ten years that Huiyuan helped Daoan preach in the north from his renunciation in 365 A.D. to 378 A.D. when he went to south. In this period, Daoan and his fellow monks mainly lived in north and south east Shanxi and Hebei. It is revealed that Huiyuan began to instruct when he was only 24 years old and earned a good name. You can imagine that there must be many preaching places of Huiyuan in the vast region of Shanxi and Hebei. Because there wasn’t so much information about his early preaching in his biography, the research was mainly focused on his late preaching and achievement after he came to Lushan. In fact, there are many clues on his early preaching in the north. At present, according to my investigation and the materials I gathered, Loufan Temple in Ruyue village, Dafang town, Yuanping city, Shanxi province and Bairenyan Temple in Daixian county were important findings and supplement material on Huiyuan’s early preaching traces.

First:Birthplace—-Loufan Temple
As to Huiyuan’s birthplace, according to Information on Tripitaka and Biography on Master Monks, was Loufan in Yanmen which couldn’t be definitely known because Daixian, Shenchi, Wudai, Ningwu, Yuanping and Chunxian in Shanxi province were all recognized as the place, and the reach field hadn’t a conclusion. In fact, Loufan was a tribe name of a national minority. It was recorded in the History Recording – the Biography of Xiongnu that, in the Warring States period, King Zhao Wulingwang enlarged his territory, “conqued Linfan and Loufan in the north, built the Great Wall, and thus the boundary was from Dai and Yinshan Mountain to Gaoque.” The Han Dynasty accepted the Qin Dynasty’s systems. In the Western Han Dynasty,Yanmen prefecture had fourteen counties,Loufan was one of them. In the period of Eastern Jin Dynasty and 16 Countries, according to Jin Book-the Geography, Yanmen prefecture ruled over eight counties, having no Loufan as Loufan was no longer the county jurisdiction unit, but be existence with the town form at this time. To the Northern Wei Dynasty, Wei Book-The Geography carried that Yanmen prefecture had two counties: Yuanping and Guangwu, and Loufan town was in Yuanping county. Huiyuan was born in a 334 A.D. which was exactly this period. According to present administration district, Loufan in Yanmen prefecture is just Ruyue village, Dafang town, Yuanping city, Shanxi province. And the village still has the temple till today. Chunxian County Records had the Recording of Rebuilding the Loufan Temple which said that “Loufan was an old town. It was in the north region of Chunxian County about thirty li away. As it’s history was so long that now there was almost few people there. There was an old temple named Loufan, which was named according to the old custom.” Yuanping County Records which was written in recent years carried that “Loufan temple, to the east of the village, was the birth and preaching place of the monk Huiyuan in Jin Dynasty. It had the name of Shengjingyuan in Jin Dynasty and, because there was the site of the old Loufan county, it changed his name to Loufan temple late. In the years of the reign title Jiajing in Ming Dynasty, it was ruined in the fire of the war. The monk Zhaojing restored it. In the eighteenth year of the reign title Kangxi and the thirteenth year of the reign title Yongzheng in Qing Dynasty, it was restored successively. Part of the building was destroyed in 1958. Dafang commune successively tore down the Tianwang palace and the Grandmother’s Temple in 1979 and 1980. There are still existing a Shanmen gate in Qing Dynasty, a Zunsheng Chuang in Tang Dynasty, a Lixiu pagoda in Jin Dynasty and a tablet with an image and a record of events of monk Huiyuan which rebuilt in Ming Dynasty.” The writer had been there to make an investigation.

The whole temple covers more than ten thousand square meters. The reconstruction of the Daxiongbaodian palace was in 1990. In 1995, the surrounding wall was built and the statue of Buddha was set up. In 1998, the Huiyuan ancestor teacher palace was built and the statues of the thirteen Pure Land ancestor teachers were also set up, and so on. Now the Shanmen gate was colored freshly. In the yard of the temple, besides the Zunsheng Chuang in Tang Dynasty and the Lixiu pagoda in Jin Dynasty, there are still four tablets among which the one of the first year of the reign title Zhengde in Ming Dynasty had already broken to two. The major historical and cultural sites under county protection stone tablet that set up by the people’s government of the Yuanping county in September 20th, 1981 had the words “rebuiling the tablet with an image and a record of events of monk Huiyuan”. According to the tablet, the statue of monk Huiyuan was restored and a tablet to record it was set up in the fortieth year of the reign title Wanli. In the eighth year of the reign title Guangxu in Qing Dynasty, the article Temples-Chunxian County in Shanxi Records said that “Loufan Temple, twenty five li north west of the county town, was named after the Loufan town. It was the preach place of Huiyuan in Jin Dynasty.” Beyond This World in the volume 160 of Shanxi Records cited the words of Dairies of the West Journey which written by Su Qianfu that “Yan Dacan said that Huiyuan was born in Daizhou. When he was born, the well in their home produced gold fungus and the water was suddenly sweet and tasty with abnormality.people who had every kinds of disease became well soon after they drank the water. After Huiyuan went to Lushan, the well still existed, but the water was no longer sweet and couldn’t cure disease any more. The villagers missed Huiyuan and built a temple named Saint Well Yard. Later, people forget this fact and changed its name as Loufan Temple. The records of the prefecture and the county did not record the temple. Now it is the time to write it. The poem in the Tang Dynasty wrote that‘only miss the moon in the Lushan Mountain, but forget the monk comes from Yanmen.’It is the proof.” The well now is still in the Loufan Temple and is protected by a cabin. Chen Qian’s Praise of Lushan Huiyuan in the Records of Lushan Mountain says: “Studied widely in Loufan. Realized the ambition to seclude in Hengshan. Abandoned the Confucius and Taoism right after listening Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra. Today’s White Lotus Pond can be compared to argha water.” The poem of Reflection after Coming to Loufan Temple in Biography of Eldly Zibai written by Zibai Zhenke, one of the four master monks in the late Ming Dynasty, had the words “not see the saint well’s abnormality, the temple reveals the greatness of the Buddhism.” There is another poem Coming to Loufan Temple again: “Before the great man is born, a saint well came into being. The Autumn wind in Lushan makes it poor there. The Wisdom Spring still overflowing, but the saint well has already been piled by dust. Gradually becomes old. Benefits the uncivilized countries with the wisdom. Not to mention the Chinese people. I’m sorry that my capability is poor that it is a far way from me to Huiyuan.” The poem of Loufan Temple, written by He Kun in Qing Dynasty, says: “The temple was built in Eastern Jin. The road becomes wide and wide. Some pine trees are under the sun. Some bryophyte is on the stone. There is a monk who comes here for practice dhyana. No one comes here to preach. The trace of the strange well still exists. The clear water has no dust at all.” All these can explain the relation between Loufan Temple and master Huiyuan.

Second: Preaching Place—-Bairenyan
Bairenyan, in Daixian county, Shanxi province, is close to Wutai Mountain and Yanmen Pass. Recently, the writer discovered that there are still twelve ancient stone tablets of Ming and Qing Dynasties while carrying on an investigation here. The inscription of the tablets jotted down the Bairenyan Temple’s foundation and the history of its development in detail. For example, the tablet of Record of Bairenyan Temple written by Yi Qian, who was born here and became a high official in the reign title of Zhengtong in Ming Dynasty, says: “West thirty li from Daijun prefecture, there is Rushan. Then going straightly west another five li, there is Chun, which is a town under the rule of Daijun prefecture. There is a huge rock called Bairenyan. There is a temple on the rock called Bairenyan Temple. In fact, it was first built by monk Huiyuan in Eastern Jin, because there was a tablet which built at that time and it can be the evidence.” The tablet of Rebuilding Bairenyan Temple, written by Fengqin, also says: “The wording of the Buddhism’s principal and subsidiary causes has its reason. The poem reading in Bairen Temple I read when I was young says : the cloud can be seen when the door opens, sing in the autumn scene. The beautiful sights can be imagined. Though I haven’t been there, I hope to. Xian Wangyi also had a The Notes of Visiting Bairenyan, which wrote down the high and strange of the mountain, the beauty of the springs and the stones, the rare and famous flowers, and the rare birds and tame beasts. It is likely you are being there exactly. There were many miracles, for instance, it rains when people prays for rain. So the villagers built a temple under the lead of Huiyuan in Jin dynasty. They built two Buddhist convents named Yuming and Huiwei. The official Yu Qian wrote it. It is said there is an ancient tablet can provide the information. But there is so much wild weeds that the tablet cannot be found.”

Looking up in the local history records, this kind of information is in many places. According to the Geography in the first volume of The Record of Daizhou, Zhili Province, which written in fiftieth year of Qianlong, “Baiyunyan is thirty li northwest the prefecture. Shi Huiyuan built the temple. There is a pagoda on the huge rock. There are Preaching Platform and Qiping Stone on the peak. And the Dingxin Stone has its tongue out the cliff. There are five well in which two are muddy and dirty and the other three are cold and crystal-clear. The mountain path is winding. The ancient cypresses are ten thousand stubs. Taking a distant view on the peak from the half way of the mountain, the Buddhist temple soars to the sky and the red building and doors dimly appear in the pine shades and stones. Incredibly it is almost a fairyland. There are cliffs to the back of the temple, on which the three characters Bairenya are written by official Wan in Ming dynasty, with more than one zhang each character.” Shanxi Records written in the eighth year of the reign title Guangxu in Qing Dynasty also says that Daizhou “bairenyan Temple is thirty li northwest the prefecture. Huiyuan in Jin Dynasty built a room by chiseling on the huge rock. He also built other necessary buildings such as palace gallery. The tablet at that time still exists.”
Bairenyan Temple became one of the eight views as “the night bell of the rock temple”. The scholars wrote about the place often. Biography of Eldly Zibai written by Zibai Zhenke had a poem Bairenyan: “Who say the mountain path is dangerous. I feel the path is secluded. The birds sing in the empty woods. The river flows down the cliff. The path is winding, which makes it difficult to remember. The cloud stays often leisurely. The building is inclined like a barrier to the stone. The old pines and cypresses are bent greatly. Wiping the bryophyte and reading the destroyed tablet, I realize that Huiyuan is not a comman people. His five articles make you understand ancient and today. The six events made the royals disgraceful. The beautiful sights are here and there. But I cannot find the ancient person—-Huiyuan. I sing sadly and went back with the walking stick.” Feng Xiyi in Qing Dynasty had writing The Eight Views of Bairenyan, in which the poem Preaching Platform writes: “The sunlight shines on the Yuangong Stage.

Looking around there and thousands of villages and the farms and paths are even. Carefreely lean on a pine root and feel the stalagmite. Only you know how to avoid living next time from ancient to today.” Gunan Convent, another poem, says: “The mountain was developed by Yuangong in Jin Dynasty. Living here is just as living in a fairyland.”

There is still a convent which is said that it was lived by Huiyuan. It is in the belly of the mountain. The local people called it “Huiyuan Cave.”

The above inscription and historical data reveal the close relationship between this place and master Huiyuan. The location of Bairenyan is not far from the temple that Daoan built in Hengshan Mountain. It is only ten kilometers from Huiyuan’s birthplace, too. The inscription of the existing tablet also has the records that Huuiyuan “founded Bairenyan Temple initially.” It still needs to research further to make sure if the Loufan Temple is the Saint Well Yard—-the birthplace of Huiyuan and if the bairenyan Temple is built by Huiyuan who studied from Daoan and preached here.

(The author is the professor and tutor of doctor candidate of Institute for Studies of Buddhism and Religious Theory, Renmin University of China.)

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