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Chinese Buddhism, by Joseph Edkins, [1893], at

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This establishment more modern than T‘ien-t‘ai and Wu-t‘ai—Many Thibetan inscriptions—Frequent visits of Peking lamas—Dedicated to Kwan-yin—Gifts by K‘ang-hi—Images—Caves—Pagodas—Inscriptions—Resident defenders of Buddhism—The Potala of Jehol in Mongolia—It is also the name of the palace—Temple of the Dalai Lama—In China an island was preferred to be the tau-ch‘ang of Kwan-yin.

THIS island has long been known to foreigners as a celebrated spot, to which multitudes of zealous Buddhists make pilgrimages. It has of late years been a favourite summer residence of foreigners, and has been frequently described in recent books on China, so that its natural features need not be here repeated.

The peculiarities of the monasteries, however, need some remarks, for travellers have hitherto said nothing to explain them. Their interest is modern compared with that of some other celebrated seats of the Buddhist religion. For antiquities they cannot vie with T‘ien-t‘ai, or with Wu-t‘ai shan in Shan-si. They are remarkable rather as forming a connecting link with the lama Buddhism of Thibet and Mongolia. This connection is seen in several circumstances. Kwan-yin is the patron deity of Thibet and also of P‘u-to, leading to a peculiar arrangement of the images in the monasteries, and the substitution of this deity for Shakyamuni Buddha in the centre of the great hall. Lama priests at Peking have always been accustomed to visit the island, and perform worship

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there till recently, of which Thibetan inscriptions still on the island are monuments. The monastic establishments now on the island date principally from the Mongolian dynasty in the fourteenth century, and the Manchu emperors have, from motives of policy, always shown favour to the national religion of their Western tributaries.

Yet the regulations of the monasteries are all Chinese, and the schools to which the monks belong are those which have sprung up in China itself. One establishment belongs to the Lin-tsi school, and the other to that of Ts‘au-tung. The following is the mode of teaching in these schools. The instructor utters a few sentences to his pupils adapted to enlighten them on some point considered of importance. The pupils in the Tsung-men division of Chinese Buddhism, to which both these schools belong, depend not on books or on a regular course of study, but simply on the living teacher. The founder of the Lin-tsi once said, in answer to a disciple's questions, "What is really Buddha? What is dharma (the law)? What is religious progress?"—"That the heart be pure and calm, is Buddha. That the mind be clear and bright, is dharma. That hindrances in all directions be removed, and the mind calm and bright, is 'religious progress' (tau)." There appear to be more monasteries now belonging to this school than to any other.

The visitor to the Buddhist sacred island will notice the green and yellow tiling of the two large monasteries. The same material was employed in the Nanking porcelain tower now destroyed, and is found in the monasteries of the lamas in Peking. This glazed pottery is of the five colours at Nanking, viz., blue, yellow, red, black, and white. Here it is only green and yellow. It is called lieu-li-wa. Lieu-li is a word introduced to China, like po-li "glass," by the Buddhists. It is one of the Eight precious things, and is called at full length in Sanscrit Vaiduria. This name appears to be given by the Hindoos to a natural and an artificial substance (as in the case also of "sp‘atika" or po-li, "glass").

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The buildings are on a large scale. Thus the great hall of Kwan-yin, in the first monastery, is fifty yards long and thirty wide.

Both the large monasteries are dedicated to Kwan-yin p‘u-sa, instead of to Shakyamuni Buddha. In other monasteries the central position and the most monstrous image are always assigned to Shakya, the Buddha reigning in the present kalpa, and the teacher to whom every monk unites himself when he takes the vows. Here, however, Kwan-yin presides, and is therefore called Chu Fo, "the Ruling Buddha," of the monasteries and of the island.

Instead of the usual name Ta-hiung-pau-tien, "The precious hall of the great hero," alluding to Shakyamuni, we have the Ta-yuen-t’ung-tien, "The hall of the complete and correct doctrine," referring to Kwan-yin.

In this hall is a large image of earthenware with pedestal and canopy, all brought from Thibet, by order of the emperor K‘ang-hi, and presented to each of the monasteries. The figure is gilt, and is that of a female sitting cross-legged in the Buddhist manner. There is no dress on it except rings on the arms, a few lotus leaves, and the usual crown of the Bodhisattwas. In one of the monasteries, a yellow silk cloak is thrown over the image. Round the canopy, which is of wood, are figures of Bodhisattwas, and on the pedestal several white elephants and lions carved in wood, which are also foreign.

Behind the Thibetan image is a monstrous male Kwan-yin, with the P‘i-lu crown, representing the ruler of the monastery. Over his head is a large circle, on which nine dragons twine themselves. From them the hall is also sometimes called Kieu-lung-tien. Above, on a tablet, is a sentence given by K‘ang-hi, P‘u-tsi-k‘iün-ling, "The universal saviour of all living beings." This is said in praise of Kwan-yin.

On the left of this image is a figure of wood, representing Amitabha, the fictitious Buddha of the Western heaven, whose name is constantly on the lips of the Chinese

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and Thibetan priests, and is seen everywhere painted on walls and carved on stone. Kwan-yin plays a principal part in the legend of the "Peaceful land" or Tsing-tu, "The Western heaven," and is one of the "three sages" (san-sheng) supposed to reside there, the other two being Ta-shï-chï p‘u-sa and Amitabha.

On the right is another Kwan-yin, called Kwo-hai Kwan-yin, alluding to a "passage across the sea" of this deity to the island Putaloka, the Indian archetype of P‘u-to itself. Along the east and west walls of the hall are ranged thirty-two images, representing the metamorphoses of Kwan-yin. They are called Kwan-yin san-shï-rï-siang; they are all male, and are individualised by varieties in posture, dress, and head-coverings.

The name Kwan-tsï-tsai is used in some of the inscriptions for Kwan-shï-yin. This is a new name introduced by Hiuen-tsang the traveller, from the Sanscrit Avalôkitêshwara, in place of the older one translated by Kumarajiva from the shorter Hindoo name Avalokite.

There are other representations of this deity. The Eight-faced Kwan-yin, the Thousand-handed Kwan-yin, and "The giver of sons" are found here, and commonly in Buddhist temples. The last of these, Sung-tsï-Kwan-yin, is a female figure.

Before the principal idol is a stand for an incense urn, &c. It is called Wu-shï-hiang-pau, "The five-vessel-incense stand." The five vessels are—an incense urn in the middle, two candle supporters, and two urns for flowers.

The same five vessels are also placed on the pavement in front of the hall. Artificial flowers only are used.

There is much similarity in the arrangements of the two monasteries. Both have two imperial tablets with halls specially erected for their reception. When these buildings are injured by time, it is not permitted to repair them without an order from the emperor. Hence some of them have become much dilapidated. Lamas used to be sent every year from Peking to the island, to worship Kwan-yin

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in the emperor's name, and investigate the condition of the monasteries. None, however, have gone there during the last forty years. The two Thibetan inscriptions on the road side leading to the first monastery were made by these lamas. The older one dates from the time of Kia-k‘ing, A.D. 1796 to 1819. The other is no earlier than the reign of Tau-kwang.

In both monasteries the eighteen Lo-hans (Arhans), usually placed in the central hall of temples, are found in side chapels, their place being occupied by the thirty-two figures of Kwan-yin. These supposed beings are a step inferior to the rank of Bodhisattwa; both are inferior to Buddha. The reverence paid to Kwan-yin is not, however, less on this account. Like other deities of the same rank, Kwan-yin has refused for a time to become Buddha, preferring to save mankind by discoursing to them on the doctrines of this religion, and inducing them to enter on the path to the Nirvâna.

In a small temple called Hung-fa-t‘ang, just beyond the first monastery, is an interesting representation of the eighteen Arhans crossing the sea. They are seated on various sea animals. The proper names of these personages are all Hindoo, and unfamiliar in their sound, from the circumstance that they do not occur in current legends, but only in more recondite ones, contained in some among the great collection of works termed Tsang-king. The names of well-known deities are therefore frequently substituted for them, such as Kwan-yin, Maitreya, and Ti-tsang-wang. The last of these is seated on a large sea quadruped in the representation here referred to. While he sleeps, a star with a stream of light issues from his head. Beside him, sitting on a dragon, are two youths called "Joy" (Ki-k‘ing) and "Rest" (B‘ing-an). The one, in a playful humour, wishes to wake his sleeping neighbour, but he is checked by his companion. Bodhidharma, the founder of the contemplative school in China, is introduced seated on what is termed a "one-horned immortal bull." He carries a

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pole on his shoulder with one shoe suspended on it. The story is that, on crossing the Yang-tsze keang, he dropped the other, which was picked up by a countryman, and was found to possess wonderful powers. Manjusiri is seated on a sea demon. A tiger is whispering at his ear. He thus learns what people at a distance are doing. It should be remembered that the attribute of this great Bodhisattwa is wisdom. In the same representation Kwan-yin sits on some other sea animal. He is pouring the elixir of life from a gourd. As it flows out it becomes the genius of a star.

There is no difficulty felt by the arrangers of temples in placing the Bodhisattwas among the Arhans, because they have all necessarily passed through that state before arriving at their present position. So the Arhan is only such after passing through three grades of discipleship, which are the first steps on the road to the Nirvâna. The Buddha himself must go through all these stages from the first introduction to the sacred life up to the state of Bodhisattwa. They form the ladder from the actual world of human life to that cloud-land of abstractions which the contemplative Buddhist hopes to reach at last. In accordance with this, the hermit life of Shakyamuni Buddha is depicted on the walls of the same temple. Above the eighteen Arhans just described, is a representation, in painted clay, of the Himalayas. Here is seen a hut of rushes inhabited by the future Buddha. Monkeys and sacred geese bring him food, and dragons, tigers, and white rabbits are his near neighbours.

In the third monastery, high on the hill called Fo-ting shan, is a somewhat remarkable representation of the Hindoo gods. They are presided over by Yü-hwang of the Brahma heaven. I could not, however, obtain an intelligent account of them from the illiterate priest who was residing there. He was an artisan from Kieu-kiang in Kiang-si, who had left his wife and family in charge of his eldest son, and become a monk.

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At another smaller temple, where there are several caves, each with one or more small stone Buddhas seated inside, shown to visitors as emblematic of the hermit life, I found a young priest very ready to defend his system. When the worship of Buddha was objected to, on the ground that it substituted the creature for the Creator, he replied that Shakyamuni Buddha, being at the head of the Hwa-tsang universe, was far higher in dignity than He who ruled this lesser universe. He was reminded in reply that the vast Hwa-tsang-shï-kiai, a congeries of an immense number of lesser worlds, was nothing but an invention of the author of the Hwa-yen-king, and that in reality there was no existence or world not included within the dominions of God. He did not attempt to continue the argument.

Facing the first monastery is a small pagoda, dedicated to the Ming emperor, known as Wan-li hwang-ti. This prince before ascending the throne had conferred benefits on the institutions of the island, and this pagoda was named after him T‘ai-tsï-t‘a, "Pagoda of the crown prince." On its four sides are placed stone images of the four great Bodhisattwas, to each of whom one of the four elements is assigned. Ti-tsang, under whose jurisdiction hell is supposed to be, presides over earth. He is said to have become incarnate in a former Siamese prince. He is worshipped specially in the South at Kieu-hwa, near Nanking. Kwan-yin presides over water. His attribute is mercy, and he is worshipped in the East at P‘u-to. P‘u-hien presides over fire. His attribute is happiness, and he is worshipped in the West at the Woo-wei mountain in Sï-ch‘wen. Manjusiri presides over air (wind), and is worshipped in Shan-si. His attribute is wisdom.

Inscriptions on rocks lining the paths are very numerous at P‘u-to. Most of them are Buddhistic. Some specimens of them will be now given. Hwei-t‘eu-shï-an, "You have but to turn back and you will have reached the shore." Teng-pei-an, "Go up on that shore." The Buddhists say that salvation is in knowledge. The disciple

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is led by the teaching of Buddha, from the sea of ignorance to the "Shore of true wisdom" (Prajna paramita, Po-je po-lo-mi-to), Kin-sheng-kio-lu, "The golden thread that guides into the path of intelligence." Hwei-jï-tung-sheng, "The sun of wisdom rises in the east." Teng-ta-yuen-cheu, "Ascend the ship of great wishes." The great wish of a Buddha or a P‘u-sa is to save mankind and all living beings. They rescue those who are struggling in the sea of life and death, and vice and virtue, and convey them to the shore of true knowledge. Hence Kwan-yin is called Ts‘ï-hang, "Vessel of mercy." Fa-lun-ch‘ang-chwen, "The wheel of the law constantly revolves." This refers to the unceasing proclamation by books and monks of the doctrines of Shakyamuni. The metaphor by which Buddhist preaching is called the revolving of the wheel, is seen practically exemplified in the praying-wheels of Mongolia, by the turning of which an accumulation of merit is obtained. So in China, the whole Buddhist library of several thousand volumes is placed in a large octagonal revolving bookcase, which is pushed round at the instance of the visitor.

At Jehol, about a hundred and twenty miles north-east of Peking, there is a nest of lama monasteries, in a valley close to the emperor's hunting-lodge and summer palace. Among these monasteries are some of Thibetan architecture, the chief of which is Potala. It is modelled after the Potala in which the Dalai Lama lives at Lhassa in Thibet. The Dalai Lama is a living incarnation of Kwan-yin, and therefore his palace-temple was called Potala. This name is applied variously to a sea-port at the mouth of the Indus, the seat of Shakyamuni's ancestors, and to a mountain range near or part of the Nilgherries where Avalôkitêshwara was fond of going, in addition to the island in the Indian Ocean, the palace at Lhassa, and the Chinese P‘u-to. For particulars, see in Eitel, p. 93.

Perhaps the island may have been at the mouth of the

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[paragraph continues] Indus, and left its name in the present Tatta, the Pattala of the Greeks.

The setting apart of the island P‘u-to, in the Chusan Archipelago, is proof that the Buddhist imagination, in selecting a place for the special worship of Kwan-yin in China, preferred an island. This agreed best with the legends.

Here Kwan-yin would, in expounding the dharma that is to save living beings, seem more in her place than on a mountain of the main-land. This is an appropriate tau-c‘hang 1 for her, where she can be at hand to rescue sailors from the dangers of the sea, and where crowds of pilgrims will in fair weather not be wanting to receive the benefit of her instructions.


267:1 Tau-c‘hang, "Place of doctrine."

Next: Chapter XVI. Buddhist Processions, Associations, Pilgrimages, and Ceremonies for the Dead