A Buddhist Leader in Ming China
The Life and Thought of Han-shan Te-ch'ing, 1546–1623
Sung-Peng HsuAlthough Buddhism had declined during the Ming Dynasty, an age characterized by corruption, weakness, and oppression, new interest in the old religion arose as the dynasty came to an end. Han-shan Te-ch'ing—as well as two other reformers of his time, Yun-ch'i Chu-hung (1535–1615) and Tzu-po Chen-k'o (1543–1603) contributed to the revival of Buddhism. Even to the present day, the teachings of these masters have influenced many Chinese Buddhists.
Han-shan wrote extensively on Buddhism and other subjects, but his most interesting work is his autobiography, describing his spiritual development together with significant events of his life. Han-shan was a Ch'an master who also practiced the Pure Land faith. The philosophy of Mind, a synthesis of the Hua-yen, T'ien-t'ai, and Wei-shih teachings, is his system of thought. Han-shan argued that all philosophical teachings are ultimately the same because they lead to the truth of Mind.
Dr. Hsu's book is the first detailed study of Han-shan Te-ch'ing's life to appear in any language. As Derk Bodde writes in his foreword, "A good deal of excellent modern scholarship has been devoted to the ascending centuries of Chinese Buddhism, extending from the religion's entry into China (first century AD) through its age of greatest glory (seventh, eighth, and early ninth centuries). Much less, yet nevertheless significant, scholarship has been devoted to the surviving elements of Chinese Buddhism that are still observable in the present century. Almost nonexistent—at least in Western languages has been serious scholarship devoted to the long centuries of intervening decline. The present book, which is the only one known to me in a Western language to devote itself wholly to a single personality from this intervening age, is a notable exception.
A Buddhist Leader in Ming China consists of four chapters. In Chapter 1 the sources and methodology are discussed. Chapter 2 concerns the background of Han-shan Te-ch'ing's life and thought. Chapter 3 presents a detailed account of Han-shan's life, based almost entirely on his autobiography. The last chapter discusses his teachings and his views about the Mind, the Universe, Man, Evil, and the Path to Salvation.
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