Tales of Conjured
Qing Period Mountain Gazetteers
JIATS, no. 6 (December 2011), THL #T5710, pp. 134-162.
© 2011 by Susan Andrews, IATS, and THL
Abstract: This is a study of Qing records of the monk-pilgrim Wuzhuo’s (eighth century) entry into the conjured Vajra Grotto/Prajñā Temple (Jingang ku/Bore si) at Tang period (618-907) Wutai shan (Wutai shan). The Gazetteer of Qingliang shan (Qingliang shan zhi), the New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan (Qingliang shan xin zhi), and the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan (Qingding Qingliang shan zhi) each preserve accounts of Wuzhuo’s meeting with Mañjuśrī (Wenshu) in this extraordinary site. Examining these records of Wuzhuo’s life and monastic career alongside related accounts of conjured temples (huasi), this article highlights links between stories of conjured temples and other Buddhist and non-Buddhist textual sources. It suggests that in their attempt to frame the sites, the bodhisattva, and the mountain as sacred, Qing proponents of the Wenshu cult used a wide variety of sources to new ends. An investigation of these narrative traditions reveals much about the multiple and changing grounds on which Wutai shan’s holy status has been asserted over time.
The names of many temples that stood at Qing period (1644-1912) Wutai shan (Wutai shan) might well have been familiar to pilgrims who traveled there in the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279). A number of sites that figure prominently in Qing dynasty sources occupy an important place in materials compiled during the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries. This paper examines Qing records of a monk-pilgrim affiliated with one such group of temples: records of the monk Wuzhuo’s (eighth century) entry into the conjured Vajra Grotto/Prajñā Temple (Jingang ku/Bore si). The Gazetteer of Qingliang shan (Qingliang shan zhi), the New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan (Qingliang shan xin zhi) and the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan (Qingding Qingliang shan zhi) each preserve accounts of Wuzhuo’s meeting with Wenshu (Mañjuśrī) in this extraordinary site. The texts claim that along with three additional structures – the [page 135] Jinge Temple (Jinge si), the Zhulin Temple (Zhulin si), and the Fahua Cloister (Fahua yuan) – the Vajra Grotto/Prajñā Temple was erected at Wutai to replicate a visionary counterpart the bodhisattva manifested there in the eighth century. Examining records of Wuzhuo’s life and monastic career alongside these related accounts of conjured temples (huasi) the paper highlights links between stories of conjured temples and other Buddhist and non-Buddhist textual sources. It suggests that in their attempt to frame the sites, the bodhisattva, and the mountain as sacred, Qing proponents of the Wenshu cult used a wide variety of sources to new ends. An investigation of these narrative traditions reveals much about the multiple and changing grounds on which Wutai shan’s holy status has been asserted over time. It may, further, reveal something of why this place was a meaningful destination for the Qing lay and monastic pilgrims who traveled there.
References to conjured temples appear in a number of Qing period sources, including the Gazetteer of Qingliang shan (1661), the New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan (1701), and the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan (1811). The production of this triad of texts, by the palace publishing house between 1661 and 1811, involved the participation of the imperial throne in ways earlier Wutai monographs had not.1 The gazetteers were only three among a vast number of Buddhist materials published with imperial funds during this period.2 They formed part of a larger program of literary production that Gray Tuttle argues convincingly elsewhere in this volume aimed to promote the Qing rulers’ status as great patrons of Buddhism and, in particular, Tibetan forms of Buddhism at Wutai shan.3
In addition to these Qing gazetteers, a number of other sources preserve references to the manifestation of conjured temples at Wutai shan. Among these, the earliest triad of mountain monographs – Huixiang’s (慧祥, seventh-century) Ancient Record of Qingliang shan (Gu Qingliang zhuan), Yanyi’s (延一, 998?-1072) Expanded Record of Qingliang shan (Guang Qingliang zhuan, 廣清涼轉), and Zhang Shangying’s (1043-1122) Further Record of Qingliang shan (Xu Qingliang zhuan) – are the sources perhaps best known to scholars of the Wenshu cult.4 Tales of conjured temples also appear in Zanning’s (919-1001) Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song (Song gaoseng zhuan).5 References to them are [page 137] found in poetry and art.6 Finally, a special relationship seems to exist between Chan encounter dialogues like those preserved in the eleventh-century Blue Cliff Record (Biyan lu), a collection of public cases (gongan) compiled by Xuedou Zhongxian (980-1052) with commentary by Yuanwu Keqin (1063-1135), and Qing period accounts of conjured temples set at Wutai shan.7 The collection of tales around which this paper is built, it should be clear from these examples, has a long and diverse history.
Before moving on to examine Qing records of conjured temples, some discussion of the term and its translation is in order. In the work of modern-day scholars and the writings of their premodern counterparts alike, the term conjured temple (huasi) receives a wide-range of treatments.8 In fact, an examination of accounts of conjured temples and related records of holy monks and monasteries set at Wutai suggest that at an early date there may have been a certain flexibility in the application of the term. In Yanyi’s eleventh-century gazetteer the term conjured [page 138] temple (huasi) appears in conjunction with a reference to the master Senming’s encounter with a Wutai-dwelling immortal.9 Holy monasteries (shengsi), in contrast, appears in an allusion to this episode in the Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song. Zanning writes: “[i]n the past Senming had seen the stone mortar and wood pestle and after obtained a holy monastery (shengsi) and observed a holy worthy (shengxian).”10 The seventh-century Ancient Record of Qingliang shan and Xu gaoseng zhuan refer to the marvelous place Senming entered with Śramaṇa Zhou as a celestial palace (tiangong; Huixiang, Gu Qingliang zhuan [Ancient Record of Qingliang shan], in Taishō shinshū Daizōkyō, ed. Takakusu Junjirō and Watanabe Kaigyoku Henshū (Tōkyō: Taishō Issaikyō Kankōkai, 1924-1932), 1097a.16-18; Zanning, Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song, 664c.28-29, 665a.07). In total at least four terms were used in reference to the appearance of extraordinary temples at the sacred mountain: conjured temples (huasi), transcendent monasteries (xiansi), holy monasteries (shengsi), and divine temples (shensi). While this set of phrases seem to refer to a similar wonder, their specific semantic domains remain a matter for further investigation.11
In this paper, huasi is rendered conjured temple. The reasoning is twofold. First, the term is intended to suggest something of the illusory quality of the structures. While this paper will highlight how, on the one hand, Qing gazetteers emphasize the mountain’s sacred character, the texts preserve, on the other hand, a Wutai-focused discourse that denies the place any type of special status. The second perspective, which takes as its starting point emptiness (śūnyatā), is articulated not only in tales of conjured temples but also Chan texts such as the The Record of Linji (Linji lu) and the Record of the Dharma Jewel through the Generations (Lidai fabao ji).12 These materials assert that the extraordinary [page 139] structures and by corollary Wutai as a whole are ultimately illusory sites made to appear otherwise by Wenshu. In this respect, tales of conjured temples find a parallel in the well-known Lotus Sūtra parable of the conjured city (huacheng).13 Like the guide in the parable, the bodhisattva Wenshu seems to produce the Five Terrace Mountain as an apparition, a resting place manifested for the benefit of weary travelers treading the sometimes-treacherous road to enlightenment. Translating huasi as conjured temple is intended, first, to convey something about the temples themselves and, second, to underscore the role Wenshu plays as an agent of skillful means (fangbian, upāya), the “conjurer” who produces the magnificent temples as expedient teaching-tools that disappear as quickly as they materialize on the mountain peaks.
References to conjured temples found in Qing mountain gazetteers are of two kinds. The first type appears in the gazetteer section devoted to temples amid brief descriptions of the sites’ origins and layout. The New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan and the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan mention three Qing temples built based on conjured versions: the Jinge Temple, the Zhulin Temple, and the Vajra Grotto/Prajñā Temple.14 According to the sources, the Vajra Grotto/Prajñā Temple stood on the Eastern Peak in the Louguan Valley, the Jinge [page 140] Temple was located to the Southern Terrace’s northwest, and the Zhulin Temple was located to the south of the Central Terrace. Sources such as the Collected Documents Pertaining to Bukong [Daizongchao zeng sikong dabian zheng guangzhi sanzang heshang biaozhiji] and the Record of Ennin’s Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law [nittō guhō junrei gyōki] indicate that earthly replicas of these conjured temples were sites of Buddhist activity beginning in the eighth century.15 Qing dynasty Wutai materials, including Gao Shiqi’s (1644-1703) Daily Record of Following in the Retinue of Kangxi’s Western Tour (Hucong xixun rilu) and stele inscriptions like those studied by Natalie Köhle, confirm versions of these temples continued to be centers of Buddhist practice in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.16 For more than 1200 years this triad of temples has held an important place at Wutai shan.
In addition to providing information about the temples’ locations and layouts, these gazetteer entries make brief statements about their origins. Regarding the Jinge Temple, the New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan states: “[i]n the past, a person saw a golden pavilion floating in the sky. Accordingly, the temple was built on this ground.” Describing the Vajra Grotto/Prajñā Temple, the gazetteer records: “[this is] the place where Wuzhuo saw Wenshu. A youth escorted him out and pointed saying ‘this is the Prajñā Temple.’ Later people built a temple here.”17 Finally, the New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan entry on the Zhulin Temple reads: “in the Tang [period] Fazhao perceived and entered the conjured Zhulin [Temple]. Thereupon the monastery was constructed.” In the temple section of the Qing gazetteers brief statements about the origin of these temples appear among [page 141] progressively more detailed accounts of the temples’ layout and design.18 References to the floating version of the Jinge Temple, the conjured counterpart of the Zhulin Temple, and Wuzhuo’s encounter with Wenshu allude, however, to far more detailed narratives preserved elsewhere in the texts.
The spiritual response (linggan) division of the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan preserves extended accounts of conjured temples visited by Wutai monk-pilgrims. This title refers to the response of bodhisattvas and Buddhas to the conduct and condition of sentient beings.19 The classification is a topic to which the paper will return. The Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan preserves accounts of three monk pilgrims’ experiences in conjured temples later built at Wutai in this section: the monk Daoyi’s entry into the conjured Jinge Temple, the monk Wuzhuo Wenxi’s entry into the conjured Vajra Cave/Prajñā Temple, and the monk Fazhao’s entry into the conjured Zhulin Temple. In addition, all three gazetteers include a record of a fourth monk-pilgrim, Shenying, who visited the conjured Fahua Cloister. Perhaps because this structure was built on the grounds of a larger temple, I have not yet to found a reference to it in Qing period records.20
The following summary of the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan entry on Wuzhuo Wenxi’s visit to the conjured Vajra Grotto/Prajñā Temple is intended to be an introduction to the type of narrative found in the spiritual response section of the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan and the closely related New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan.21
The Chan master Wuzhuo Wenxi left home to become a monk at the age of seven. During the Hui chang period, however, he returned to lay life until in the Da zhong period he once again took the precepts at the Qifeng Temple (Qifeng si). Then, following the advice of the Chan teacher Daci Xingkong, Wuzhuo traveled to Wutai shan. One day out front of the Huayan Temple, Wuzhuo met an old man [page 142] leading an ox who asked him what he was doing there. Wuzhuo explained that he had tried unsuccessfully to enter the Jingang ku. The old man invited the monk to join him for tea. The pair walked together to a nearby temple and as they reached the gates the elderly man called out to Junti. A young boy appeared and he led them inside. The group passed by halls and shrines of brilliant gold, eventually arriving at a specially embroidered seat upon which the elderly stranger sat down. The old man asked Wuzhuo where he came from and about the state of the Dharma in that place. Wuzhuo posed a similar set of questions about Wutai, asking the gentleman: “what is the Buddha dharma like in this place? Are the teachings preserved?” The old man replied: “dragons and snakes intermingle and are mixed; the common and the holy intersect and are blended.” Wuzhuo continued: “How many assemblies are there (here)?” The mysterious stranger replied: “In front three three and behind three three.” He invited Wuzhuo to drink a cup of tea. It left his mind empty. The dialogue continued volleying from subject to subject until Wuzhuo asked to stay the night at the temple. The old man asserted that Wuzhuo possessed a clinging mind and thus insisted Junti escort him outside. As they were departing, Junti told Wuzhuo he was at the Vajra Grotto/Prajñā Temple. Instantly the monk was filled with regret realizing that the man with whom he had been speaking was none other than the bodhisattva Wenshu. The youth then spoke a short poetic verse (gāthā) and when his words finished both he and the temple vanished. Wuzhuo looked up into the sky and for an instant saw Wenshu riding on a gold-haired lion.
The basic outline of the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan account of the monk Wuzhuo Wenxi’s experiences within the conjured Vajra Cave/Prajñā Temple is similar to records preserved in earlier Wutai materials. In fact, the text seems to fuse the Expanded Record of Qingliang shan and Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song tellings of this narrative. Yet, as the chart below suggests, many biographical details included in the Qing versions are entirely different from those found in Song and Ming period sources such as the Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song, Expanded Record of Qingliang shan, and Blue Cliff Record.22
|Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song (Song gaoseng zhuan, 988)||Expanded Record of Qingliang shan (Guang Qingliang zhuan, 1060)||Blue Cliff Record (Biyan lu, 1063-1135)||Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan (Qingding Qingliang shan zhi, 1811)|
|Temporal Context||Eighth century||Eighth century||Ninth century|
|Pre-Wutai Teacher(s)||Studies with Chengguan in Chang‘an||Studies at Longquan Monastery with Master
Studies in Jinling under Niutou Chan master Huizhong
|Prior to 841 leaves home to become a
Returns to lay life between 841-846.
Retakes the precepts at Qifeng Temple in 847.
Travels to Wutai at Chan master Daci Xingkong’s recommendation
|Wutai shan Encounters||767 arrives at Wutai shan.
1. Encounters Wenshu disguised as a monk before the Huayan Temple.
2. Meets Wenshu disguised as an old man at the Jingang ku.
Refers to having been unable to enter the grotto.
3. Enters the Conjured Prajñā Temple, meets Junti, receives poetic verses from disguised Wenshu.
4. Escorted back to the Jingang ku, receives poetic verses from Junti, sees the temple’s name, Prajñā Temple.
5. Vision of Wenshu and retinue.
|767 arrives at Wutai shan.
1. Enters the conjured Qingliang Temple (Qingliang si) beneath the Qingliang peak.
“In front three three and behind three three” dialogue.
2. Led by youth Qudi to the Jingang ku.
3. Next month enters conjured Prajñā Temple, receives poetic verses from disguised Wenshu.
4. Escorted back to the Jingang ku, receives poetic verses from Qudi, sees the temple’s name.
5. Vision of Wenshu and retinue.
6. Meets pilgrims who ask him to compose a veritable record (shilu) on which the design of the earthly version of the temple was constructed.
7. Returns to Jingang ku and is unsuccessful in his attempt to enter the cavern.
|1. Meets Wenshu in a temple produced by the
“In front three three and behind three three” dialogue.
|After 847 arrives at Wutai shan.
1. Meets disguised Wenshu before the Huayan Temple.
Refers to having been unable to enter the Vajra Grotto.
2. Meets Junti at the Jingang ku.
“In front three three and behind three three” dialogue.
3. Enters the Conjured Prajñā Temple, meets Junti, receives poetic verses from disguised Wenshu.
“In front three three and behind three three” dialogue.
4. Escorted back to the Jingang ku, where he receives poetic verses from Junti who tells him he is at the Vajra Cave/Prajñā Temple.
5. Vision of Wenshu and retinue.
|Post-Wutai Career||Remained a hermit at Wutai.
806 disciple Wenyi wrote about him.
|Works as a cook at an unnamed Wutai
Meets Wenshu daily in his cauldron.
|Following Wuzhuo’s death and before 947 a reliquary (stūpa) is erected.
947-951 the reliquary is opened, the monk’s body had not decayed.
A host of omissions and inclusions differentiate the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan and closely related New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan records of Wuzhuo’s life and pilgrimage from earlier redactions of the monk’s hagiography. The Qing gazetteers, for example, have Wuzhuo born almost a century after Zanning and Yanyi allege he arrived at the Five Terrace Mountain. The Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song purports that Wuzhuo studied under Chengguan (738-?) in the Tang capital sometime before he arrived at Wutai in the year 767. The Expanded Record of Qingliang shan reports, in contrast, that the monk traveled from his home province Wenzhou to Jinling where he learned from Niutou Chan master Huizhong. The Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan states that, having returned to lay life during the Hui chang persecution, Wuzhuo retook the precepts in 847 before traveling to Wutai shan. The Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan claims that Wuzhuo studied with the Chan master Yanguan (750?-842) in the Dazhong period which began in 847 at which time master Yanguan was no longer alive.23
Just as Qing redactions of Wuzhuo’s hagiography introduce a whole series of new episodes set in Wuzhuo’s early life or involving the stūpa erected after his death, a host of details that appear in later accounts of the monks Shenying, Daoyi, and Fazhao’s lives and pilgrimages are absent from Song period records like those preserved in the Expanded Record of Qingliang shan and Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song. Writing in reference to Ming and Qing gazetteer accounts of Zhang Shangying’s Wutai pilgrimage, Robert Gimello makes a similar observation about the relationship between the New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan and earlier sources.24 He writes:
The Ming gazetteer version is, for the most part, simply a condensation of the original text, with some minor rewordings. The Ch’ing gazetteer version, however, is rather more than that. It tells the same story but in language often very different from that of the other versions. Since it seems unlikely (although not impossible) that the compilers of the Ch’ing gazetteer had at their disposal an otherwise unknown alternative version of the text, we are led to assume that they decided simply to paraphrase, or rewrite from imagination, the more opaque or prolix passages in the original.25
The Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan and the New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan put forward new tellings of well-known Wutai narratives. They include new biographical details that in places contradict information found in historical documents. And thus while the Qing sources may not provide much new information about the individual subjects they describe, an analysis of the additions and exclusions which distinguish them from earlier records of conjured temples nevertheless has much to reveal about the context of their compilation and circulation.
While content and emphasis differentiate Qing records of conjured temples one from the next, the accounts share three points in common. The first similarity is the emphasis each places on the extraordinary quality of the conjured temples. The accounts abound with references to rare jewels and the golden color of the monasteries. The Daoyi record states, for example, that Daoyi:
followed the youth [Jueyi] and walked more than one hundred steps when suddenly he saw a golden bridge. [Dao]yi at once advanced and entered a great temple. The main hall, the monks’ residences, the fences and walls were all gold colored. They dazzled and shone. The floor was blue-green and made from lapis lazuli.
Similarly the Shenying account records:
[Shen]ying entered, looked [around] and made obeisance. There was a many jeweled Buddha reliquary and a seat of pearl and gems. It was adorned and light blue. After entering [through] a cloud, [Shenying saw] there was a Benevolent King [who protects the nation] Hall. The tiles were made of gold. The walls were made of lapis lazuli.
References to magnificent jewels and the temples’ golden color figure prominently in the Qing gazetteers, as well as earlier Wutai materials. They bring the splendor of these places to the fore.
Noticeably absent from Qing descriptions of the temples’ appearance are detailed accounts of the temples’ architectural design and layout of the type which abound in earlier versions of the narratives preserved in Zanning’s Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song and Yanyi’s Expanded Record of Qingliang shan. The significance of the detailed descriptions of temple design and layout in these records, as Stevenson and Birnbaum have pointed out, is best understood in relation to eighth- and ninth-century developments at the mountain. Beginning in the eighth century, earthly replicas of the conjured Fahua Cloister, the conjured Jinge Temple, the conjured Vajra Grotto/Prajñā Temple, and the conjured Zhulin Temple were built on the terrace slopes. In his recent “Light in Wutai Mountains,” Birnbaum frames the significance of the four Tang period replicas in the following way:
The intent [behind these building projects] was to replicate with earthly materials the buildings made of light. These structures, then, were not only places for inhabitation and religious activity, but also solid testimony of the immanence and [page 146] power of Wenshu, testimony that he is present at Wutai shan, that one stands within his buildings under his protection, that he could appear at any moment.26
Attention to architectural design in the Song period records of conjured temples had an important role to play in establishing the correspondence between the layouts of the terrestrial structures whose import Birnbaum clarifies and their transcendent counterparts. One wonders, would the Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song and Expanded Record of Qingliang shan descriptions have matched the versions of the Zhulin, Jinge, and Vajra Cave/Prajñā temples that stood at Qing Wutai? If not, might this explain the relative absence of references to architectural layout in the later materials?
A second similarity apparent in the Qing records is the mention of exceptional figures that populate the temples. According to these sources, Shenying, Daoyi, Wuzhuo, and Fazhao each encountered extraordinary figures in the conjured places they visited. While Shenying came across a group of extraordinary monks in the conjured Fahua Cloister, Daoyi, Wuzhuo, and Fazhao each met the bodhisattva Wenshu. The Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan and New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan portray conjured temples as places where encounters with extraordinary figures, especially Wenshu, take place.
Finally, the Tang monks engaged in a similar range of practices within the extraordinary sites. In ways that earlier Wutai materials do not, Qing narratives focus on exchanges that they assert took place between the monk-pilgrims and temple inhabitants. According to the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan, when Shenying entered the Fahua Cloister he came upon extraordinary monks who were sitting silently. He asked to join the monks who told him to leave the temple, get his robe and bowl, and return. The text states that the monk-pilgrim followed their directions only to have the temple disappear as he passed through its gates. This puzzling little exchange which precipitates Shenying’s regret-filled return to Wutai’s slopes does not appear in Song period Wutai collections. The Daoyi entry states that a mysterious youth named Jueyi led the monk-pilgrim to the Jinge Temple. Once inside, according to the texts, Daoyi came upon a mysterious, aged monk who he had already twice observed riding an elephant at Wutai shan. Like the stranger Wuzhuo encountered, this elderly monk was seated on a specially adorned chair. He offered Daoyi an unusual tea. The pair engaged in a long discussion during the course of which Daoyi asked the old monk which teaching he most often preached. The stranger replied: “in the time of spring trees (those of) Amitābha Buddha, in the time of autumn flowers (those of) Guanyin,” then he struck his seat with a white yak-tail fan.27 Toward the conclusion of their exchange, the elderly monk declared: “monk, how can it be that you do not see that (the state of the) dharma is such that dragons and snakes are mixed together, the ordinary and holy dwell in one place?” This statement is very similar [page 147] to one the disguised Wenshu uttered to Wuzhuo in the conjured Vajra Grotto/Prajñā Temple. Finally, according to the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan, a mysterious white light led the monk Fazhao across a bridge into the conjured Zhulin Temple. The texts state that the monk found the bodhisattva in the Lecture Hall surrounded by ten thousand saints. It continues:
Fazhao prostrated (before Wenshu) three times and then inquired about seeking the paramount truth. The bodhisattva taught him that by means of the meditative concentration (samādhi) of chanting of Amitabha’s name (nian fo) one could widely disseminate the dharma in the world of humans.28
In addition to dialoging with mysterious figures, especially the bodhisattva, the texts state that Daoyi and Wuzhuo consume mysterious food and drink. Writing in reference to the Expanded Record of Qingliang shan record of Fazhao’s pilgrimage Stevenson points out that the consumption of rare food and drink fits comfortably within the context of Daoist transformative elixirs and heavenly grottos.29 While elements of the conjured temple narratives like this one resonate with Daoist tales of extraordinary places, other details connect the accounts to the wider Buddhist scriptural tradition. To readers and listeners familiar with sūtras such as the Mañjuśrī Parinirvāna Sūtra (Wenshu shili ban niepan jing) and the Dhāraṇī of the Storehouse of the Dharma Treasure of Mañjuśrī, references to rare jewels and golden colors in tales of conjured temples may have recalled descriptions of the bodhisattva’s pure land in these sources.30
In Buddhist scriptures, the bodhisattva Wenshu is closely associated with the seven jewels, especially lapis lazuli and gold. Descriptions of the bodhisattva and his home in the Mañjuśrī Parinirvāna Sūtra, for example, make frequent references to these precious materials.31 In the Mañjuśrī Parinirvāna Sūtra the Buddha describes the bodhisattva’s birth in the following way: “his room transformed into a lotus flower, and he issued from the right flank of his mother. His body was the color of purple gold…[a] seven-jeweled parasol accompanied him, shielding his head.”32 Elsewhere the sūtra states that Wenshu changed himself into an image made of lapis lazuli. The scripture continues:
[w]hoever thinks diligently of the image of Wenshu, and thinks of the Dharma of the image of Wenshu, will think foremost of the image of lapis lazuli. Whoever thinks of the image of lapis lazuli will become as I have described above [they [page 149] will do away with sins, be continually reborn in the Buddha families, and be protected by the bodhisattva].33
The link this scripture makes between Wenshu and the seven precious jewels is echoed in the Qing period tales of conjured temples. Encountering references to the Vajra Grotto/Prajñā Temple’s lapis lazuli floors or the Fahua Cloister’s lapis lazuli walls, Qing readers might well have recalled this wider sūtra tradition. A description of a violet and gold Wenshu image housed in the Fahua Cloister that is unique to the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan and New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan Shenying entries suggests that the interaction between records of conjured temples and the wider scriptural tradition of which the Mañjuśrī Parinirvāna Sūtra formed a part was ongoing.34
Frequent references to gold may in particular have brought to mind the bodhisattva’s pure land, one name for which is the golden-hued realm (jinse shijie).35 The multiple references to the gold color of structures in the conjured temples – the Jinge Temple’s pavilion and bridge or the halls of the Vajra Grotto/Prajñā Temple – imply these places are part of Wenshu’s golden pure land.36 Qing versions of Daoyi’s biography suggest this is a connection made by the cleric. In an episode not found in earlier Wutai materials, Daoyi wonders aloud about the status of Wutai shan. In the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan he remarks to the disguised bodhisattva:
[w]hen I arrived to travel at the mountain I only saw hillocks, grass, and trees. Now I see here (in the temple) gold and jade towers. For this reason, I am uncertain as to whether Wutai is a pure (land) or a part of the ordinary (defiled world). I cannot resolve whether the holy and ordinary are distinguished (here).
In this passage, the monk contrasts the ordinary realm (hui tu) with pure land (jingtu).37 He expresses his suspicion that Wutai is not an ordinary place. It is the conjured temple’s gold and jade towers which lead him to suppose Wutai might well be a part of Wenshu’s pure land.
Coming upon similar depictions of conjured temples individuals familiar with the Buddhist sūtra tradition might, like the pilgrim Daoyi, have thought of Wenshu’s pure land. The content of these discussions and their meandering style might, further, have brought to mind a different tradition that was part of the context in which accounts of conjured temples were composed, disseminated, performed, and read. The dialogues between the Wutai pilgrims and the temple inhabitants which occupy a central in Qing gazetteer records seem to have both influenced and been shaped by Chan encounter dialogues.
In the context of a conjured temple atop a holy mountain at the periphery of the dynasty, neither the perplexing exchange between Shenying and the mysterious Fahua Cloister monks, nor the winding nature of Wuzhuo and Daoyi’s discussion with the disguised Wenshu feel entirely out of place. Rather, the content of the bodhisattva’s comments which volley from the subject to subject seems to parallel in its disjuncture and opaqueness the strangeness of the surroundings. These conversations, led by the bodhisattva’s questions, are filled with cryptic statements. Their shape and content seem to resemble in several respects the pattern of Chan pedagogy John McRae has termed the “encounter dialogue.”
Encounter dialogue is the name McRae assigns to the bimodal discourse between an often unnamed student and his named Chan teacher frequently found in material depicting the activities of Chan practitioners prior to the Five Dynasties period.38 This image of middle, largely Tang, Chan pedagogy, which McRae argues is the retrospective creation of later Five Dynasties and Song tradition, does not emphasize the setting of an encounter but focuses almost exclusively on the master’s unexpected and puzzling statements. McRae characterizes the exchanges as follows:
…Chan encounter dialogue eschews the straightforward exchange of ideas; it is characterized by various types of logical disjunctions, inexplicable and iconoclastic pronouncements, gestures and physical demonstrations, and even assultive behaviour…39
Insofar as setting, generally ignored in the encounter dialogue, is an important backdrop to these Wutai tales, the New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan and Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan accounts of conjured temples diverge from McRae’s model. However, their question and answer format, as well as details such as the yak-tail fan unique to Qing renderings of tales of conjured temples, conform in many respects to McRae’s description.
Working with Song period materials, Steven Heine has made a connection between Xuedou Zhongxian’s eleventh-century Blue Cliff Record and one record of a conjured temple. The thirty-fifth public case in the Blue Cliff Record focuses on an exchange between the monk-pilgrim Wuzhuo and the bodhisattva Wenshu that is based, he explains, on early Wutai materials. It reads:
Then Wu-cho [Wuzhuo] asked Manjusri, “How is the Dharma being upheld in these parts?”
What a blow! He pushes the spear in and turns it round and round.
Manjusri responded, “Unenlightened people and sages dwell together; dragons and snakes intermingle.”
The tide is turned. He's tripping over his own feet and his hands are flailing.
Wu-cho asked, “Are the congregations large or small?”
The phrase comes back to haunt me, Manjusri is thinking. But Wucho couldn't hold it in any longer.
Manjusri said, “In front three by three, in back three by three.”
An extraordinary statement! But, are the congregations large or small?
Even a thousand arms of great compassion could not count all the people.40
For Heine the public case is one of a number which depict the meeting of what he proposes are two forms of Buddhism: a Wutai Buddhism “based on esoteric or Tantric beliefs and the iconoclastic trends of Zen contemplation that resisted but could not help but be attracted to the Mount Wu-t’ai brand of religiosity.”41 For the purpose of this paper, however, the Blue Cliff Record entry confirms a link between tales of conjured temples and the wider Chan scriptural tradition.
The connection between records of Chan teaching and accounts of extraordinary Wutai temples seems to be amplified in Qing records of conjured temples such as the Shenying and Daoyi hagiographies which center on puzzling exchanges between monk-pilgrims and temple inhabitants in ways that earlier editions did not. These later sources, further, make new claims about the Wutai monk-pilgrims sectarian affiliations. While Song-period sources connect Shenying, Daoyi, and Wuzhuo to places and teachers from a broad range of schools, the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan and New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan introduce the triad of monks as Chan Masters at the beginning of the spiritual response (linggan) section accounts of extraordinary temples.42 This innovation suggests that [page 152] further investigation into the relationship between Qing miracle tale traditions and Chan forms of Buddhism might be very fruitful.
In Qing tales of conjured temples Wutai shan’s holy status is asserted on multiple grounds. In an effort to promote the sacred Buddhist character of the territory, proponents of the mountain cult used a wide array of scriptural sources to new ends. First, accounts of conjured temples in the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan and the New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan describe Wutai shan as a territory where Wenshu manifests extraordinary temples. The conjured temples are depicted as a spaces filled with rare jewels. Frequent references to gold and lapis-lazuli bring to mind descriptions of Wenshu’s golden-hued pure land in mahāyāna sūtras such as the Mañjuśrī Parinirvāna Sūtra. The special significance of this link comes to the fore when considered in the light of later developments at the mountain. Initially, these accounts of conjured temples claim, Wenshu’s pure land was observed by a small group of Tang monks who entered spectacular temples. The construction of structures said to exactly replicate these transcendent counterparts, however, changed this situation markedly. Erecting earthly replicas of the conjured temples at the mountain, the bodhisattva’s pure land was made visible to all pilgrims who visited Wutai. According to the Qing records of conjured temples, then, Wutai was the location at which lay and monastic pilgrims could visit the Zhulin Temple, the Vajra Grotto/Prajñā Temple, and the Jinge Temple and so doing see Wenshu’s extraordinary realm.
Second, the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan and New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan assert that Wutai shan is a place where mountain pilgrims have unexpected encounters with exceptional figures, especially Wenshu. From time to time, the sources claim, the bodhisattva appears in these extraordinary spaces in the guise of an old man or monk. The conjured temple exchanges with Wenshu, in their structure and content, recall a pattern of Chan pedagogy McRae has termed the encounter dialogue. A special relationship seems to exist between the image of teacher and student found in Chan materials such as the Blue Cliff Record and Qing period accounts of conjured temples set at Wutai shan. Moreover, this depiction of the bodhisattva as a mysterious, elderly stranger fits comfortably within a far earlier Wutai narrative tradition.
Prior to the introduction of Buddhism to China, mountain territories including Wutai were sites of national, regional, and local cultic activity. Perhaps it is thus not surprising to learn that before the development of the cult of Wenshu at Wutai shan [page 153] the site was the setting of another story tradition. As Raoul Birnbaum has shown, a tradition which identifies the Jingang ku as the home of a mountain spirit (shanshen) appears in Huixiang’s Ancient Record of Qingliang shan.43 According to this text, a resident of Wutai shan, Xiangyun, was wandering alone on the mountain peaks when he encountered a group of mysterious figures. The most imposing of these men introduced himself saying: “Sir, I am the spirit-lord of this mountain. I live in the Jingang ku.”44 In the seventh century, when the mountain came to be associated with Wenshu, the grotto in particular was viewed as the bodhisattva’s earthly dwelling place. In later Buddhist contexts this mountain grotto frequently appears as a site where pilgrims obtain visions of the bodhisattva. While perhaps the most famous of these records is that of the monk Fotuoboli (buddhapāla) who met Wenshu disguised as an old man when he arrived at Wutai shan in 676 CE, Qing records suggest the grotto also became closely affiliated with Wuzhuo.45 Though in Song materials the conjured temple Wuzhuo entered is named the Prajñā Temple, the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan and New Gazetteer of Qingliang shan identify the place as the Jingang ku. The image of Wenshu as an old monk resonates not only with Chan visions of the teacher-student encounter like those preserved in the Blue Cliff Record, but it seems to find precedent in a narrative tradition which predated the period of Buddhism’s exclusive claim to Wutai shan.
A final insight into the type of importance compilers and audiences assigned to records of conjured temples can be gained from the classification of the tales within the spiritual response section of the Imperially Commissioned Gazetteer of Qingliang shan. Working in the related context of the Guanyin miracle tale tradition, Yü Chünfang has considered the significance of this terminology. Yü uses the closely connected term gan ying to characterize the relationship between the bodhisattva and devotee. In Yü’s reading, the prayers and calling of Guanyin’s name in these tales are the stimulus which, when sincere or truly desperate, triggers a response from Guanyin. The bodhisattva, Yü reminds her readers, “does not act gratuitously,” but rather is connected to human suppliants through sincerity that is the mechanism of stimulus and response.46 Read in this light, the classification [page 154] of stories of extraordinary temples in the spiritual response section of the Qing gazetteers suggests that the accounts were understood to reveal something about the relationship between the bodhisattva Wenshu and his devotees at Wutai.47 Records of conjured temples assert that Wenshu responds to the devotion of the mountain-pilgrims by opening up a conjured temple to them. The monk-pilgrims and the temples that replicate extraordinary versions, in turn, for more than one thousand years have been a vehicle through which the dharma is amplified.
The Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song and the Expanded Record of Qingliang shan contain records of at least four conjured temples that were subsequently constructed at Wutai shan. The mountain monograph groups them together and titles them thus: “the record of the preceptor Shenying’s (eighth century) entry into the conjured Fahua Cloister” (Yanyi, Guang Qingliang zhuan [Expanded Record of Qingliang shan], in Taishō shinshū Daizōkyō, ed. Takakusu Junjirō and Watanabe Kaigyoku Henshū [Tōkyō: Taishō Issaikyō Kankōkai, 1924-32], 1112c.17-13a.14; Zanning, Song gaoseng zhuan [Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song], in Taishō shinshū Daizōkyō, ed. Takakusu Junjirō and Watanabe Kaigyoku Henshū [Tōkyō: Taishō Issaikyō Kankōkai, 1924-32], 843a.07-43b.04), “the record of the preceptor Wuzhuo’s entry into the conjured Prajñā Temple (Bore si)” (Yanyi, Expanded Record of Qingliang shan, 1111b.24-12c.16; Zanning, Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song, 836c.01-37b.14), “the record of the monk Daoyi’s (eighth century) entry into the conjured Jinge Temple” (Yanyi, Expanded Record of Qingliang shan, 1113a.15-14a.5; Zanning, Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song, 843c.21-44a.07), “the record of the preceptor Fazhao’s (eighth century) entry into the conjured Zhulin Temple” (Yanyi, Expanded Record of Qingliang shan, 1114a.06-16a.22; Zanning, Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song, 844a.08-45b.08). Furthermore, the Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song and the Expanded Record of Qingliang shan preserve accounts of the Tang monk Wuran’s (eighth-ninth century) entry into the conjured Fusheng Temple (Fusheng si; Zanning, Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song, 855c.08; Yanyi, Expanded Record of Qingliang shan, 1116a.24). I know of no reference to this temple being constructed at Wutai shan.
Daniel Stevenson and Raoul Birnbaum have studied some of these figures in isolation. Stevenson has translated the Expanded Record of Qingliang shan account of Fazhao’s entry into the conjured Zhulin Temple. Birnbaum, the expert on Tang period Wutai shan, has written extensively on the Daoyi and Shenying material. In a recent article, “Light in the Wutai Mountains,” Birnbaum quotes from Yanyi’s entry on Wuzhuo.Daniel Stevenson, “Visions of Mañjuśrī on Mount Wutai,” in Religions of China in Practice, ed. Donald S. Lopez, Jr. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 203-222; Raoul, Birnbaum, “Light in the Wutai Mountains,” in The Presence of Light: Divine Radiance and Religious Experience, ed. Matthew T. Kapstein (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 195-226; Raoul, Birnbaum, Studies on the Mysteries of Maňjuśrī: A Group of East Asian Maņdalas and Their Traditional Symbolism (Boulder: Society for the Study of Chinese Religions, 1983); Raoul Birnbaum, “The Manifestations of a Monastery: Shen-ying’s Experiences on Mount Wu-t’ai in T’ang Context,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 106, no.1 (1986): 110-37.
In deconstructing the notion that Wutai or any site for that matter could be a sacred center Wuzhu was not, as Wendi Adamek points out in her Mystique of Transmission, alone. A similar critique appears in the The Record of Linji where master Linji (d. 866-7) decries: “There are some types of students who go off to Mt. Wu-t’ai looking for Manjushri. They’re wrong from the very start! Manjushri isn’t on Mt. Wu-t’ai. Would you like to get to Manjushri? You here in front of my eyes, carrying out your activities, from first to last never changing, wherever you go never doubting – this is the living Manjushri!”
The thrust of this argument, Adamek explains “is that it is delusory to locate the Buddha and Dharma outside one’s true nature, the Buddha-body of emptiness.” Significantly, she notes, “Wuzhu mocks those who make pilgrimage to Mt. Wutai, at a time when Bukong (amoghavajra, 705-774) was involving the state in massive expenditure at this site in order to glorify China as the domain of the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī.” One of the building projects Bukong promoted was the construction of the Jinge Temple, a replica of the conjured temple into which the Tang monk Daoyi entered. Wendi Leigh Adamek, The Mystique of Transmission: On An Early Chan History and Its Contexts (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 274, 275, 119.
In Wenshu’s burning house, the strange is always numinous,
The subtle and profound region cannot be named.
At Vajra Grotto, one always hears the sounds of Sanskrit,
Towers and terraces manifest everywhere shining.
Fazhao of Nanliang roamed in the immortal temple,
The eminent monk of the Western land entered the conjured city.
Limitless sages and worthies all dwell in this place,
Wandering beyond the clouds, good at moral cultivation.
Cartelli, “Poetry of Mount Wutai,” 237. Cartelli’s article “The Gold-Colored World: ‘Eulogy on the Holy Regions of Mount Wutai’” is built around a translation and analysis of the Wutai shan sheng jing zan. Mary Anne Cartelli, “The Gold-Colored World: ‘Eulogy on the Holy Regions of Mount Wutai,’” T’ang Studies 23-24 (2005-2006): 1-45.
References to the current era being that of the dharma’s decline appear throughout the vision-literature of Wutai and the Song period stories of the conjured temples in particular. In the Expanded Record of Qingliang shan version of the monk Wuzhuo’s entry into the manifested Prajñā Temple, for example, Wenshu, disguised as the abbot of the Qingliang Temple, asks about the state of the Buddha-dharma in the monk’s home region. Wuzhuo replies that the morality (śīla) and precepts (vinaya) are divided because it is the second of three periods of the Buddha’s teaching is drawing to a close. The period to which Wuzhuo makes reference here is the xiangji, the end of the period of the semblance dharma (xiangfa; Yanyi, Expanded Record of Qingliang shan, 1111c.11-11c.12). In Yanyi’s account of Daoyi Wenshu, disguised as old monk in the Jinge Temple, asks about the state of the Buddha-Dharma in Daoyi’s region. According to the text, the monk tells to the mysterious stranger that because it is the final age of the dharma (mofa) and morality and precepts are not respected (Yanyi, Expanded Record of Qingliang shan, 1113c.10). Interestingly, in both cases these references to dharmic dissolution appear in the Expanded Record of Qingliang shan version of Daoyi’s biography but not theBiographies of Eminent Monks Compiled under the Song.
Scriptural precedent or parallel for the view that Wutai is the dwelling place of Wenshu in the era of the dharma’s decline are found in the Dhāraṇī of the Storehouse of the Dharma Treasure of Mañjuśrī (Mañjuśrī Dharma Ratnagarbha Dhāranī Sūtra, Wenshu shili fabaozang tuoluoni jing). The text claims Wenshu dwells at a five-peaked mountain in Great China (mahā cīna) in the era of the dharma’s dissolution. Sen translates the relevant passage: “O Lord, you often have said these words to me in the past – ‘After my final passing away, when a woesome age has fallen upon the Rose Apple Continent (Jambudvīpa), Mañjuśrī with broad abilities will benefit limitless sentient beings, and he will do the Buddha’s work.’ My sole wish, O Lord, is that you clearly and extensively describe to me in what place he shall dwell and further in what region he shall practice these beneficial acts. Due to your compassionate sympathy and upholding protection for all sentient beings, I wish that you will speak of it.”
Then the Buddha told the bodhisattva Lord of the Vajra’s Secret Traces: “After my final passing, in this Rose Apple Continent (Jambudvīpa) in the northeast sector, there is a country named Great China. In its center there is a mountain named Five Peaks. The youth Mañjuśrī shall roam about and dwell there, preaching the Dharma in its center for the sake of all sentient beings.”
The Buddha states that Wenshu will appear at Mahā Cīna in the northeast on a five-peaked mountain. Proponents of the bodhisattva cult at Wutai interpreted this to be a reference to the northern mountain, the name of which means five-terraces. The scripture links Wenshu’s appearance with a woesome age, the era of decline. Song and Ming period biographies of Fazhao, as well as those of Wuzhuo and Daoyi, echo this claim. In contrast, the Qing accounts of conjured temples do not associate Wutai and the period of dharmic decline. References to the period are absent from the Ancient Record of Qingliang shan. Tansen Sen, Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600-1400 (Honolulu: Association for Asian Studies and University of Hawai’i Press, 2003), 82.
Some time after the dialogue, Wu-cho decided to stay on Mount Wu-t'ai and was serving as cook in a monastery. Every day Manjusri appeared above his cauldron of rice, and each time Wu-cho struck him a blow with the bamboo stick used for churning the porridge. But that is like drawing the bow after the thief has already fled. At the right time, when asked “How is the Buddha Dharma being upheld in the South?” he should have hit Manjusri on the spine – that would have accomplished something! (Heine, Opening a Mountain, 67.)
Note Citation for Page
Susan Andrews, “Tales of Conjured Temples (huasi) in Qing Period Mountain Gazetteers,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): , http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5710 (accessed ).
Note Citation for Whole Article
Susan Andrews, “Tales of Conjured Temples (huasi) in Qing Period Mountain Gazetteers,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): 134-162, http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5710 (accessed ).
Andrews, Susan. “Tales of Conjured Temples (huasi) in Qing Period Mountain Gazetteers.” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): 134-162. http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5710 (accessed ).