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The Reinvention of Chan Buddhism in Seventeenth-Century China

The Reinvention of Chan Buddhism in Seventeenth-Century China

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Published by: okkar1 on Aug 24, 2011
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 Journal of Buddhist Ethics
 ISSN 1076-9005http://www.buddhistethics.org/Volume 18, 2011
Enlightenment in Dispute: The Reinvention of ChanBuddhism in Seventeenth-Century China
Reviewed by Jack Meng-Tat ChiaHarvard Universitymtchia@fas.harvard.edu
Copyright Notice:
Digital copies of this work may be made anddistributed provided no change is made and no alteration ismade to the content. Reproduction in any other format, withthe exception of a single copy for private study, requires thewritten permission of the author. All enquiries to:editor@buddhistethics.org
A Review of 
Enlightenment in Dispute: The Reinventionof Chan Buddhism in Seventeenth-Century China
 Jack Meng-Tat Chia
Enlightenment in Dispute: The Reinvention of Chan Buddhism in Seventeenth-Century China.
By Jiang Wu. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, 457 pages, ISBN:
 (cloth), US $74.00.
In recent years, buddhologists and historians have devoted themselvesto research on Chan (Zen) Buddhism in Chinese history. Jiang Wu’s studydraws attention to the development of Chan Buddhism in seventeenth-century China. He seeks to challenge previous assumptions of Buddhistdecline during the Ming and Qing periods. Drawing on a wide range of Buddhist and historical sources, including the Jiaxing Buddhist canon,monastic gazetteers, Chan recorded sayings and lamp records, raresources from the Manpukuji archive in Japan, as well as
 transmission records from the Shanghai Library, Wu successfullyhighlights the robust activities, dialogues and disputes among thevarious Chan communities in the seventeenth century.Wu focuses on two major controversies among Chan monks toillustrate the transformations of Chan Buddhism in seventeenth-centuryChina. The first controversy is the dispute between Miyun Yuanwu(1566–1642) and his
heir Hanyue Fazang (1573–1635). HanyueFazang questioned his master’s revival of beating and shouting practices
Harvard University. Email: mtchia@fas.harvard.edu
Review of Enlightenment in Dispute
and challenged his position within the Linji Chan lineage. The secondcontroversy was caused by Miyun Yuanwu’s
heir FeiyinTongrong’s (1593–1662) provocative book,
Wudeng yantong
(The stricttransmission of the five Chan schools), which was intended to relegateself-proclaimed Chan monks without proper
transmission to thecategory of “lineage unknown” (
 sifa weixiang
). This led to themarginalization of several eminent masters and an under-representationof Caodong monks. The controversial book resulted in a lawsuit in 1654.Taken together, Wu suggests that Chan Buddhism in seventeenth-century China was a “systemic reinvention” of Chan ideals, whichconsisted of beating and shouting practices and a hierarchy of 
 transmission. In other words, Chan Buddhist communities wereinnovative and vibrant.This book is divided into four parts. Part one introduces thehistory of Chan Buddhism in the context of seventeenth-century China.The intellectual, cultural and economic influence of the literaticontributed to the gradual rise of Chan Buddhism as an institutionalestablishment from the late-Ming period. Because of their authority andknowledge in textual practice, literati such as Wang Yangming hadpivotal influence on the Chan monks. From the 1630s, Chan mastersfrom the Caodong and Linji lineages of Chan Buddhism becameprominent in spreading their
transmissions. This religiousrevival, as Wu emphasizes, cut across the Ming-Qing transition and wasuninterrupted by the dynastic change. Following the retreat of the Minggovernment from southeast to southwest after 1644, Chan Buddhismspread quickly to the southwest, Vietnam, as well as Japan. Furthermore,the growth of Chan Buddhism accelerated as some literati and loyalistsbecame monks after the fall of the Ming Dynasty.The second part of the book discusses the dispute between MiyunYuanwu and Hanyue Fazang. The tenuous relations between these two

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