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Nan-yang Hui-chung

Nan-yang Hui-chung (Jap., Nanʾyō Echū; 8th cent. CE). Prominent Chʾan/Zen master, one of the ‘five great masters’ of the school of Huineng, whose pupil he was. After training, he retired to Mount Pai-ya in Nan-yang (hence his name) for about forty years. When about 85, he responded to the emperor's invitation to become his instructor (as also of Tai-tsung, his successor). As a result, he was called ‘National Teacher of Two Emperors’, the beginning of the tradition of the honorific titles kuo-shih (Jap., kokushi: see KOKUTAI). Thus Nan-yang is also known as Chung-kuo-shih (Jap., Chū Kokushi). Several kōans of his survive, but he is more usually associated with ‘the seamless pagoda’. The emperor asked Nan-yang how he could honour him on his 100th birthday. Nan-yang replied, ‘Build the old monk a seamless pagoda’. When the emperor asked for advice about the construction, Nan-yang told him that his pupil, Tan-yüan, would lead him out of his ignorance. Tan-yüan supplied the ‘explanation’.

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