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ZHIYAN (602668), second patriarch of the Huayan school of Buddhism in China. Born in the town of Tianshui near Chang'an, the capital of the Tang dynasty, Zhiyan was the son of an official in Shenzhou province. When Zhiyan was twelve years old his family was visited by the first patriarch of the Huayan school, Dushun, who claimed that Zhiyan was his son and should be returned to him. This declaration was taken by Zhiyan's parents to mean that Zhiyan was to become a Buddhist monk, and they thus entrusted him to Dushun.

Ordained in 615, Zhiyan studied Buddhism, mainly the thought of the She dasheng lun (Mahāyānasagraha) and, later, the thought of the Huayan jing (Mahāvaipulya-buddhagaavyūha Sūtra), under many famous Buddhists. During this period he also mastered Sanskrit. His reading of the Huayan jing shu (Commentary on the Huayan jing ) by Huiguang, the founder of the Nandao branch of the Dilun school, greatly contributed to his religious development. Shortly after this he met a monk who taught him to consider the meaning [of] the Huayan teaching of liuxiang ("six aspects" of reality). At the age of twenty-seven, having followed this monk's teaching, he is said to have realized the truth of the "One Vehicle." Thereafter, he wrote his commentary on the Huayan jing, the Souxuan ji. By pursuing this religious path Zhiyan became the leader of the Huayan school at the Zhixiang Si on Mount Zhongnan. Although Zhiyan did not seek social influence, honor, and wealth, he did engage in social activity when, late in his life, he became a private teacher of Xian, the king of Pei. This occurred while he was staying at the Yunhua Si in Chang'an.

Zhiyan's greatest influence was in the development and systematization of Huayan doctrine. His work was to pave the way for Fazang's subsequent completion of Huayan thought. Zhiyan created the method of classifying the Buddhist teachings into five grades, arranged according to the subtlety of the doctrines, and founded the teaching of fajie yuanqi ("dependent origination of the True Realm"). These doctrines were given their final form by Fazang, one of his disciples. However, Zhiyan had his own character, one different from both those of his teachers and of his disciples. For example, he placed high emphasis on Tanqian's Wangshifei lun, a work that praised what it termed wuxin ("the mind beyond functions"), a mental state based upon the thought of Zhuangzi, and esteemed Xinxing's Sect of the Three Stages, which was generally treated as heretical. Zhiyan's extant works are as follows:

  1. Souxuan ji (T.D. no. 1732)
  2. Yisheng shixuan men (T.D. no. 1868)
  3. Wushiyao wenda (T.D. no. 1869)
  4. Huayan jing kongmu zhang (T.D. no. 1870)
  5. Jin'gang jing lüeshu (T.D. no. 1704)

Zhiyan had two disciples of special importance for the tradition. The first, Fazang (643712), went on to become the great systematizer and so-called third "patriarch" of Huayan Buddhism in China. Through his efforts, Huayan became one of the prestigious and lavishly patronized traditions of the Tang dynasty (618907). The other, Uisang (625702), returned to his native Korean state of Silla and was instrumental in establishing Huayan as one of the most important Buddhist traditions there.

See Also

Fazang; Huayan; Ŭisang.


Kamata Shigeo. Chugoku kengonshisoshi no kenkyu. Tokyo, 1965. Pages 79106 discuss Zhiyan's importance to the Huayan tradition.

Kimura Kiyotaka. Shoki chugoku kegonshiso no kenkyu. Tokyo, 1977. This work, a comprehensive study of early Huayan Buddhism, focuses on Zhiyan's thought.

Kimura Kiyotaka (1987)

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