ZHUHONG (1535–1615), also known as Master Yunqi; an important Buddhist leader in the late Ming dynasty (1368–1644). A reformer of monastic Buddhism, a synthesizer of various Buddhist traditions, and a successful promoter of lay Buddhism, Zhuhong was also regarded posthumously as the eighth Pure Land patriarch. However, his influence has never been confined within any sectarian boundary. He has, in fact, been credited with the renewal of Buddhism in Ming China.
Zhuhong was a native of Hangzhou. He became a student in the local school at the age of sixteen and quickly achieved a reputation for his knowledge of Confucianism and Daoism. He sat for the higher civil examinations several times but was without success. His interest in Pure Land Buddhism dates from the time when he daily witnessed an old woman calling the name of the Buddha Amitābha (Chin., Emituofo). Thereafter, he kept a vegetarian diet, studied Buddhist scriptures, and practiced nianfo (recitation of Amitābha's name). When Zhuhong was twenty-seven his father died. Shortly afterward his wife and only son also passed away. He then remarried a pious Buddhist laywoman and resolved that if he failed to pass the provincial examinations by the age of thirty and the metropolitan examinations by the age of forty, he would become a monk. Three years later his mother died. When success in the examinations still eluded him he bade farewell to his wife (who later became a nun) and in 1566 entered the monastic order.
After he became a monk, Zhuhong followed the mendicant tradition, spending the next six years traveling throughout the country seeking instruction from prominent teachers. He achieved his first enlightenment on his way to Dongzhang in Shandong. He also took part in five sessions of Chan meditation held in different monasteries in the Zhejiang area. In 1571 he returned to Mount Yunqi in his native Hangzhou. It is said that through the performance of Tantric rituals and the invocation of the Buddha's name, Zhuhong cleared the region of tigers that had been harming men and beasts, and brought rain during a severe drought. In gratitude, villagers rebuilt an abandoned old temple, which he named Yunqi Monastery upon its completion in 1577. Zhuhong stayed there until his death in 1615, making it a model of monastic discipline and a center for the joint practice of Pure Land and Chan, a syncretic tradition that was initiated by the Chan master Yanshou (904–975) and that reached its culmination with Zhuhong.
The joint practice of Chan and Pure Land rested on the assertion that the two paths were essentially the same insofar as both led to the same goal: the stopping of wrong thoughts and the end of the cycle of saṃsāra (Chin., shengsi ). Zhuhong wrote a four-volume commentary on the smaller Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra (Chin., Emituofo jing ) in which he provided a creative interpretation of "one mind" (yixin ). Using the Huayan categories of particularity (shi ) and universality (li ), Zhuhong divided the attainment of nianfo into the "one mind of particularity" and the "one mind of universality." The former is achieved through concentration, which suppresses ignorance, while the latter is achieved through insight, which destroys ignorance. By the "uninterrupted experience and embodiment" of the Buddha's name, he believed, one could attain insight into the true nature of things, the object of Chan meditation. The link between Chan meditation and nianfo practice was precisely this one mind. Zhuhong firmly believed that this one mind was nothing other than that to which Bodhidharma was "directly pointing."
Zhuhong was an energetic evangelist of vegetarianism and kindness to animals. Under his advocacy, the practice of "release of life" (fangsheng ), that is, buying fish and other creatures from marketplaces and setting them free, became very popular among lay Buddhists. He wrote the Zizhi lu (Record of Self-knowledge), which was modeled on the ledgers of merit and demerit long favored by Daoists, to inculcate Buddhist values among the general populace.
Zhuhong was interested in harmonizing Buddhism with Confucianism. He was less impressed by Daoism and clearly hostile toward Catholicism, as can be seen from the four rebuttals supposedly addressed to Matteo Ricci and contained in Zhuhong's collected works, Yunqi fahui.
Hurvitz, Leon. "Chu-hung's One Mind of Pure Land and Ch'an Buddhism." In Self and Society in Ming Thought, edited by Wm. Theodore de Bary, pp. 451–476. New York, 1970.
Yü, Chun-fang. The Renewal of Buddhism in China: Chu-hung and the Late Ming Synthesis. New York, 1981.
Zhuhong. Yunqi fahui. 34 vols. Nanjing, 1897. The collected works of Zhuhong.
Chun-fang YÜ (1987)