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Hanshan Deqing, or Deqing Chengyin (1546–1623), is one of the so-called Four Eminent Monks of the Ming Dynasty, whose prolific works influenced and reflected the syncretistic trends of his days in Chinese Buddhism. Of patriarchal stature later in both the Chan and Pure Land schools, he advocated the combined practice of "recitation of the Buddha's name" and the "investigation of the critical phrase" (kan huatou) for the greater part of his missionary career. Later in his life, he grew singularly devout to Pure Land, noticeably after he founded the Fayun Chan Monastery in 1617 with the intent of re-creating the paradigmatic Pure Land community of the first patriarch Huiyuan (334–416).

Deqing's extensive learning in Confucianism and Daoism made him a vocal and celebrated figure among literati and officials. Though the imperial favor long granted to him was interrupted when he was (possibly falsely) charged with illicitly establishing monasteries, and as a result was removed from the government appointed abbotship of the Haiyin Monastery in 1596, his monastic status was returned to him by 1615, earning him a heightened reputation. During exile, he was invited to serve as abbot at the fabled Caoxi site of the Sixth Patriarch of the Chan school, Huineng, where he revitalized many of its purportedly "original" institutional traditions.

Deqing was well known in both his lectures and written works for his simultaneously harmonizing and polemical treatment of the Three Religions (Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism). His syncretistic agenda extended to the doctrinal reconciliation of most of the viable Buddhist schools of his days. An anthology of his works was compiled under the title Hanshan dashi mengyou ji (Complete Works of the Great Master Hanshan [Written] while Roaming in a Dream).

See also:Chan School; Confucianism and Buddhism; Daoism and Buddhism; Syncretic Sects: Three Teachings


Hsu, Sung-peng. A Buddhist Leader in Ming China: The Life and Thought of Han-shan Te-ch'ing. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1979.

Wu, Pei-yi. "Spiritual Autobiography of Te-ch'ing." In The Unfolding of Neo-Confucianism, ed. William de Bary and the Conference on Seventeenth-Century Chinese Thought. New York and London: Columbia University Press, 1975.

William Chu