Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has many emanations and He has manifested in countless forms to save beings at different times and places. In the Chinese Buddhist Pantheon, He is the only figure in the form of a monk. This is to indicate that Mahāyāna Buddhism is suitable for both the monks and the laity.

            The following story of Jīn-Qiao-Jué (金喬覺) in T’ang dynasty (唐代), which Chinese believe is the incarnation of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva in China, was a generalization from some Chinese books, viz., “佛法概要 (The Glimpses of Buddhist teachings) by Dharma Master Ming-Yang (明暘法師)[1]; “九華山志” (A  Record of Jiu-Hua mountain) by Liu-Hai-Piao (劉海票)[2]; “金喬覺 金地藏” (Story of Jīn Qiao Jué – Jīn Dī Zang) by Yōu-Lo (幽洛)[3]; “九華山的傳說” (The legend of Jiu-Hua mountain) by Hú-Jūn (胡峻)[4]; “禪機妙悟” (The wonderful Enlightenment of Meditation) by Che-Ru-Shun (車如舜)[5]; and “九華山史話” (The euhemerism of Jiu-Hua mountain) by Yang-Yu-Hua (楊玉華)[6].

            Jīn-Qiao-Jué (630 – 729 A.D), was of the royal lineage of Shīn-La (新羅/Korea). In his childhood, as a Royal child, Jīn-Qiao-Jué received an all-round education. Being intelligent and eager to learn, Prince Jīn-Qiao-Jué became very good at studies and military skills. However, all that secular knowledge did not make him satisfied. He thought that life is suffering and that all beings are subject to birth, old age, disease and death. Therefore, one should not waste time and energy on sensual pleasures but should strive to work for his and all of beings welfare instead. With this outlook on life, Jīn-Qiao-Jué went from place to place throughout of Shīn-La kingdom, wherever the well-known teacher he heard, he visited them for instruction and in search for the Truth.

            One day, He heard that an eminent monk, named, Cí-Zang (慈藏)[7], who returned from China, after studying for long time under the training of many famous scholarly monks of the T’ang China. Cí-Zang stayed at an alpine mountain with his white dog. Once, Jīn-Qiao-Jué came there to unfurl his banner, and after being taught by Cí-Zang, Jīn-Qiao-Jué ascertained that Cí-Zang was his Real-Master. He begged Ven. Cí-Zang to accept him as his disciple, so that he may be able to learn dharma from Cí-Zang. However, Ven. Cí-Zang declined Jīn-Qiao-Jué’s request and further advise him to go to China for study of Buddhism. From then on, Jīn-Qiao-Jué was very interested in Buddhist philosophy, and decided to follow the way of apotheosis. In 653, He joined the monastic life at the age of twenty-four.

            During the T’ang dynasty (618-907), Chinese Buddhism was at the peak of its glory in China; it was so widespread and profoundly influential during this period, that the monasteries grew and prospered, monks and nuns thrived, many foreign monks from others countries came there for studies. After renunciation, Jīn-Qiao-Jué decided to venture forth to China in search of the Dharma, with the help of Ven. Cí-Zang.  

            Having entered China, Jīn-Qiao-Jué first made his pilgrimage to Lō-Yāng (洛陽), the city with a long history of Buddhist connections. However, in the shifts and changes of life, “the city of thousand Buddha’s images and monasteries” with various Buddhist festivals in “Record of Monasteries in Lō-Yāng” (洛陽伽藍記), He saw only the pasture land of cows. Yung-Ming Temple (永明寺), which was constructed to serve as head-quarters for foreign monks from others countries residing in Lō-Yāng, at one time over three thousand foreign monks living. The temple was at the height of its glory, it was seen by Bodhidharma (菩提達磨), first patriarch of the Ch’an school (禪宗). Ching-Ming Temple (清明寺), where the images of the Buddha in Lō-Yāng were assembled preparatory to being paraded through the city, the temple with fanfare of music, chanting, scattering of flowers and incense in everlastingness. Yao-Kuang Temple (瑤光寺), a famous nunnery in Lō-Yāng was the place where many girls of the Royal family and the nobility took refuge to join the Sangha, etc., All glory has turned into the heaps of ruins and ashes, and the pasture land of cows.[8] The bells of the thousands temples in Lō-Yāng were stilled forever. Nothing better illustrates the truth of this statement than the fate of the Buddhist establishments in Lō-Yāng at the end of Northern-Wei Dynasty. The Chinese Buddhism’s heart and soul, had shifted to Cháng-Ān (長安), the capital of China, at that time. Jīn-Qiao-Jué realized the cardinal doctrine, “Impermanent are all compounded things”, so said the Buddha when he was about to expire.

            It is necessary to note here that, above facts were the consequences of the persecution under Emperor Wu (武帝) of Northern Chou Dynasty, in the year 574. Even, at the beginning of the T’ang dynasty, Buddhism also faced some hostile attitude of the government, under the reign of T’ang Kao-Tsu (唐高祖), the first T’ang emperor. The date of Jīn-Qiao-Jué’s arrival coincided with the reign of T’ang T’ai-Tsung (唐太宗). The historical sources show that, Chinese Buddhism properly developed from the later years of T’ang T’ai-Tsung, and the early years of T’ang Kao-Tsung’s (唐高宗) reign.[9]  

            After visiting Lō-Yāng, Jīn-Qiao-Jué omnipresent went from place to place to learn from many well-known masters. First, he went to Tien-T’ai mountain (天台山), Zhé-Jiāng province (浙江省), to study the systemization of Tien-T’ai school’s philosophy. At Tien-T’ai mountain, He had studied most of the important works of the Tien-T’ai school (天台宗), viz.; Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sūtra (妙法蓮華經玄義), Textual Commentary on the Lotus Sūtra (妙法蓮華經文句), and, Great Concentration and Insight (摩訶止觀).[10] Then, Jīn-Qiao-Jué paid visit to the Masters of Hua-Yen school (華嚴宗), for apprehension of Hua-Yen doctrines. For a long period, He visiting many famous Buddhist centers and studied different texts under various Buddhist masters. 

            Toward the end of his journey, His final halt was Cháng-Ān, the major Buddhist centre at that time. With Xuán-Zhāng (玄奘/Hsuan-Tsang) returned to Cháng-Ān in 645, after his long journey to India and other Buddhist countries, receiving a hero’s welcome. Emperor T’ai-Tsung (唐太宗) assured Xuán-Zhāng to do his best to help spread of Buddhism.[11] For the remainder of his life, Xuán-Zhāng/Hsuan-Tsang dedicated himself to the task of translating the rich stores of sūtras he had brought back with him from India, he wrote many commentaries on various important Buddhist texts. His great dedication and contributions to the Chinese, made Buddhism brought its heyday in the history of the religion in China. From then on, Buddhism finally came of age in China; it was supported by all elements of society – by the imperial household, the nobility, the great and wealthy families, and the common people. It was not only for Buddhism but for also giving all religions present in China an opportunity to develop. The favourable conditions caused Buddhist schools to reach their full bloom, though, their origin goes back in north China under the Northern Dynasties. Cháng-Ān, at that time not only was the political capital of China but also became an important centre of Buddhist education, and culture.

            At Cháng-Ān, Jīn-Qiao-Jué stayed for several years, perfecting his knowledge of Buddhist philosophy, he further concentrated on Chinese philosophy. However, He thought that, a wilderness and vast of knowledge without translating into experimental practice, one could not lead to liberation and enlightenment. In his quest of Truth, Jīn-Qiao-Jué decided came to go to Jiu-Hua Mountain (九華山), at Qing-Yang district, Chi-Zhou town, An-Hui province (安徽省池州府青陽縣). He built a small grass cell in the top of Jiu-Hua Mountain to practice meditation, and vows to copy the four great Mahāyāna Sūtras, viz., Avatasaka Sūtra (華嚴經) in 60 volumes, Mahāparininivāna Sūtra (涅槃經) in 40 volumes, Mahā Ratnakūā Sūtra (大寶積經) in 120 volumes; and Mahā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (大般若經) in 200 volumes. [12]

            Later, some Qing-Yang villagers came to the mountain and discovered his crude, ascetic lifestyle, and they built a temple for him in which he could carry out his spiritual cultivation. Jiu-Hua Mountain at that time was controlled by an officer called Mín-Rāng-Hé (閔讓和). Luckily, Mín-Rāng-Hé was also a devoted Buddhist. When he learned that a holy man had been living on his mountain, he promptly invited Jīn-Qiao-Jué to receive religious instruction from him. During T’ang dynasty, Ullambana festival (盂蘭會/All-Souls’ Feast) became exceedingly popular. This festival was based on the Buddhist legend concerning Moggallana (目犍連), who rescued his mother from the deepest hell by offering food, clothing, and others things for monks, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. However, in China the offerings were made for additional purpose of rescuing the ancestors for seven generations (九玄七祖) back from whatever misery they might be suffering. On this occasion, Mín-Rāng-Hé celebrated Ullambana festival by his individually sponsored. He invited hundreds of monks for a meal, offerings clothing and necessary things, with Ven. Jīn-Qiao-Jué was the kingpin. After the meal, Ven. Jīn-Qiao-Jué delivered a sermon on Buddhism to the people assembled. To acknowledge the holy man, Mín-Rāng-Hé likewise invited Ven. Jīn-Qiao-Jué to live with him at his residence, so that he could spend more time discussing various points of Buddhist doctrine, and learn from him but he politely refused the request. Ven. Jīn-Qiao-Jué asked Mín-Rāng-Hé for a piece of land to build a larger temple, so that he could impart to others also his way of spiritual cultivation. Mín-Rāng-Hé asked, “How much area of land do you want?” Ven. Jīn-Qiao-Jué shows his holy-wrap, “I will toss up this holy-wrap into the sky, and just take the part covered by the shadow of the holy-wrap only. Do you agree?” Mín-Rāng-Hé agreed. Then, Ven. Jīn-Qiao-Jué tossed up his holy-wrap into the sky, with the holy-wrap’s shadow covering all of Jiu-Hua hill. Amazed by this display of supernatural power, Mín-Rāng-Hé happily agreed to donate the whole mountain to the monk. He ordered the construction of a Mahāvihāra, named Hua-Cheng Temple[13] (化城寺), and let his son renounce the lay life to follow Buddhism, with the religious name of Dāo-Míng (道明). Later, Mín-Rāng-Hé also joined the monastic life, becoming a Buddhist monk. Therefore, Ksitigarbha picture/statue sometimes appears with Dāo-Míng and Mín-Rāng-Hé on his left and right, respectively.

            From then on, Jiu-Hua Mountain became a centre of Buddhist studies, where many Buddhist scholars coming from different countries, especially, with a number of Buddhist monks came from Shīn-La (Korea). Even the later king of Shīn-La kingdom also supported and offered for construction and enlargement of Jiu-Hua Mountain Buddhist studies centre several times.

            On the 30th of the Seventh month in the year 729, Mahāthera Jīn-Qiao-Jué asked his disciples to assemble, preached his last words to his followers; He further sent his recommendation to his adherents that kept his corpse pose at cross-legs seat, after his death for three years. Then while in a meditative repose, the incarnation of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva passed away at the age of ninety-nine. After Jīn-Qiao-Jué passed away, his followers started building a stūpa and kept his lych inside the stūpa to worship him. Three years later, his disciples opened the stūpa in front of each and all, the body of  Jīn-Qiao-Jué still untainted, his visage (mien) look like breathing, etc., To pay homage to the incarnation of Ksitigarbha, his adherents reconstructed the former stūpa more magnificently, which today can be seen at Jiu-Hua Mountain and called by the name “Lyke Great Stūpa” (肉身寶殿).[14]            

            To sum up it can be stated that Jiu-Hua Mountain was the place where the appearance of the sign connected to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva occurred, which made it the sacred site of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva in China.


    LE - BICH - SON

[1] 明暘法師, 佛法概要, 浩鼎印刷有限公司, Taiwan, 2000.

[2] 劉海票, 九華山志, 黃山書社, China, 1990. 

[3] 幽洛, 金喬覺 金地藏, 香港文學報出版公司, Hongkong, 1994.

[4] 胡峻, 九華山的傳說, 黃山書社, China, 1999.

[5] 車如舜, 禪機妙悟, 學苑出版社, Beijing, China, 1998.

[6] 楊玉華, 九華山史話, 中國文史出版社, China, 1996.

[7] 幽洛, 金喬覺 金地藏, 香港文學報出版公司, Hongkong, 1994, p.9.

[8] For further information, see “Buddhism in China”, by Kenneth K.S. Ch’en, Princeton University Press, U.S.A., 1964, pp.184-194 (Persecution and Triumph: Northern Chou and Sui Dynasties), or “Lịch sử Phật giáo Trung Quốc” (History of Buddhism in China), by Thích Thanh Kiểm, Hochiminh City Buddhist Society, Vietnam, 1991, pp. 97-100 (Sự Phế Phật Đời Bắc Chu).

 [9] See “Buddhism in China”, by Kenneth K.S. Ch’en, Princeton University Press, U.S.A., 1964, pp.213- 240 (The apogee: T’ang Dynasty).

[10] Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sūtra (妙法蓮華經玄義), belongs to volume 33 in Chinese Buddhist Canon (大正新脩大藏經), Textual Commentary on the Lotus Sūtra (妙法蓮華經文句), volume 34, and, Great Concentration and Insight (摩訶止觀) was founded in volume 46; those three books were the lectures comprise of Chih-I (智顗, 538-597), the founder of Tien-T’ai Buddhism.

[11] Kenneth K.S. Ch’en, Buddhism in China, Princeton University Press, U.S.A., 1964, p. 219.

[12] Avatamsaka Sūtra belongs to Avatamsaka section, volumes 9-10 in Chinese Buddhist Canon (大正新脩大藏經); Mahāparininivāna Sūtra belongs to Mahāparininivāna section, volume 12; Mahā Ratnakūtā Sūtra belongs to Ratnakūtā section, volumes 11-12,  and Mahā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra belongs to Prajñāpāramitā section, volumes 5-8.

 [13] Today, Hua-Cheng Temple (化城寺) is the Historical Relics Museum of the Jiu- Hua Mountain (九華山史文物館). This name was change since 1981. For further information, see “A Record of Jiu-Hua mountain” (九華山志) by Liu-Hai-Piao (劉海票), 黃山書社, China, 1990, p.102.  

[14] 劉海票, 九華山志, 黃山書社, China, 1990, p.103.  




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