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Hua-yen Monastery – Birthplace of the Hua-yen School of Chinese Buddhis

(2007-02-05 11:23:37)
分类: 新闻报导

Hua-yen Monastery is located in the Weiqu County of Chang’an District, Xi’an City, Shaanxi Province. According to Chronicles of Chang’an, Hua-yen Monastery was constructed in the fourteenth year (640) of the Zhenguan reign of the Taizong, the Tang Dynasty (618-907). As the birthplace of the Hua-yen School – one of eight sects of Chinese Buddhism, Hua-yen Monastery is the shrine of Buddhist believers at home and abroad. Fifteen kilometers to the south of Xi’an City, the monastery is surrounded by beautiful scenery. Fanchuan[1] is beneath the monastery. The Shenhe Plain lies to the west and Mt Zhongnan to the south. Libai (701-762) – a great poet in the Tang Dynasty – described the scenery: “ Gazing southward, Tomb Du[2] is in my field of vision; looking northward, five tombs[3] can be seen; Setting sun is reflected in autumn waters; Flowing light fades away behind the distant mountains.”

For many reasons, at present, main constructions of Hua-yen Monastery do not exist except two brick pagodas. The eastern one is pagoda of Dushun (557-640) – the first patriarch of the Hua-yen School. With building style, the pagoda is thirteen meters high containing seven layers. On the highest layer, “Founder of the Hua-yen School” is inscribed in the stone horizontal tablet. The western one is the pagoda of Chengguan (738-839) – the fourth patriarch. This solid pagoda is seven meters high with five layers. “Pagoda of Utmost Enlightenment of State Preceptor Qingliang in Grand Tang Dynasty” is inscribed in the stone horizontal tablet on the second layer. Though main constructions of Hua-yen Monastery don’t exist any more, magnificent history of the monastery can still be imagined by appreciating two splendid pagodas.

Nowadays, in Hua-yen Monastery, there are seven monks with three simple and crude halls as well as seven houses. There are also a stone pilla with scriptures, three stone tablets in different dynasties and thirty sharira. In the August of 1956, Hua-yen Monastery was listed in the first item of protected units as important cultural relics by the people’s committee of Shaanxi Province. In the June of 2006, the monastery was listed in the sixth item of protected units as important cultural relics by the State Council of China.

The thought of Hua-yen School originated in the Buddha’s era. It was propagated in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) in China. After the development in the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589), the Hua-yen School came into being in the Tang Dynasty. The Hua-yen School was set up based on Buddhavatamsaka-mahavaipulya-sutra (abbreviated in Avatamsaka Sutra). The actual founder Fazang was honored State Preceptor by Wu Zetian (624-705) – sole empress in the Chinese history – and entitled “Xianshou”. Therefore, the Hua-yen School is also called “the Xianshou School”. The Hua-yen School is spread far and wide in the world and Avatamsaka Sutra becomes a required sutra by Buddhism learners. Avatamsaka Sutra is Dharmaparyaya preached to main Bodhisattva such as Manjushri and Samantabhadra by Buddha on the fourteenth day after his enlightenment. The sutra elaborates the different stages of self-cultivation of Bodhisattva and their achievements.  The Hua-yen School is famous for five patriarchs i.e. Dushun, Zhiyan (602-668), Fazang (643-712), Chengguan and Zongmi (780-841).

The first patriarch Dushun was born in Wannian (Xi’an today) of Yong Prefecture. According to Inscription on Tablet of Monk Dushun of Hua-yen Monastery in Grand Tang Dynasty, with consummate medical skill, Dushun cured people’s sickness free of charge by curb medicine collected by himself. He preached Avatamsaka Sutra and wrote The Shamatha-vipashyana of the Hua-yen School. Dushun was accorded courteous reception by emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty and called “Honorable Monk by Emperor’s Heart”. He was named “Bodhisattva Dunhuang” by ordinary people.   

The second patriarch Zhiyan was born in Tianshui, Gansu Province. He wrote some books. His ten-volume A Search for the Profound Mysteries of Avatamsaka Sutra is famous for explaining Shamatha-vipashyana of the Hua-yen School. He was praised as “Master Zhixiang”.

The third patriarch Fazang was born in Sogdiana. He epitomized the thought of the Hua-yen School with a large number of books such as The Search for the Mysteries of the Hua-yen, Essay on the Five Teachings and The Bodhi-heart of Hua-yen etc.. According to Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled During the Song Dynasty(960-1279), when Fazang expounded Avatamsaka Sutra, the ground in the temple was shaken. Fazang was respected by Wu Zetian, invited to preach Avatamsaka Sutra in the imperial palace and conferred the third rank official. As emperors’ teacher, Fazang gave Bodhisattva commandments to Emperors Zhongzong and Ruizong. At that time, the Hua-yen School became prosperous. After his death, Fazang was awarded “Hongluqing”[4].

The fourth patriarch Chengguan was born in Shanyin of Yue Prefecture (Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province today). He wrote Commentary on Avatamsaka Sutra, Elaboration of My Commentary on Avatamsaka Sutra etc.. He was called “Master of Commenting on Avatamsaka Sutra”. As teacher of Emperor Dezong, he was conferred “Master Zhenguo”. With gold seal awarded by Emperor Xianzong, Chengguan was authorized to administrate Buddhist affairs of the whole country and conferred “State Preceptor Qingliang and Director of Monks”. Chengguan was also entitled “State Preceptor Dazhao” by emperors Muzong and Jingzong as well as “State Preceptor Datong” by emperor Wenzong. He became teacher of five emperors. At that time, the Hua-yen School reached its apex.

The fifth patriarch Zongmi was born in Xichong of Guo Prefecture (in Sichuan Province today). He often lived in Mt Zhongnan (Mt Guifeng) and therefore was called “Master of Dhyana in Guifeng”. He advocated union of Dhyana and teaching. His books include Man in the Teaching of Avatamsaka Sutra and General Preface to the Collection of Discourses on Chan Tradition etc.. Emperor Wenzong invited Zongmi into the imperial palace and inquired him about main thoughts of Buddhism. Emperor Wenzong presented Zongmi the purple robe and conferred him “Most Virtuous”. After his death, Zongmi was entitled “Master of Meditation and Wisdom”.

The core thought of the Hua-yen School is Dharmadhatu Pratitya-samutpada. This thought contains abundant contents with perfect system. It not only enriches the Buddhist culture but also promotes the development of world civilization. With long history and profound cultural accumulation, Hua-yen Monastery occupies an important place, involves social influence and historical value in propagating Buddhist thoughts, setting up general mood of the sect, strengthening cultural exchanges and promoting pilgrimage.




[1] Name of an area.

[2] Tomb of Emperor Xuan of the Western Han Dynasty (206B.C. – A.D.24).

[3] Tombs of Emperors Gao, Hui, Jing, Wu and Zhao of the Western Han Dynasty.

[4] Head of ministry that administrated foreign affairs (including ethnic minorities affairs) in the Tang Dynasty.

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