Master Xuyun

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on June 12, 2017.)

Statue of Xuyun at Yunmen Temple, Guangdong

Perhaps the greatest Buddhist Master of the 19th and 20th centuries was the monk called Xuyun ("Empty Cloud"). From Quanzhou to Kunming, and especially around northern Guangdong, it is hard to find a major temple untouched by his efforts.

Supposedly born in 1840 (but more likely around 1858) in Fujian, he was destined by his family to study Daoism. They also arranged two marriages for him, which took place when he was around 18. Prior to that, he had tried to run away and become a Buddhist monk, but he was captured and brought home.

At last, a year or so after his marriage, he went to Gushan in Fuzhou, leaving behind his wives, and shaved his head, becoming a monk. Again, his father sent agents to bring him home, but he hid in a cave, where he meditated for three years.

When he was 25, news arrived that his father had died. His step-mother and two wives then became Buddhist nuns.

Abandoning asceticism for "The Middle Way"--a balance between austerity and luxury--he later became a pilgrim, visiting Mount Putuo near Ningbo, the island dedicated to Guanyin Bodhisattva. He also visited Wutai, seat of Dizang Bodhisattva, which he achieved by the method called "Three Steps, One Prostration," dedicating the effort to the merit of his deceased parents. He also visited Tibet and, beyond China, India, Sri Lanka, and Burma.

After practicing at Anhui's Jiuhua Mountain and other places, he became a restorer of dilapidated temples, and in 1953 became honorary president of the newly-formed Chinese Buddhist Association.

He passed away peacefully in Jiangxi in 1959.

A hall dedicated to Xuyun at Yunmen Temple

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