Dizang in the Bell Tower

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on April 18, 2016.)

Dizang with Ming Ranghe and Daoming at Gubaijingtai, Jiuhua Shan, Anhui

As we leave the Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings, we see to our left the Drum Tower, which contains a statue of Guanyin, whom we have already met. To the right, balancing the Drum Tower, is The Bell Tower. It contains a prodigious Chinese bell which hangs over the head of a monkish figure called Dizang.

This bodhisattva has vowed to save all beings from hell. As there are six levels of hell, he holds a staff with six rings at the top. He is also, therefore, the one to whom some Buddhists pray for the comfort of their departed loved ones.

Often, Dizang is seen standing between two figures. One appears to be a wizened old man, and the other a young monk. Their story is associated with Jiuhua Shan in Anhui Province.

Sometime in the Tang or ensuing dynasties, a monk named Jin Qiaojue (Korean Kim Gyo-gak) came from Korea to practice on Jiuhua Shan. (As he had taken the name Dizang as a monk, the mountain has been associated with that bodhisattva ever since.)

It seems the mountain belonged to a wealthy man named Ming Ranghe. When Ming generously asked the monk Dizang how much land he needed for a temple on the mountain, the monk replied "just as much as my robe can cover." Ming thought this was reasonable--until Dizang threw his robe in the air and it spread to cover the whole mountain!

Good-naturedly realizing he had been "had," Ming gave Dizang the entire mountain, and even offered his son as a disciple (under the name Daoming). These are the two who accompany the figure of the bodhisattva today.

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