Monastic Innovator, Iconoclast, and Teacher of Doctrine
The Varied Images of Chan Master Baizhang
Over the centuries, diverse Chan/Zen traditions throughout East Asia have venerated Baizhang Huaihai (J. Hyakujō Ekai, 749–814) as one of the greatest Chan teachers of the Tang era (618–907). Celebrated as the leading disciple of the renowned Mazu Daoyi (709–788), the “founder” of the Hongzhou school that came to dominate Chan during the mid-Tang period, Baizhang is still evoked as a source of religious inspiration and authority, and he remains one of the most recognized Chan teachers of all time. This chapter is a brief study of those changing perceptions and images, spanning most of the history of Chan in East Asia, down to the present. The shifting images of Baizhang mirror the multifaceted and far-reaching changes that marked Chan’s historical trajectory as a major tradition of East Asian Buddhism, with significant ramifications for its complex evolution that still shape its intricate present-day predicaments.
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