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Making Saints in Modern China$
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David Ownby, Vincent Goossaert, and Ji Zhe

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190494568

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190494568.001.0001

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Two Turns in the Life of Master Hongyi, A Buddhist Monk in Twentieth-Century China

Two Turns in the Life of Master Hongyi, A Buddhist Monk in Twentieth-Century China

5 (p.161) Two Turns in the Life of Master Hongyi, A Buddhist Monk in Twentieth-Century China
Making Saints in Modern China

Raoul Birnbaum

Oxford University Press

This chapter chronicles the life of Hongyi, one of the most celebrated and admired Buddhist monks in modern Chinese history. Before becoming a monk, Hongyi, then known as Li Shutong, was famous for being a talented writer and musician. In his late thirties, in a move that was highly unusual for a person of his background and standing, he was ordained as a Buddhist monk and spent the remainder of his life in various monastic settings. Although not an institution-builder, Hongyi’s brand of “sainthood” was widely admired in China, particularly among the elite, for its detachment and spirituality. One of the best expressions of this spirituality is Hongyi’s famous calligraphy, which he applied to Buddhist purposes after his conversion, producing iconic images of Buddhist texts and inscriptions that Birnbaum analyzes in terms of their “coolness.”

Keywords:   Hongyi, Buddhism, Calligraphy, Conversion, Art, Illness

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