Philosopher, Practitioner, Politician: the Many Lives of Fazang (643-712)


The Buddhist monk Fazang (643-712), regarded today mainly as a scholastic monk, was in fact one of the greatest metaphysicians in Asia. This biographical - and hagiographical - study of Fazang seeks to explore his other contributions and in so doing to correct some major mis-presentations and misinterpretations existing in modern scholarship. It highlights and uncovers aspects of Fazang’s complicated life which have been neglected or ignored until now.
By experimenting with some methodological innovations in reading medieval Chinese monastic hagio-biography, this study reveals general features, structures and overall governing laws of medieval East Asian monastic hagio-biographic literature. In doing so it is a major contribution to the ongoing discussion among scholars of hagiography in other contexts as well.
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Biographical Note

Jinhua Chen, Ph.D. (1997), McMaster University, is Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia. He has published extensively on East Asian Buddhism, including Making and Remaking History (1999), Monks and Monarchs, Kinship and Kingship (2002), and Legend and Legitimation (2007).

Review Quotes

"Nicht nur zum Verständnis der Entwicklung des chinesischen Buddhismus is diese vorzügliche Studie grundlegend, sondern sie vermittelt auch einen differenzierten Einblick in das China der Tang-Zeit über den Buddhismus hinaus, ja sie zeigt, wie sich die Verschmelzungen unterschiedlicher Traditionen und Interessenlage vollzogen. Hier wurden strukturelle Grundmuster eingeübt, die China bis heute prägen."
Michael von Brück, München, Theologische Literaturzeitung, 2009:134/12.

'Chen's book is an important contribution to the study of Chinese Buddhist historiography and Huayan studies in particular.'
Imre Hamar

Table of contents

Part One  A Biographical Reconstruction
Chapter One  Primary Sources and Secondary Studies
1 Epigraphic Sources
2 Textual Sources
3 Modern Studies: Contributions and Limitations
4 Concluding Remarks: The Nature and Structure of the Primary Sources, and the Problems of Modern Studies
Chapter Two  Ch’oe Ch’iwŏn’s Biography of Fazang: A Textual Study
1  Format and Contents
2  Sources of Pŏpjang Hwasang Chŏn
3  Values and Limitations
4  Concluding Remarks
Chapter Three  Fazang’s Basic Biographical Data: Names, Native Land, Familial and Dharma Backgrounds
1  Names
2  Places of Origin and Birth
3  Family Background
4  “Dharma Family”
5  Concluding Remarks
Chapter Four  The Eminent Monk Who Wasn’t?: Stories about Fazang’s Full Ordination
1  From Yan Chaoyin to Zuxiu: Why Fazang’s Ordination Became an Issue
2  The Fictional Nature of the “Ordination Episode”
3  Fazang and Śākyamitra: Further Evidence
4  Concluding Remarks
Chapter Five  A Man of Many Faces: Fazang’s Life Reconstructed, I
1  Becoming a Buddhist Monk: 643-670
2  Emergence of a Buddhist Master: 670-690
3  Fazang under Empress Wu’s Reign up to 699 Chapter Six  A Man of Many Faces: Fazang’s Life Reconstructed, II
1  Fazang under the Last Five Years of Empress Wu’s Reign (700-705)
2  Under the Reign of Zhongzong: 705-710
3  Under the Reign of Ruizong: 710-712
4  Concluding Remarks

Part Two:  Thematic and Hagiographical Studies Chapter Seven  Fazang the Philosopher
1  Legends Regarding the Composition of the “Treatise on the Golden Lion”
2  The Mirror Hall
3  Concluding Remarks
Chapter Eight  Fazang the Technical Innovator
1  A Great Secret Wrapped in a Small Package
2  The Provenance of the Printed Dhāraṇī Text: Korea or China?
3  The Promise of Health and Long Life in the Dhāraṇī Text
4  Empress Wu and Daoist Immortality
5  Fazang’s Role in Printing and Spreading Wugou Jingguang Da Tuoluoni Jing
6  Fazang’s Knowledge of Mulberry Paper
7  Concluding Remarks
Chapter Nine  Fazang the Translator
1  Collaboration with Divākara and Devendraprajña
2  Collaboration with Śikṣānanda and Mitrasena
3  Collaboration with Yijing and Bodhiruci
4  Concluding Remarks
Chapter Ten  Fazang the Court Politician
1  Fazang and Empress Wu: 670-690
2  Fazang and Empress Wu: 690-705
3  Fazang’s Role in the Transition of Power: 700-705
4  Fazang under the Reigns of Zhongzong (705-710) and Ruizong (710-712)
5  Concluding Remarks
Chapter Eleven Fazang’s Religious Life
1  Esoteric Practices
2  Daoist Practices
3  Self-immolation and Relic-veneration
4  Concluding Remarks
Chapter Twelve Fazang the Wonderworker
1  Miracle Stories about Fazang’s Mastery of the Avataṃsaka Teachings
2  Fazang the Rain-maker and Disciplinarian
3  The Magician as Warrior?: Fazang and the Suppression of a Khitan Rebellion (696-697)
4  Concluding Remarks

Part Three:  Appendixes


All those interested in intellectual history, East Asian Buddhism, Sinology, history of Medieval East Asia/Central Asia, monastic biography, hagiography, state-church Relationship in Medieval Asia.


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