Tracing the footsteps of Liao Ran and Liao Kong

The below text is a translation of a post of Dr. Zhang Qingsong on his International Society of Chinese Wisdom blog (国际中华智慧学会的博客 guoji zhonghua zhihui xuehui de boke). It was published earlier in the eJournal Patriarchs Vision, Vol. 1 nr. 12

In his search for authentic instruction in the profound methods of Daoist Self-Cultivation, in 1895 Zhao Bichen met the two eminent Ch’an Buddhist monks Liao Ran and Liao Kong at Golden Mountain (Jinshan 金山) temple. These two monks, also masters in the Daoist Longmen (Dragon Gate) school, later turned out to be pivotal teachers in the formation of the Daoist Qianfeng school of Self-Cultivation. This blog post is a narration of Dr. Zhang Qingsong visiting Golden Mountain temple, to try to find out more about these two masters of Buddhist and Daoist Self-Cultivation. Translation by Tianma (天马).

International Society of Chinese Wisdom

Zhao Bichen Life Wisdom Study Communication,

document number ZHZH-ZBCTX13010, 3 December 2013

Zhao Bichen Daoist Longmen Qianfeng school origin research

 Zhenjiang Golden Mountain temple inquiry about the footsteps of the two eminent Ch’an Buddhist monks Liao Ran and Liao Kong

Golden Mountain temple, one of the many Ch’an Buddhist temples that exist in the area south of the Yangtze river, is an ancient monastery with more than 1.500 years of history. The beautiful scenery and a lot of folklore, like the Legend of the White Snake around Golden Mountain, the life and story of Su Dongpo and famous Ch’an masters makes one want to linger and stay around and forget about returning home. However in the late Qing dynasty a significant event occurred that is still unknown to many people.

In 1895 Zhao Bichen, a famous martial arts master and practitioner of Daoist Self-Cultivation (dan dao), visited Guazhou Golden Mountain temple. In the temple he met two Ch’an Buddhist masters Liao Ran and Liao Kong. When Zhao Bichen saw them, he knew right away by the look in their eyes, that these two monks were of great acomplishment. Thereupon he prostrated himself before their feet and requested them to accept him as their disciple. It turned out that besides being accomplished Ch’an masters, Liao Ran and Liao Kong were both 10th generation lineage masters in the Daoist Longmen school of Self-Cultivation. They accepted Zhao Bichen as their disciple and consequently taught him in 3 days and 3 nights inside the temple the essence of the Daoist Method of Internal Self-Cultivation. Eventually this would lead to the development of a great and much respected next generation Daoist Master. Later Zhao Bichen, upon request of his Masters, was going to break with the tradition of passing on behind closed doors the methods of Daoist Internal Self-Cultivation (Daojia neidan gongfa). He did this by writing openly about his 16 step Daoist Qianfeng Method of Internal Self-Cultivation in the book ‘Xingming Fajue Mingzhi’ (translated into English by Charles Luk, known in the West under the title Taoist Yoga) and teaching more than 2.000 people, during the period of the Republic of China (1912-1949). Furthermore he established the Qianfeng school, as an offshoot of the Daoist Longmen school.

Coincidentally, I’m originally from Guazhou county in Jiuquan, Gansu. In my childhood I often looked from a distance to the glorious sight of Golden Mountain temple, always feeling a kind of power emanating from there, that touched and uplifted me. Looking at Zhao Bichen’s ‘Xingming Fajue Mingzhi’ and the relation to the two Masters, it came to my mind to pay a visit to Golden Mountain temple so as to inquire about the footsteps of Liao Ran and Liao Kong there. This is a case of the Zhao Bichen Life Wisdom Research. Over the past year I was frequently searching the Internet, looking for data about Golden Mountain temple. I hope that I can find out a little more about these two Ch’an Buddhist Masters footsteps in the past. A few days ago, in Jiangsu at the opening of the fifth Chinese Wisdom study conference, I passed through Zhenjiang and in having some spare time, decided to buy myself an entrance ticket at the door of the temple and to pay a visit.

Dr. Zang Qingsong in front of Golden Mountain temple

Dr. Zang Qingsong in front of Golden Mountain temple

Having entered Golden Mountain temple park (gongyuan, a public recreational area), I discovered a big change in appearance. It was the first time I visited since 30 years ago; they were just starting to reconstruct the temple back then. Now the reconstruction of Golden Mountain temple is finished, which gave the temple a very good look. Surely the venerable compassionate and gentle monks who carried out this hard work for several decades deserve great credit for this.

Going in the temple, firstly going to the ‘Golden Mountain Culture Study Area’ (jinshan wenhua bolan yuan), there inside I couldn’t find any clues about Liao Ran and Liao Kong. Coming out later, I found the Head of the temple management. She said, concerning the past circumstances of the two venerable monks, to go to the temple shrine office and ask there. Thereupon I went straight to the main hall of the temple. In a side room where visitors are received, I saw two young monks. Both monks said, to get historical data about former times, it’s best to go to the Zhenjiang Buddhist Society temple to ask. Just then I remembered that earlier on I looked at a doorway, which was marked with a sign that read ‘Zhenjiang Buddhist Society’. Then I turned around and proceeded to inquire there. Finally I arrived at the doorway, but upon entering an elderly man yelled from inside “do not come in, there’s nobody here!”. For lack of a better option I turned around and went back to the Main Hall of Golden Mountain temple.

On the terrace outside of the palace hall (dian), I looked at a venerable monk, who was talking with a guest. I took the opportunity to go stand beside them. The monk looked back and asked in a kind way: ”What is on your mind?”. I asked: “Excuse me, here at Golden Mountain temple how old is the oldest monk?”. The monk replied: “The oldest monk is 87 years old.” I asked: “Has he already been long here at Golden Mountain temple residing as a monk?” This was the case, after which I introduced the purpose of my visit. The venerable monk said: “The elderly monk is inside the Main Hall, you can now go in and ask him.”

I went into the Main Hall and as expected saw an elderly monk, stationed besides the Incense Burner table (xiangan). I stepped forward and greeted him and explained the purpose of my visit. The elderly monk’s eyes could not see so well anymore, but his hearing was still very sharp. His appearance was extraordinarily kind and friendly.

Dr. Zhang Qingsong and master Lin Xiang

Dr. Zhang Qingsong and master Lin Xiang

The old monk was called master Lin Xiang. He was born in 1926 and originally from Xinghua county in Jiangsu province. He officially left home to become a monk at Su Bei temple and at the age of 20 (in 1946) went to Golden Mountain temple. He didn’t have any news about Liao Ran and Liao Kong. This is not entirely surprising, because Zhao Bichen met Liao Ran and Liao Kong much earlier at Golden Mountain temple, in 1895. Currently it is not known how long both monks were residing at Golden Mountain temple.

The old monk said: “Golden Mountain temple originally had a ‘yearbook’ (wannian bu)”, in which can be found all the names of the monks who registered at the temple. If it would have been preserved, the names of the monks could have been looked up. Unfortunately this book got lost during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).

I asked: ”Does the Golden Mountain temple has a Pagoda? Can we find inside them maybe a few records written by the two venerable monks?” (I originally planned to go alone inside to search for them). The venerable monk answered, the Pagoda of Golden Mountain temple falls under control of Shaolong temple. Inside the temple shrine only high ranking monks like the abbot or head monk, have enough capacity for founding a pagoda. Furthermore Shaolong temple is quite some distance away from Golden Mountain temple, therefore I was unable to go there a that moment.

Soon afterwards, inside the Main Hall the morning service was starting and the venerable old monk bowed. Because my schedule was tight, I had to say goodby and came out of the temple in a rush to go to the train station. There I had to wait for the town bus and a question came to my mind. It happened that at that moment by my side were standing two monks, whom I asked: “Golden Mountain temple is a small town temple with precious things that must have been conserved despite the fact it must have suffered from numerous fires. These important historical temple documents like the yearbook shouldn’t have been destroyed but those treasures all ought to be conserved?” The two monks replied: “We don’t know this, only an accomplished (with a clear heartmind) Dharma master could know.” I thought, that’s right, only the abbot comprehends the highest secrets of the temple shrine. I said: “This is true, I ought to ask an accomplished Dharma master.

This first inquiry into the history of Liao Ran and Liao Kong at Golden Mountain temple was not entirely effective. However, two things are worthy to be continued to investigate. One is the yearbook and the second is the Pagoda of Shaolong temple. Even though it is uncertain that clues are going to be found, still I hope that through the publication of this article, perhaps someone can provide some additional information.

3 December 2013

e-mail dr. Zhang Qingsong: peakwisdom@sina.com

Original Chinese Blog Post December 3, 2013

际 中 华 智 慧 学 会

赵避尘生命智慧学研究通讯      文件号ZHZH-ZBCTX13010      2013年12月3日

《赵避尘道家龙门千峰派渊源研究》

镇江金山寺 探访了然、了空禅师的史迹

 

镇江金山寺是一座有1500多年历史的古寺,是江南禅宗四大丛林之一,其优美的景色和古代白娘子水漫金山,苏东坡与佛印法师斗禅等无数的传说和典故令人流连忘返。而清末民初发生的一件意义重大的事件至今还没有多少人知道。

1895年北京昌平阳坊镇的武术名家和道家丹道修炼者赵避尘到了“瓜州金山寺。”在寺内,他见到了然、了空两位老和尚。赵避尘一看两位老和尚的眼神,就知道是两位隐世高人,于是便拜倒在地,请求收为徒弟。原来了然、了空是道家龙门第十代传人。他们收了赵避尘,在寺内传授他功法三天三夜,终于造就了一代宗师。后来,赵避尘奉师命,打破道家内丹功法秘传的传统,用白话文将十六步功法著书,并在民国时期度了两千多人,并创建了清代以来唯一被公认的道家龙门千峰派。

巧的是,我的老家就是瓜州古渡,小时候经常隔江遥望金碧辉煌的金山寺,总是会觉得一种力量在鼓舞着自己。看到赵避尘的《性命法诀明指》中有关内容后,便想到再访金山寺,到那里去探索了然、了空的事迹,这是赵避尘生命智慧学研究的一个内容。近一年来,经常会在网上搜索有关金山寺的资料,希望能够发现一些两位老和尚的事迹。日前,到江苏开第五届中国智慧学会议,路过镇江,有半天时间,便决定“微服私访”,没有动用任何关系,在大门买了50元一张的门票。

进了金山寺公园后,发现大变样了。上一次来访还是在30多年前,那时的金山寺正处在恢复重建的初期,现在的金山寺已经建设的非常好,这要归功于已故慈舟老和尚的几十年操劳。

进寺后,先去了“金山文化博览园”,里面没有找到了然、了空的信息。出来后,找到金山寺管理处的一位主任,她说,关于过去老和尚的情况,需要找寺庙办公室去问。于是便直奔大雄宝殿。在厢房里面的接待处,见到了两位年青的知客和尚。两位和尚说,要问过去的老和尚史料,最好到镇江寺佛教协会去问。我记得刚才看到一个门口挂着“镇江市佛教协会”的牌子。便回转身来,前往问询。到了门口,刚要进门,一位老者在传达室内喊道,“别进来,里面没有任何人。”无奈之下,只好回转大雄宝殿。

在殿外的平台上,看到一位和尚正和一位游客聊天。我便站到了旁边。和尚看到后,便和蔼地问:“居士有事吗?”我问道:“请问师傅,咱们金山寺目前最老的和尚年龄有多大?”和尚答:“最大的有87岁?”我问,“他是很早就在金山寺当和尚的吗?”他说是。我介绍了来意。和尚说,“老和尚就在大殿内,你现在就可以进去问他。”

我便进了大殿,果然看到一位老和尚站在香案旁。我便上前向他问候,并说明了来意。老和尚眼睛已经看不清人了,但耳朵还灵敏,口齿还清楚,态度非常和蔼友善。

老和尚名叫林祥法师。出生于1926年,是江苏兴化人,初期在苏北寺庙内出家,1946年到了金山寺。他没有任何关于了然、了空的信息。这也可以理解。赵避尘是在1895年在金山寺遇到了然、了空的。目前不知道两位老和尚在金山寺住了多久。

他说,金山寺本来有“万年簿”,相当于寺庙内所有和尚的注册登记簿。如果现在保留着,一查簿子就知道了。可惜这个簿子在文革时期被烧掉了。

我问道:“金山寺是否有个塔林?里面是否能找到一些两位老和尚的记载?”(我本来就打算一个人到塔林里面一座塔一座塔去查找的。)老和尚说,金山寺的塔林在下院绍隆寺,不过只有在寺庙内有高级地位的和尚如方丈,首座等才能够建塔。绍隆寺离镇江城区还有几十公里,所以我这次是无法去了。

随后,大雄宝殿内开始做早课,老和尚前去叩拜礼佛,我也因为时间太紧,便与老和尚告别,出寺奔火车站去了。在等公交车时,想起一个问题,正好旁边有两个和尚,便问:“金山寺的一些镇寺之宝经历了多此火灾,都还保存了下来。那寺庙的重要历史文献如“万年簿”也应该没有被毁,同那些宝物都被保存了下来?”两位和尚说,“这我们不知道了,只有问心澄法师,只有他才会知道。”我想,是啊,只有方丈才会掌握寺庙的最高机密。我回答说,“是啊,应该问心澄法师。我会去问他的。”

第一次探访,没有结果。但两个信息值得继续追寻,一是万年簿,二是绍隆寺塔林。尽管找到线索的希望渺茫,但希望通过这篇文章的发表,也许会有人提供信息。(文 张庆松)

 

二〇一三年十二月三日

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