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Images, legends, politics, and the origin of the Great Xiangguo monastery in Kaifeng: a case-study of the formation and transformation of Buddhist sacred sites in medieval China.

Buddhist sacred sites are places connected with the Buddha, with various bodhisattvas and deities, and leading religious figures celebrated for their role in the development of the religion. Sacred space is an essential component of any religious tradition. It is especially significant for a trans-cultural religion such as Buddhism, which originated in India and spread through the whole of East Asia via Central Asia. It would be hard to exaggerate the importance of Buddhist sacred sites in the history of Buddhism. The spread of Buddhism in Asia may be viewed from one perspective as a protracted and complex process in which numerous sacred sites were created and recreated in different cultural settings. The story of Buddhism increasingly penetrating into all levels of society in Asia is mirrored by another narrative in which some of the most sacred sites--both historical and legendary--in India were reproduced in other parts of the world. This reproduction or doubling was, however, never a simple matter of transplantation; rather it involved complex cultural adjustments and inventions.

The far-reaching and widespread significance of Buddhist sacred sites has attracted the attention of scholars from various disciplines, yet there is still no clear sense of what the overall contours of a history of Buddhist sacred geography might look like. Regarding Chinese Buddhist sacred sites, most scholars have focused their attention on the veneration of a selected number of marchmounts, typically the so-called "Four Marchmounts" (siyue [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] or sida mingshan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), usually referring to Mounts Wutai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Emei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Song [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and Putuo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. (1) Very limited efforts have been made to explore the Buddhist histories of other important sites that were overshadowed by that later set of four march-mounts. Very few Buddhist monasteries, for example, have been seriously studied as sacred sites. This is particularly perplexing in view of the fact that a Buddhist monastery (usually a group of monasteries) constituted the most essential part of a "Buddhist mountain." Not only mountain temples/monasteries, but also cosmopolitan monasteries, should be studied as sacred sites. This article presents a case study of such a cosmopolitan monastery.

Springing up from a little known corner of the city of Bianzhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (present-day Kaifeng, Henan) in the 710s as a monastery closely related to the Tang imperial family, the Great Xiangguosi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] assumed increasing power and influence during the rest of the Tang dynasty. Under the Song, it eventually emerged as arguably the most important Buddhist center in China.

During the Tang dynasty, the Xiangguosi had already been widely celebrated for its architectural and iconographical brilliance, as demonstrated by its "ten perfect things" (shijue [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), including a huge metal statue of the Maitreya Buddha, whose radiance was believed to have "illuminated Heaven and Earth"; a name-tablet inscribed by emperor Ruizong (r. 684-90, 710-12) himself; a painting by the famous artist Wu Daozi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (680-759) of the figures of Manjusri and Vimalakirti; a towering treasure-pavilion (baoge [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) called "Paiyun" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Cloud-sweeping); and a painting of Vaisravana executed on the basis of an iconographic cartoon of Vaisravana that was secured in Khotan at the command of emperor Xuanzong (r. 712-756) shortly after he returned from his splendid feng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ceremony performed at Mount Tai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in 725. Although most parts of the monastery were destroyed in a great conflagration in 891, it was reconstructed--on an even grander scale--in several years under the direction of the monk Zhenjun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (847-924). After successive renovations and expansions under the reigns of Song Taizu (r. 960-76) and Taizong (r. 976-97), the monastery rapidly rose to be the most prominent imperial monastery of the Song dynasty (960-1279) and was regularly chosen as the venue to celebrate imperial birthdays and other national holidays. In the meanwhile, the monastery also became a major center in East Asia for both Buddhism and the arts, attracting numerous foreign monks and artists from Central Asia, Japan (e.g., Jojin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [1011-81], who arrived in Kaifeng in 1076), and Korea (particularly a delegation led by the painter Ch'oe Sasun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], who came to the Xiangguosi in 1074 for the purpose of copying its numerous paintings and taking the copies back to Korea). (2) Finally, it is noteworthy that apparently quite incompatible with its reputation and functions as a religious institution, the Great Xiangguosi also periodically acted as an international trading and entertainment center under the Song and succeeding dynasties. Five times every month, the monastery was opened to the public, attracting merchants and ordinary people, both local and foreign, to gather there "like clouds" for trading and amusement.

Although the Xiangguosi attracted considerable scholarly attention, its origins have been rather ignored. (3) In attempting to shed some light on this aspect of this glorious monastery, I shall first examine a series of legends related to its origin, and then discuss the concerted efforts from different sources to construct and reconstruct this monastery and especially to cast and enshrine an imposing statue of the Buddha therein.


No one can speak of the provenance of the Xiangguosi without mentioning an extraordinary monk known among his contemporaries as "Zaoshi zushi" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("The Patriarch who built temples"). The monk in question was called Huiyun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (655-713+), a native of Huxiang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (including most of present-day Hunan and Hubei provinces). He became a Buddhist novice when he was ten sui old, in Linde 1 (2 February 664-21 January 665), under a monk who was recognized as the "First Chan patriarch of Mount Nanyue" (Nanyue chuzu chunshi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), probably the northern Chan master Huian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (582-709, a.k.a. Dao'an [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Daan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], or Laoan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] because of his unusual longevity). (4) Huiyun received full ordination at Yuesi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (presumably Nanyuesi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) when he was twenty sui (that is, in 674). Versed in vinaya, he later renounced his career as a preacher and concentrated instead on "matters of merit" (fushi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) (i.e., projects of constructing Buddhist buildings, including temples, pagodas, etc.), "immensely to the production and accumulation of merits and bliss on the parts of the constructors and patrons." He proved himself a very successful fund-raiser, attracting a great deal of patronage for his intended projects. His activities covered the areas of Jingying [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (in present-day Hubei province), Jiangnan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and Zherui [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (north of River Zhe [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). He was said to have built or renovated over twenty temples, although he never deigned to be abbot of any.

Zanning [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (919?-1001?), Huiyun's biographer, tells us of a setback in his life, which, interestingly, suggests the influence that Empress Wu's 700 edict ordering the initiation of a Changluo statue-project might have left on Huiyun. There had been a campaign for collecting contributions for a Buddhist project (xinghua [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) in the areas north of the Long River (Yangzi) in the first year of the Jiushi era of Empress Wu, from 23 May 700 to 12 February 701. Huiyun, according to Zanning, was not part of this campaign because of some untoward accidents. (5)

Zanning here might be referring to a large-scale fund-raising activity in northern China organized by certain Buddhist monks as a response to a government-launched campaign to ask every monk and nun to contribute one cash daily toward an ambitious plan of constructing a huge statue of the Buddha. (6) It seems that Huiyun was stimulated, rather than frustrated, by this failure, for no more than eight months after the fund-raising campaign he missed, Huiyun headed north:

 In Chang'an 1 (5 November 701-1 February 702), he came to visit
 Liangyuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (i.e., Bianzhou). One
 night, he stayed at Fantai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (a high
 plateau situated about three li outside Kaifeng), whence he looked
 toward the northern bank of the River Sui (i.e., Bianhe
 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), just in time to perceive an
 extraordinary aura shooting to the heavens [from the ground]. At dawn,
 he entered the city to search [for its source], and found a pond in a
 park to the northwest of the residence of the vice-prefect (sima
 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (present-day Xixian, Anhui). As he
 wandered round the banks of the pond, Huiyun saw reflections of
 heavenly palaces drifting along with the ripples. [In the
 reflections,] unevenly arranged mansions and pavilions were decorated
 with pearls and jades, their doors and windows painted with colorful
 pictures. The portraits and statues in the nine layers of palaces were
 circling around, throwing up a thousand shapes. It was exactly the so-
 called palaces and courts of [Tusita] heaven. The sight of this
 unusual event drew delight from the bottom of his heart, and summoned
 forth his exclamation, "I have heard that the Zhiyan jing
 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] says, 'from the liuli ground appear
 the reflections of palaces.' These are exactly those unconceivable
 realms!" (8) At that moment he made up his mind to build an Indian
 building (i.e., Buddhist monastery) to repay [the Buddha's kindness of
 demonstrating these] propitious signs [to him]. Thus, he [became a
 resident of] Anyesi by laying his staff there.

This narrative includes quite a few literary modifications and distortions. We do not know if it records a mysterious experience that Huiyun underwent shortly after arriving in Bianzhou, or rather if it should be considered a retrospectively constructed story to justify Huiyun's efforts to cast a Maitreya statue. Five years later, in Shenlong 2 (19 January 706-6 February 707), when Huiyun went to the Baochengsi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], in a subprefecture of Puzhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (present-day Zhencheng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), (9) he vowed to copy (muxie [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])--for the benefit of the state--a statue of Maitreya measuring one zhang and eight chi tall. With this model, he went back to the Anyesi and started to collect copper to cast the statue on the basis of the model. People responded to his plan enthusiastically. Donors thronged around the temple to make contributions, forming "mountain-like" crowds. Then, "squeezing the bellows and guiding skillful technicians, Huiyun, in a single firing, succeeded in having the statue cast, which was of wondrous and exceptional appearance." (10)

This account in the Song gaoseng zhuan might give the reader the impression that it took Huiyun little trouble to have the statue cast. However, another source suggests that he actually spent several years in collecting sufficient materials. This source, the Wudai minghua buyi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Additions to the [Records concerning the] Renowned Paintings of the Five Dynasties) compiled by Liu Daochun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in 1059, seventy-one years after the completion of the Song Gaoseng zhuan (in 988), explicitly states that after Huiyun successfully had the statue cast, he was faced with an embarrassing situation: his jealous colleagues at the Anyesi refused to accept it. This left him no choice but to "build" another temple, which was later called the Jianguosi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], on the eastern side of the Anyesi. (11)

Although Liu Daochun does not tell us when Huiyun attempted to find a new home for his statue, Zanning informs us that the Jianguosi was not built until Jingyun 2 (24 January 711-11 February 712), five years after Huiyun started to prepare for casting the statue. Further, Zanning also differs from Liu Daochun in noting, although in a rather roundabout way, that different opinions among Huiyun's patrons aborted the plan of building a new monastery on the eastern side of the Anyesi (Zanning specifies that it was the southern corner [nanyu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] of the eastern corridor [donglang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]). Furthermore, Zanning locates the Jianguosi in a more precise manner: the residence of Zheng Jing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d.u.), which was located to the north of Fuhuisi's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] "Sutra-quarter" (jingfang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Regarding this Zheng Jing, Zanning identifies him as the dianwu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (that is, sima [vice-prefect]) of Xin'an [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (i.e., Xizhou--Xixian, Anhui). (12) Zanning also gives us the provenance of the name of this temple. It had belonged to a monastery built by Emperor Wenxuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (r. 550-559) of the Northern Qi in Tianbao 6 (7 February 555-27 January 556), as was verified by an epitaph dug up during the construction of the "separate cloister" (bieyuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).

The excavation of this old epitaph aroused a great deal of emotion from Huiyun's supporters, among whom was an anonymous official with the title of caifang shijun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]--that is, an imperially commissioned inspector. They renamed the Fuhuisi as Jianguosi and brought to the monastery the statue and the wood collected for constructing the statue-hall, storing both (temporarily of course) at the Anyesi. This suggests that what Huiyun and his supporters attempted to build at the time was not a separate temple, but rather only a statue-hall that they planned to affiliate with the Fuhuisi once it was completed. The discovery of the epitaph brought a dramatic end (although only a temporary one, as we shall see) to the story--a monastery that was waiting to annex a statue-hall ended up being renamed after an extinct monastery that had stood on the spot of the statue-hall. Such an unexpected turn of events would not have been possible without a forceful intervention from the powerful caifang shijun. We cannot help but ask, "Who was this mysterious man?"

Before trying to bring to light this "hidden" figure crucial for the transformation of the Fuhuisi into the Great Xiangguosi (through Jianguosi), we need to discuss the issue of caifangshi, the official title by which he is introduced to us. According to the great historian Hu Sanxing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1230-1302), caifangshi was not the title used when emperor Ruizong reinstalled the institution of imperially commissioned inspectors in 711; these were called anchashi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], not caifangshi. (13) It was thus anachronistic to call a 711 imperially commissioned inspector a caifangshi. We may note that Zanning and Liu Daochun were not alone in making anachronistic use of this term. The compilers of the Jiu Tang shu and Xin Tang shu also applied this term to those who acted as imperially commissioned inspectors under the reign of Empress Wu, when they were actually known by other titles. (14) The most striking case is found in another Jiu Tang shu biography in which a son-in-law of emperor Taizong is said to have acted as caifangshi over eight prefectures, (15) while, as Hu Sanxing tells us, such an imperially commissioned inspector was called xuncha [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], anfu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], or cunfu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] at the time. (16) We therefore can conclude that the caifangshi appearing in Zanning's and Liu Daochun's accounts actually referred to an anchashi, a member of the institution renovated by Ruizong in the year 711.

Nomenclature aside, let us now see who the anonymous person in Zanning's account could have been. Our attention is naturally drawn to Wang Zhiyin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (?-722), who in Zanning's account first acts as a bearer of bad news for the Jianguosi monks and then contributes to the dramatic turn of its fate after he is awe-struck by all the miracles brought about by the metal statue (see below). Wang Zhiyin's official biography in Jiu Tang shu describes his political career in this period as follows:

 In the second year of [the Jingyun era], it was decreed that
 [imperial] inspectors of the governors be established in accordance
 with the Han (-dynasty) institution, and that in major prefectures
 with strategic importance in the empire should be set up twenty
 [positions of] commanders-in-chief, to be filled by carefully selected
 [officials] of great prestige. Therefore, [the emperor] appointed
 [Wang] Zhiyin as commander-in-chief of Qizhou (present-day Ji'nan
 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Shandong). This institution was not
 enforced later. He was then appointed as the Qizhou prefect, acting as
 imperially commissioned inspector (anchashi) of the Henan Circuit.
 Shortly afterwards, he was shifted to the [position of] Bianzhou
 prefect, while his position as imperially commissioned inspector of
 the Henan Circuit remained unchanged. In Taiji 1 (30 February-20 June
 712), it was further decreed that without quitting his current
 positions he be appointed as auxiliary vice-censor-in-chief (yushi
 zhongchen neigongfeng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), with a
 fiefdom [entitling him to the tax income] of one hundred households.

At first glance, this might suggest that Wang Zhiyin was our anonymous imperially commissioned inspector. However, one may have second thoughts after a close reading of Zanning's account:

 An imperially commissioned inspector (caifang shijun) repeatedly
 expressed his amazement over this. Therefore, in accordance with this
 [Northern Qi] inscription, [they] changed [the name of the] Fuhu[si]
 to Jianguosi, receiving into it the sacred image [placed at the]
 Anye[si] and the wood for constructing the [Buddha-]hall.
 On the thirteenth day of the fifth month of the first year of the
 Taiji era (21 June 712), the name of the era was changed to
 Yanhe. (20) In this year, the Minister of Justice Wang Zhiyin, who
 acted as the imperially commissioned inspector [in the Henan Circuit],
 came to Junjiao (i.e., Bianzhou [Kaifeng]) to announce an imperial
 decree: "All temples and cloisters without [officially sanctioned]
 name-plaques should be abolished and all the copper and iron statues
 belonging to them should be annexed to neighboring temples."

The way that Zanning introduces, first, the anonymous imperially commissioned inspector and then Wang Zhiyin suggests that they could not have been one and the same person. Zanning makes it quite clear that both Wang Zhiyin's appointment as the imperially commissioned inspector of the Henan Circuit and the announcement of the imperial decree happened after the change of era-name on 21 June 712, while, on the other hand, the name of the Fuhuisi was switched to Jianguosi before that. Thus, according to Zanning, the caifang shijun who was instrumental in the temple-renaming could not have been Wang Zhiyin.

If not Wang Zhiyin, then who? Fortunately, Liu Daochun comes to our aid once again. He informs us that it was Wei Sili [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (660-719):

 Huiyun succeeded in having the metal statue cast. At the time, since
 his capacities aroused jealousy from the monks at the same temple
 (i.e., Anyesi), he was not allowed to place the statue there.
 Therefore, spending what he had in his bags, he purchased the [former]
 residence of Zheng Jing, the vice-prefect of Xizhou, (22) in order to
 house [the statue]. Digging into the ground, they found an epitaph,
 [which said that] in that place was founded the Jianguosi in the
 second year (a xinwei year) of the Tianbao era under the reign of
 Emperor Wenxuan of the Northern Qi Dynasty (7 February 555-27 January
 556). At the time, this became known to the imperially commissioned
 inspector Wei Sili, who ordered the temple's name to be changed back
 to "Jianguosi." He then put Huiyun in charge of the temple. All this
 was done at the order of [Wei] Sili. The Jianguosi is the Yaoshiyuan
 (Cloister of the Medicinical Master) [of the present-day Great

Given Liu Daochun's repeated mentioning of Wei Sili's name, he seems certain as to the identity of this imperially commissioned inspector. In Zanning's text, the imperially commissioned inspector is introduced as caifang shijun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a rather awkward expression that is rarely encountered in other historical sources. (23) The similarity in graphic form between the two characters wei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and jun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] suggests the possibility that the current text might have resulted from a series of textual corruptions: while the original text might have read "caifangshi Wei Sili" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (the imperially commissioned inspector Wei Sili), it was miscopied and/or misprinted as "caifangshijun Sili" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which was then reduced to caifang shijun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. If this speculation has merit, Zanning and Liu Daochun would have used the same source, in which the name of the first imperially commissioned inspector who brought about the temple renaming was given as Wei Sili. In any event, we can now surmise that while Wang Zhiyin began to serve in the capacity of imperially commissioned inspector sometime after 11 June 712, Wei Sili assumed the position sometime between 20 July and 18 August 711, when the system was reinstalled, and before Wang Zhiyin's takeover.

Although the context of the Wudai minghua buyi shows that the discovery of the "ancient epitaph" and the subsequent renaming of the Fuhuisi as Jianguosi happened before Yanhe 1 (21 June-12 September 712), (24) Liu Daochun does not tell us exactly when this happened. Zanning, on the other hand, explicitly states that all this happened in Jingyun 2 (24 January 711-11 February 712). Combining the accounts suggests that sometime between 24 January 711 and 11 February 712, Wei Sili, as imperially commissioned inspector, helped Huiyun and his supporters persuade the Fuhuisi monks to have their temple renamed as Jianguosi (although we know that no government approval had been secured for this renaming at the time, judging by the troubles that the temple encountered in the following year when monasteries without government-approved name-plaques were ordered to be abolished). It is clear from Liu Daochun's account that it was Wei Sili who ordered the renaming of the monastery, and that it was also Wei Sili who significantly contributed to the enhancement of the prestige of Huiyun. This means that in addition to Huiyun, Wei Sili was a second mastermind behind this series of campaigns. We may then ask: who was this Wei Sili? And why did he step into this project which not only aimed at enshrining a Maitreya-statue closely connected to Zhongzong and Empress Wu, but which also eventually led to the construction of a new monastery that would attract the attention of Ruizong and Xuanzong?


Wei Sili was not only a talented author, he was also a prominent official under the rule of Empress Wu and her two successors, Zhongzong and Ruizong. He was from the prestigious Duling [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Wei family, nine branches (fang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) of which are recorded in the Xin Tang shu's tables of prime ministers ("Zaixiang shixi" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). His renown was such that his branch was eventually named after him--the Branch of Lesser Master Xiaoyao (Xiao Xiaoyao gong fang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), in contrast to the branch deriving from another famous member of the Wei clan, the Northern Zhou scholar and recluse Wei Xiong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (502-578), who received the same title from the Northern Zhou emperor Mingdi (r. 557-60). (25)

Wei Sili and some members of his family developed intimate ties with the most powerful figures in the contemporary political world. Along with his father, Wei Siqian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (611-689), (26) and older brother Wei Chengqing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 706), he was deeply trusted by Empress Wu, who appointed them successively as her prime ministers.

After serving in a series of key positions in the court of the empress, Wei Siqian was made a third-rank official in two key government offices, the Fengge [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Secretariat) and Luantai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Chancellery), (27) and received the title of subprefectural marquis of Bochang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in Chuigong 1 (9 February 685-29 January 686). In the following year he replaced Su Liangsi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 690) as Head of the Chancellery (nayan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). When he was allowed to retire in Chuigong 3 (19 January 687-6 February 688), he received the honorific title of Superior Grand Master of the Palace (taizhong dafu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). He died in the ninth month of Yongchang 1 (19 September 689-18 October 689), thirteen months before Empress Wu declared the foundation of her own dynasty. (28)

Wei Chengqing's life appears more eventful than his father's. He served as remonstrance secretary in the left secretariat of the heir-apparent (taizi siyilang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). When the heir-apparent Li Xian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (653-684) was deposed on 20 September 680, (29) he was demoted to be the magistrate of Wucheng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (present-day Wuxing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Zhejiang). During the Changshou era (15 October 692-29 May 694), he served as a drafter in the Secretariat, concurrently in charge of the Ministry Personnel's evaluating and selecting procedures. Shortly afterwards, because he offended a powerful official, he was demoted to be prefect of Yizhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (present-day Linyi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Shandong). He was soon reinstated to his previous position in the Ministry Personnel, a position that he held for some time until health problems forced him to move to a less challenging job, as advisor in the establishment of the heir-apparent (taizi yude [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). He later served as prefect of Yuzhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (present-day Ruyang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Henan) and Guozhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (present-day Hongnong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Shaanxi). At the beginning of the Chang'an era (5 November 701-29 January 704), he returned to court as vice-director of the Bureau of Prisons in the Ministry of Justice (sipu shaoqing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), then shifted to vice-director of the Ministry of Personnel (tianguan shilang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), concurrently in charge of compiling the dynastic history. Thus, since the Tianshou era (8 October 690-21 April 692), he served three times in the Ministry of Personnel, where he was believed to have performed his duties fairly. He was soon appointed as the vice-director of the Secretariat, jointly manager of affairs with the Secretariat-Chancellery (tong Fengge luantai pingzhangshi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), and concurrently in charge of compiling the dynastic history. (30)

The longtime service under Empress Wu of Wei Sili's father and brother certainly helped endear Wei Sili to her. Sometime after Wei Chengqing quit his position as a drafter in the Secretariat because of health problems--which happened either in Shengli 2 (8 December 698-26 November 699) or shortly before--Empress Wu granted Wei Sili an audience, during which she fondly recalled the appreciation that his father shared with her for the talents and virtues of his two sons. (31) She ordered Wei Sili to take up the position left vacant by his brother. On 6 March 704, Wei Sili, who was then serving as vice-director of the Ministry of Personnel, was appointed as vice-director of the Secretariat and jointly manager of affairs with the Secretariat-Chancellery. (32) But according to another source, (33) on the same day he was promoted to be vice-minister of justice. (34) About five weeks later, on 12 April 704, he was appointed prefect of Bianzhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. (35) On 18 May 704 (Chang'an 4.4.10 [yichou]), Empress Wu summoned him to her summer palace, the Xingtai gong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. (36) We are not clear how long he remained there, nor whether he had been relieved of his position as Bianzhou prefect while he was in Empress Wu's company. It is certain, however, that by 16 August 704 (Chang'an 4.7.12 [yiwei]), another person is reported as the holder of that position. (37) Subsequently, when Wei Chengqing entered the cabinet to supervise national affairs on 6 December 704 (Chang'an 4.11.5 [dinghai]), (38) Wei Sili, who was then vice-director of the Secretariat and jointly manager of affairs with the Secretariat-Chancellery, was relieved of these two positions in accordance with the state policy that prevented two members of the same family from simultaneously serving as prime ministers. He was appointed as chancellor of the Directorate of Education (chengjun jijiu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), and concurrently prefect of Weizhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] on 5 January 705 (Chang'an 4.12.5 [binchen]). (39) Then, sometime between 5 January and 20 February 705, he shifted to the position of prefect of Minzhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (in present-day Yongping [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Hebei). (40)

We can see that Wei Sili served Empress Wu in the last five years of her reign (i.e., 699-704) and that despite some ups and downs during this five-year period he fared quite well thanks to her trust. With the empress's abdication following the 705 court coup, Wei Sili suffered the first serious setback in his career, which was mainly to be blamed for a special relationship that was created (probably by the efforts of his brother) and maintained between the two Wei brothers and the two Zhang brothers, Zhang Yizhi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 705) and Zhang Changzong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 705), the empress's favorites. Wei Sili was once accused of fostering a special relationship with them by accepting them as his nephews, probably in virtue of their mother's status as a member of the Wei family and thereby a remote relative of Wei Sili. (41) Although this accusation was made almost a decade after the Zhang brothers' downfall in 705 and it was done at least partly out of personal reasons, (42) it does not seem completely unfounded judging by the fact that Wei Chengqing was obviously a close ally of the Zhang brothers, one of whom (Zhang Changzong) he attempted to exonerate when several top officials filed a forceful case against him. The Wei brothers' close relationship with the Zhang brothers implicated them when the latter were removed in early 705. They were both exiled to remote areas: the older brother to Gaoyou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (present-day Gaoyou in Anhui) (as its wei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), (43) and the younger one to Raozhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (present-day Boyang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Jiangxi) (as its executive magistrate [zhangshi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]). The Wei brothers were not called back to the court until one year later, when the whole political situation was reversed against Zhang Jianzhi and his allies (who were then known as "Five Princes"), the chief conspirators of the 705 coup, mainly through the machinations of Wu Sansi. Wei Sili was then first appointed as vice-minister of the Court of the Imperial Stud (Taipu shaoqin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), concurrently in charge of the Ministry Personnel's evaluation and selection of officials. In Shenlong 2 (19 January 706-6 February 707), he was appointed as prefect of Xiangzhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. After Wei Chengqing's death in the same year, he replaced him as gentleman attendant at the palace gate (huangmen shilang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). He was then switched to be chamberlain for palace revenues (taifuqing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), in addition to being a scholar (xueshi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) at the Institute for the Cultivation of Literature (Xiuwenguan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). On 15 April 709 (Jinglong 3.3.1 [xuwu]), he was promoted to be Minister of the Military (bingbu shangshu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), acting with third-rank officials of the Secretariat-Chancellery.

In addition to drastic changes in the political situation, another similarly important factor contributed to Wei Sili's fortune in surviving the 705 purge and regaining his political power in the following five years or so. This was his kinship tie with Zhongzong's empress, who, like the Zhang brothers' mother, was also a member of the Wei family. Although Wei Sili and Empress Wei were actually remote relatives, Zhongzong (certainly with his empress working at his side) ordered Wei Sili's family to be registered as belonging to Empress Wei's. This familial re-affiliation surely connected him to the royal couple, who rewarded him with a series of honors, some of which are listed in the preceding paragraph. The favors Wei Sili received from Zhongzong are best shown by a royal visit to his villa at Lishan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] on 22 January 710 (Jinglong 3.12.18 [gengzi]). (44) Zhongzong composed a poem on the villa and requested all the officials in his company to respond to it. (45) Wei Sili also received two thousand bolts of silk, and a title--Duke Xiaoyao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]--obviously based on the model of a sobriquet that his ancient relative Wei Xiong had received from a Northern Zhou emperor many years previously. Zhongzong was rather fond of the villa, honoring the neighboring plain and valley with names full of Taoist flavors--"Valley of Tranquil Residence" (Youqigu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and "Plain of Clarity and Emptiness" (Qingxuyuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).

As often happens, a relationship with the powerful turned out to be a double-edged blade. The closeness of Wei Sili's relationship with Zhongzong and especially with his wife Empress Wei almost cost his life during the political purges immediately after the 710 coup that targeted the empress and the numerous members of her clique. He only narrowly escaped from "undisciplined soldiers" (luanbing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) thanks to the intervention of his nephew, Prince Ning [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (i.e., Li Xian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), who, as an older half-brother of Li Longji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (later, Xuanzong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] r. 712-56), was himself a main plotter of the coup. This brings us to the special relationship that Wei Sili had fortunately maintained with Zhongzong's younger brother and successor, Ruizong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (r. 710-12), who married a sister of Wei Sili's wife, hence their relationship as brothers-in-law. (46)

Although he escaped the ill fortune of his relatives from the Wei families, Wei Sili could not avoid being demoted to Songzhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as its prefect, which was announced on 24 July 710 (Tanglong 1.6.23 [kuimao]). The decision must have been made by Prince Ping [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (the future Xuanzong) and his aunt Princess Taiping [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 713), the two masterminds behind the coup of 21 July 710 (Tanglong 1.6.20 [gengzi]), although it was normally decreed by the child-emperor Shaodi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (r. 710), who had just been placed on the throne by Empress Wei eleven days earlier. It seems that this order was never executed, since Ruizong appointed Wei Sili as one of his two secretariats (zhongshuling [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) on 29 July 710 (Jingyun 1.6.28 [xushen]), four days after his enthronement and five days after the demotion order. However, only two weeks later, on 12 August 710 (Tanglong 1.7.13 [renxu]), for an unknown reason, Wei Sili had to leave this court position for a new appointment in local government, as prefect of Xuzhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (present-day Xuchang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). It was not until the beginning of the Kaiyuan era, which started on 22 December 713, that he was summoned back to court, successively serving as chancellor of the Directorate of Education (guozi jijiu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and adviser to the heir-apparent (taizi binke [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). But this time, he did not stay in court long either. As a result of Guo Zhen's accusation against him, on 7 March 714 (Kaiyuan 2.2.16 [jiachen]) he was ordered to leave the capital for the low-ranking position of administrative aide in a remote place, Yuezhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Yueyang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Hunan). Apparently after serving in another prefecture (Haizhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], in present-day Donghai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Jiangsu) for a while, he was promoted to be prefect of Chenzhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (present-day Huaiyang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) sometime between 7 March and 5 April 718 (Kaiyuan 6.2). (47) In the course of serving in Chenzhou, Wei Sili caught the attention of the imperial commissioner Liu Zhirou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (649-723), (48) who recommended him to Xuanzong. His biographers, who believed that Xuanzong was about to accept this recommendation, express regret that Wei Sili did not hang on long enough to get the recognition that he deserved--he died in the following year, on 19 September 719 (Kaiyuan 7.9.2), at the age of sixty sui. (49)

Wei Sili's attitude towards Buddhism was also rather complex and subject to change. In a memorial that he submitted to Zhongzong in Jinglong 3(15 February 709-3 February 710), he criticizes, among other things, the practice of squandering money on building Buddhist monasteries, which, he warned, after being so zealously pursued by Zhongzong, was draining the state treasury. (50) On the other hand, he was among several court officials who participated, in the capacity of "polisher" (runwen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), in the translation center supervised by Yijing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (635-713). (51) This might explain the considerable familiarity with basic Buddhist teachings that is demonstrated in his memorial. Further, it seems that his family as a whole had a certain amount of exposure to influences from Buddhism, judging by the fact that one of his uncles gave his daughter a Buddhist name. (52) This cousin of Wei Sili, who became Yang Yuanzheng's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] wife, (53) was called Jingguangyan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a combination of the names of two bodhisattvas, Jingguang and Guangyan. (54) From the Western Wei, through the Northern Zhou, Sui, and the Tang, it was not an unusual practice for families devoted to Buddhism to give Buddhist names to their children. Moreover, judging from Jingguangyan's life-style after her husband's death as depicted in her funeral epitaph, one has the impression that she had eventually become a nun. (55) All in all, Wei Sili's ambiguous attitude towards Buddhism, coupled with his extremely complex relationship with the powerful in his day, renders it hard for us to decide how politically and/or religiously determined his involvement in the construction of the Xiangguosi might have been.

As noted above, Zanning's and Liu Daochun's accounts establish that Wei Sili, in the capacity of an imperially commissioned inspector, intervened in the Fuhuisi-Jianguosi project in 711. On the other hand, Wei's secular biographical sources tell us that in 711 he served as prefect of his native place Xuzhou, which was located close to Bianzhou. Thus, in addition to his role as the Xuzhou prefect from 12 August 710 to sometime in 713, he also served as the imperially commissioned inspector of the Henan Circuit. The probability of this is enhanced by the contemporary example of one other prefect (of Bianzhou) who acted as imperially commissioned inspector of the Henan Circuit, which administratively covered Bianzhou. (56) In addition to his official status at the time, Wei Sili's family background and his possible friendship with Huiyun (he might have come to know this monk during his tenure as Bianzhou prefect in 704, four years after Huiyun arrived there) may also have contributed to his involvement in this religious and political maneuvering.

Wei Sili's sympathy for a Buddhist monk like Huiyun who was deeply steeped in the meditation tradition seems consistent with the fact that one of his kinsmen became a northern Chan master with the dharma-name Jingjue [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (683-727+) and compiled a well-known Chan historico-biographical collection. Jingjue had studied under Xuanze [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (?-718+), as well as under another prestigious meditation master, Huian. (57) If the Nanyue monk who taught Huiyun in his boyhood was actually Huian as we suspect, it would be entirely natural that Wei Sili and Huiyun should befriend each other in Bianzhou. In order to understand Wei Sili's involvement with the Xiangguosi, a brief note on his relationship with Jingjue thus seems necessary, especially because this relationship has often been misunderstood and misrepresented.

In the funeral epitaph that Wang Wei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (701-61) wrote for Jingjue, he identifies him as a "younger brother" (di [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) of Empress Wei. (58) This has led almost all Chan scholars to take this statement at face value. (59) The only exception seems to be Yang Zengwen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], who argues that Jingjue could not have been a brother of Empress Wei because on the one hand, Jingjue was a descendant of Wei Xiong, while on the other, Wei Sili, who was--according to Yang--a descendant of Wei Xiong too, was only a remote relative of Empress Wei. (60) While Yang Zengwen is right that Wei Sili was not a close kinsman of Empress Wei, he errs in understanding Wei Sili's relationship with Wei Xiong and with Jingjue as well. (61) Wei Xiong and Wei Sili were the eighth- and thirteenth-generation grandsons of Wei Mu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the common ancestor of most branches of the Wei clan recorded in the Xin Tang shu's "Zaixiang shixi." In Wei Sili's lineage, the name of the eighth-generation grandson of Wei Mu is not known to us, although we do know that he could not have been Wei Xiong, since his father was Wei Zuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] while Wei Xiong's father was Wei Xu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. As for Wei Sili's relationship with Jingjue, it is not possible that he could have been Wei Sili's son or grandson as Yang Zengwen suggests. Jingjue being recognized as a "younger brother" of Empress Wei simply indicates that he was of the same generation as she was in the Wei clan. On the other hand, Wei Sili and Empress Wei were also of the same generation--thirteenth-generation grandchildren of Wei Mu. This means that Wei Sili and Jingjue were thirteenth-generation descendants of Wei Mu.

Although Yang Zengwen's argument is flawed, he must be credited for the doubt he has cast on Jingjue's sibling relationship with Empress Wei. First, the claim that Jingjue was a descendant of Wei Xiong is incompatible with the claim that he was a brother of Empress Wei, for the simple reason that Empress Wei was not descended from Wei Xiong. As noted above, Empress Wei was a thirteenth-generation descendant of Wei Mu, of whom Wei Xiong was an eighth-generation descendant. Is it possible that Wei Xiong was her fifth-generation ancestor? No, given that her fifth-generation ancestor was one Wei Yanbin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], whose own fourth-generation ancestor was Wei Zibi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], rather than Wei Kui [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Wei Xiong's fourth-generation ancestor. (62)

Generation 1: ?
Generation 2: ?
Generation 3: ?
Generation 5: ?
Generation 6: ?
Generation 7: ?
Generation 8: Wei Yanbing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
Generation 11: Wei Hongbiao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
Generation 12: Wei Xuanzhen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
Generation 13: Empress Wei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]


Generation 1: ?
Generation 2: ?
Generation 8: ?
Generation 10: Wei Hongyuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
Generation 12: Wei Siqian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
Generation 13: Wei Sili [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (63)

However, the strongest evidence against Jingjue's alleged sibling connection with Empress Wei is the fact that none of Empress Wei's male siblings survived a bloody purge that a local minority regime imposed on her family in 692. (64) Hence, Jingjue being considered a "younger brother" of Empress Wei might also be understood as an effect of the empress's subsequent efforts to have some of her remote relatives registered into her family. (I am even willing to believe that her "adopting" such relatives into her family derived partly from regret for the loss of all of her brothers in the 692 tragedy.) In addition to the case of Wei Sili as noted above, at least one member from another branch of the Wei family, Wei Juyuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 710), was accepted as Empress Wei's "thrice-removed relative" (sandeng-qing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), was considered a brother, and had his register annexed to hers. (65) Thus, in Wang Wei's epitaph, the term di actually indicates "cousin." A similar example is found in the Zizhi tongjian, where another of Empress Wei's cousins, Wei Wen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 710), is mentioned as her "older brother" (xiong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). (66)

Jingjue was not, therefore, a younger brother by blood of Empress Wei, nor was he a son or grandson of Wei Sili. He was a distant relative of Empress Wei and of Wei Sili as well. This said, the fact that Wei Sili received a title identical with that held by Wei Xiong, who was perhaps the most distinguished ancestor of Jingjue, suggests the unusual esteem that Wei Sili held for Wei Xiong and that Wei Sili and Jingjue, as two kinsmen of the same generation (although Jingjue was twenty-three years junior), might have developed a close friendship. This would probably have drawn Wei Sili close to a Buddhist monk with a religious background like Huiyun's. The latter could be regarded as a dharma-brother of Jingjue, if his teacher at Nanyue was indeed the famous Huian.

Thus, circumstantial evidence points to the possibility that Wei Sili became involved in the Xiangguosi project owing to personal reasons (his probable friendship with Huiyun and his kinsman Jingjue). However, we must also examine the other side of the coin--Wei Sili's political situation in this period which was then, as seen in the above reconstruction of his life, entering the most tricky moment of his career.

Although somewhat protected--directly by his nephew Prince Ning and indirectly by his brother-in-law Ruizong--his close relationship with Empress Wei still made Wei Sili vulnerable in the post-Zhongzong court. Thus, in 710, only two weeks after he was appointed as director of the Secretariat, he was demoted to a local post (as Xuzhou prefect), whence he did not return to court until three years later, in 713. In view of this, we should not limit ourselves to understanding Wei Sili's role in the Jianguosi project merely in terms of his personal relationship with Jingjue and Huiyun--although the latter was indeed a mastermind of this series of political and religious dramas which had grown dramatically in profile. This will become more evident when we turn to the further developments of this already intriguing story.


As noted above, in the year following the renaming of the Fuhuisi (712), Wang Zhiyin came with the imperial edict potentially disastrous for the Jianguosi. By that time, the Jianguosi statue-hall had not yet been completed, and it was abandoned in accordance with the imperial edict. Saddened, Huiyun burned incense in front of the Maitreya statue, repeatedly praying to the Buddha that a miracle be wrought in order to raise and strengthen people's faith. Sure enough, after a while, gold-colored rays of light began to rise from the top of the statue, lighting up heaven and earth and inspiring great pleasure and awe in all the city's inhabitants. A couple of unbelievers who disparaged the statue immediately incurred "divine punishments"--one lost his sight, while the other found to his shock and despair that his tongue swelled up. After Huiyun made repentance for them, the one rapidly regained his sight and the other's tongue quickly healed. Awe-struck and chastened, they offered to be monastic servants. (67) Wang Zhiyin and his colleague Helan Wu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (an error for Helan Wuwen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) (68) worked together to record the auspicious signs and submitted their report to the emperor as a memorial. What they reported happened to match exactly what Ruizong had recently experienced in a dream, which prompted him to decree that the name-plaque of the Jianguosi be changed to Xiangguo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]--probably because he had ascended to the throne after holding the title Prince Xiang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. The naming of the Xiangguosi might be studied with the origin of another monastery in Chang'an, built around the same time and which was, more noticeably, also named after Ruizong's title. This was the cosmopolitan monastery called Anguosi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], built in 710 on the site of Ruizong's princely mansion in the Changle ward [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. The name of the monastery, Anguo ("pacifying the state") is clearly derived from the title Anguo Xiang wang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Prince Anguo of Xiang) that Ruizong received from Zhongzong for his merit in suppressing the faction of the two Zhang brothers at the beginning of 705. (69)

Ruizong ordered a bhadanta monk at the Foshoujisi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Minggan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], to come to Bianzhou and supervise the construction of the monastery (along with the imperial commissioner), in hope of avoiding further disturbances to the prefectural government of Bianzhou. Several court officials, including Jia Zeng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 725), (70) Cui Shi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 713), (71) Lu Yi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. after 720), (72) and Cen Xi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 713), lent their support to build the monastery by making significant donations. On 20 September 712 (Xiantian 1.8.15), only twelve days after Xuanzong's enthronement as emperor, Ruizong, who was then still sharing in rule as emperor emeritus, personally penned the name of the temple and ordered the bhadanta monk Zhendi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Skt. Paramartha), accompanied by two of his disciples and a court official with rank, to come to the temple carrying the temple-plaque. (73) Flags and flowers bestowed by Ruizong were reverently received by the monks and were displayed in the monastery. (74)

Although here Zanning does not mention Wei Sili, it is hard to believe that someone who was so deeply involved in the previous events surrounding this enterprise would have stayed away from it as it reached such an exciting climax. At any rate, it is important to note the roles played by the four court officials in furthering the renovation and expansion of the monastery. At least two of them (Cui Shi and Cen Xi) are known elsewhere as chief collaborators of Princess Taiping (Cui Shi was even believed to have been one of her lovers). Similarly noteworthy is the forceful intervention of a major monk at the Foshoujisi, Minggan, who was probably none other than a bhadanta monk at the Foshoujisi, Mingquan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (a.k.a. Mingquan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Mingquan was a chief ideologue of Empress Wu, entrusted by her in the 690s to organize the compilation of an official Buddhist catalogue, which was completed on 7 December 695.

This catalogue is entitled "Da Zhou kanding zhongjing mulu" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Catalogue of the various scriptures collated and established under the Great Zhou Dynasty [690-705]). According to a list (dated 7 December 695 [Tiancewansui 1.10.26]) attached to the end of the Taisho version of the Da Zhou kanding zhongjing mulu, seventy monk-scholars, including the famous Yijing and Bodhiruci (a.k.a. Dharmaruci, 572?-727), participated in this project. Mingquan's central role is shown not only by the appearance of his name at the very top of this list, but also by the way he identifies himself: "Du jianjiao kanding jingmu ji jing zhenwei Foshoujisi Dade seng Mingquan" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (The bhadanta monk of the Foshoujisi, chief supervisor of [the project of] collating and establishing the authenticity or falsehood of [Buddhist] scriptures and the catalogues thereof). (75)

In his report of the famous story of Fazang's Avatamsaka lectures causing an earthquake, Huiyuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (673?-743?), a major disciple of Fazang, confirms Mingquan's affiliation with the Foshoujisi and identifies him as a vinaya master. (76) Mingquan's status as a vinaya master is also corroborated by Zhisheng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (before 700-+786) in a short biographical note that he wrote for Mingquan, in which Zhisheng criticizes him for various inaccuracies and errors in his catalogue. But Zhisheng provides no other biographical information about Mingquan; neither does Zanning or Yuanzhao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (727-809), (77) whose biographical notes on Mingquan are both based on Zhisheng's. (78)

In the Da Fangguangfo huayanjing suishu yanyi chao and Xu Huayanjing lueshu kandingji, the second character of Mingquan's two-character dharma-name is written as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], while all other sources give it as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. In this sense, Antonino Forte seems well founded in believing that [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is the correct form of Mingquan's name. (79) However, we should also note that of all these sources on Mingquan available to us, Huiyuan's commentary was the earliest (he was a contemporary of Minquan) and therefore his evidence should be considered seriously. Unless we can prove that the Zokuzokyo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] version of the Xu Huayanjing lueshu kanding ji is wrong in giving Mingquan's name, we have to admit at least that some of his contemporaries took Mingquan's name as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], although they might also know [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as another form of his name (and this form seems to have received better acceptance among later Buddhist authors).

To make this point clear will lend more strength to the assumption that in the current Taisho version of the Song Gaoseng zhuan Minggan is probably an error for Mingquan. No monk called Minggan is known elsewhere to have been associated with the Foshoujisi. On the contrary, not only do we know for certain that Mingquan was associated with the monastery, but more importantly, in the Da Zhou kanding zhongjing mulu Mingquan addresses himself (twice) exactly the way--"Foshoujisi Dade seng" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]--that Minggan is presented in the Song Gaoseng zhuan. In view of the similarity in form between the two characters quan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and gan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], I am inclined to believe that Minggan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] was actually an error (either made by Zanning, or by a copyist of his text) for Mingquan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

Whatever the real identity of this bhadanta monk of the Foshoujisi, we have reason to believe that he was sent to supervise the reconstruction of the Jianguosi/Xiangguosi, very likely on the model of the Foshoujisi. This assumption seems reinforced by an intriguing possibility that Eugene Wang has brilliantly raised and substantiated with compelling evidence: that is, that the artistic forms of the Jing'aisi/Foshoujisi were employed as models for the composition of transformation tableaux in certain caves located as far away from the Jing'aisi as Dunhuang. (80) This fact is particularly noteworthy in light of the unique importance that the Foshoujisi enjoyed in the political and religious arenas from the 670s onwards.

Located in the Huairen ward [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (in the southeastern part of the eastern capital, Luoyang) and close to the Jianchun Gate [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the monastery was originally built on behalf of the heir-apparent Li Hong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (652-675) (who was six years old at its completion in 658) as an expression of the profound filial piety that the boy allegedly felt for his parents, Gaozong and Empress Wu; hence its name "Da Jing'aisi" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (The Great Monastery of Reverence and Love). Although we do not know the exact day of its completion, it must have been either in 658 or shortly afterwards, judging by the fact that it was planned as the twin monastery of the Ximingsi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the completion of which was officially announced on 17 July 658. (81) According to a contemporary Buddhist historian, this monastery, like the Ximingsi, cost the government 200,000 strings of cash to build. This immense investment resulted in a structure of breathtaking beauty and magnificence. (82) This might partly explain why Li Hong's premature death in 675 did not detract from its importance. As of around 685 at least three of the ten palace chaplains, arguably the most powerful religious leaders at the time, were from this monastery. (83) These ten palace chaplains, headed by Huaiyi, were also instrumental in producing by 16 August 690 a commentary on the Dayun jing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Skt. Mahamegha sutra) (Great-Cloud Sutra). This document provided the most crucial part of the ideology justifying Empress Wu's assumption of supreme power, resulting in her formal enthronement on 16 October 690.

At any rate, this monastery had rapidly become Empress Wu's propaganda headquarters since it was renamed Foshoujisi sometime in Tianshou 2 (6 December 690-25 November 691), following further renovation and additional construction under the personal supervision of Huaiyi. (84) It was chosen as the venue for a series of major translation projects supervised by the likes of Siksananda, Bodhiruci, and Yijing. The latter, since his return from India in 695, started to distinguish himself as the head of the Buddhist translation enterprise under the Zhou dynasty and subsequently the restored Tang dynasty. The most important Chinese translations prepared at this monastery included the Baoyu jing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Treasure Rain Sutra) in 693, and the Huayan jing in 695-99 (a new and more complete version of the Avatamsaka sutra). While it was claimed to be a Chinese translation based on a Sanskrit original, the Baoyu jing contains passages interpolated for the purpose of depicting Empress Wu as a bodhisattva reborn in China to fulfill the cakravartin ideal. (85) Siksananda's version of the Avatamsaka sutra, on the other hand, constituted a main source of inspiration for Empress Wu's grand ambition to build a Buddhist kingdom that would extend beyond the borders of her present empire. (86)

The extent of this monastery's involvement in Buddhist translation activities is reflected in its being the site of two officially sanctioned catalogues of Buddhist texts. (87) It is particularly pertinent for our purposes that this monastery was a major source for the Buddhist millennialism centered around the Maitreya cult, as demonstrated by the abundance of Maitreya-related paintings and images it enshrined. The ninth-century art historian Zhang Yanyuan provides vivid testimony in his Lidai minghua ji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Account of famed paintings through the ages). He tells us that within the Buddha-hall, which was the center of the monastery, there were at least three statues of Maitreya: one, cast in the common form of sitting under a bodhi-tree, which represented his achievement of enlightenment, was in the midst of the hall, while a pair of statues were placed in the eastern and western intercolumnar space of the hall. All the statues were ingeniously produced by the finest artists and craftsmen who had been "deliberately and elaborately chosen" (miaoxuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) from all over the world. The clay statue at the Buddha-hall particularly, Zhang Yanyuan reports, was modeled on a picture that the famous general-pilgrim Wang Xuance [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (fl. 640-60) and his companions secured in India. An earlier source confirms that the original of this model was a statue enshrined in the renowned monastery of Mahabodhi in Magadha, which Wang Xuance visited in one of his three or four trips to India. (88) The casting of this statue at the Jing'aisi was personally supervised by Wang Xuance, from a model issued by the inner palace in Linde 2 (22 January 665-9 February 666) in order to be stored at the Jing'aisi. (89) In addition to these impressive Maitreya-statues in the Buddha-hall, another essential part of the monastery, the Western Meditation Cloister (Xichanyuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) also housed transformation tableaux (bian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) about Maitreya, some of which were drawn on the west and east walls of the cloister. (90)

The dominance of the Maitreya cult at the Foshoujisi/Jing'aisi is rather striking. We have therefore sufficient evidence to believe that the central role played by a major Foshoujisi monk like Mingquan in reconstructing the Jianguosi into the Xiangguosi must have imbued the latter with Maitreya elements. This issue may be further studied in the context of the politico-religious campaign that can be conveniently characterized as Maitreyanism. Forcefully promoted under the reign of Empress Wu and that of Zhongzong, it set the propagandistic and ideological keynotes in the two decades from 690 to 710. In particular, we should note that Maitreyanism was a driving force behind several of the most important architectural edifices that were commissioned by Empress Wu, as well as by Zhongzong and his ambitious empress Wei.

It does not seem a pure coincidence that Huiyun rushed to Puzhou in search of a model of Maitreya exactly in the same year that Zhongzong decreed to rename a newly renovated monastery in the Zhangshan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ward of Luoyang as "Shengshansi" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], within which was just installed an immense statue of the Buddha (very likely Maitreya). (91) He dedicated this monastery to the posthumous welfare of his formidable mother, who had died several months previously. While it is relatively easy to decide the founding date of the Shengshansi and its location, the process leading to the casting and enshrinement of the Shengshansi statue is far more difficult to determine. Shortly before the statue was planned, there were at least five successive programs, all closely related to each other and connected to different extents with the statue. These projects were so entangled with each other that numerous misunderstandings have spread among scholars. (92) Here I cannot go into detail regarding the complicated history of the Shengshansi and its statue, (93) but shall instead confine myself to a summary of the facts.

The period from 694 to 707 witnessed five projects of constructing and installing great statues:

(1) The Tiantang statue -- between 691 and the end of 694, Empress Wu attempted to make a great statue and have it enshrined in her rebuilt Tiantang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Heavenly Hall; actually a gigantic pagoda to house the statue), which represented an essential part of her Mingtang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Luminous Hall) complex. This project failed due to the disastrous fire on the night of 8 December 694.

(2) Empress Wu's Baisima statue -- Empress Wu's plan to make a new statue, the preparatory phase of which (to raise funds, a program referred to earlier and known as "one-cash-everyday-per monk/nun") began 2 August (or 1 September) 700 and work formally commenced sometime between 9 May 704 and 6 June 704 at the Baisima slope [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of the famous Mount Beimang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], to the north of Luoyang. This statue was envisioned as the replica and replacement of the unfinished Tiantang statue. The project was terminated on 20 February 705, because of the court coup that removed Empress Wu and in which the Zhang brothers, who were the chief superintendents of this project, were killed. This resulted in an unfinished statue.

(3) Zhongzong's Baisima statue -- the Baisima project was resumed in accordance with an edict that Zhongzong issued on 27 March 706. This project was to reduce the size of the statue planned by Empress Wu, prior to moving it to the Shengshansi, where another project was then underway.

(4) The Shengshansi statue -- this project was to build a pavilion (actually a pagoda) called Baocige [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Pavilion Repaying [Motherly] Love), and also to make further modifications to the statue brought from the Baisima slope before enshrining it in the Baocige, which occurred sometime in the year-long period from 9 April 706 to 29 March 707. This was very likely a statue of Maitreya.

(5) The Changle statue -- the Changle project which was begun on a slope close to Chang'an probably sometime around 7 December 706, when Zhongzong moved his capital from Luoyang to Chang'an. It was cancelled on 3 August 707.

We can clearly see the interrelationships between these five statue projects: although the Tiantang statue was reduced to ashes when it was still far from complete, it provided a prototype that Empress Wu attempted to reproduce on the Baisima Slope. This new project, also aborted, resulted in an unfinished statue, which was brought to completion (with some modifications) by Zhongzong through two successive projects, one on the same Baisima slope, and the other at the Shengshansi, where the statue was eventually enshrined in the newly built Baocige. The Changle project, on the other hand, was related to the Baisima and Shengshansi projects only in that it was also supervised by the monk Huifan.

Huifan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] was an obscure Indian or Central Asian Buddhist monk and was the mastermind behind Zhongzong's two statue projects. He was appointed as the first abbot of the Shengshansi sometime between 5 October 707 and 27 January 708. The Changle project is also thought to have been undertaken at his instigation. Already highly respected by Empress Wu, Huifan expanded his influence during the reigns of Zhongzong and Ruizong, to the extent that he was eagerly courted by the two emperors, members of the imperial family including Empress Wei, Princess Taiping, and a number of courtiers. He was so deeply implicated in the strife between Xuanzong and Taiping that he was executed during the night of 29 July 713 when Xuanzong carried out his successful coup against the princess and her group.

Although investigation of the Great Xiangguosi's origin has detected no trace of Huifan's direct role, the sociopolitical soil from which this important monastery sprang, especially those activities surrounding the casting and enshrining of a Maitreya-statue, proves to be inseparable from this monk. The casting of such a statue was very likely inspired by Zhongzong's edict resuming the Baisima construction project, which had been instigated by Huifan and which resulted in the installation of an immense Buddha-statue at the Shengshansi, and the assigning of its abbotship to Huifan.

The account presented here has also revealed the heavy hand of the renowned official, Wei Sili. Regarding his role in the creation of the Great Xiangguosi, it does not seem far-fetched to say that he pushed this project as a means to court the favor of his new patron, Ruizong, and the two powerful persons imposingly sitting beside him--his young son and heir, Li Longji (later Xuanzong), and Ruizong's sister, Princess Taiping. It is not difficult to see that a monastery recast in such a way might have been gratifying to all three of these persons in power. Li Longji felt comfortable with a "recovered" monastery bearing a name (Jianguo) which might be read as hailing his "state-founding" merits (that is, his rescuing of the Tang from the usurping woman, Empress Wei). Ruizong was certainly gratified to see the monastery renamed after his former principality--Xiang--while Princess Taiping would also find such a monastery attractive, given that it was centered around a Buddha-statue whose production was heavily (if indirectly) inspired by one of the bold politico-religious programs that had been so deliberately fostered by her mother and her ideologues.


Buddhist sacred sites were to a great extent informed by religious legends centering on their creation and development. In addition to the ways that those legends could entice people to the site, religious legends not only helped to create a sacred site but also to eternalize it, thus repeatedly and maximally projecting its charms from the center outwards to the periphery and down to posterity. It is incumbent on scholars to read and represent the full diversity of those narratives, rather than be overly influenced by prescriptive notions of what should be found. Some religious legends simply contributed to the formation and transformation of Buddhist sacred sites. But as we have seen, the situation was often more complicated. Intellectual and social machinations behind the development or decline of a specific Buddhist sacred site could cast and recast a particular string of religious legends to quite different ends. Appreciating how this kind of creative process occurred throws new light on the different principles governing the development of both Buddhist legendary literature and the literary representation of sacred sites.

Images too are considered not merely symbols, but actual physical presences. Buddhist images were instrumental in presenting and representing, through various iconographical strategies, the visions and histories relating to a specific site deemed sacred for a peculiar Buddhist school. In addition to their aesthetic values, Buddhist sacred sites effectively elicited and nurtured religious sentiments, attracted and maintained secular patronage, both of which were essential for various religious and non-religious institutions located on these sacred sites. We cannot afford to leave these more "practical" functions of Buddhist sacred sites, usually obscured by the seduction of artistic charms, unnoticed or understudied.

A sacred site was not immune to secular intervention, which might demonstrate itself as generous patronage or ruthless repression. Political factors, particularly those originating from the highest level of the political world, usually played a crucial role in the emergence, development, and decline of a Buddhist sacred site.

JTS Jiu Tang shu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Beijing: Zhonghua,
 Hualian chubanshe, 1965.
 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Xi'an: Sanqin chubanshe, 1994-
SGSZ Song Gaoseng zhuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. T 50, no.
SKQS Yingyin Wenyuange Siku quanshu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].
 Rpt., Taibei: Taiwan shangwu yinshuguan, 1983-86.
T Taisho shinshu daizokyo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Ed.
 Takakusu Junjiro [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Watanabe
 Kaigyoku [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], et al. Tokyo: Taisho
 kankokai, 1924-32.
XTS Xin Tang shu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Beijing: Zhonghua,
XZJ Wanzi xu zangjing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Taibei: Xin
 wenfeng chuban gongsi, 1968-70 (rpt. of the Dai Nihon zokuzokyo
 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Kyoto: Zokyo shoin, 1905-12).
ZZTJ Zizhi tongjian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Rpt., Beijing:
 Zhonghua, 1976.



The author wishes to thank T. H. Barrett, James Benn, Raoul Birnbaum, Antonino Forte, Paul W. Kroll, and James Robson for their comments on different drafts of this article.

1. On Mount Wutai, see a series of studies by Raoul Birnbaum: Studies on the Mysteries of Manjusri (Boulder: Society for the Study of Chinese Religions, 1983); "Thoughts on T'ang Buddhist Mountain Traditions and Their Context," T'ang Studies 2 (1984): 5-23; "The Manifestation of a Monastery: Shen-ying's Experiences on Mount Wu-t'ai in T'ang Context," JAOS 106 (1986): 119-37; "Secret Halls of the Mountain Lords: The Caves of Wu-t'ai Shan," Cahiers d'Extreme-Asie 5 (1989-90): 115-40; and two articles by Robert M. Gimello, "Wu-t'ai Shan during the Early Chin Dynasty: The Testimony of Chu Pien," in Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal 7 (1994): 501-612, and "Chang Shang-ying on Wu-t'ai Shan," in Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China, ed. Susan Naquin and Chun-fang Yu (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1992), 89-149. On Mount Song, see Bernard Faure, "Relics and Flesh Bodies: The Creation of Ch'an Pilgrimage Sites," in Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China, 150-89; and Tonami Mamoru [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], The Shaolin Monastery Stele on Mount Song, tr. P. A. Herbert (Kyoto: Italian School of East Asian Studies, 1990). On Mount Putuo, see Reginald Johnston, Buddhist China: Visit to Chiu-hua-shan in Anhuei and P'u-t'o-shan in Chechiang (London: J. Murray, 1913), and Yu Chun-fang, Kuan-yin: The Chinese Transformation of Avalokitesvara (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2001).

2. This brief survey of Xiangguosi's importance under the Tang and Song dynasties is based on Alexander C. Soper, "Hsiang-kuo-ssu: An Imperial Temple of Northern Sung," JAOS 68 (1948): 19-45; also Xiong Bolu's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Xianguosi kao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe, 1985).

3. The most thorough study of this monastery was Xiong's monograph until the recent publication of Duan Yuming's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Xiangguosi: Zai Tang Song diguo de shensheng yu fansu zhijian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Chengdu: Ba Shu shushe, 2004). Huang Qijiang's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] "Bei Song Bianjing zhi siyuan yu fojiao" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Guoli bianyiguan guankan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 18.2 [1989]: 101-23) also contains valuable information. In Western scholarship, Soper's study remains unsurpassed. None of them, however, touches on the complex sociopolitical background behind the rise of this monastery.

4. The earliest and arguably the most distinguished meditation practitioner associated with Nanyue was the Tiantai patriarch Huisi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (515-568). However, it does not seem that he was recognized as a "patriarch" by any Chan tradition and furthermore he died too early (almost a century before Huiyun's arrival) to be Huiyun's teacher. Huairang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (677-744), given his long residence at the mountain and his status as a major disciple of Huineng and an initiator of a major post-Huineng Chan tradition, emerges as a strong candidate for "the first patriarch of the Nanyue Chan tradition." However, we have to rule him out too, due to the lateness of his dates (he was twenty-two years younger than Huiyun). With both Huisi and Huairang excluded, another major Chan meditation master related to Nanyue, Huian, becomes the best possible choice. The earliest source on the life of Huian is his funeral epitaph composed by Song Dan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] sometime shortly after he died on 21 March 706 (Jinglong 2.2.3). See Song Dan, "Tang Songshan Huishansi gu Dade Daoan Chanshi bei" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], QTW 396.12a. Unfortunately, the inscription that survives has been so damaged that it bears very limited information. This has left his biography in the SGSZ [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (T 50, no. 2061: 18.813b-c) the richest source for his life. According to this biography,

 At the time when the emperor (viz., Sui Yangdi, r. 604-617) visited
 Jiangdu, turmoil and warfare arose within the seas (i.e., China).
 [Huian] then mounted the Hengyuesi by leaning on his staff and
 practiced dhuta there. During the Zhenguan era (627-650), he went to
 Qizhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (present-day Qichun
 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Hubei) to "pay homage to" (li
 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], i.e., "to become a disciple of")
 Great Master [Hong]ren [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (602-675). In
 Linde 1 (2 February 664-21 January 665), he visited Mount Zhongnan and
 took his residence (zhi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) beside a
 cliff there.

Huian must have gone to Mount Huangmei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in Qizhou, to study with Hongren. Given that Hongren did not become the leader of the Huangmei Chan group until his teacher Daoxin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (580-651) died in 651, that Huian went to study with him during the Zhenguan era, which ended a year before Daoxin died, does not sound likely. Either he went there to study with Hongren shortly after 651, or he went there during the Zhenguan era as a disciple of Daoxin and then turned to study with Hongren after Daoxin died. Thus, if Huiyun had any chance to receive any instruction from Huian in 664, Huian must have returned to Nanyue from Qizhou sometime between 651 and 664, and stayed there until 664 or early 665, when he left for Zhongnanshan. My thanks to James Robson for drawing my attention to Huian's connection with Nanyue.

5. The above summary is based on Huiyun's biography at SGSZ 26.874b6-16.

6. More about this campaign will be found below.

7. SGSZ 26.874b16-24.

8. By Zhiyan jing, Huiyun probably refers to the sutra known to us as "Du yiqie zhufo jingjie zhiyan jing" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Skt. Sarvatathagatavisayavatara sutra) (T 12. no. 358). The following passage loosely matches what Huiyun attributes to the Zhiyan jing:
 ... [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ... (p. 251a9-10)

 Manjusri: it is as though the broad ground is composed of liuli
 (crystal). All the utensils for offerings and the Vaijayanta palace of
 King Indra are all reflected upon it.

Another text, similar to the Du yiqie zhufo jingjie zhiyqn jing both in title and content (Du zhufo jingjie Zhiguangyan jing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], T 10, no. 302), looks like a different translation of the same Sanskrit original.

9. Here the original has it as Puzhou shuxian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which can be read "subprefecture Shu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of Pu prefecture." However, since Puzhou was located in present-day Zhencheng in Henan, while Shuxian is present-day Jixian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in Sichuan, I have understood shuxian as a "subprefecture of (...)," rather than a specific place-name.

10. SGSZ 26.874b24-28; the quoted sentence is found at 874b27-28.

11. Wudai minghua buyi (SKQS), 14a6-7.

12. For the interchangeability of dianwu and sima and the identity of Xin'an and Xizhou, see n. 22.

13. ZZTJ 220.7053.

14. See, for examples, JTS 99.3090, 185B.4814; XTS 128.4461.

15. See Liu Chonwang's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] biography at JTS 129.4663. The person in question was his sixth-generation ancestor, Liu Xuanyi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], who married Taizong's daughter Princess Nanping after she was divorced from her first husband Wang Jingzhi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] who had been exiled because of his association with the deposed Heir Apparent Li Chengqian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (620-645).

16. ZZTJ 220.7053.

17. Here, the Zhonghua shuju editors of the JTS parse yushi zhongchen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and neigongfeng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. This is incorrect, given that yushi zhongchen neigongfeng is a special official title.

18. JTS 100.3122-23; cf. his biography at XTS 128.4464.

19. SGSZ 26.874c7-11.

20. In order to avoid the confusions that might be caused by the frequent changes in era-name during the two-year period from the end of the Jingyun era to the Xiantian era, let us list them here:

1. on 30 February 712 (Jingyun 3.1.19 [yichou]), the name of the era was changed to Taiji (JTS 7.158, XTS 5.119, ZZTJ 210.6671);

2. on 21 June 712 (Taiji 1.5.13 [xinsi]) (XTS 5.119, ZZTJ 210.6672) (JTS [7.160] has it as 11 June 712--Taiji 1.5.3 [xinwei]), the name of the era was changed to Yanhe [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII];

3. on 12 September 712 (Yanhe 1.8.7 [jiachen]), the name of the era was changed to Xiantian (JTS 7.160, XTS 5.119, ZZTJ 210.6671);

4. on 22 December 713 (Xiantian 2.12.1 [gengyin]), the name of the era was changed to Kaiyuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (JTS 8.172, XTS 5.122, ZZTJ 210.6675).

The Yanhe era lasted only from 21 June to 12 September 712, about eleven weeks.

21. Wudai minghua buyi 14b2-7.

22. It is noteworthy that while Zanning identifies Zheng Jing as Xin'an dianwu, Liu Daochun here identifies him as Xizhou sima, which is, however, used by Zanning to refer to an anonymous person who owned a residence to the northwest of which was a park, from where Huiyun saw a miraculous apparition rising when he first arrived in Bianzhou (in 701 or early 702). Thus, whereas both Xin'an dianwu (referring to Zheng Jing) and Xizhou sima (referring to an anonymous person) appear in the account of Zanning, that of Liu Daochun only contains Xizhou sima (i.e., Zheng Jing).

In fact, Xin'an and dianwu are identical with Xizhou and sima. For an example of dianwu being used to indicate sima, see Sanguo zhi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1959), 42.1032. The JTS (40.1595) provides the following account of the transformation of the names of Xizhou:
 The Xi prefecture (of the Tang) was Xin'an commandery
 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of the Sui. In Wude 4 (28 January
 621-15 February 622), with the suppression of Wang Hua
 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] was appointed the area commander-in-
 chief (zongguan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) of Xizhou, in charge
 of three prefectures: Xi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Mu
 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. In Zhenguan 1 (23 January 627-10
 February 628), the area command was abolished. In Tianbao 1 (10
 February 742-29 January 743), Xizhou was renamed Xi'an commandery. In
 Qianyuan 1 (14 March 758-2 February 759), it was renamed Xi

Since Xin'an dianwu and Xizhou sima are identical, Zheng Jing's old mansion was the place from where Huiyun saw the radiant phenomenon rising in 701 (or early 702) and also the place where, about one decade later, he planned to build a shelter for the Maitreya-statue and which turned out to be exactly the old site of the Jianguosi. This means that Zanning has cast Huiyun's mysterious experience in 701 (or early 702) as a presage to his role in the series of projects that involved the Anyesi statue, "recovery" of the Jianguosi, and eventually the construction of the Xiangguosi.

23. I have attempted in vain to find another example of this usage in the electronic version of the Siku quanshu.

24. See n. 20. According to Liu Daochun, the renaming of the Fuhuisi as Jianguosi occurred sometime before the eleven-week period from 21 June to 12 September 712.

25. See Wei Xiong's biography in Zhou shu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1971) 31.545.

26. Wei Siqian's official biographies in the two Tang histories do not provide the date of his death nor his age, both of which are given in his funeral epitaph composed by Fan Lubing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 690) and Wei Siqian's own son Wei Chengqing. See "Da Tang gu Nayan shang qingche duwei Bochang xian Kaiguo-nan Wei Fujun muzhiming" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], QTWB 2: 6-8.

27. Fengge (literally, "Phoenix Hall") and Luantai (literally, "Pheasant Pavilion") were new names adopted under the regency of Empress Wu for the Zhongshusheng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Secretariat) and Menxiasheng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Chancellery).

28. See Wei Siqian's official biographies at JTS 88.2861-62, XTS 41.4228-29, and his funeral epitaph as quoted above.

29. The JTS (88.2864) dates this important event as happening at the beginning of the Tiaolu era (15 July 679-20 September 680), which is inaccurate; it happened the same day (Yonglong 1.8.22 [jiazi]-20 September 680) the Tiaolu era ended and a new era-name was adopted (see JTS 5.106, XTS 3.75, ZZTJ 202.6398). A major reason for this change in reign-era was the deposing of Li Xian and the appointment of a new heir-apparent.

30. See Wei Chengqing's official biographies at JTS 88.2862-65 and XTS 41.4229-30.

31. The context of ZZTJ (206.6542-43) suggests that soon after he was appointed as a drafter in the Secretariat, Wei Sili memorialized the empress on the necessity of stemming the deterioration of public education at the time. As the ZZTJ dates this memorial to Shengli 2 (8 December 698-26 November 698), it can be assumed that Wei Chengqing's resignation, the audience the empress gave to Wei Sili, and his promotion to be a Gentleman Attendant at the Palace Gate (huangmen shilang) all happened in or slightly before 699. The empress did not act in accordance with his advice. Partly quoted in ZZTJ (206.6542-43) and in Wei Sili's two official biographies, the whole of this memorial is preserved in QTW 236.3a9-4b.

32. Chang'an 4.zheng.26 [renzi]; see ZZTJ 207.6569. Empress Wu's edict ordering this appointment is preserved in QTW 95.14a as "Shou Wei Sili Fengge shilang pingzhangshi zhi" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

33. See XTS 61.1667.

34. His official biographies continue with the information that afterwards he served, on three occasions, as director (shilang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) of the Secretariat, jointly manager of affairs with the Secretariat-Chancellery. This is supported partly by the rest of the biographies and partly by other sources (see below).

35. While Wei Sili's two biographies at JTS 88.2869 and XTS 116.4231 only note that he was appointed as the Bianzhou prefect during the Chang'an era (701-704), XTS's "Zaixiang shixi" clearly dates this appointment 12 April 704 (Chang'an 4.3.4 [yichou]) (see XTS 61.1667).

36. ZZTJ 207.6571.

37. This was none other than Zhang Changqi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (?-705), an older brother of Zhang Yizhi and Zhang Changzong. See ZZTJ 207.6572. He held this position until he was executed on 30 January 705 (Chang'an 5.zheng.1 [renwu]) (XTS 4.105). See Yu Xianhao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Tang cishi kao quanbian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Hefei: Anhui daxue chubanshe, 2000), 735. Thus, Wei Sili's tenure as Bianzhou prefect did not exceed four months (12 April-16 August 704) at most. It might have been as short as one month (12 April-18 May 704) (if he was required to stay long with Empress Wu at the Xingtai Palace, although this does not seem so likely).

38. The date of this appointment of Wei Chengqing is not reported in his two official biographies, but in XTS's "Zaixiang shixi" 61.1669 and ZZTJ 207.6574, which concur with each other.

39. XTS "Zaixiang shixi," 61.1667. See also ZZTJ 207.6574.

40. No source records the date of this new appointment. We can assume that it happened sometime between 5 January 705, when he was appointed as the Weizhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] prefect, and 20 February 705 (Shenlong 1.zheng.22 [kuimao]), when the court coup that resulted in Empress Wu's abdication and the disgracing of the Wei brothers broke out.

41. This accusation was raised in Kaiyuan 2 (21 January 714-8 February 715) by Guo Zhen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] who should not be confused with a contemporary synonymous Guo (also known as Guo Yuanzhen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], ?-722, a very capable minister and general who befriended Wei Sili, Wei Anshi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [651-714], and Zhang Yue [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [667-731]). In the capacity of Censor, Guo Zhen memorialized Xuanzong concerning an uncle-nephew relationship that Wei Sili tried to establish between himself and the Zhang brothers. See JTS 92.2957, XTS 122.4350; cf. JTS 92.2968. ZZTJ 211.6698 places Guo's memorial to the third month of this year (19 April-17 May 714) and dates the decree ordering Wei Sili's demotion to 5 May 714 (Kaiyuan 2.3.17 [jiachen]). Guo Zhen's memorial is preserved in Tongdian (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1988) 24.673-74, QTW 205.17a8-b8, in which he describes the "collusion" between Wei Sili and the Zhang brothers in this way: "When the power of Zhang Yizhi and his brothers overwhelmed people both within and without the court, Wei Sili had them tied to himself as nephews to an uncle. He had been already punishable by death at the beginning of the Shenlong era. Because of the looseness of the Heavenly Net (i.e., the legal system), he escaped and has survived to the present by sheer luck" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). This echoes Wei Sili's particularly capricious political situation following the 705 court coup (see below).

Guo Zhen's accusation makes it clear that Wei Azang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and Wei Sili were merely remote relatives. Evidence suggests that Wei Azang might have come from the Pengchenggong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] branch of the Wei family. The XTS (202.5749) biography of Wei Yuandan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a descendant of this branch (see XTS 74A.3069) and whose maternal uncle Lu Song [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] married a younger sister of Empress Wei (see JTS 183.4744; XTS 202.5749, 206.5844), mentions a marriage relationship (yinshu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) between his family and Zhang Yizhi's. This might suggest that Zhang Yizhi's mother was from Wei Yuandan's family.

42. JTS 92.2957.

43. On 20 February 705, exactly the same day the court coup was staged. Wei Chengqing, along with Fang Rong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 705) and Cui Shenqing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] were all arrested (ZZTJ 207.6581). Twelve days later, on 4 March 705 (Shenlong 1.2.5 [yimao]), Wei Chengqing was demoted to Gaoyou (ZZTJ 208.6583).

44. This visit is dated only in ZZTJ 209.6638.

45. Although the poem by Zhongzong has not survived (the poem he wrote while visiting another place at Lishan is extant, see Quan Tang shi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [Beijing: Zhonghua, 1990] 2.23-24), some of those composed by his officials on the occasion are still preserved in Quan Tang shi, see Zhang Yue (88.963, 89.982); Wu Pingyi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. ca. 741) (102.1085, 1086); Lu Zhuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (99.1071); Cui Shi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 713) (54.665, 667); Xu Yanbo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 714) (76.825); Song Zhiwen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (ca. 650-ca. 712) (53.648); Shen Quanqi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. ca. 713) (97.1044, 1054); Li Jiao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (644-713) (61.725, 729); Li Yi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (649-716) (92.999, 1000); Su Ting [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (670-727) (74.807, 74.815); Zhao Yanzhao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. ca. 714) (103.1090) (two poems); Liu Xian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. ca. 712) (71.783) (two poems). Cf. Tangshi jishi jiaojian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], ed. Wang Zhongyong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Chengdu: Bushu shushe, 1989) 11.278-80.

46. According to Wei Sili's JTS biography, he was the husband of Prince Ning's aunt (congmu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) (JTS 88.2870) (Wei Sili's XTS biography, 116.4233, also mentions Prince Ning's coming to his rescue, but without mentioning their relationship). Prince Ning's mother was nee Liu, posthumously known as Empress Suming [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (XTS 81.3596). She was married to Ruizong in Yifeng 3 (28 January 678-15 February 679) (the marriage was fondly mentioned by Gaozong, see JTS 5.103). In addition to Prince Ning, she also left two daughters, Princesses Shouchang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and Daiguo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the latter of whom was a devout Buddhist believer and was married to Zheng Wanjun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a good friend of the Avatarnsaka master Fazang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (643-712) (Fazang wrote a commentary on the Heart Sutra at his request; this commentary is still extant [T no. 1712]). Her biographies are at JTS 51.2176, XTS 76.3489. She was from a prestigious clan which produced over twenty governors (JTS 77.2679). Her grandfather Liu Dwei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (582-652) was a talented general. Her father Liu Yanjing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 689) was killed by order of Empress Wu on 25 November 689 (Yongchang 1.10.8 [dingsi]) (XTS 4.89), probably partly because of his relationship with Pei Yan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 684) (Pei married a daughter of his brother Liu Demin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), who was executed by Empress Wu on 30 November 684 on grounds of treason. See "Da Tang Jiancha yushi Pei Yan guqi Liu Shi muzhiming" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], QTWB 3.18; discussed in Sun Yinggang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "Chang'an yu Jingzhou zhijian: Tang Zhongzong yu fojiao" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], in Tangdai zongjiao xinyang yu shehui [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], ed. Rong Xinjiang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe, 2003), 147, n. 5.

47. Wei Sili's biographies in JTS 88.2870 and XTS 116.4233 inform us that sometime after his service in Yuezhou, he was promoted to be the Chenzhou prefect. However, according to Cefu yuangui [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (SKQS 172.16b), this promotion (which Cefu yuangui dates to Kaiyuan 6.2 [7 March-5 April 718]) occurred while he was serving as administrative aide (biejia [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) of Haizhou.

48. Liu Zhirou was the older brother of the brilliant historian and historical philosopher Liu Zhiji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (a.k.a. Liu Zixuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 661-721). Both of the two official Tang histories only accord him a brief biographical note (see JTS 102.3174, XTS 201.5733). His life receives a more detailed treatment in his funeral epitaph written by Li Yong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (678-747). See "Tang zeng taizi shaobao Liu Zhirou shendao bei" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], QTW 264.16b-19b.

49. JTS 88.2873, XTS 116.4233. ZZTJ 209.6652, 6698. The specific date of Wei Sili's death is given in his grave epitaph written by Zhang Yue, "Zhongshu ling Xiaoyao gong muzhiming" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], QTW 232.9b.

50. JTS 88.2870, XTS 116.4232, ZZTJ 209.6633-34. The date of the submission is provided in JTS and ZZTJ, but not in XTS. The whole of the memorial is preserved in QTW 236.6b.

51. See Xu Gujin yijing tuji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], T 55, no. 2152: 370c26-371a1; Kaiyuan shijiao lu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], T 55, no. 2154: 9.569a6-11, the latter of which contains a more detailed description of the court officials (over twenty) involved in Yijing's translation project. Cf. Zhenyuan xinding shijiao mulu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] T 55, no. 2157: 13.869c11-17; Fangyi mingyi ji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], T 54, no. 2131: 1.1067c29; SGSZ 1.710c26-371a2, 3.724c16.

52. The epitaph gives Jingguangyan's father as Wei Renshen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Da Tang gu Sixun langzhong Yang fujun furen Weishi Fuyang junjun muzhiming" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], QTWB 2.16), who was, according to XTS 74A.3110-12), a younger brother of Wei Siqian (originally named Wei Renyue [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], (their father being Wei Delun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). The XTS "Zaixiang shixi" only tells us one son of Wei Renshen, Wei Fengxian, who must have been Jungguangyan's brother.

53. Her epitaph itself does not provide her husband's name, only his title, sishun langzhong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Director of the Bureau of Merit Titles). Toward the end of the epitaph, the names of her four sons are listed, with the eldest noted as Zhixuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], who was a chaosan dafu and Palace Censor of the Left Censorate (zuotai dian[zhong?] shiyulang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). The XTS "Zaixiang shixi" records two members of the Yang family who acted as shishun langzhong: Yang Zhuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], who had a son called Yang Che [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (XTS 71C.2378), and Yang Yuanzheng, who had a son called Zhixuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (acting as dianzhong shiyulang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [palace censor]) (XTS 71C.2381). This suggests that Jingguangyan's husband was Yang Yuanzheng. If this is correct, although the "Zaixiang shixi" only records one son (with his name written [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], in contrast to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as given in the epitaph) of Yang Yuanzheng, he actually had four.

54. Jingguang was the name of the devi whose incarnation Empress Wu depicted to be by her Buddhist ideologues. See Antonino Forte, Political Propaganda and Ideology in China at the End of the Seventh Century: Inquiry into the Nature, Authors, and Function of the Tunhuang Document S. 6502, Followed by an Annotated Translation, 2nd ed. (Kyoto: Italian School of East Asian Studies, 2006), 142, 323ff. Guangyan is a bodhisattva appearing in the Vimalakirtinirdesa sutra. See Weimojie suoshuo jing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], T 14, no. 475: 1.542c10ff.

55. "Profoundly alarmed by the bubble-like illusion [of the secular world], she straightforwardly investigated into wondrous existence. Peacefully sitting in a single room, she carefully contemplated [the nature of] the six dusty realms [of existence]" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Da Tang gu Sixun langzhong Yang fujun furen Weishi Fuyang junjun muzhiming," QTWB 2.16).

56. The official in question is Li Daojian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (JTS 64.2435, XTS 79.3558).

57. According to Li Zhifei's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] preface to Jingjue's commentary on the Heart Sutra, Jingjue was a common disciple of Shenxiu, Huian (referred to as "Luozhou Songshan chanshi" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and Xuanze [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (fl. 646-700) (referred to as "Anzhou Shoushan Ze dashi" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). See Yanagida Seizan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Shoki zenshu shisho no kenkyu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Kyoto: Hozokan, 1967), 596.

58. "Da Tang Da Anguosi gu Dade Jingjue Shi beiming bing xu" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], QTW 327.5b3.

59. See, e.g., Yanagida, Shoki zenshu shisho no kenkyu, 87-88; T. H. Barrett, "The Date of the Leng-chia shih-tzu chih," Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 3rd ser., 1.2 (July, 1991), 255-56; John MacRae, The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch'an Buddhism (Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press, 1986), 88; Bernard Faure, The Will to Orthodoxy: A Critical Genealogy of Early Chan (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1997), 130-31.

60. Yang Zengwen, "Jingjue ji qi Zhu Bore boluomiduo xinjing yu qi jiaoben" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Zhonghua foxue xuebao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 6 (1993): 238-40. Yang provides no evidence for his speculation that Jingjue might have been a son or grandson of Wei Sili. As for Jingjue's being a descendant of Wei Xiong, this is mentioned in Li Zhifei's preface to Jingjue's commentary on the Heart Sutra. (In the preface, Li Zhifei only says that Jingjue was a "descendant" [hou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] of Master Xiaoyao. Since the latter title was applied to both Wei Xiong and Wei Sili, it might here refer to either of them. However, given that the expression hou usually indicates one's descendant of several generations and that Wei Sili and Jingjue were contemporaries, I assume that in this context "Master Xiaoyao" refers to Wei Xiong.)

61. I do not understand Yang Zengwen's mistaking Wei Sili as a descendant of Wei Xiong; perhaps he has confused this Wei Sili with another Wei Sili, who was indeed a descendant of Wei Xiong but who was a grandfather of Wei Hongjing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (JTS 157.4152). However, since Wei Hongjing was active during the Changqing era (821-25), over a century after our Wei Sili died, he could not have been the latter's grandson, hence there must have been two Wei Silis. This confusion is already evident in XTS 116.4234; see Cen Zhongmian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Tang shi yushen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1960), 56-57.

62. See XTS, "Zaixiang shixi," 74A.3070. Wei Xiong's grandfather Wei Zhenjia [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] was a son of Wei Kan's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] younger brother. Wei Kan's father was Wei Kui [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (XTS 74A.3051), who was then the fourth-generation grandfather of Wei Xiong. On the other hand. Empress Wei's father. Wei Xuanzhen, was a fourth-generation grandson of Wei Yanbin, who was, in turn, a fourth-generation grandson of Wei Zibi (XTS 74A.3103-6).

63. This chart is based on XTS, "Zaixiang shixi" 74A.3103-6, 3110-12), which, however, does not provide the name of Wei Hongyuan's father Wei Liang; the latter is, fortunately, identified in Wei Siqian's funeral epitaph (see QTWB 2: 6).

64. ZZTJ 208.6603; cf. JTS 183.4743, XTS 206.5843.

65. JTS 92.2964: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (cf. XTS 123.4376).

66. ZZTJ 209.6634; cf. XTS 206.5843.

67. These miracles are also recorded in the memorial inscription that Li Yong wrote for the Great Xiangguosi. Li Yong identifies the two disparagers, whom Zanning left anonymous, as Guo Bin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and Chen Zhen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; see Li Yong, "Da Xaingguosi bei" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], QTW 263.10a-13b. Different versions of this inscription have been collated by Xiong Bolu in his Xiangguosi kao, 211-13.

68. This correction is made on the basis of Liu Daochun's account, in which he is identified as a langzhong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (director of a section [cao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] or bureau [si [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] under a ministry [bu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]) (Liu Daochun also refers to another official Jiao Ligong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], an office manager [lushi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]). Given that the name of Helan Wuwen is included in the Tang shangshusheng langguan shizhu timing kao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], ed. Xu Minxia [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and Wang Guizhen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1992), 13.668, Liu Daochun's account is to be preferred (once again) in this regard.

69. See Ono Katsutoshi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Chugoku Zui To Choan jun shiryo shusei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 2 vols. (Kyoto: Hozokah, 1989) 2: 69-77.

70. Jia Zeng's official biographies are located at JTS 190B.5027-29, XTS 119.4297-98. He seems to have serious interest in Buddhist doctrines judging by the fact that he used to make efforts to study the abstruse Jushe lun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Skt. Abhidharmakosabhasya). His passion for the text was such that he turned to an Abhidharma expert Yuanhui [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] for help, asking him to compose a more readable commentary on the basis of earlier commentators. This resulted in a new commentary, Jushelun song lueshu ben [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (T 1823), which he honored with a preface. This preface, known as "Apidamo jushe lun lueshu ji" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], is still extant (see T 1823, vol. 41: 813a). In this preface Jia Zeng is identified as a grand master for proper consultation (zhengyi dafu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), military commander (zhujunshi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) with special power (chijie [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), and the governor of Jinzhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (in present-day Linfen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Shanxi).

71. The original has Cui Zhao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a name otherwise unknown. This zhao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is probably an error for shi.

72. Lu Yi, whom Zanning here identifies as a palace steward (jishizhong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), was obviously the same Lu Yi whom the XTS "Zaixing shixi," 73A.2909 records as a member of the Lu clan who had served as palace steward and an aide (zhangshi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) in the area command of Jing[zhou]. This record is partly corroborated by a note in Cefu yuangui 162.6b that in Kaiyuan 8.8 (7 September-5 October 720), Lu Yi, who was then serving as an aide of Jingzhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], was appointed as the imperially commissioned inspector of the Shannan Circuit [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Further, according to several Song and Qing sources, Lu Yi superintended the Jinshi exam in Jingyun 2 (24 January 711-11 February 712) as vice-director of the Bureau of Evaluation (kaogong yuanwai lang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). See Tang caizi zhuan jiaojian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], ed. Fu Xuancong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Tao Min [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], et al., 5 vols. (Beijing: Zhonghua, 2002) 1: 139; Tang yulin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1978) 4.78; Nanbu xinshu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], ed. Huang Shoucheng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Beijing: Zhonghua, 2002) 6.83; Tang dengkeji kao buzheng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], ed. Meng Erdong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Beijing: Beijing Yanshun chubanshe, 2003), 5.150. Some time later, Lu Yi apparently was demoted to serve as aide in Jingzhou, until between 7 September and 5 October 720 when he was promoted to be the imperially commissioned inspector of the Shannan Circuit. Lu Yi was a remote relative of Lu Cangyong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], who was executed by Xuanzong in 713 as a chief accomplice of Princess Taiping. Lu Yi's fourth-generation ancestor, Lu Daoqian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], was a younger brother of Lu Cangyong's fifth-generation ancestor, Lu Daoliang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; see XTS 73A.2896-909.

73. Zanning gives the date when Ruizong penned and bestowed the name-plaque (Xiantian 1.8.15). As we know the day Ruizong transferred the throne to Xuanzong (see JTS 7.160, XTS 5.119, ZZTJ 210.6674), we cannot help but note the temporal closeness between this power transfer and the formal establishment of the Xiangguosi, which might indicate a connection between these two events. The monk Zhendi mentioned here must be the vinaya master of brahmanic (i.e., Indian) origin that Bolun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] mentions in his preface to the Qianyan qianbi Guanshiyin pusa tuoluoni shenzhou jing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; see T 20, no. 1057a: 83c11-12.

74. SGSZ 26.874c9-875a2; cf. Wudai minghua buyi, 14b.

75. Da Zhou kanding zhongjing mulu (T 55, no. 2153: 15.472a14-15, 475a18-19.

76. See Xu Huayanjing lueshu kanding ji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], XZJ 5.25b-c; the same story is repeated in Chenguan's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (738-839) commentary to the Huayan jing, Da Fangguangfo huayanjing suishu yanyi chao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], T 36, no. 1736: 15.114a6-19.

77. These dates of Yuanzhao are suggested by Fang Guangchang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in his Fojiao dazangjing shi: ba--shi shiji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe, 1991), 75.

78. See Kaiyuan shijiao lu 9.565c8-14, SGSZ 2.719b1422-29, Zhenyuan xinding shijiao mulu 13.866a7-15 (which also mentions Mingquan at 19.903b2-3, 28.1023a6-7). Although Mingquan's name is also quoted in other Buddhist catalogues and historical sources, none of them goes beyond noting his editorship of the Da Zhou kanding zhongjing mulu; see, e.g., Kaiyuan shijiao lu luechu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], T 55, no. 2155: 4.745c19; Sinp'yon chejong kyojang ch'ongnok [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], T 55, no. 2184: preface, 1165c14-15; and Shishi jigu lue [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], T 49, no. 2037: 3.820c1415.

79. Forte, Political Propaganda, 182, no. 15.

80. See Eugene Wang, "Pictorial Program in the Making of Monastic Space: From Jing'ai-si of Luoyang to Cave 217 at Dunhuang," in Monasticism: Asian Perspectives, ed. James Benn et al., forthcoming.

81. Most scholars aver that the Jing'aisi was built in 657. This claim is based on a record in Tang huiyao (Shanghai: Shangwu yinshu guan, 1935), 48.848:

 The Jing'aisi, [located] in the Huairen ward. In Xianqing 2 (20
 January 657-7 February 658), [Emperor] Xiaojing (i.e., Li Hong), who
 was then living in the Eastern Palace [as heir-apparent], built it for
 Gaozong and Empress Wu. Named "Jing'aisi," its structure and size were
 identical with those of the Ximingsi. In Tianshou 2 (6 December 690-25
 November 691), it was renamed Foshoujisi. Subsequently, its name was
 changed back to Jing'aisi.

Here, Wang Pu, the tenth-century compiler of Tang hui yao, tells us that the Jing'aisi was built in Xianqing 2, and he makes clear that its "structure and size" (zhidu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) were based on the Ximingsi. Since the Ximingsi was not completed until 17 July 648 (Xianqing 3.6.12, stated in Ji gujing fodao lunheng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], T 52, no. 2104: 4.388c23, though its construction had been ordered on 13 September 656 [Xianqing 1.8.19, stated in Da Tang Da Ciensi sanzang fashi zhuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], T 50, no. 2054: 10.275b23], Wang Pu seems to contradict himself by saying that the Da Jing'ai monastery was built a year before the one on which it was modeled. I assume that what Wang Pu meant is that Xianqing 2 marked the initiation, rather than the completion, of the construction project. The completion of the monastery, therefore, should be placed in either 658 or shortly afterward.

Further, Wang Pu notes here that the name of the Foshoujisi later reverted to Jing'aisi. Although presumably this may have happened sometime after Empress Wu's forced abdication on 23 February 705 and subsequent death on 16 December of the same year, we should note that if Zanning's account can be taken at its face value, the name Foshoujisi was still in use as late as 712.

82. Daoshi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (ca. 596-683), Daoxuan's fellow-disciple and Ximingsi colleague, exclaimed that "The splendor of its precincts, halls, sacred images, and pennants and furnishings match the celestial order. The ingenuity of the workmanship equals the work of spirits and demons" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; see Fayuan zhulin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], T 53, no. 2122:100:1027c6-7; tr. Eugene Wang, "Pictorial Program."

83. Forte, Political Propaganda, 180.

84. JTS 183.4741 tells us that Huaiyi built "separate halls" (biezao dianyu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] within the monastery. William Reynolds Beal Acker, Some T'ang and Pre-T'ang Texts on Chinese Painting: Translated and Annotated, 2 vols. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1954-74), 1:353, translates the phrase biezao dianyu as "especially built a hall."

85. Forte, Political Propaganda, chap. 3.

86. For the expansionist agenda underlying Empress Wu's promotion of a new Chinese version of the massive Buddhist text and her advocacy of its teachings, see Tansen Sen, Buddhism, Trade, and Diplomacy in the Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600-1400 (Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press, 2003), chap. 2.

It has been widely accepted by scholars that Siksananda's new translation of the Avatamsaka sutra was done at the palace chapel Biankongsi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] before the translation office was moved to the Foshoujisi. This is probably a misunderstanding. Elsewhere I have argued that the Siksananda Avatamsaka translation office remained at the Foshoujisi throughout the whole translation process (695-99), while Biankongsi was no more than a location for the "ribbon-cutting" ceremony of celebrating the initiation of the translation, which likely lasted no more than a day. See Chen Jinhua, "The Location and Chief Members of Siksananda's (652-710) Avatamsaka Translation Office: Some Remarks on a Chinese Collection of Stories and Legends Related to the Avatamsaka Sutra," Journal of Asian History 38.1 (2004): 121-29.

87. See Da Tang Dongjing Dajing'aisi yiqie jinglun mulu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] compiled by Jingai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in 664-65 (T 2148), and the above-mentioned Da Zhou kanding zhongjing mulu, completed at the end of 595.

88. Fayuan zhulin 29.503a-b; discussed in Sun Xiushen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Wang Xuance shiji gouchen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Urumqi: Xinjiang renmin chubanshe, 1998), 50-53.

89. Acker (Some T'ang and Pre-T'ang Texts, 353-54) suggests that although this model was issued from the inner palace in 665 or early 666, the casting of the Maitreya-statue might have happened two and a half decades later, in 690, when Huaiyi built at least one "hall" at the monastery in the course of renovating it as ordered by Empress Wu. This is possible, but it depends on whether or not Wang Xuance lived that long (his first mission to India was undertaken in 643; supposing he was then in his thirties, by 690 he would have reached eighty, probably too old to take on the arduous task of supervising the casting of the Maitreya statues at the Jing'aisi). In addition, we have evidence that Wang Xuance did make a statue of Maitreya within a cave in Longmen on October 29, 665 (Lingde 2.9.15), the same year the model was said to have been issued from the inner palace. See Li Yukun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "Longmen shiku xin faxian Wang Xuance zaoxiang tiji" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Inscription on the statue made by Wang Xuance, newly discovered in a Longmen grotto), Wenwu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 1976.11: 94; also included in Longmen shiku beike tiji huilu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], ed. Liu Jinglong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and Li Yukun (Beijing: Zhongguo dabeike quanshu chubanshe, 1998), 36. This inscription is discussed in Sun, Wang Xuance shiji gouchen, 272-73.

90. Lidai minghua ji, ed. Yu Jianhua [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin meishu chubanshe, 1964) 3: 71-72; Acker, Some T'ang and Pre-T'ang Texts, 306-22.

91. Tang huiyao 48.848.

92. Two of the most important studies on these statues are provided by Antonino Forte and Matsumoto Bunzaburo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. See Matsumoto, "Sokuten Bu-ko no Haku shiba han daizo nit tsuite" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Toho gakuho [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 5 (1934): 13-49: Forte, Mingtang and Buddhist Utopias in the History of the Astronomical Clock: The Tower, Statue and Armillary Sphere Constructed by Empress Wu (Rome: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, and Paris: Ecole francaise d'Extreme-Orient, 1988), esp. 91-92, 219-29. It is to Forte's credit that some of the mistakes made by Matsumoto have been pointed out and corrected by him. However, I interpret most of the relevant primary sources significantly differently from Forte and have accordingly arrived at conflicting conclusions regarding these great statues of the Buddha (see below).

93. I devote a chapter (chap. 2) in my forthcoming book, Collusion and Collision: Buddhism and Taoism's Politico-economic Roles in the Tang Restoration [704-713], to clarifying these mistakes, with an attempt to reconstruct some of the missing pieces of this series of projects.
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Author:Chen, Jinhua
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Case study
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Jul 1, 2005
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