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The Hongzhou School of Chan Buddhism in Eighth-through Tenth-century China Hardcover – August 10, 2006


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From the Back Cover

This book provides a wide-ranging examination of the Hongzhou school of Chan Buddhism—the precursor to Zen Buddhism—under Mazu Daoyi (709–788) and his successors in eighth- through tenth-century China, which was credited with creating a Golden Age or classical tradition. Jinhua Jia uses stele inscriptions and other previously ignored texts to explore the school’s teachings and history. Defending the school as a full-fledged, significant lineage, Jia reconstructs Mazu’s biography and resolves controversies about his disciples. In contrast to the many scholars who either accept or reject the traditional Chan histories and discourse records, she thoroughly examines the Hongzhou literature to differentiate the original, authentic portions from later layers of modification and recreation.

The book describes the emergence and maturity of encounter dialogue and analyzes the new doctrines and practices of the school to revise the traditional notion of Mazu and his followers as iconoclasts. It also depicts the strivings of Mazu’s disciples for orthodoxy and how the criticisms of and reflections on Hongzhou doctrine led to the schism of this line and the rise of the Shitou line and various houses during the late Tang and Five Dynasties periods. Jia refutes the traditional Chan genealogy of two lines and five houses and calls for new frameworks in the study of Chan history. An annotated translation of datable discourses of Mazu is also included.

"Jia critically surveys the available scholarship in Japanese, English, and Chinese, and puts forth her own conclusions supported by extensive citations of traditional Chinese sources that have generally been overlooked." — Steven Heine, author of Dogen and the Koan Tradition: A Tale of Two Shobogenzo Texts

About the Author

Jinhua Jia is Assistant Professor of Chinese Literature at the City University of Hong Kong.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 220 pages
  • Publisher: State Univ of New York Pr (August 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0791468232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0791468234
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,128,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Crazy Fox on April 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
What are the chances that two excellent books on the Hongzhou School would be published within months of each other? So it is, though. Jinhua Jia's "The Hongzhou School of Chan Buddhism" and Mario Poceski's "Ordinary Mind as the Way" (Ordinary Mind as the Way: The Hongzhou School and the Growth of Chan Buddhism) both add much to our knowledge of this otherwise relatively understudied but immensely influential aspect of Chan/Zen Buddhism in Tang China, and both came out just recently in 2007. Independently and spontaneously, no less, according to the inscrutable operations of some scholarly zeitgeist. Both too are indispensable in their own ways.

By rights I should be focusing more on Jia's book here. As happenstance would have it, though, I just finished reading Poceski's book about a week ago or so, and my impressions are still too fresh to make this anything but a rather comparative evaluation. Like Poceski, Jia convincingly undercuts the eccentric and iconoclastic images of Mazu, Baizhang, and the Hongzhou school, showing through careful and judicious use of reliably datable texts that they were very much conservatively monastic monks with a thorough grounding in the Buddhist scriptural canon. Jia's method is much more rigorously and thoroughly philological, and she leads the reader along in an intricate process of uncovering different layers in the encounter dialogues (sources ruled out by Poceski), bits of which seem to be authentic historically according to her. Sometimes this seems tedious at first, but then when Jia marshals all the details and makes her points, it all falls into place and the reader's patience is rewarded.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Andre Doshim Halaw on April 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
Of all the great Zen ancestors--Dahui, Huineng, Linji, Chinul, Yunmen, Layman Pang--I would have to say that Mazu touches me the most deeply. His directness--"Ordinary Mind is the Way"--and unwavering insistence on revealing the spiritual life of this mind and this body are just remarkable, and inspire my life and Zen practice.

To say that Mazu is a Zen giant is an understatement. Almost every Zen school in history can trace its lineage back to either him or Shitou, so naturally I want to learn as much as I can about this iconic figure in Chan history.

I first encountered his teaching in Sun-Face Buddha, a book I recommend to everyone, and then more critically in Zongmi's polemical criticism of the Hongzhou school (see previous post). Zongmi, last patriarch in the Heze school of Zen and a young contemporary of Mazu's students, considered the Hongzhou approach iconoclastic, antinomian, and morally myopic. And yet, whenever I read Zongmi's criticism of Mazu's teachings, such as "All dharmas are Buddha's liberation. All dharmas are liberation," and "The Way does not belong to cultivation," I kept thinking, What are you talking about, Zongmi? Mazu is the man! Everything he said resonated with me.

This has led me on a quest to learn more about Mazu's highly inspirational and influential Hongzhou school. My first stop is Jinhua Jia's The Hongzhou School of Chan Buddhism, a fascinating exploration of myth versus reality in the historical development of Chan through the 8th and 10th centuries.

Zen history abounds with lore, or "apocrypha" as scholars like to call it. And part of what Jinhua Jia does is dispel a lot of the fabrications that Zen has accumulated.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gregory O. Schnurr on April 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
If you want a history lesson, written in the style of an academic, with endless foot notes and references, this is the book for you. If you however are a layman seeking Chan information, I would pass. It was interesting, with a lot of history, but my search is far more personal so I walked away from it rather disappointed. The author has done his homework, but it is rather a boring read, It's more of a text book, and not a very interesting one at that.
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