Boundaries of the Dao: Hanshan Deqing's (1546--1623) Buddhist commentary on the "Zhuangzi"

Submitted by James Miller on Tue, 02/14/2012 - 15:23
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TitleBoundaries of the Dao: Hanshan Deqing's (1546--1623) Buddhist commentary on the "Zhuangzi"
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsEpstein, S. R. -hua
Corporate AuthorsYearley, Lee H.
Academic DepartmentProQuest Dissertations and Theses
Date Published2010
PublisherStanford University
Place PublishedUnited States -- California
ISBN Number9781124308364
KeywordsAsian literature, Philosophy, Religion

This dissertation explores an example of the intersection of religious traditions through a close reading of the Buddhist monk Hanshan Deqing's (1546-1623) commentary on the Daoist classic, the Zhuangzi . An examination of this unusual commentary provides insight into how Hanshan, a prominent leader of the influential late Ming Buddhist revival, challenged assumed notions about the relationship among the Three Teachings Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism. By presenting a careful, line-by-line exegesis, Hanshan transforms the Daoist Zhuangzi into a Buddhist text. Through this act of interpretation, Hanshan both contested Buddhist notions of orthodoxy and established a new genre of Buddhist writings on the Chinese classics, a genre that continues to influence Buddhist thought, practice, and understanding today. Hanshan's belief that Master Zhuang was a Bodhisattva appearing in China to pave the way for Buddhism meant that his assumptions about the text differed radically from most of the commentators who came before him. Hanshan insisted that the Zhuangzi must be read as a religious text, containing both esoteric and exoteric teachings. He believed that Master Zhuang himself embedded in the classic's second chapter a prophecy that in a future age readers would discover the hidden Buddhist message within the text. In order to "decode" this Buddhist message, Hanshan pays particular attention to the interrelationship among the literary, philosophical, and soteriological elements of the work. He argues that it is necessary to understand and appreciate three styles of language--described in the Zhuangzi as Lodging Language, Weighted Words, and Spillover Sayings--in order to recognize and follow Master Zhuang's philosophical argument. According to Hanshan, the literary and philosophical aspects of the Zhuangzi serve the ultimate purpose of helping readers in their spiritual practice.