|Chan Master Daoji|
Ji Gong (Chinese: 濟公, 2 February 1130 – 16 May 1209 Birthdate Lunar 2nd Month, 2nd Day), born Li Xiuyuan and also known as "Chan Master Daoji" (Chinese: 道濟禪師) was a Chan Buddhist monk who lived in the Southern Song. He purportedly possessed supernatural powers, which he used to help the poor and stand up to injustice. However, he was also known for his wild and eccentric behaviour, and for violating Buddhist monastic rules by consuming alcohol and meat. By the time of his death, Ji Gong had become a folk hero in Chinese culture and minor deity in Chinese folk religion. He is mentioned by Buddhists in folktales and kōans, and sometimes invoked by oracles to assist in worldly affairs.
Li Xiuyuan was born to a former military advisor, Li Maochun. After the death of his parents, at the age of 18, Li was sent to Hangzhou and was ordained as a monk in Lingyin Temple. He was mentored by the vinaya master Huiyuan and was given the monastic name Daoji. Unlike traditional Buddhist monks, Daoji did not like following traditional monastic codes. He had a penchant for openly eating meat and drinking wine; his robes were often tattered and dirty from travelling from place to place, and stumbling while intoxicated. However, Daoji was kind-hearted and was always ready to lend a helping hand to ordinary people. He would often treat the sick and fight against injustice. The monks, bewildered and fed up with his behaviour, expelled Daoji from the monastery. From then on, Daoji roamed the streets and helped people whenever he could.
According to legend, while cultivating the Buddha's teaching, Daoji attained supernatural powers. Many who noticed his eccentric yet benevolent and compassionate nature began to think that he was an incarnate of a bodhisattva, or a reincarnate of an arhat. He was widely recognised by people as the incarnate of the Taming Dragon Arhat (Chinese: 降龍羅漢; pinyin: Xiánglóng Luóhàn), one of the Eighteen Arhats.
When Daoji last stay was at Jingci Monastery and moved to Heaven on the 14th day of the 5th Lunar month (17 June 1209), syncretic Taoism began to revere Daoji as a deity. Not long after that, Buddhism began to recognise Daoji's compassionate efforts and he is involved in many classic kōans.
A new Buddhist movement, the Hong Kong-based Tung Cheng Yuen Buddhist Association (Chinese: 東井圓佛會; pinyin: Dōngjǐng Yuánfú Huì), worship him. Yiguandao has also adopted him into their pantheon of deities, citing Zhang Tianran, contemporary founder of the Yiguandao, as his reincarnation.
Ji Gong can usually be seen smiling in tattered monastic robes, and usually carries a bottle of wine in his right hand, and a fan in his left hand. He wears a hat with the Chinese character Fo (佛), meaning "Buddha". He can also be seen holding his shoes in his right hand. Because of his carefree nature, he is rarely ever shown with a serious facial expression.
Ji Gong has been portrayed by numerous actors in films and television series from as early as 1939.
Chinese novel Ji Gong Quan Zhuang (濟公全傳) by Guo Xiaoting (郭小亭). Adventures of the Mad Monk Ji Gong: The Drunken Wisdom of China's Most Famous Chan Buddhist Monk, Guo Xiaoting; John Robert Shaw trs., Tuttle Publishing, 2014.
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