Ji Gong (Chinese: 济公, 2 February 1130 – 16 May 1207), born Li Xiuyuan and also known as "Chan Master Daoji" (Chinese: 道濟禪師) was a ChanBuddhist 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 has 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 (simplified Chinese: 降龙罗汉; traditional Chinese: 降龍羅漢; pinyin: Xiánglóng Luóhàn), one of the Eighteen Arhats.
When Daoji died at Jingci Monastery on the 14th day of the 5th Lunar month (17 June 1207), syncreticTaoism 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 You Ji (济公游记), a 1998 Chinese television series produced by Zhejiang TV, starring You Benchang.
Zen Master (濟公傳奇), a 2001 Hong Kong television series produced by ATV, starring Karl Maka.
Ji Gong (濟公), a 2007 Taiwanese television series produced by Formosa TV, starring Lung Shao-hua.
The Legend of Crazy Monk (活佛济公), a three-season Chinese television series produced by Shanghai Chongyuan Cultural Company and Hangzhou Baicheng Media Company, starring Benny Chan. The three seasons were released between 2009 and 2011.
Shahar, Meir (Nov 1, 1998). Crazy Ji: Chinese Religion and Popular Literature. Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, Cambridge (MA) 48. London: Harvard University Asia Center. p. 330. ISBN0674175638.