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Master Hongyi

Master Hong Yi from Pinghu, Zhejiang province was born in Tianjin to a wealthy salt merchandising and banking family on October 23rd 1880. His family name was ‘Li’, he also known by other names such as Chengxi, Wentao, and Shutong. In 1901, Li Shutong attended Shanghai Nanyang Public School as a student of Cai Yuanpei, a famous Chinese educator. In November 1902, he quitted school after his teacher Cai Yuanpei resigned due to the Student Strike incident. In 1903, he translated Path to Law and International Private Law using ‘Li Guangping’ as pseudonym (both books are published by Shanghai Kai Ming Bookstore). In 1904, he took part in Chinese Opera Chong Ba La Temple, White Beach etc. In 1905, he also published Guoxue Songbook.

In 1905, Li Shutong went to Japan. In September of the following year, he enrolled at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts studying western oil painting under Kuroda Seiki, and studied piano and composition. He became the editor of the Little Music Magazine and published numbers of songs he composed.  At the same time, Li picked up performing skill from actors Kawakami Otojiro and Fujisawa Asajiro. Apart from painting, music and acting, Li has also published his articles on Xingshi Magazine and joined ‘Singing with Gull Chinese Poetry Society’, interacting with Japanese Scholars like Shuchiku Honda, Mori Kainan and Kusakabe Meikaku. His passion in drama has led him to form a very first Chinese repertory theatre - Spring Willow Society, with a number of overseas Chinese theatre enthusiasts in Tokyo. During the Spring Festival in 1907, to the relief of Huaibei flood, the Society performed France Dumas’s famous play The Paris La Traviata Memorabilia in public for the first time. The female role La Traviata was played by Li Shutong. In the following play Black Slaves Cry to Heaven, Li has again step on the stage as female role Amelia Shelby. Li’s courage of breaking through the barriers of feudal ethical code has made him a pioneer of the enlightenment period of the New Culture Movement.

Li returned to China and worked as drawing teacher in Tianjin’s Beiyang Advanced Industry School in 1910. Two years later, he was hired as an editor in Shanghai’s Pacific Daily News and was also appointed to teach literature and music in East Shanghai Girls School. Together with his colleagues Liu Yazi and Hu Puan, ‘Wenmei Literary Society’ was formed and Wenmei Magazine was published. After Pacific Daily News ceased publication in the fall of 1912, Li left to Hangzhou and became a professor in Zhejiang Secondary Normal School. He taught both drawing and music. Li has joined Xiling Society of Seal Arts in the same year. In 1915, he taught at Nanjing Higher Normal School.

In October 1916, Li attended a 17-day fast at the Buddhist temple called the Running Tiger of Great Kindness Temple (Hu Pao Da Ci Si). On August 19th 1918, he went back to be ordained as a Buddhist monk by Master Liao Wu, changed his name to Yan Yin, received Dharma name Hong Yi. In September of the same year, Master Hong Yi undertook Upasampada (Buddhist precepts in becoming monk) in Lingyi Temple, Hangzhou, followed by reading Buddhist scriptures in Jingyan Temple, Jiaxing. He then stayed in Yuquan Temple, West Lake to study Lv Bu (Vinaya), the Buddhist monastic codes. In the summer of 1920, Master Hong Yi went to Mount Xinchengbei, Zhejiang for retreat and study. In the first month of 1919, he returned to Yuquan Temple again to do cross-reference check on Si Fen Lv (Dharmagupta Vinaya) and also the monastic discipline writing by the Tang Dynasty Master Daoxuan and Song Dynasty Master Yuanzhao. In March 1921, Master Hong Yi moved to Qingfu Temple, Wenzhou for retreat, started writing Si Fen Lv Bi Ciu Jie Xiang Biao Ji (Buddhist precepts to be followed by Bhikhu). In 1924, he visited Master Yin Guang at Fayu Temple, Mount Putuo, and moved to Lianhua Temple, Quzhou to write Bhuddist scriptures. Master Hong Yi moved back to Zhaoxian Temple, Hangzhou in 1926. He was there to restore the Hua Yan Shu Chao and to review his co-artbook Hu Sheng Hua Ji with his student Feng Zikai. In 1928, he went around few temples such as South Putuo Temples in Xiamen, Xuefeng Temples in Nanan, Quanzhou and Kaiyuan Temple to give speech regarding the correct interpretation and following of the vinaya rules. Apart from that, he has founded ‘Nanshan Lv (Vinaya) School’ as well as completed the integration of Nanshan Lv. During war time, Master Hong Yi vowed to protect Dharma. He inscribed“念佛不忘救国,救国必须念佛” (To save our country, one must continue the practice of BuddhaDhamma) . When Xiamen fell to enemy occupation, he remained retreat at Puji Temple, Yongni, writing his books Zai Jia Lv Yao (Buddhist precepts at home). On October 13th 1942, Master Hong Yi passed away peacefully at the age of 63 in Wanqing room, Wenling monastery, Quanzhou. His relics were buried in Rock Mituo, Mount Qingyuan, Quanzhou and Hupao, Hangzhou. Before Master Hong Yi passed away, he wrote his last brushstrokes of calligraphy “悲欣交集” (Worldly Joys and Sorrows Are Intertwined), to express his mix feeling of joy for own relief and compassion for people suffering.  

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