Home > Legends > Dihui’s Understanding of Shikui with Great Demeanor

Dihui’s Understanding of Shikui with Great Demeanor

Lin Bu in Song Dynasty was known by his posthumous name Hejing. His courtesy name was Junfu and his family lived in Hangzhou. His grandfather, Lin Keji, once held an official post for Emperor Qianyue. However, the family’s fortunes declined since Junfu was born. When he was a child, his parents died, leaving him helpless and lonely. As he grew up, he dedicated himself to knowledge and became conversant with Confucian classics, history and the hundred schools of thought.

During the Jingde period (1004-1007) in the reign of Emperor Zhenzong, Hejing felt bored at home, so he travelled to the region between Yangtze River and Huaihe River. However, wherever he went, he saw people there busy with seeking fame and fortune, and the official circles there were full of corruptions, lies and deceptions, showing all manners of revolting behaviors. Moreover, the scenery there was far less enchanting and gorgeous than that in Hangzhou. Hence he returned to Hangzhou. Hejing was poor then and often unable to afford clothes, food, tobacco and wine, but he was well satisfied with his life, which resembles the attitude towards life of Yan Hui, one disciple of Confucius. Some people tried to persuade him to get an official post for they believed that his all-round knowledge and great talents definitely would win him a key post and bring him power and wealth. Some tried to persuade him to say goodbye to single life and set up a family as ordinary people did. However, Hejing replied, “What I value most is a state of satisfaction. I consider that state an important attitude towards life. I’m not interested in having a family, winning fame or making more money. Only green hills and glittering water are my favorites. In fact, melodies from those musical instruments also can mould one’s temperament, and if one gets hungry, even wild flowers and fruits can be taken as food. I’ve heard many people say that a married couple should treat each other as a guest, and love each other with respect and courtesy. How annoying it is! Fame and money, of course, mean much glory, but my inner self prefers to live among the mountains.”

The thought strengthened his determination that he would not have a wife and children in the rest of his life. Living in downtown was hard to get rid of those matters not appropriate to his interest, so one idea occurred to him – why not choose a place to build a cottage for the rest of my life? Hangzhou was a city with attractive scenery and beautiful mountains. Six bridges on Su Causeway were narrow and bustling; both North High Peak and South High Peak were aloof, high and remote; Tianzhu Mount and Ling Jiu (Feilai Mount) had already gathered many huts of monks; and Shiwu Cave and Yanxia Cave had gathered many monks with true faith. Hejing thought that he had better choose a place surrounded by West Lake, where he could overlook the beauty of the lake and mountains, and enjoy all the attractions of the lake. Taking every aspect into consideration, Gushan Mount was the best choice which could meet Hejing’s expectations. Gushan Mount, with water stretching for thousands of Qing[ Qing refers to a unit of area. One Qing equals to 6.6667 hectares. ] around, was embraced by layers of green mountains. Walking in Gushan Mount, you would find a bridge to lead you through at the end of a lane, and the arrangements of the Mount had its own rules. Therefore Hejing made up his mind to place his cottage in Gushan Mount, and then he built a fence with bamboo. In the first few days, Hejing spent all the time taking care of the garden. A wide variety of flowers were planted in the garden, including gaily-colored peach blossoms and plum blossoms, Weizi and Yaohuang peonies, orchid of spring and chrysanthemum of autumn as well as laurels and lotus. However, he loved plum flower best, hence planting 360 plum trees in the garden. Among most of his poems, the poems taking plum flower as the main image were the best known, such as “Sparse shadows cast in shallow water, faint fragrance drifts in dusk moonlight.”, “After snow plum flowers in garden only half-bloomed, close to fence at pool plum flowers surprisingly crowded on branches.”, “The lake water peeps the moves of sparse shadows, a twig protruding from the eaves lowers itself.”, “The pistils amaze at the scattered plum flowers, the stalk holds a barely dried red wax.”, and “Parted by mist, all being tranquil; Half-covered by snow, all being elegant.”, and etc.

Besides plum flower, Hejing raised cranes, which earned him a great reputation as “a man taking plum flower as wife and cranes as children.” Actually, cranes also played the role of a messenger. Hejing did not go outside unless plum flowers bloomed, and he spent most of the time wandering among mountains and the water aimlessly, from dawn till dusk. Therefore if friends came to visit him, they often had no idea where he was. Hejing kept cranes to solve the problem. He told the servant, “If a guest comes to visit me from afar but you do not know where I am, free a crane to the sky. I’ll get the message and row back at the sight of the crane. so that the guest won’t feel disappointed anyway.” From this we can see that Hejing valued friendship a lot. As an old saying goes that is it not a delight after all to have friends come from afar? Chinese literati, officials and intellectuals shared such attribute, and Hejing was not an exception.

Hejing was a moral person whose poems were full of aloof and elegant flavor. What he wrote mainly reflected his own feelings rather than just picking up others’ words, so his works were thought highly of. Then many governors and the literati came to visit him, such as Xue Ying, Fan Zhongyan, Chen Yaozuo, Mei Yaochen and Gong Zongyuan etc. During Tiansheng period (1023-1031) in the reign of Emperor Renzong in Song Dynasty, Wang Sui, the governor of Huangzhou, heard of the story of Hejing and visited him, which produced a profound conversation.

When Wang Sui saw Hejing’s humble cottage, he thought that no one could stand living there for a long time. Then he asked Hejing,” Why not try to get an official post and serve the imperial court?”

“I lack that kind of capability.” Hejing replied.

“What kind of capability?” Wang Sui said.

“One should be loyal to his Emperor, and love his people. But I’m just a man lingering among the mountains. I’m afraid that I’m not capable of that, right?” Hejing replied.

“I’ve heard that leading a secluded life has something in common with serving the imperial court. The way to manage a life in mountains is the same as the way to serve the imperial court.” Wang Sui smiled.

“I can do nothing but to plant and nurse flowers and trees, keep poultry and fish as well as write some poems for the mountains and the water. Though I have not much talent, I’m quite careful with the words when I write a poem.” Hejing said.

Hearing that, Wang Sui thought that Hejing was nothing but a gardener. How could a gardener write poems? So respecting the view of the garden, Wang Sui began to chant poems with Hejing. Although the way Hejing chanted was simple and plain, the poem he produced was really excellent. Wang Sui was utterly convinced of his talents, saying, “You are living up to your reputation.” Thus Wang Sui contributed part of the salary to rebuilding the cottage, adding Chaoju Pavilion, Fanghe Pavilion and Xiao Luofu.

The more Hejing wanted to lead a secluded life, the higher his reputation became. In the fifth year of Dazhong Xiangfu period, the Song Emperor Zhenzong heard of the story of Hejing, and admired his life style. Therefore he ordered the local officials to provide grains and clothes to him and care for him. Actually, the Song Emperor Zhenzong was a talent-lover. Hejing never posed an air of superiority though he had got the favor by the Emperor. Someone suggested, “Your talent has won the admiration of the Emperor, why not grasp the chance and hold a key post in court? Then you can enjoy all the glory and wealth ensued!” “Title means nothing but post means great responsibility. So how can those compare with a life of ease in this heaven of greenness, which is surrounded by mountains and embraced by the glittering water? And the glory and wealth are a short-lived dream, cold and indifferent. I will never change my present life for that one.” Hejing smiled.

Hejing often wandered among mountains and waters, but actually he loved the area around Lingyin Temple and Tianzhu Mount best. Then the water level of West Lake was relatively high, and in Gushan Mount there were boats that one could take to Hejian Bridge of Lingyin Temple. Taking boat was much more interesting than taking carriage. In spring, it was always nice to row a boat and slowly drift out of Gushan Mount. The creak of the boat, accompanied by the chirp of birds, burst through the sparse shadows in the lake. The boat covered by the fragrance of plum flower was on its way into Lingyin Temple. The scenery on both sides was as beautiful as in paintings. The woods were tranquil and flowers gorgeous. From afar came the twittering of birds, echoed by feelings inside one’s deep heart. Soon there came the peals of the bell from Lingyin Temple. Though the peals hovering over the sky bore no explanation, each peal could endow one with spiritual enlightenment. In autumn, the view changed but got more fascinating. When rowing a boat into Lingyin Temple, one would have totally different enjoyment in it. Hejing once wrote a poem named Rowing to Lingyin Temple:

The water and sky reflect in each other; a plain, transparent and harmonious image,


Beyond the water, green mountains lay layer by layer.

White birds afar are twittering, the air in autumn is crisp and clean,

Trees are cloaked in mist, which at dawn gets thicker.

Qi Lilai in the south of Tonglu County; Wulao Peak by the Pengli Lake,

Both are unlikely ever to be equaled the West Lake.

At twilight pick up the paddle, row the boat back home,

there comes ethereal peals of the bell from Spiritual Home.


So much the Chinese poets were infatuated with the mountains and waters in Hangzhou! Qi Lilai in Tonglu was beautiful, so was the Wulao Peak by Pengli Lake, In Qing Dynasty, there were two monks in Lingyin Temple, Dihui, practicing sila, and the other was Shikui, trying to reach understanding of dhyana. When Dihui served as the abbot, the temple attracted a lot of worshippers and then Shikui was scheming to rob him of the position. In a time when ancient India was praying for rain, Shikui used a curse to summon a black dragon to rain, which people thought as a god. Dihui secluded himself in a quiet place in Yunqi Temple after hearing the news. So Shikui became the abbot. One day, a seven-year-old orphan came to the temple with an alms giver who he worked for as a servant. It surprised Shikui that the orphan possessed so much strength of character. Thus, Shikui asked the alms giver to leave the orphan as a pupil and then had some tutors teach him. The kid was so smart that he got named Shen Jinsi at the age of twenty and was admitted to Hangzhou Fuxue (an educational institute) with the third highest score. However, Shikui disagreed with Shen Jinsi on being a scholar preparing for imperial examinations, so he summoned all monks and forced Shen to kneel down before Buddha, had his head shaved and had him wear kasaya. Shen was given a religious name called Taofo, which meant running away from the Buddha. Knowing about it, friends and classmates of Shen went to the government of Hangzhou to sue Shikui the evil monk for shaving Shengyuan’s head. Accusing him of talking a Confucian scholar into Buddhism and conducting lawless behavior, they planned to burn Lingyin Temple and beat up Shikui. Government officials in Hangzhou had a friendly relation with Shikui, but they permitted Shen Jinsi to grow hair and resume a scholar rather than raising anger in the general public. Summoning all monks, Shi Kui said with tears, “It is retribution for my betraying Dihui.” He then sent a disciple to welcome Dihui back. The monks questioned about how to welcome Dihui back given that he had fled away and there was no news about him. Shikui died right after he brought out Dihui’s location which was in a temple in some mountain in Yunqi with one pine tree and one well outside the door. Later, Shen Jinsi passed the exam to be a palace graduate and got promoted to be a government official.

Back to Lingyin Temple, Dihui heard that his friend Mr. Yun sold his seven-year-old son to an army commander in Hangzhou on the way of fleeing, so Dihui wanted to help getting his friend’s son out. It was the 19th of lunar February, the birthday of Guanyin Bodhisatta. There was a ceremony in Lingyin Temple in which men and women went to visit the abbot. When the wife of the commander came with ten servants, Dihui figured out that the thin and weak kid was the son of Mr. Yun. Dihui suddenly knelt down before the kid and kept worshipping: “It is a sin. It is a sin.” The lady asked why with great surprise and Dihui answered: “He is the Bodhisattva of the Great Vow who reincarnates to be an ordinary person in order to detect good and evil in the world of mortal. Your ladyship enslaved him to be your servant and flogged him as punishment. You have committed heavy sins.” After knowing about all, the commander came to the temple, kneeling down for a long time and begging for a path to salvation. Finally, Dihui permitted him to enshrine and worship the Bodhisattva of the Great Vow with flowers in the temple. Delightfully, the commander donated millions of money and sent the son of Mr. Yun to Dihui. Dihui taught him calligraphy and painting and named him Shouping, who later was called the peerless master in calligraphy, poetry and painting. Dihui never asked Shouping to shave his head and become a monk. He said: “I won’t follow Shikui. That is bewilderment.” This story used to be popular in Hangzhou where everyone praised Dihui and said that his great demeanor should be followed.

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