Yüan Hung-tao


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A Chinese lay Buddhist of the Ming dynasty who is revered as one of the great systematizers of the Pure Land tradition. One of three brothers renowned for their abilities as essayists and Confucian literati (see Confucianism), he earned the highest degree in the examination system in 1592. Although not desiring official position, he did accept a turn as magistrate of Wu-hsien in Soochow in 1595, but left after a year to pursue literary and philosophical interests. He studied Ch'an meditation and teaching for ten years with one Li Chih. However, the death of his brother in 1600 shook him, and he left worldly pursuits again for a time (he had been working as an instructor in the imperial schools of the capital) and applied himself again to Buddhist teaching, this time turning to Pure Land doctrine. He is remembered in Chinese culture as a thinker, essayist, and poet of no mean ability, but his main fame in Buddhist circles derives from his ten-volume work, Hsi fang ho lun (Colloquy on the Western [Pure Land], Taishō 1976). This is a lengthy catechetical and apologetic work that both explains the Pure Land school's teachings and practices and defends it against criticisms made of it.

Subjects: Buddhism.

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