The 7th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Daoji (simplified Chinese: 道济禅师; traditional Chinese: 道濟禪師; pinyin: dào jì chán shī) (1130–1207), commonly known as Ji Gong (simplified Chinese: 济公; traditional Chinese: 濟公; pinyin: Jìgōng, Master Ji) or (simplified Chinese: 济公活佛; traditional Chinese: 濟公活佛; pinyin: Jìgōng huófó, Living Buddha Ji Gong), was a Chán Buddhist monk of the Southern Song Dynasty in China. He was born with the name of Li Xiuyuan. (李修元). Some sources have cited his name as Lǐ Xiūyuán (李修缘, the only difference being the third character of his name). Dao Ji was also called Hu Yin (Recluse from the Lake) and Elder Fang Yuan (Square Circle).
Known for his wild and eccentric behavior while maintaining his compassionate nature, Ji Gong became a folk hero in China and was later deified in the Taoist community often invoked by oracles to assist in worldly affairs. Buddhists also invoke Ji Gong in folk stories and koans.
Born Li Xiuyuan to a former military advisor, Li Maochun, Daoji was born after his parents, who could not have children, entered a temple. Supposedly upon reaching the Hall of the Five Hundred Arhats, the statue of Mahakasyapa was knocked off its lotus throne.
After his parents' death, Li went to Hangzhou at the age of 18 and became a monastic at the famous Ling Yin Temple near Hangzhou, and was ordained under the monastic name Daoji. Even though his eccentric behavior broke the rules of the Vinaya (traditional code for monastics), it is said that Daoji was kind hearted and was always ready to lend a helping hand to ordinary people. Unlike a traditional Buddhist monk, he ate meat and drank wine. The monks, bewildered and fed up with his behavior, expelled Daoji from the monastery. From then on, Daoji roamed the streets and helped people whenever he could.
According to legends, while cultivating in The Buddha's teaching, Daoji was said to attain magical powers. Many who noticed his eccentric yet benevolent and compassionate nature began to think that he was an incarnate of a Bodhisattva, or as a reincarnate of an Arhat. He was widely recognized by the public 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 legendary Arhats.
When Daoji died at the Jing Ci monastery on the 14th day of 5th Lunar month (17 June 1207), syncretic Taoism began to revere Daoji as a god from heaven and later adopted him as a deity. Not long after that, Buddhism began to recognize Daoji's compassionate efforts and is involved in many classic koans.
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 (believed to be magical) 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.
- -The life of Daoji has also been popularized in a TV series which aired in 1993 called (in English) "Legends of Ji Gong."
- -Comedic actor and director Stephen Chow portrayed Ji Gong in his 1993 movie Ji Gong (film).
- -In 2010, the Legend of Crazy Monk was based on Daoji screened on mainland China.