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Yunch’i Chu-hun

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Yunch’i Chu-hun (1532-1612) was one of the greatest Chinese monks of the last 500 years. When he ordained at the age of 32, he had already had two wives, marrying his second wife only after the death of the first. He proved to be a brilliant and diligent student but, dissatisfied with the ritual-bound life most monks led, left the monastery on completing his studies to become a wandering monk. Eventually, he found an abandoned temple on Mount Yunch’i which he renovated and where he was to spend the rest of his life. His piety, scholarship and meditational attainments attracted hundreds of students, and the strict monastic regimen he instituted became a model which many others followed. Yunch’i Chu-hun wrote books defending Buddhism from attacks by Catholic missionaries, commentaries on the scriptures and meditation manuals.

He also encouraged lay people to strive for the same level of scriptural knowledge and meditation practice as monks and nuns. One of his most famous innovations was encouraging both his ordained and lay disciples to have what he called a ‘Book of Good and Bad’ in which they wrote a record of their thoughts, speech and actions as an aid to self-examination and character development. He also tried to heal the divisions between the various sects within Chinese Buddhism, but with limited success. When Yunch’i Chu-han died, he was widely believed to have attained enlightenment.

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