Nan Huai-Chin (March 3, 1917 - September 29, 2012, simplified Chinese: 南怀瑾; traditional Chinese: 南懷瑾; pinyin: Nán Huáijǐn Tongchan 通禅) was a spiritual teacher of contemporary China. He was the student of renowned lay Chán Buddhist teacher Yuan Huan-Xian (袁煥仙; 1887–1966), and has received confirmation of his Enlightenment by various masters of the Buddhist traditions. He is considered by many to be a major force in the revival of Chinese Buddhism. While Nan is regarded by many in China as one of the most influential lay Buddhist teachers, he is little known outside the Sinosphere. Nan died at the age of 95 on Sept. 29th, 2012 in Suzhou, China.
Born 1917 in Wenzhou City, in China's Zhejiang Province to a scholar-class family. In his youth, Nan studied various Confucian and Daoist works, and his studies included basic coverage of traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese literature, calligraphy, and poetry as well. In his youth at the age of 18, he became the provincial martial arts champion after studying several Chinese martial arts, including swordsmanship.
Nan studied social welfare at Jinling University (now merged with Nanjing University) and later went on to teach at the Central Military Academy in Nanjing. In the late 1930s at the age of 21 years, Nan became a military commander at the border regions of Sichuan, Xikang, and Yunnan during the Second Sino-Japanese War. There, he led a local group of 30,000 men against the Japanese invasion.
While still young, Nan left his military career so that he could commit himself fully to his study of Buddhism and to meditation. In 1942 at age 24, he went on a three year meditation retreat in the Emei Mountains. It is said that it was there that he verified his Enlightenment against the Chinese Buddhist Canon. During this time, Nan's primary teacher was Yuan Huan-Xian (袁煥仙), a renowned lay Buddhist teacher.
In 1945, Nan later traveled to Tibet to learn the teachings of Vajrayana Buddhism. It was there that Kunga Hutuktu, a high-ranking Tulku of the Kagyu school, also verified Nan's Enlightenment. Kunga Hutuktu later gave Nan an additional title of "Vajra Master." Nan is one of the few multidisciplinary experts in the world to be versed in the cultivation schools of Vajrayana Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Chán Buddhism.
Following the revolution in China, Nan later moved to Taiwan in 1949 where he became a well-known university professor and author, teaching at National Chengchi University, Chinese Culture University and Fu Jen Catholic University. His first book, The Sea of Chán was published in 1956 and was the first in a line of over 40 books and related materials published in his name.
Nan's books have achieved a great deal of popularity in mainland China and Taiwan. In total, more than 20 million copies of his books have been sold in Chinese-speaking countries. Some of his more popular works have gone to a 20th printing in Taiwan and his works on Confucianism are used as standard university references in the mainland and Taiwan. Thomas Cleary, who has translated several of his books into English, has written the following about Nan's works and traditional teaching approach:
- There is no question that Master Nan's work is a cut above anything else available from modern authors, either academic or sectarian, and I would like to see his work gain its rightful place in the English speaking world. ... [His] studies contain broad learning in all three main traditions of Chinese thought, Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist. Although this comprehensive purview was common to the greatest minds of China since the T'ang dynasty, it is rare among scholars today.
In January 1992, Nan signed a contract with the Chinese government and invested 92 million RMB in the Jinwen Railway, which is the first joint-stock railway in China. In the 1990s, he changed his place of residence from Taiwan to Hong Kong, where he lived for some time. In 2004, Nan returned to the mainland, near Suzhou.
Nan died at the age of 95 on September 29, 2012.
Near Suzhou, Nan founded the 200-acre (0.81 km2) Taihu Great Learning Center (太湖大學堂), which contains the Wujiang Taihu International School. The school curriculum is meant to combine the best approaches of traditional China and the West. It has unique emphases such as meditation, ethics and etiquette, traditional Chinese medical theory, and Chinese and English recitation.
- -1984 Tao & Longevity: Mind-Body Transformation, Paperback. 1984 ISBN 0-87728-542-X
- -1993 Working Toward Enlightenment: The Cultivation of Practice, Paperback. 1993 ISBN 0-87728-776-7
- -1994 To Realize Enlightenment: Practice of the Cultivation Path, Paperback. 1994 ISBN 0-87728-802-X
- -1995 The Story of Chinese Zen, Paperback. 1995 ISBN 0-8048-3050-9
- -1997 Basic Buddhism: Exploring Buddhism and Zen, Paperback. 1997 ISBN 1-57863-020-7
- -2004 Diamond Sutra Explained, Paperback. 2004 ISBN 0-9716561-2-6