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青原行思 Qingyuan Xingsi (660?-740)

(Rōmaji:) Seigen Gyōshi
(Magyar átírás:)
Csing-jüan Hszing-sze


Qingyuan Xingsi (Chinese: 青原行思; pinyin: Qīngyuán Xíngsī; Japanese: Seigen Gyōshi; Korean: Chǒngwǒn Haengsa; Vietnamese: Thanh Nguyên Hành Tư) was a Zen Buddhist monk during the Tang Dynasty. Three of the five traditionally recognized houses of Zen are commonly believed to have developed out of his lineage: the Caodong/Sōtō, Yunmen/Unmon, and Fayan/Hōgen. There is scant information about his life. He is said to have lived in the Quiet Abode Temple on Mount Qingyuan. The Transmission of the Lamp claims he was Huineng's foremost student, although this was written during the Song Dynasty over 200 years after Qingyuan's death. The earliest source of information about Qingyuan comes from the Zutang ji (Patriarch's Hall Record), which was completed in 952 by Wendeng. The scholar Albert Welter suggests that Wendeng may have invented Qingyuan in order to legitimize Shitou Xiqian, Qingyuan's supposed student, and in turn himself since he was descended from Shitou. Shitou's original teacher, Huineng, died when Shitou was only 13, so Qingyuan was necessary for him to receive legitimate dharma transmission.


Shitou Xiqian and Qingyuan Qingsi
Translated by James Mitchell and Yulie Lou
In: Soto Zen Ancestors in China: The Recorded Teachings of Shitou Xiqian, Yaoshan Weiyan And Yunyan Tansheng. San Francisco: Ithuriel's Spear, 2005.
PDF > Excerpts in PDF-OCR

Huineng died at Caoxi in 713, leaving behind more than forty Dharma successors. Many of
them seem to have withdrawn into the mountains, forsaking life and teaching careers in
the established chan monasteries, which would not have been numerous in those early
times. But two of Huineng's disciples handed down mind-to-mind Dharma transmission
from the Sixth Patriarch to the two leading ancestors of all the surviving chan schools in
China: the first, Nanyue Huaizhang (677-744) became the teacher of Mazu, while Qingyuan
Qingsi (660-740), who taught at Qingyuan Mountain (monastery) in Jiangxi, appointed
Shitou Xiqian his Dharma successor in 740.
Not much is written about Qingsi in the Sung-period chan histories, although Jingde chuan
deng lu does state specifically that he was the foremost student of Huineng. This has led
some historians to speculate that Qingsi was invented by the Sung historians to document
an authentic lineage between Shitou's successors and Huineng. But it could be equally true
that simply not much was known of him. In any event, the biography and record of Qingsi
present some important information about Shitou Xiqian. Especially interesting is the
circumstance that Shitou, who would have left Huineng as a boy at the age of 13, is shown
in this text to be already clearly awakened, so that Qingyuan's purpose is just to test his
understanding and to give him Dharma succession.

As the Sixth Patriarch lay dying, a young monk named Xiqian asked, "Who will I go to after
you die?" The Sixth Patriarch said, "You'll have to answer that question by yourself."

After his death, Shitou sat quietly in meditation, as if it were he who had died. The head
monk said to him, "The Master's gone, why keep sitting?" Shitou said, "It's what he told me
to do." The head monk said, "Your teacher is now Qiungsi, who lives at Qingyuan. He'll
instruct you from now on – you'll only get confused if you stay by yourself." Shitou accepted
the advice, bowed to the remains of the Sixth Patriarch, and left for Qingyuan Monastery.

Qingsi asked Shitou where he had come from. Shitou said from Caoxi. Qingsi asked, "What
have you brought with you?" Shitou replied, "I had everything I needed before I went to
Caoxi." Qingsi said, "If that's so, why did you go there?" Shitou answered, "If I hadn't gone
there, how would I have known it?"

Shitou asked Qingsi, "Did you know the master of Caoxi?" Qingsi said, "Do you know me?"
Shitou said, "If I knew you, would I understand you?" Qingsi said, "I have many cows with
horns, but just one unicorn." [Qingsi says that he has many students, but Shitou is unique
among them.]

Then Shitou asked, "When did you get here after leaving Caoxi?" Qingsi said, "I don't
remember leaving Caoxi." Shitou said, "I didn't obey the master of Caoxi by coming here."
Qingsi said, "I know very well where you came from [i.e., from emptiness]." Shitou said, "It's
fortunate for me that you have this understanding."

Later, Qingsi again asked Shitou replied, "From Caoxi." Qingsi held up his whisk and asked,
"Does something like this exist also in Caoxi?" Shitou said, "Nothing like this exists in all of
India, let alone in Caoxi." "You haven't been to India, so how would you know?" "If I had been
to India, then it would exist," Shitou retorted. Qingsi said, "Something like this never
existed to begin with. Explain it to me further." Shitou said, "You should explain some of it
yourself and not rely totally on me." Qingsi said, "It's not that I won't speak for you – it's just
that nobody would understand what I'm talking about."

Qingsi holds up a ceremonial whisk, usually made of white horsehair attached to a wooden
handle, carried by a temple abbot. This dialogue is commented upon extensively by the
Japanese Soto masyter Keizan (1268-1325) in Dentoroku (Transmission of Light). The sense of
the story is this: Qingsi tries to trap Shitou into forgetting the true nature of phenomena. In
Caoxi as in India, nothing exists essentially except emptiness. But Shitou won't be tricked
into making a dualistic statement about emptiness, which of course isn't possible to begin
with – unless Qingsi goes first!

Qingsi asked Shitou to take a letter to Huaizhang at Nanyue. "You must return quickly after
you deliver the letter. I have an axe to give you when you lead your own temple. " Shitou
went to present Qingsi's letter to Huaizhang, but first he asked him, "What is it like when
teachers are no longer needed, but one's own understanding hasn't been recognized?"
Master Huaizhang said, "That's really a difficult question, can't you ask something simpler?"
Shitou said, "Even if I were re-born endlessly, I couldn't reach liberation by following
teachers." Huaizhang was silent and Shitou returned to Qingsi.

Qingsi said, "You weren't gone very long. Did you deliver my message?" Shitou said, "No
message was delivered and no news was communicated." Qingsi said, "What do you mean?"
Shitou reported what he had done and then told Qingsi, "You said you would give me an axe
when I leave here: go get it for me now." Qingsi got up from his seat. Shitou Xiqian bowed
down and left at once for South Mountain.

An axe is a symbol of authority in China. Possibly a ceremonial axe of some sort is meant.
The "teachers" mentioned here are more like spiritual authorities or experts – the Chinese
word is sometimes translated as "sages" in English, or even "saints."



by Andy Ferguson
In: Zen's Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings, Wisdom Publications, 2011, pp. 56-58.

QINGYUAN XINGSI (660–740) was an eminent student of the Sixth Ancestor, Huineng. Three of the five traditionally recognized schools of Chinese Zen trace their origins through Qingyuan and his student Shitou Xiqian. Little is known with certainty about Xingsi’s life. He lived in relative obscurity at Quiet Abode Temple on Mt. Qingyuan, near the old city of Luling (modern Ji’an City in southern Jiangxi Province).


Zen master Xingsi of Jingzhu Temple on Qingyuan Mountain in Jizhou was from Ancheng City in the same province. His lay surname was Liu. He left home at a young age. Whenever there was a gathering that discussed the Tao, he always remained quiet.

Upon hearing that [the Sixth Ancestor] was preaching at Cao Xi he traveled there to study with him.

Xingsi asked the Sixth Ancestor, “In all that I do, how can I avoid falling into stages of spiritual development?”

The Sixth Ancestor said, “How do you practice?”

Xingsi said, “I don’t even practice the four noble truths.”

The Sixth Ancestor said, “What stages have you fallen into?”

Xingsi said, “Without even studying the four noble truths, what stages could I have fallen into?”

The Sixth Ancestor esteemed Xingsi’s ability. Although there were many in the congregation, Xingsi was selected as head monk. He is like the Second Ancestor, who, not speaking, attained the marrow.

One day the Sixth Ancestor said to him, “In the past, the robe and teaching have been passed down together, each generation of teacher and student passing them on in turn. The robe has been the evidence of the transmission. The authentic teaching is passed from mind to mind. Now I have suitable heirs. Why worry about not having evidence [of transmission]? Since I received the robe I’ve encountered innumerable difficulties. Moreover, in future times, the competition for [preeminence between Zen schools] will be even greater. The robe remains at Zhen Mountain Gate.43 You must establish a separate assembly and expound the teaching. Don’t allow my Dharma to be cut off.”

After receiving transmission Xingsi returned to live at Mt. Qingyuan.


One day, Qingyuan asked his disciple Shitou, “Where have you come from?”

Shitou said, “From Cao Xi.”

Qingyuan then held up his whisk and said, “But does Cao Xi have this?”

Shitou said, “Not just Cao Xi, but even India doesn’t have it.”

Qingyuan said, “You haven’t been to India, have you?”

Shitou said, “If I’d been there, then it would have it.”

Qingyuan said, “No good! Try again.”

Shitou said, “Master, you must say half. Don’t rely on your disciple for all of it.”

Qingyuan said, “Me speaking to you isn’t what matters. What I fear is that there will be no one to carry on my Dharma.”


Heze Shenhui came to visit the master.

Qingyuan said, “Where have you come from?”

Shenhui said, “From Cao Xi.”

Qingyuan said, “What is the essential doctrine of Cao Xi?”

Shenhui suddenly stood up straight.

Qingyuan said, “So, you’re still just carrying common tiles.”

Shenhui said, “Does the master not have gold here to give people?”

Qingyuan said, “I don’t have any. Where would you go to find some?” ([Later,] Xuansha said, “Just as you’d expect.” Yunju Ci said, “Just as Xuansha said. Would you expect gold? Or would you expect tile?”)


A monk asked Qingyuan, “What is the great meaning of the Buddhadharma?”

Qingyuan said, “What is the price of rice in Luling?”


After the master had passed Dharma transmission to Shitou, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth lunar month in [the year 740], he went into the hall and said goodbye to the congregation. Then, sitting in a cross-legged posture, he passed away. The emperor Xi Zong gave the master the posthumous name “Zen Master Vast Benefit.” His burial stupa was named “Return to Truth.”