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興化存奬 Xinghua Cunjiang (830-888)

(Rōmaji:) Kōke Zonshō

The Sixth Generation After The Patriarch Hui Neng:
Ch'an Master Hsing Hua
Translated from 古尊宿語錄 Guzunsu yulu [Recorded Sayings of the Ancient Worthies]
by 陸寬昱
Lu K'uan Yü (Charles Luk; Lu Kuanyu, 1898-1978)
The Transmission of the Mind Outside the Teaching
Rider, London 1974, pp. 185-191.

THE master's name was Ts'un Chiang. When he first called
on Lin Chi (for instruction) the latter made him his personal
One day Lin Chi asked a new comer, 'Where have you
been of late?'
The new comer replied, 'Luan Ch'eng.'
Lin Chi asked, 'I have something to ask you, may I?'
The new comer replied, 'I have just been ordained and do
not know (anything).'
Lin Chi said, 'You can crush the state of T'ang but you will
not easily find a man who does not know (anything);[1] go to
the Ch'an meeting hall.'

[1] A man who is free from discrimination.

Hsin Hua (who was present) asked Lin Chi, 'Did you mean
to strip him (of discrimination)?'
Lin Chi retorted, 'Who is interested in stripping or in not
stripping him (of discrimination)?'
Hsin Hua said, 'The Venerable Master knows only how to
play with a dead bird lying on the ground but does not know
how to turn words for the occasion in order to cover it up.'
Lin Chi asked, 'What would you do on the occasion?'
Hsin Hua said, 'Please just repeat what the new comer said
to you.'
Lin Chi repeated the new comer's words. 'I have just been
ordained and do not know (anything).'
Hsin Hua said, 'In fact it is my fault.'
Lin Chi said, 'Your words hide a (sharp) dagger.'
As Hsing Hua intended to speak Lin Chi struck him (with
his staff).
In the evening, Lin Chi said to Hsing Hua, 'Today did my
question to the new comer play with a dead bird lying on the
ground or strike it right in the nest? After giving a (right)
answer you were again aroused by my remark and I chased
you up to the blue sky to hit you.'
Hsing Hua exclaimed, 'The jungle bandit has suffered a
severe defeat.'
Thereupon, Lin Chi again struck him.[2]

[2] When a Ch'an master hits a disciple, this does not necessarily mean
that the pupil is wrong. When Hsing Hua intended to speak, he was wrong
because he was about to give rise to discrimination. So Lin Chi struck
him 'right in the nest' in order to 'snatch away the object but not the
subject'. (Cf Ch'an and Zen Teaching, Second Series, page 92 (Rider,
London; Shambala, Berkeley) Then Hsing Hua said that Lin Chi suffered
a severe defeat, because Lin spoke of 'chasing an illusion up to the blue
sky'. Lin Chi struck him again to confirm the disciple's correct interpretation.

(One day) Hsing Hua went to the main hall and, holding an
incense stick in his hand, he said, 'This incense stick was
originally intended to be offered to my late Dharma brother[3]
San Sheng because he saw that I was too lonely and was fit to
succeed Ta Chueh who, however, found me too slow.

[3] Disciples of the same master are called Dharma-brothers.

When I was with San Sheng, I was awakened to the profound
meaning of "guest and host". If I had not met the late
Dharma brother Ta Chueh, I would have passed my whole
life without receiving his blows that awakened me to the
deep meaning of the strokes of the staff received by my late
master Lin Chi[4] from his master Huang Po. So I now offer
this incense stick to my late tutor Lin Chi.'

[4] Cf Ch'an and Zen Teaching, Second Series, page 84, The Lin Chi Sect.
(Rider, London; Shambala, Berkeley).

In the Ch'an hall, the master said to the assembly, 'Today I
will not ask you why and how. I will just invite you to make a
direct entry equipped with a single chopper.[5] and I will then
confirm your achievement.'

5. The four Chinese characters Tan-Tao-Chih-Ju mean lit. 'single
chopper direct entry' or 'Direct entry equipped with a single chopper'
i.e. by means of a pure and clean mind.

An elderly monk called Min Te came forward, prostrated
himself before the master, got up and gave a shout. The master
also shouted and Min Te shouted again. The master again
shouted and Min Te paid reverence to the master and returned
to the assembly.
The master said, 'If it were another person, I would have
given him thirty strokes (of the staff). In the present case, even
one stroke is not needed because old Min Te understands (the
deep meaning of) a shout not used as a shout.'[6]

6. Cf Ch'an and Zen Teaching, Second Series, page 96 for detailed
explanation. (Rider, London; Shambala, Berkeley).

One day the master went to the Ch'an hall and on seeing the
chief monk, said, 'I have now seen you'. The chief monk gave
a shout and the master hit the pillar once (with his staff) and
went away.
The chief monk followed the master to the abbot's room,
saying, 'Was I rude to you?' and then paid him reverence.
The master hit the ground once (with his staff). The chief
monk did not say a word.

One day seeing a monk enter the hall to join the assembly,
the master gave a shout, and the monk also shouted and
walked two or three steps. The master shouted again and the
monk also shouted. A little later the monk came forward and
when he was near the master, the latter reached for his staff
The monk (on seeing this), shouted again. The master then
said, 'What a blind fellow who still wants to be host.' As the
monk intended to speak[7] the master hit him (with his staff)
and continued beating him until the man left the hall.
Thereat another monk asked the master, 'Was that monk
rude to you?'

[7] i.e. he was about to give rise to discrimination.

The master replied, 'In spite of his use (of various devices
such as) expedient (chuan), absolute (shih), shining inquiry
(chao) and skilful application (yung), when I stretched out
my hand twice to obstruct his path, he failed to get through.
If this blind fellow is not beaten now, when shall I wait to hit
The monk asked, 'What should one do when obstructions
come from the four quarters and from all eight directions?'
The master replied, 'Hit the center.'
As the monk paid him reverence, the master said, 'Today
as I was on the way to a vegetarian dinner in a village, a squall
and heavy shower compelled me to take shelter in an ancient
The monk asked, 'What topic was discussed in front of the
Prolific Stupa?'[8]
The master replied, 'One man transmits' the abstract
(while) tens of thousands of men transmit the concrete.'

[8] Prolific stupa: An elder at Rajagrha who had 35 sons and 35 daughters,
realized that if he did not cut off his affection for them, he could never
escape from sarmsara. So he forsook his attachment to them and realized
the state of pratyeka-buddhahood. After his death his children erected a
stupa in his memory, hence the Prolific Stupa which is a holy site where
the Buddha, after confirming Mahakasyapa's enlightenment, shared His
seat with this disciple to turn together the Wheel of the Law.

(One day) the master spoke of San Sheng's dialogue with a
monk who asked, 'What is the meaning of the coming from
the West?' to which San Sheng replied, 'A piece of foul-
smelling meat draws flies.' The master said, 'I will not say so
(but answer,) The flies on a donkey with a broken backbone.'[9]

[9] Meat stands for the dead meaning and donkey for the living one.

One day the master said in the hall, 'I have heard that San
Sheng once said to the assembly, "When I see people coming,
I immediately come out (to receive them), but after I have
come out I do nothing for them." But I, Hsing Hua, do not
say so, for when I see people coming I do not come out, but
when I come out I immediately do something for them.'
Then he descended from the high seat (and left).

One day as the master was inspecting the main hall, he said, 'I
have a pair of sacred arrows and when I meet a man of ability
I will instruct him.'
A man of Tao (who was present) said, 'Venerable master,
I am ready if it suits your convenience.'
The master asked, 'Do you know what a sacred arrow is?'
Thereat, the man of Tao shook out a sleeve of his robe. The
master seized it with his hand and asked, 'Beside this is there
something else?' As the man was about to speak, the master
hit him (with his staff).

One day the master arrived (at the monastery of) Yun Chu
and asked him, 'May I borrow (from you) an expedient
device to show the grass?'[10]

[10] i.e. the mind which creates the grass.

Yun Chu could not reply to the question and remained
silent in spite of the query being asked thrice. Then the
master said, 'I know the Venerable Sir cannot reply to my
question but I will bow thrice to pay my reverence to you.'
Many years had passed before Yun Chu went to the main
hall and said to the assembly, 'Twenty years ago I could not
reply to Hsing Hua's question because of my dull potentiality
at the time, and also because of the strange way he posed the
question to me, which prompted me not to give a wrong
answer that might hinder him. But now the question is just
(two characters:) "What need?" ,
When a monk related Yun Chu's saying to the master, he
said, 'I, Hsing Hua, would not say so and will simply say,
The question is not worth (the two characters:) "What need?" '
Later San Sheng referring to the above story, said, 'Twenty
years had elapsed before Yun Chu found the answer but now,
after comparing the two (above-mentioned replies), Yun
Chu has covered half a month of the journey.[11]

[11] Half-a-month means 50% of the journey or 50% correct. Readers
are urged to read carefully the above passage which is very interesting to
students of the Ch'an sect.

(One day) the master saw a monk come (to the monastery)
and said to him, 'Before you came here this mountain monk
has already walked.'[12] The monk gave a shout, and the
master said, 'Walk as you are ordered.' The monk shouted
again and the master said, 'What a man of ability!' As the
monk gave another shout, the master hit him (with his staff).

[12] i.e. I have finished my walk or my training.

One day a monk asked the master, 'How is it when the royal
journey is restricted?'
The master replied, 'Five hundred (furlongs) are covered.'[13]

[13] 500 here means the 5 aggregates which are the cause of restricted

Emperor Tung Kuang (A.D. 923-926) gave the master a
horse but when he first rode it the animal was frightened and
fell down thus injuring one of his feet. The master then
ordered the chief monk to buy a crutch for him and when it
was ready he used it to walk round the monastery.
The master asked the monks, 'Do you still recognize me?'
The monks replied, 'How dare we fail to recognize you?'
The master said, 'A lame monk can speak but cannot walk. '
When he reached the Dharma-hall he ordered the karmadana[14]
to ring the bell and then spoke the same words. As
no one responded to him, he threw away the crutch, sat erect
and passed away.
The emperor conferred upon him the posthumous title of
great master Kuang Chi (Extensive Helper) and on his stupa
the epithet of Tung Chi (Penetrating Serenity).

[14] Karmadana: the duty distributor, second in command of a

by Andy Ferguson
In: Zen's Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings, Wisdom Publications, pp. 223-225.

XINGHUA CUNJIANG (830–88) was a disciple and Dharma heir of Linji Yixuan. He lived and taught in ancient Weizhou (near the Yellow River, upstream from the modern city of Jinan in Shandong Province). The Linji lineage continued from Linji directly through Xinghua and his Dharma heirs down to the present day.


Xinghua often said, “When I was on pilgrimage in the South, I once suffered blows from the staff, but it never brought out a person who understands Buddhadharma.”

Sansheng asked him, “What do you see that you can talk like that?

Xinghua shouted.

Sansheng said, “You’re beginning to get it.”

Later, Dajue heard about this.122

He said, “How was this blown into Dajue’s doorway?”

Later, Xinghua served as the head monk at Dajue’s monastery. One day Dajue called to him and said, “I’ve heard that you said that when you were on pilgrimage in the South you once suffered blows from the staff, but it never revealed someone who understood Buddhadharma. By what principle could you speak like this?”

Xinghua shouted.

Dajue struck him.

Xinghua shouted again.

Dajue again struck him.

Then Xinghua said, “When I was at elder brother Sansheng’s place, we learned a phrase about ‘guest’ and ‘host.’ Elder brother Sansheng turned everything topsy-turvy. I want you to provide me a blissful method of entering the Way.”

Dajue said, “You blind fool! This gibberish you’ve said is sorely lacking! Take off your robe and I’ll give you a painful whack!”

Upon hearing these words Xinghua grasped the meaning of his late master Linji’s having suffered a beating at Huangbo’s place.

Later Xinghua went into the buddha hall, and presenting a stick of incense to the Buddha, he said, “This stick of incense is for elder brother Sansheng, although Sansheng was too aloof from me. This is also for elder brother Dajue, although he was also removed. Neither can be compared to the honor I give to my late teacher, Linji.”


Master Xinghua asked a monk, “Where are you coming from?”

The monk said, “From a precipitous Zen place.”

Xinghua said, “Did you bring the shout of a precipitous Zen place?”

The monk said, “I didn’t bring it.”

Xinghua said, “Then you haven’t come from there.”

The monk shouted. Xinghua hit him.


Xinghua said to the monks, “I’m always hearing shouts in the corridor as well as in back of the hall. I tell you all that you mustn’t blindly shout wild shouts. Even if you shout so loud that it takes my breath away and stops me cold, when my breath comes back I’ll tell you, ‘Still not it!’ Why? I haven’t been passing out precious gems in vermilion wrappings to all of you! What’s all the shouting about?”


The late Tang dynasty emperor Zhuang Zong honored master Xinghua with the gift of a riding horse. While the master was riding the horse it was startled and the master fell off, injuring his foot. The emperor sent some special medicine to the master to help heal his foot.

Xinghua gave instructions to the monastery director, saying, “Make me a walking stick.”

The monastery director made the stick and brought it to Xinghua. The master took the stick and proceeded to circle the hall, and as he did so he asked the monks, “Do you recognize me?”

The monks answered, “How could we not recognize you?”

The master said, “Dharma Master Foot! He can speak but he can’t walk.”

Xinghua then went into the hall and instructed the attendant to ring the bell and assemble the monks.

Xinghua then addressed the monks, saying, “Do you recognize me?”

The monks didn’t know what to say.

Xinghua then threw down the staff and passed away solemnly in an upright position.




Encounter Dialogues of Xinghua Cunjiang
compiled by Satyavayu of Touching Earth Sangha
DOC: Treasury of the Forest of Ancestors

Master Xinghua Cunjiang (830-888) was another prominent disciple of Master Linji. He taught at Xinghua Monastery in the northern region of Weizhou (near the Yellow River in modern Shandong Province).

Once Master Xinghua asked a monk, “Where are you coming from?”
The monk said, “From a severe Zen place.”
Xinghua asked, “Did you bring the shout of the severe Zen place?”
The monk said, “I didn’t bring it.”
Xinghua said, “Then you haven’t come from there.”
The monk shouted.
Xinghua hit him.

Master Xinghua once addressed his community saying, “I’m always hearing shouts in the corridors, and in the back of the hall. Stop blindly shouting wild shouts! Even if you shout so loud that it takes my breath away and stops me cold, when my breath comes back I’ll just tell you, “Still not it!” Why? I haven’t been handing out precious gems in fancy wrappings to all of you! What’s all the shouting about?



宗門葛藤集 Shūmon kattōshū
Entangling Vines

A Classic Collection of Zen Koans by Thomas Yuho Kirchner. Wisdom Publications, 2013.

Case 59:
興化打中 Xinghua's “Hold to the Center”

A monk asked Xinghua Cunjiang, “What should one do when things come from every direction?”

The master said, “Hold to the center.”1

The monk bowed.

The master then said, “Yesterday, as I was on my way to a dinner in the village, I was caught in a sudden storm with heavy rain and violent wind, so I headed for an old shrine and found shelter.”

Ying’an Tanhua commented, “The assembly considered the matter and said, ‘Taking shelter in an old mausoleum refers to the self that precedes the Kalpa of Emptiness,2 or to the place where Xinghua attained peace of mind and fully realized his original nature.’ Little did they know that Xinghua, his purse filled with one hundred thousand in cash, mounted a crane and went down to Yangzhou.”3

1. The verb “hold” in the sentence “Hold to the center” translates , a word that originally means “strike” or “hit” but that can be used in a wide variety of ways, e.g., , “to buy alcohol,” , “to draw water,” , “to cut weeds,” , “to make a cart,” etc. (ZGDJ: 780b). Thus other possible translations are “Aim for the center,” “Strike at the center,” etc.

2. The Kalpa of Emptiness is the kalpa that lies between the destruction of one universe and the formation of the next.

3. The implication of “going down to Yangzhou” is not entirely clear. The city of Yangzhou had a well-known pleasure quarter. Morohashi, however, mentions an old tale that may provide relevant background information. A group of men were discussing their wishes. One man said that he would like to become governor of Yangzhou, another that he would like to have plenty of money, and another that he would like to fly on the back of a crane. Thereupon another man said, “So if someone slung a hundred thousand in cash from his waist, got on a crane, and flew off to Yangzhou, then he would fulfill all of these wishes at once” (5:319b–c).


Excerpts from
Case 123:
濟下三評 Comparing Three Students of Linji

Xinghua addressed the assembly, “I hear shouts in the front corridor and shouts in the back quarters. All of you, don't make blind shouts or wild shouts. Even if you shouted me up into the sky I'd come back down, and though I might not have a breath of air in me I'd revive and say, ‘That's still not enough!' Why? Because I have yet to scatter pearls for you inside the purple-curtained room.” (Compendium, “Xinghua”; “scattering pearls for you inside the purple-curtained room” indicates Xinghua's revealing his deepest understanding in the sanzen room.)


Case 130:
興化罰銭 Xinghua Levies a Fine

One day Xinghua Cunjiang said to Taihang Kebin, the duty-monk,1 “Soon you will become a teacher who guides others.”

“I won’t join that bunch!” answered Kebin.

“You won’t join because you have fully understood, or you won’t join because you haven’t fully understood?” asked Xinghua.

“It’s got nothing to do with any of that!” replied Kebin.

Thereupon Xinghua struck him and said, “Duty-monk Kebin lost a Dharma-battle. You must pay a fine to buy a rice-and-vegetable dinner.”

The next day Xinghua entered the hall, struck the gavel, and said, “Duty-monk Kebin failed to win a Dharma-battle. He must pay a fine of five strings of cash, with which the assembly will be treated to a rice-and-vegetable dinner. Then he must leave the monastery.”

Kebin left and went to live on Mount Taihang, and later succeeded to Xinghua’s teachings.2

1. For “duty-monk,” see Case 34, note 4.

2. A monk would announce whose successor he was only upon assuming the position of abbot at an official temple. See, e.g., Case 123, note 9.


Case 184:
興化兩遭 Xinghua's Two Waves of the Hand1

A fellow student of Xinghua Cunjiang came and entered the Dharma Hall. Xinghua gave a shout. The monk too gave a shout and advanced two or three strides, whereupon Xinghua shouted again. The monk too shouted again, and after a moment came forward. Xinghua held up his staff. The monk again shouted.

“You see! This dolt is still trying to play the host!” remarked Xinghua. The monk hesitated. Xinghua struck him and drove him out of the Dharma Hall, then returned to his quarters.

Someone asked, “The monk who was just here—what did he say to deserve the master’s anger?”

Xinghua answered, “That monk had technique, he had essence, he had illumination, he had function. But when I waved my hand2 in front of him two times he couldn’t respond. If you don’t hit a blind oaf like that he’ll never get anywhere.”

1. This koan is mentioned in passing in Case 123, above: “The subtlety and depth of Xinghua is seen in…the way he waved his hand two times in front of the monk’s face.”

2. “Draw a line” , as found in the present Kattōshū text, has been replaced with “waved my hand in front of him two times” , to bring the koan into line with the traditional biographical materials on Xinghua and with Case 123.