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The Buddhist community on Mount Lu during early medieval China Lee, Sangyop


Mount Lu (Lu Shan 廬山), located in present-day Jiangxi province of China, rose to become an important center of Buddhist scholarship and practice in early medieval China under the leadership of the scholarmonk Huiyuan 慧遠 (334 CE–416 CE). Huiyuan came to Mount Lu with his disciples, associates, and his brother Huichi 慧持 (337–412) in 381 CE following the disintegration of the monastic community of Xiangyang 襄陽during the war between the Former Qin (Qian Qin 前秦; 351–394) and the Eastern Jin (Dong Jing 東晉; 317–420). With the help of his former colleague Huiyong 慧永 (332–414), who had settled on the mountain a few years earlier, and the financial support from the local governor Huan Yi 桓伊 (d.u.; Governor of Jiangzhou 江州 since 384), Huiyuan’s community soon grew into one of the most important centers of Buddhism in South China. The community drew such influential Buddhist scholar-monks of the time as Huiguan 慧觀 (d.u.), Huirui 慧叡 (d.u.), and Daosheng 道生 (355–434), as well as such lay intellectuals of renown as Zhou Xuzhi 周續之 (d. 423), Liu Yimin 劉遺民 (354–410), Lei Cizong 雷次宗 (386–448), and Zong Bing 宗炳 (375–443). Mount Lu also was the site of a few important translation workshops during this time. In the early 390s, Saṅghadeva (fl. 383–397) translated two important Abhidharma texts, the _Apitan xin lun_ 阿毘曇心論 (T 1550) and the _San fadu lun_ 三法度論 (T 1506), and in the early 410s, Buddhabhadra (359–429) translated the meditation text _Damoduoluo chan jing_ 達摩多羅禪經 (T 618). In this animated intellectual environment, Huiyuan authored such representative Buddhist treatises of the time as the _Shamen bujing wangzhe lun_ 沙門不敬王者論 and the _Ming baoying lun_ 明報應論, where he articulated his theory of the imperishability of the soul (_shen bumie_ 神不滅) that was to exert lasting influence on Chinese Buddhists' understanding of the mind. In terms of Buddhist practice, the Buddhist community of Mount Lu is where some of the earliest examples of the cult of Amitabha and the belief in the rebirth in Amitabha’s Western Pure Land are associated with. For example, in 402, the 123 members community took a collective vow to be reborn in the Western Pure Land before a statue of Amitabha Buddha. Another important example of Buddhist art created by this group was the Buddha-image (Foying 佛影) Grotto. The renowned grotto was constructed in 413 relying on the oral reports about the Buddha-image cave of the Indian city of Nagarahāra and enshrined a painting of the Buddha, whose excellence in turn inspired its own copies to be made and circulated. In this way, the Buddhist community of Mount Lu during early medieval China developed a rich and lively religious culture involving scholarship, devotionalism, and art and architecture.

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