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Biography & Story of Ji Gong


Mentioning the story of Ji Gong, in China, the first impression of people is a TV series playing the magic experiences and legend of Ji Gong, who was widely and highly respected as the Master of Zen Buddhism and the incarnation of Taming Dragon Arhat (Xiang Long Luo Han, 降龙罗汉, one of 500 Arhats in Buddhism culture). Historically speaking, Ji Gong was a true monk with a high cultivation and reputation in China. We share what we know about this figure in history and story.

Ji Gong in History

Ji Gong(济公, 1133-1209) whose earthly name was Li Xiuyuan, was born in Yongning Village, Tiantai County, Taizhou, Zhejiang Province. His father was Li Chunmao and mother had a surname Wang. At the age of 18, his parents passed away. And he went to Lingyin Temple of Hangzhou and became a monk. Since then he used the Buddhist name Daoji (道济), and his teacher was Hui Yuan, an old and blind abbot and said to know the real identity of Ji Gong. Ji Gong disliked sutra chanting and meditation sitting, and he like eating meat and drinking alcohol, and even preferred garlic dog meat. All of these foods were absolutely prohibited in Buddhism. He always wore the worn-out clothes and hats and kept a broken hand fan. Due to his unrestraint, he was accused by other monks. His teacher just said a word – “the Gate of Buddhism is so vast! Why is this crazy monk not forgiven? ”. Therefore, he had a nickname Crazy Monk(济颠). After his teacher passed away, he was forced to move to Jingci Temple. He was quite proficient in the medicine and saved many people from death, and then he was respected as Living Buddha Ji Gong. Legendarily speaking, he was the earthly Arhat of Taming Dragon. On May 16, 1209, he passed away, and before going, he left a Buddhist verse.

六十年来狼藉,- Sixty years’ life in disorder 
东壁打到西壁。- From east to west, I fight always 
如今收拾归来,- Today, I review and return  
依旧水连天碧。- All is same as those before

He was buried in Running Tiger Spring Area, and a special monastery named Jigong Tayuan was built in memory of him. Many historical words are written in the Records of Jingci Temple.

The statue of Ji Gong
The statue of Ji Gong in Lingyin Temple, Hangzhou

Ji Gong in Story

The legends of Ji Gong were sourced from the late period of Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), and the folk storytellers begun taking his life experience as the theme, and up to Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), a storybook named Complete Stories of Ji Gong(济公全传) was published. His stories actually were sourced the story of Master Bao Zhi who living in the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589). Later, some folk stories and believes were blended, and Ji Gong became a featured immortal of Buddhism and Taoism. I-Kuan Tao worships Ji Gong and lists him as one of the Gods, and considers their founding master, Zhang Tianran, to be the incarnation of Ji Gong. There are lots of stories about Ji Gong. Hereinafter are the selected:
After living in Jingci Temple, Ji Gong acted as an amanuensis monk. On one occasion, the fire destroyed the main hall of Jingci Temple, the abbot turned to him for the big wood for restoring that hall, after he slept for three days because of overdrinking, he shouted at:"the wood is here, take it from well, the wood really effused from the well of temple continually until the woods were enough for rebuilding the hall. Nowadays, there is a Shenmu Well in Jingci Temple.

One day, Ji Gong fore-felt there would be a hill flying to the front of Lingyin Temple, for the sake of saving the villagers, he took the measure of looting bride to take the villages away from their houses and eventually avoided happening of disaster. This is the story illustrating the origin of Peak Flying-From-Afar (飞来峰).
If you are interested in the stories of Ji Gong, and understand Chinese, we recommend you to enjoy the solo story-telling of Guo Degang in Beijing, and his most famous story telling is the Legend of Ji Gong, in which nearly all the stories of Ji Gong are available such as Eight Devils Temper Ji Gong with Fire, Ji Gong Fighting Against Da Peng, said to be the uncle of Sakyamuni, Ji Gong Edified Yellow Weasel Spirit for Nine Times, and so on.

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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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