During the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, the Chan school showed signs of a revival after a long period of silence. In this regard, the Lin-Ji and Cao-Dong lineages were most active. During this period, a large amount of “Chan records” (yulu 語錄) were collected. In these collections, a new section entitled “tea words” (chanhua 禪話) was introduced, which had never been included in the record of past patriarchs. This article will focus on the study of these “tea words”.
Among those figures most active in this period, Wuming Huijing and Zhanran Yuancheng are the most well-known from the Cao-Dong lineage. This study will focus on Zhanran Yuancheng, whose lineage extends all the way to this day, as well as two of his Dharma heirs. Firstly, charts are created based on the biographies of these three figures in order to situate and contrast their lives in time and space. Secondly, I will explore the key connections in terms of the lineage of Dharma recognition (yinke 印可) to illustrate the primacy of the master-disciple transmission from mind to mind in the Chan School. Finally, I will review the dialogues recorded during tea gatherings held on various occasions, such as New Year's Eve, the New Year, the Lantern Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Buddha's Birthday, etc. One finds that the Dharma talks given on these occasions are full of vivid and momentous words and gestures (jifeng 機鋒) which are typical of the Chan masters’ teaching style. Tea is also used to instruct the public and help the practitioners along their practice towards enlightenment. Each of them demonstrate a unique eloquence, aesthetic, and style.
Cao-Dong Lineage; tea words; Zhanran Yuancheng; Ruibai Mingxue; Shiyu Mingfang