The Study of the Zen Image in the Plum Poems of Bazhitoutuo
Bazhitoutuo (1851-1912), Buddhist name Jing-An, courtesy name Ji-Chan, once burnt two of his fingers as a form of Buddhist offering and entitled himself as the “eight-fingered monk” (Bazhitoutuo). Because his life was full of tortuous struggles, he became hard-working and isolated himself from others. During the later period of Ching Dynasty, Bazhitoutuo was not only a leader in the field of Buddhism, he was also known for his outstanding poetry as a monk. In his poetry, he often used natural phenomenon to express his emotions, he especially liked to portray the peculiarity of the plum blossoms, with their tall branches casting a fine shadow. His first book of poetry was Jiao Mei Yin (Plum Rumination) and his last one was Bai Mei Shi (White Plum Poem). After his death, his ashes was placed in “Cold Blossom Pagoda,” this symbolizes the fact that his spirit and the spirit of the plums are like one. The way Bazhitoutuo used his poetry to admire plums illustrates the Zen realm. His style created a wonderful work in the modern history of literature. In Fai-Peng Hu’s appendix on “Jiao Mei Yin,” he compliments Bazhitoutuo’s poetry. He states that his poetry is “like the mountains are full of plum blossoms, where bells clearly ring an exceptional sound that is like no other.” This article combines the life course of Bazhitoutuo with his works of poetry on plum blossoms. I used the poetry on plum blossoms which passed down from dynasties with the link between the image of the plum blossoms and the Zen history to investigate on how Bazhitoutuo used his poetry to reflect on the Zen realm and the way the poetry exploits the different levels in the meaning. I also discovered how his poems are characterized from other poetry by features of the Zen realm and the way the poems depict the spiritual world in order to see how Bazhitoutuo deepens the enlightenment of his subject and expands the connection between plum blossoms and the mind of his subject through distinct Zen meditation practice and sensation of beauty. His poetry opened up an artistic conception of plum blossoms that had never been seen before. This created an image of the plum blossoms standing proud in frost and snow, adding to the wonder of their image. Also, the poetry gives the readers an abundant Zen opening and affectionate liveliness. It enriched the development of the plum blossoms admiration literature and gave the history of poetry it rightful place.
Bazhitoutuo; JiChan; JingAn; plum poems; Zen image; poetic monk in the late Ching Dynasty