Esoteric, Chan and Vinaya Ties in Tang Buddhism

The Ordination Platform of the Huishan Monastery on Mount Song in the Religious Policy of Emperor Daizong


  • Anna Sokolova Ghent University



Mount Song, Huishan monastery, Northern Chan, Esoteric Buddhism, vinaya, precept conferral


This paper explores the reconstruction of the ordination platform in the Huishan monastery on Mount Song in 767 in the context of the reinforcement of pro-Buddhist policies at the court of Emperor Daizong (r. 762–779). The vinaya monks and state officials who engaged in this platform’s reconstruction are identified as associates of two prominent monastic figures: Amoghavajra (Bukong jin’gang; 704–774), an Esoteric leader at the imperial court; and Songshan Puji (651–739), regarded as the seventh patriarch in the Northern Chan tradition. The key roles played by disciples of these two masters in the reconstruction of the Huishan platform attest to significant congruence in ritual practices between proponents of the Esoteric and Chan groups in Tang dynasty China, primarily in the areas of precept conferral and monastic ordination.

Author Biography

Anna Sokolova, Ghent University

Department of Oriental Languages and Cultures, PhD candidate



JTS Jiu Tangshu. Comp. Liu Xu et al. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1975.

QTW Quan Tangwen (= Qinding Quan Tangwen). Comp. Dong Hao et al. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983.

SGSZ Song gaoseng zhuan.Comp.Zanning (919–1001).T (see below) 2061 50.

SKQS Siku quanshu (= Jingyin Wenyuange siku quanshu). Comp. Ji Yun et al. Taipei: Shangwu yinshuguan,1983–1986.

T Taisho shinshu daizokyo. Ed. Takakusu Junjiro et al. Tokyo: Taisho Issaikyo Kankokai, 1924–1935.

X Dai-nippon Zokuzookyo. Ed. Maeda Eun and Nakano Tatsue. Taibei: Xinwenfeng chuban gongsi, 1968–1970.

XTS Xin Tangshu. Comp. Ouyang Xiu et al. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1975.

XXSKQS Xuxiu siku quanshu. Ed. Gu Tinglong et al. Shanghai: Shanghaiguji chubanshe, 2002.

ZZTJ Zizhi tongjian.Comp.Sima Guang Beijing: Guji chubanshe, 1956.


Adamek, Wendy. 2007.The Mystique of Transmission: On an Early Chan History and Its Context. New York: Columbia University Press.

Barrett, Timothy H. 2005.‘Buddhist Precepts in a Lawless World: Some Comments on the Linhuai Ordination Scandal’. In Going Forth: Visions of Buddhist Vinaya, ed. William Bodiford, 101–123. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.

Birnbaum, Raoul. 1983.Studies on the Mysteries of Manjusri: A Group of East Asian Mandalas and TheirTraditional Symbolism. Society for the Study of Chinese Religions Monograph Series 2. Boulder: Society for the Study of Chinese Religions.

Chen, Jinhua. 2006. ‘The Statues and Monks of Shengshan Monastery: Money and Maitreyan Buddhism in Tang China’. Asia Major19.1–2, 111–160.

______.2010. Crossfire: Shingon–Tendai Strife as Seen in Two Twelfth-Century Polemics, with Special References to Their Background in Tang China. Tokyo: The International Institute for Buddhist Studies.

Chou, Yi-liang. 1945. ‘Tantrism in China’. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies8, 241–332.

Du, Jinwen and Wei, Daoru 1993.Zhongguo Chanzong tongshi [A Complete History of Chinese Chan Buddhism]. Nanjing: Jiangsu guji chubanshe.

Enomoto,Fumio.2000.‘Mulasarvastivadinand Sarvastivadin’. In Vividharatnakarandaka:Festgabe fur Adelheid Mette, ed. Christine Chojnacki, Jens-Uwe Hartmann and Volker M. Tschannerl, 239–250. Indica et Tibetica Vol. 37. Swisttal-Odendorf: Indica et Tibetica.

Faure, Bernard. 1997.The Will to Orthodoxy: A Critical Genealogy of Northern Chan Buddhism. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Funayama, Toru. 1995. ‘Rikuchojidai ni okeru bosatsukai no juyokatei: Ryuso, Nansei ki o chushin ni’ [On the Acceptance of the Bodhisattva Precepts during the Six Dynasties Period: With Special Reference to the Liu Song and Nan Qi Periods]. Toho gakuho 67, 6–51.

________. 2004. ‘The Acceptance of Buddhist Precepts by the Chinese in the Fifth Century’. Journal of Asian History38.2, 97–120.

Goble, Geoffrey. 2019. Chinese Esoteric Buddhism: Amoghavajra, the Ruling Elite, and the Emergence of a Tradition. New York: Columbia University Press.

Goodman, Amanda K. 2013.‘The Ritual Instructions for Altar Methods (Tanfa yize): Prolegomenon to the Study of a Chinese Esoteric Buddhist Ritual Compendium from Late-Medieval Dunhuang’. Ph.D. diss., University of California–Berkeley.

Groner, Paul. 1990. ‘The Ordination Ritual in the Platform Sutra within the Context of the East Asian Buddhist VinayaTradition’. In Fo Kuang Shan Report of International Conference on Ch’an Buddhism, 220–250. Kaohsiung: Fo Kuang.

Lehnert, Martin. 2011. ‘Amoghavajra: His Role in and Influence on the Development of Buddhism’. In Esoteric Buddhism and the Tantras in East Asia, ed. Charles Orzech, Henrik Sorensen and Richard Payne, 351–360. Leiden: Brill.

Lin, Pei-ying. 2017.‘A Comparative Approach to Subhakarasimha’s (637–735) Essentials of Meditation: Meditation and Precepts in Eighth Century China’. In Chinese and Tibetan Esoteric Buddhism, ed. Yael Bentor and Meir Shahar, 156–194. Leiden: Brill.

McRae, John R. 2005.‘Daoxuan’s Vision of Jetavana: The Ordination Platform Movement in Medieval Chinese Buddhism’. In Going Forth: Visions of Buddhist Vinaya, ed. William Bodiford, 69–93. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.

Orlando, Raffaello. 1981. ‘A Study of Chinese Documents Concerning the Life of the Tantric Buddhist Patriarch Amoghavajra (AD 705–774)’. Ph.D. diss., Princeton University.

Ozerch, Charles D. 1998. Politics and Transcendent Wisdom: The Scripture for Humane Kings in the Creation of Chinese Buddhism. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.

_______. 2011. ‘After Amoghavajra: Esoteric Buddhism in the Late Tang’. In Esoteric Buddhism and the Tantras in East Asia, ed. Charles D. Orzech, Henrik H. Sorensen and Richard K. Payne, 315–335. Leiden: Brill.

Sato, Tatsugen. 1986. Chugoku Bukkyoni okeru kairitsu no kenkyu [Research on the Vinaya in Chinese Buddhism].Tokyo: Mokujisha.

Sharf, Robert H. 2017. ‘Buddhist Veda and the Rise of Chan’. In Chinese and Tibetan Esoteric Buddhism, ed. Yael Bentor and Meir Shahar, 85–120. Leiden: Brill.

Shinohara, Koichi. 2000. ‘The Kasaya Robe of the Past Buddha Kasyapa in the Miraculous Instruction Given to the VinayaMaster Daoxuan (596–667)’.Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal 13.2, 299–367.

______. 2014. Spells, Images, and Ma??alas: Tracing the Evolution of Esoteric Buddhist Rituals. New York: Columbia University Press.

Sorensen, Henrik H. 2011. ‘The Presence of Esoteric Buddhist Elements in Chinese Buddhism during the Tang’. In Esoteric Buddhism and the Tantras in East Asia, ed. Charles D. Orzech, Henrik H. Sorensen and Richard K. Payne, 294–233. Leiden: Brill.

Tanaka, Ryosho.1975. ‘Todai ni okeru zen to mikkyoto no kosho [The Relationship between Zen and Esoteric Buddhism in the Tang Dynasty]. Nippon Bukkyogakkai nenpo 40, 109–124.

Uchida, Seiichi. 2006. ‘“Shooshoreitomei” no hibun ni tsuite ?Oi,Oshin kyodai tono koryu omonogatariru ishikoku shiryono fukugen [Inscription of the ‘Spirit-Stupa of Master Xiao’: Reconstruction of the Circle of Associates of Wang Wei and of His Brother Based on Carved Materials].Nihon Chugoku gakkai ho 58, 33–47.

_______. 2007. ‘Oi no Jyonyo zenshi ni yoseta shito sono shuhen – Jyonyo zenshi no jinbutsuzo o chushin ni [A Context of the Poem that Wang Wei Sent to Chan Master Chengru: With a Focus on the Figure of the Chan Master Chengru]. Chugoku shibun ronso 26, 56–66.

Wang, Michelle C. 2018. Mandalas in the Making: The Visual Culture of Esoteric Buddhism at Dunhuang. Leiden: Brill.

Weinstein, Stanley. 1987. Buddhism under the T’ang. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Yanagida Seizan. 1985. ‘Goroku no rekishi – Zen bunken no seiritsu shiteki kenkyu [Research on the Historical Documents of Early Zen].Toho gakuho, 211–663.

Yang, Jingqing. 2007.Chan Interpretations of Wang Wei’s Poetry: A Critical Review. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press.

Yang, Zeng. 2018. ‘A Biographical Study on Bukong (a.k.a. Amoghavajra, 705–774): Networks, Institutions, and Identities’. Ph.D. diss., University of British Columbia.

Ye Feng,ed. 1979. ‘Songyang shike jiji’ [A Collection of Stone Inscriptions from Songyang].In Shike shiliao xinbian [New Edition of Historical Materials Carved on Stone].Vol. 2, 10179–10245. Taibei: Xinwenfeng chubanshe.

Yifa. 2002. The Origins of Buddhist Monastic Codes in China: An Annotated Translation and Study of the Chanyuan Qinggui. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.



How to Cite

Sokolova, A. (2021). Esoteric, Chan and Vinaya Ties in Tang Buddhism: The Ordination Platform of the Huishan Monastery on Mount Song in the Religious Policy of Emperor Daizong. Buddhist Studies Review, 37(2), 219–239.