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1.7 (Tsai no.7) Hui-chan

The nun Hui-chan (Deep Wisdom) of Establishing Blessings Convent

Hui-chan's secular surname was Jen, and her family was originally from the city of P'eng-ch'eng [long a home to Buddhists, in northeast China]. Of extraordinary countenance and high moral standards, Hui-chan took as her vocation the saving of living beings from the suffering of birth and death. She found great joy in wearing her rough clothing and eating vegetarian food. Once when she was carrying rather than wearing her outer robe as she traveled over a mountain, she encountered a band of robbers. They tried to attack her with knives, but [as proof of the power of the Bodhisattva Kuan-yin chapter in The Flower of the Law Scripture, which promises that help will be vouchsafed to those who call on Kuan-yin in times of distress] the robbers' hands were paralyzed. 1

Foiled in the attempt to kill her, they wanted to take the robe she was carrying over her shoulder. Hui-chan laughed gaily and said to them, "You wanted a lot, but what you are going to get is worth very little," and she handed over not only the robe she was carrying but also her new lower skirt from inside the robe she was wearing. Shamed, the robbers tried to return both robes to her, but she tossed the clothing aside and went on.

In the second year of the chien-yüan reign period (344), she went south across the Yangtze River. 2 The minister of public works, Ho Ch'ung (292-346), respected her greatly and requested her to live in Establishing Blessings Convent.


1. The part of the sentence beginning "as proof" and ending "in times of distress" does not appear in the Chinese text. Nevertheless, this exact circumstance, i.e., one who is about to be harmed by a robber wielding a knife or staff calls on the name of the bodhisattva Kuan-yin and is kept safe from harm because the robber cannot then raise up his hands, is described in the Flower of the Law Scripture, the earlier translation by Chu Fa-hu (d. 310+) of the Western Chin dynasty (T. 9, no. 263, 129.a.11ff). The other translation of this scripture (T. 9, no. 262), that by Kumārajīva (d. 409 or 413), does not include the detail that the robber would be unable to raise up his hands against his victim (T. 9, no. 262, 56.c.16ff).

2. Chien-yüan reign period (344) is a more likely date than 348 given in biography 5 because Ho Ch'ung died in 346. See n. 55, above.

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IATHPublished by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia