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2.8 (Tsai no.21) P'u-chao

The nun P'u-chao (Universal Illumination) (418-442) of Expanding Nation Convent of Nan-p'i in northeast China

P'u-chao's secular surname was Tung, and her given name was Pei. Her family was from An-ling in the P'o-hai Commandery [in northeast China, in the territory held by the non-Chinese dynasty of Northern Wei.]

When she was a young girl, she already adhered to high moral principles, and at the age of seventeen she left the household life to become a nun at Expanding Nation Convent in Nan-p'i [a town to the northwest of An-ling].

Later, P'u-chao accompanied her religious instructor to study at Establishing Splendor Convent in Kuang-ling [a town on the northern bank of the Yangtze River, northeast of the capital].

She upheld her religious faith and practice with all her heart for which the rest of the community praised her; and, when her instructor, Hui-tzu, died, P'u-chao retired from all social occasions and instead practiced austerities even more fervently.

In the twelfth month of the eighteenth year of the yüan-chia reign period (441), she became ill from exhaustion. Although the malady was serious, she still held her deep and abiding faith. When at first she did not improve, she concentrated her mind and prayed in utmost sincerity both day and night. Because she could not lower herself to the ground to make prostrations, she would touch her forehead to the pillow while confessing her faults. When she rested from this, she continued her usual practice of chanting the Flower of the Law Scripture at the rate of three scrolls a day.

In the second month of the nineteenth year (442), she suddenly expired, but after a short time—about the length of two meals—she revived. She said, "Along the road toward the west there was a pagoda. A monk sat inside, his eyes closed in meditation. Startled by my appearance, he asked where I came from. I answered, and then I asked him, `How far from here is a certain convent?' He answered, `Fifty million miles.' The road was grassy and there were many travelers, but no one whom I recognized. At that moment the clouds were piled high, and the whole place was utterly pure. Toward the west everything shone even more brightly, and I wanted to go forward in that direction, but the monk forbid it. So I turned back and suddenly awoke."

Seven days later P'u-chao died at the age of twenty-five [in the year 442].

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