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2.15 (Tsai no.28) Ching-ch'eng

The nun Ching-ch'eng (Measure of Quietude) of Bamboo Grove Convent in Tung-hsiang of Shan-yang [north of the capital on the south bank of the Huai River]

Ching-ch'eng's secular surname was Liu; her given name was Sheng. Her family was originally from Ch'iao Commandery [in the Huai River valley].

Besides Ching-ch'eng's stringent practice of the monastic rules, she was also able to chant 450,000 words of scripture. The mountain grove next to the convent had no clamor or distractions, and in that fine location Ching-ch'eng's mind roamed in the silence of meditation, cutting off forever worldly corruption and trouble.

Once a man lost an ox and went searching for it. By nightfall he had come to the mountain where he saw the bright glare of firelight in the convent grove, but, when he approached it, the light disappeared.

A tiger often followed Ching-ch'eng in her comings and goings, and, when she sat in meditation, the tiger settled down nearby. If one of the nuns in the convent did not make a timely confession of an offence she had committed against the rules, the tiger would be angry, but, after she confessed, the tiger would be pleased.

Later, when Ching-ch'eng came out for a brief while from her seclusion on the mountain, on the way she encountered a woman from the north. They greeted one another without engaging in the usual formalities and were as pleased and happy as old friends. The woman's name was Ch'iu Wen-chiang, and she was originally from Po-p'ing [in northeast China, in the border region between the non-Chinese dynasty in the north and the Chinese dynasty in the south]. Ch'iu Wen-chiang's character was such that she particularly liked the Buddhist teaching. She had heard that in the south the Way was flourishing, and, when she was able to get across the frontier, she went as a refugee to this territory, where she became a nun.

Together with Ching-ch'eng, Ch'iu Wen-chiang led an austere life in the convent. Neither of the two women would eat millet or rice but instead ate only sesame and mountain thistles. Their reputation for strict asceticism became known in the capital of the northern barbarians who called the women sages and from afar summoned them with greetings of welcome. The two women, however, did not like the frontier region, and therefore they proceeded to besmirch their own reputation by being, as [Confucius recommended] "bold in action while conciliatory in speech" when in a country where the Way does not prevail. The barbarian host had prepared for them a meal of fine delicacies, which the women immediately gobbled right down, paying no attention to manners. Because of this the ruler lost his former respect for them and detained them no longer. Ching-ch'eng and Wen-chiang returned to their convent.

Ching-ch'eng was ninety-three years old, free from any malady, when she died.

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