Hanshan Deqing was born in 1564 in Jiangsu Province near the city of Nanjing. At the age of 12 he entered Nanjing's Baoensi and studied there until the age of 28. In 1592 he went north to the Buddhist mountain of Wutaishan where he practiced for 8 years on Hanshan Peak (Stupid Mountain). It was here that he added the name Hanshan to his other Buddhist name Deqing.|
"Wutai was the scene of a special ceremony that Deqing helped organize to ensure the birth of a male heir to the throne. When a boy was born to one of the emperor's concubines exactly nine months later, the emperor's mother became Deqing's lifelong supporter. Unfortunately the emperor disagreed with his mother's choice of heir apparent, especially when a more favored concubine gave birth to a second son several years later.
Meanwhile, Deqing began writing the series of Buddhist works that were to make him one of the most revered monks in the realm, and he moved to the Shandong coast. With the help of the emperor's mother, he built one of the largest Buddhist centers in China on Mount Laoshan overlooking the sea. But the relations between the dowager and her son worsened as the issue of the heir split the loyalty of those at court, and Deqing was caught in the conflict. In 1595, he was arrested, defrocked, his new monastery burned to the ground, and he was sent into exile to the southernmost province of the empire.
Although at first he was required to report to authorities, his fame as a Buddhist cleric eventually gained him the freedom to move about the region. In addition to organizing relief afforts during plagues and quelling a riot in the provintial capital of Canton, he also spent a number of years restoring the Buddhist center at Caoxi, 200 km north of Canton. Caoxi was where Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of Chan, transmitted the Dharma to the monks whose disciples founded the various sects of Chan in China.
Finally, after 20 years of exile, Deqing was pardoned and given his freedom in 1613. At first he accepted the invitation of a fellow monk to spend his old age on Hengshan, Wutaishan's southern counterpart 300 km west of Caoxi. Once more he shaved his head and donned his monk's robe. But after less than three years, he left Hengshan and traveled north to the Yangzi and then east to Nanjing. Halfway to the southern capital, however, he stopped at Lushan and was sufficiently impressed with that mountain's scenery and serenity that he returned there in 1617 to spend his final years. But, as his health declined, his disciples urged him to move back to Caoxi, and in 1622 he returned once more to Huineng's old temple in south China. He died the following year, and his body has been preserved there to this day along with that of Huineng, with whom he was linked by his disciples, who honored him as the Seventh Patriarch of Chan."*
*From Red Pine's introduction to the poems of Hanshan Deqing in the book The Clouds Should Know Me By Now.