Jīnshānsì (Jiāngtiānsì)

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Venerable and important old temple on Jinshan in Zhenjiang city, Jiangsu province. Site of the fascinating Monks Melee 打鬧金山 in the 1930's.

In Holmes Welch's book The Buddhist Revival In China, Harvard U Press, 1968, he gives a blow by blow account of this riot which he calls The Invasion of Jinshan.

"In august and September1911, "because of the spread of local autonomy there was a rapidly growing trend toward the occupation of monasteries and the seisure of their property. People from different places met in Shanghai and decided to dispatch Eight Fingers to Peking with a petition." This was the beginning of eight critical months, in the course of which Buddhists struggled with one another for central authority to defend their religion.

As he reflected on the difficulties of his impending mission to Peking, Eight Fingers thought of his knowledgeable and energetic disciple Tai Xu. He summoned him to the Tiantongsi (Ningbo) and had him draw up a petition for the protection and reform of Buddhism. However, because of the deepening political crisis over railroad nationalization, they did not go to the capital after all. On the eve of the revolution Tai Xu was in Shanghai staying at the Hardoon Gardens. During the last two months of 1911 he wandered from temple to temple in Zhejiang, watching the spread of Republicanism and considering what his role should be.

On January 1, 1912 Sun Yat-sen took office as provisional president. Within a few days Tai Xu arrived in Nanjing and started organizing the Association for the Advancement of Buddhism (Fojiao Xiejinhui). through the intercession of a friend in the Socialist Party, he secured the approval of the president's office to set up headquarters in the Bilusi, which was to be the seat of many successor organizations that came and went in the decades that followed.

At this point and old acquaintance, Jenshan, turned up. He and Tai Xu had been fellow students at Yang Wenhui's Jetavana Hermitage three years earlier. He had come to submit a startling proposal to the Ministry of Education: to transform the Jinshan monastery into a modern school for monks (seng xuetang).

Jinshan was the monastery that would not allow Zong Yang to succeed to the post of abbot because he had worn lay dress and taken part in political activities. No institution in China was stricter in enforcing the monastic rules. With three to four hundred monks in residence, and with ample income from its large landholdings, with an orthodox meditation hall where collective meditation was carried out seven to fifteen hours a day for nine months of the year (!!!), this was the acknowledged model for all the monasteries in China (which may be why Jenshan made it his target). Its vast buildings, newly constructed, stood on a hillock by the Yangze River just outside the city of Zhengjiang, between Shanghai and Nanjing. Properly known as the 江天寺 Jiangtiansi, River Heaven Monastery, it did not have this hillock entirely by itself.

There were other institutions joining it, over which it had no juristiction. One was the Guanyinge, a hereditary temple that was above and behind it and could only be reached through the monastery's main gate. Jenshan had entered the clergy at Guanyinge. He and its other disciples, according to their version of the story, had been insulted and oppressed by the monks of the Jiangtiansi. This seems to have been more than a personal feud. It had to do with a 'very big conflict'' between the monks enrolled at the Sangha Normal School and the senior officers of the large monasteries of Yangzhou and Zhenjiang, presumably over the students' progressive ideas on the reform of the sangha.

Tai Xu told Jenshan that he had just founded the Association for the Advancement of Buddhism and described its program for 'a new Buddhism in a new China'. One feature of this program was the establishment of modern schools for monks. Jenshan was delighted to find that their aims coincided. He proposed that the inaugural conference of the association be held at the Jiangtiansi, with whose senior officers he was apparently on good terms now--otherwise it would be hard to explain what happened next.

He and Tai Xu went there and told the officers about the plan for the conference, though not, presumably, about the plan to turn the monastery into a school. The officers offered their cooperation and agreed to play host. Moving into the Guanyinge, Jenshan and Tai Xu sent out invitations to monks in Nanjing, Shanghai and Yangzhou and to laymen as well as monks in Zhenjiang, where Jinshan is located. On the day the conference opened, two to three hundred monks and three to four hundred lay guests were present. It may be significant that among the latter a majority belonged to the Socialist Party of Zhenjiang. Members of this party were the people to whom Tai Xu felt closest at this time. Rather naturally he was nominated chairman, and read out the program and the by-laws that he had drawn up. As he wrote in his autobiography:

(quote) everything seemed to be going smoothly. But after Jenshan made a speech, the Yangzhou monk Qishan immediately mounted the rostrum and delivered a strongly critical reply. This angered Jenshan, who went back up to the rostrum and launched into an account of the tyrannies of Gingchuan, the abbot of Jinshan, Qishan, and others. He ended up proposing that the Jinshan monastery be used to start a modern school and that all its property should be allocated to pay for the school expenses. There was a lot of clapping from the lay guests in favor of the suggestion. Qishan shouted it a loud voice to the monks and the crowd became exited. Jenshan's proposal was passed, Jenshan and I were elected to take over the Jinshan monastery as the headquarters of the Association for the Advancement of Buddhism and to make the necessary preparatiosn top start a school for monks there.

That evening Jeshan led some twenty or more of his schoolmates into the monastery and set aside rooms for the headquarters of the Association, which went into operation the following morning. They entered the business office (Gufang) to have a look at the monastery's ledgers and went to the meditation hall to announce that school had been started.

I myself went off to Nanjing, leaving matters in Zhenjiang for Jenshan to manage. One night (between Feb 7 and 17, 1912) Shuangting (the guest perfect of the Jiangtiansi and later its abbot) and some other monkis led several dozen of the monastery workmen to the headquaarters of the Association and fought their way in. Jenshan and many of the rest were wounded with knives and clubs (and driven out). Later they started a lawsuit and, after a month or so, Jingquan, Shuangting, and five or six of those who had been with them were imprisoned for terms ranging from several months to several years. (unquote)

In Buddhist eyes it was bad enough when monasteries-even second rank monasteries-were taken over by unfriendly offficials. Now, however, the greatest center of Chinese monasticism had been invaded, not by crass outsiders, but by those who owed it protection and respect. It was simply too much to be borne, and Tai Xu found himself in disgrace. Later his disciples tried to put the blame on Jenshan who, they said, was really in charge of the fiasco. They pointed out that Tai Xu left for Nanjing as soon as he saw the crudeness of the methods being employed. But he may also have left because he had anticipated the crudeness of the response-the sticks and knives.

The fracas scarcely exemplifies the loftiest in Buddhist ethical ideals, but it may be understood, though perhaps not excused, as an act of righteous indignation. The senior monks of the Jiangtiansi must have felt tricked and betrayed. They had obviously not been told the the real purpose of the meeting to which they were asked to play host. They were under the impression that the Buddhist association being inaugurated would work to prevent the seisure of monasteries, little dreaming that its first act would be to seize their own. Nor had they been told that Tai Xu would pack the meeting with his friends from the Socialist Party, thus ensuring a majority for whatever measures he proposed.

Probably they could not even conceive of the possibility that invited guests would dare to vote away the property of the host monastery-property that belonged to the whole Buddhist sangha. Their indignation must have been fierce and it lives on in their disciples, who even today do not give the invaders credit for good intentions.

Ta Xu, though he came to admit that their methods had been hasty and crude, always insisted that heir intention had been a worthy one: to provide schooling for monks. The dharma disciples of Jinshan dismiss this as a pretext: they real reason for the invasion, they say, was that Jenshan wanted to strike the winning blow in his old fued with the monastery and to get hold of its buildings and land. If he had simply wanted to start a a school, why could he not have done so with some other monastery that had a lot of empty rooms and no program of meditation to be disturbed.

Whatever the motives of the perpetrators, the '打鬧金山 invasion of Jinshan' epitomizes the shock with which the Republican era burst upon the Buddhist establishment. It dramatically foreshadowed the long conflict ahead between conservatives and radicals in the sangha. It caused as much of a scandal as if, say, the editors of the Commonweal occupied the office of the Roman Curia and announced that they were turning it into a school for worker-priests."

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