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Master Yinshun

    Monk, Buddhist Scholar

    Generally referred to in this entry

    Master Yinshun (March 12, 1906 – June 4, 2005), also known as Teacher Yinshun, Elder Yinshun, Dharma Master Yinshun, secular name Zhang Luqin, from Haining, Hangzhou Prefecture, Zhejiang (now part of Jiaxing), a prominent modern Chinese Buddhist thinker known for his emphasis on both understanding and practice as a great monastic practitioner.

    He received a formal doctoral degree from Taisho University in Japan for his book "History of Chinese Chan Buddhism", becoming the first monk in Taiwan's Bhikkhu community to hold a doctorate. He dedicated his life to promoting Humanistic Buddhism, for Buddhism, for all sentient beings. He was also the mentor of Master Cheng Yen of Tzu Chi. In memory of Master Yinshun, the Hsinchu City Government renamed Nansong Bridge in Quxi Li as "Yinshun Bridge".

    Chinese Name: Master Yinshun

    Aliases: Elder Yinshun, Dharma Master Yinshun, Zhang Luqin

    Nationality: China

    Ethnicity: Han

    Date of Birth: March 12, 1906

Personal Relationships

Master Zhengyan


    Master Zhengyan, secular name Wang Jinyun, Dharma name "Zhengyan", character "Hui Zhang", from Qingshui Town, Taichung County, Taiwan, founder of Tzu Chi Foundation, disciple of Elder Yinshun, upholding the teacher's directive "for Buddhism, for all beings", established the Merit Society in Hualien.

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Works of Master Yinshun

    5 Entries, 4458 Reads

    "An Ordinary Life"

    "Lectures on the Mahayana Samgraha"

    "Research on the Tathagatagarbha"


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Brief Biography

Secular name Zhang Luqin, from Haining, Zhejiang. He received a formal doctoral degree from Taisho University in Japan for his book "History of Chinese Chan Buddhism", becoming the first monk in Taiwan's Bhikkhu community to hold a doctorate. Teacher Yinshun dedicated his life to promoting Humanistic Buddhism, "for Buddhism, for all beings", and was also the mentor of Master Cheng Yen of Tzu Chi.

Master Yinshun was ordained in 1930, following Master Taixu into the modern Buddhist revival movement in China. In the late 1940s, he went to Taiwan and founded several renowned Buddhist colleges. Because he advocated Mahayana Non-Buddhist Teachings, his academic thoughts were opposed by many in the Buddhist community in China, leading to a Buddhist Doctrine Seminar and Yinshun Buddhist Thought Seminar held on October 29-30, 2016, in Wuxi. The theme of the meeting was "Buddhist Thought of Master Yinshun: Reflection and Exploration".

Early Life

Master Yinshun, secular name Zhang, Luqin, from Haining County, Zhejiang Province, was born one day before Qingming Festival in the 32nd year of Guangxu's reign of the Qing Dynasty (Western year 1906, year of Bingwu). At the age of 6, he entered private school; at 7 (the first year of the Republic), he followed his father to Xincang Town and entered a primary school. In the winter of his 10th year, he completed primary education and self-studied at home for half a year. In the autumn of his 11th year, he attended the advanced primary school in Xieshi Town, where he received high praise from his teacher, Zhang Zhongwu. At the age of 13, he completed his education at the advanced primary school. That autumn, he studied at a nearby traditional Chinese medicine doctor's home until the age of 16.

In 1921 (at the age of 16) - 1930 (25 years old), he taught at a private primary school affiliated with a local church. During this period, at the age of 20, he read Feng Mengzhen's "Preface to Zhuangzi", which sparked his interest in exploring Buddhism. He then discovered Buddhist texts in the catalog of the Commercial Press, acquiring books such as "Madhyamaka". Reading "Madhyamaka" deepened his appreciation for the profundity of the Dharma and his longing for it. After four to




five years of reading and contemplation, he became acutely aware of the gap between the Dharma he understood and the contemporary Buddhist community, leading to a solemn vow: "For the faith in Dharma and the pursuit of truth, I am willing to leave home and study abroad. Once well-learned, I shall propagate the pure Dharma."

In 1930 (at the age of 25), on October 11th of the lunar calendar, he took monastic vows at Fuquan An under the guidance of Master Shangqing Xiaonian, receiving the monastic name Yinshun, and the honorific Shengzheng. Prior to ordination, he had been guided by the monk Yushan from Prajna Hermitage, and following the customs of Mount Putuo, he acknowledged Yushan as his Dharma father. At the end of October, Yinshun went to Tiantong Monastery to receive full monastic precepts, with Master Shangyuan Xiaoying presiding. After receiving precepts, he went to Minnan Buddhist College at South Putuo Monastery in Xiamen in February 1931 (at the age of 26) and enrolled in the second semester of the first class. In early August, he was tasked with teaching at Yongquan Buddhist College on Drum Mountain, where he met contemporary greats Master Xuyun and Cizhou.

In the spring term of 1932 (at the age of 27), he was assigned by Master Dawakening to teach "The Twelve Gate Treatise" to his classmates. In early autumn, he went to Huize Temple on Buddha Top Mountain to study scriptures. After a year and a half, he went to Wuchang Buddhist College (World Buddhist Library) in January 1934 (at the age of 29) to study the commentaries of the Sanlun School. He spent half a year in Wuchang and read all the commentaries of the Sanlun School, then returned to Buddha Top Mountain for further studies. He spent three years studying scriptures there.

In 1936 (at the age of 31), he was invited to Wuchang Buddhist College to guide the study of "Sanlun" on Master Taixu's command. On July 7, 1937 (at the age of 32), the anti-Japanese artillery fire of Lugou Bridge began; on August 13, the Battle of Shanghai started; by December 4, Nanjing fell; in July 1938 (at the age of 33), the situation in Wuhan became tense, and Yinshun, along with his classmate Master Zhi'an, traveled through Yichang to Chongqing, spending the eight years of the war there. In the first year and a half in Sichuan (August 1938 to the end of 1939), Yinshun studied jointly with Master Fazun at the Sino-Tibetan Doctrine Institute on Jinyun Mountain, Beibei. During this time, he edited Fazun's new translation of "Extensive Commentary on the Stages of the Tantric Path," asking questions whenever he encountered incomprehensible texts, thus gaining an understanding of the Gelugpa views and special characteristics of Vajrayana. Fazun also translated Nagarjuna's "Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness" at Yinshun's request. Through discussions on the doctrine of emptiness with Fazun, Yinshun gained a deeper understanding and consequently no longer focused on the Sanlun School of Chinese Buddhism. Reflecting on his learning experience with Fazun, Yinshun said, "Since my ordination, the most influential figures in my Buddhist study have been Master Taixu and Master Fazun. Master Fazun was a special cause and condition in my studies."

In 1940 (at the age of 35), he went to Guizhou Dajue Hermitage and wrote "Exploring the Consciousness-Only School," his first published work. In 1941 (at the age of 36), he taught the "Mahayana-samgraha" to Masters Yanpei, Miaochen, and Wenhui. The audience was very pleased, so they compiled the notes into "Lectures on the Mahayana-samgraha." In the autumn of the same year, Master Yanpei and several other monks invited Yinshun to teach at Fawang Monastery in Hejiang, where he taught until the summer of 1942 (at the age of 39), completing three years of teaching.

During the eight years in Sichuan, he was often ill but never interrupted his studies, continuously lecturing and writing. In 1942 (at the age of 37), he sent the first chapter of "Buddhism in India" to Master Taixu and asked him to write a pre




face. Master Taixu promptly wrote a commentary titled "Discussion on <Buddhism in India>", affirming Yinshun's view that "Buddhism was an original insight of Shakyamuni, further developed amidst Indian civilization." While Taixu also offered his interpretation, he acknowledged that “despite different explanations, they are broadly similar.” Taixu criticized Yinshun's periodization of Indian Buddhist history, suggesting adjustments and presenting what he considered a more balanced view. Taixu later expanded on his viewpoints in a letter to Yinshun. When Yinshun published the full book, he included "Respectful Response to <Discussion on Buddhism in India>" to address the criticisms.

The main content included three points: 1. Argument on factual reasoning, advocating the rationality of his three-period division. 2. The debate on the sequence of emptiness and permanence, arguing that the true constant mind-only theory emerged after the nominal theory of emptiness. 3. The debate on the selection between emptiness and permanence, advocating that Nagarjuna's doctrine of emptiness is the perfect embodiment of the Bodhisattva spirit.

Taixu's stance grew stronger after reading the full book and Yinshun's responses. In "Further Discussion on <Buddhism in India>", he withdrew his initial affirmation of Yinshun's view on Buddhism's origin and highlighted their differing interpretations, extending his criticism further. Furthermore, in August 1943, he gave a public lecture for the students and teachers of the Sino-Tibetan Doctrine Institute.

This debate ended with Yinshun's silence. However, Yinshun continued to maintain and further develop his stance in his works after Taixu's death. His advocacy of "Humanistic Buddhism" eventually replaced Taixu's "Life Buddhism" as the mainstream thought in contemporary Chinese Buddhism. Hence, the 1940s debate between Taixu and Yinshun was a precursor to the struggle between "Life Buddhism" and "Humanistic Buddhism," warranting attention.

In January 1947 (at the age of 42), Yinshun received news of Master Taixu's passing at the Wulin Buddhist College in Hangzhou. He broke several branches of plum blossoms from Lingfeng and went to Shanghai with others to offer them as a final tribute. After the funeral, he was elected chief editor for the "Complete Works of Master Taixu," completed by April of the following year.

In the winter of 1948, Master Xingyuan held an ordination ceremony at South Putuo Monastery in Xiamen, and Yinshun happily participated. During the ordination, he gave several teachings to the ordinands. He participated in the ordination platform with his teacher Nian Gong as a respected witness. After the New Year, in January 1949 (at the age of 44), he settled in Xiamen. During his time there, he organized the "Dajue Lecture Society" and gave talks on "An Overview of Buddhism." In June, Master Fafang urged him to move to Hong Kong as soon as possible, arranging accommodation and living conditions. Yinshun then went to Hong Kong with his fellow students to seek refuge. During his three years in Hong Kong, he published "An Overview of Buddhism," "Chronicle of Master Taixu," and 15 other books.

In May 1952 (at the age of 47), the Chinese Buddhist Association decided to invite Yinshun to represent the Taiwan region of China at the second World Buddhist Friendship Conference held in Japan. He traveled from Hong Kong to Taiwan. That same year, he took over as president of the "Sea Tide Sound" magazine, holding the position for thirteen years from 1953 to 1965.

In September 1953, he founded the Fuyan Hermitage at Guanyinping in Hsinchu, establishing an independent study group. The residents and students included Masters Yinhai, Miaofeng, Longgen, Zhenhua, Huansheng, Zhengzong, Xiuyan, and Tongmiao. In the autumn of 1957, the "Hsinchu Female Buddhist College" was established at Yitong Temple, with Yinshun and Master Yanpei serving as the principal and vice-principal. The teachers were from the hermitage, and Yitong Temple took care of accommodation and living expenses.

At the end of 1954 (at the age of 49), he was invited to the Philippines to spread the Dharma. In the middle of January, he gave teachings at Xinyuan Temple (7 days) and the lay Buddhist community (3 days). After completing his teachings, he was invited by Shi Xingtong and Liu Meisheng to preach in the southern islands, speaking in the evenings at the Overseas Chinese High School playground in Cebu (3 nights). During his preaching in




Cebu, he facilitated the establishment of the Pu Xian School by Hui Hua and Mei Sheng.

In the summer of 1958 (at the age of 53), Yinshun lectured and celebrated Master Xingyuan's birthday, then returned to Manila to spread the Dharma. During this time, he was elected as the joint abbot (head monk) of both Xinyuan Temple and Huazang Temple. As abbot, he played a key role in the establishment of Neng Ren School.

In 1959, Zhou Xuande and Qiu Hanping initiated the establishment of a scholarship fund for university students to guide them towards Buddhism. At that time, Yinshun was serving as the director of "International Cultural and Educational Affairs" for the Chinese Buddhist Association. While he was in the Philippines, Zhou Xuande sought his approval to set up the "International Cultural and Educational Scholarship Foundation."

In the autumn of 1960 (at the age of 55), "The Path to Buddhahood" was published. At the end of the year, Yinshun established the Huiri Lecture Hall in Taipei. During the three years at the Huiri Lecture Hall, he expounded on several scriptures and treatises, such as the "Treasury of Mahayana Sutras" (Bodhisattva Puming's Assembly), "The Treatise on Rebirth in the Pure Land," "The Treatise on the Dharma-Dhatu of Expedient Means," and others.

In the early summer of 1964 (at the age of 59), he moved to Miaoyun Hermitage in Chiayi, resuming a life of introspective practice, focusing on self-cultivation and writing. He had the opportunity to read the Japanese translation of the "Pali Canon," which he had requested from Japan in 1955. During this time, he wrote "On Devadatta's Disruption of the Sangha," "Study on the Five Hundred Aggregates at Rajagriha," "Where Was Ananda Overwhelmed," "The Buddha's Final Teaching," "On the Seven Hundred Aggregates of the Vibhajyavada," and others.

In the spring of 1965, Dr. Zhang Chengji brought an invitation from Zhang Xiaofeng, the founder of the Chinese Culture University, inviting Yinshun, who was in retreat, to become a professor in the Department of Philosophy. Yinshun accepted the invitation and ended his one-year retreat on May 15, going to Taipei to take up the teaching position, becoming the first ordained Buddhist monk to teach at a university in history.

In June 1968 (at the age of 63), "A Study of Sarvastivada Literature and Masters" was published. In the winter, Master Yanpei established the Prajna Lecture Hall in Singapore, and Yinshun was invited to preside over the opening and consecration ceremony. In January 1969, the Singapore Buddhist Federation invited him to give a two-day lecture at the Victoria Memorial Hall on the topic "Buddhism as the Compassion for World Salvation." Subsequently, Master Bendao invited him to Malaysia to spread the Dharma, lecturing on the "Heart Sutra" at Master Zhuma's Sanhui Lecture Hall.

In the winter of 1969 (at the age of 64), he began compiling the "Miaoyun Collection," completing it in the autumn of 1972 after four years. The collection compiled his past writings and lectures, apart from major works like "Buddhism in India," into a series. The collection was divided into three sections: the first section contained lectures on sutras and treatises in seven volumes; the second section included works over 100,000 characters, such as "Modern Commentary on Madhyamaka" and "The Path to Buddhahood," in six volumes; the third section was a compilation of various writings in eleven volumes, making a total of 24 volumes.

In 1969 (at the age of 64), a discussion arose in the Central Daily News about whether the "Platform Sutra" was spoken by the Sixth Patriarch, sparking a heated debate. Yinshun did not participate in the discussion initially but felt it was a significant issue. He believed that "the resolution of the issue should not isolate the problem but should understand and verify it in the context of historical development, in relation to related works of Shenxiu and the Dunhuang manuscript of the Platform Sutra." Consequently, he referred to early Chan history and wrote the 280,000-word "History of Chinese Chan Buddhism - From Indian Chan to Chinese Chan," including a collation of the "Critically Edited Dunhuang Manuscript of the Platform Sutra." In March 1971, "The Collection of Early Buddhist Scriptures" was published. In June, "History of Chinese Chan Buddhism" was published, and




due to the promotion by Master Shengyan, it was highly regarded by Japanese Buddhist scholars, particularly Uchida Mashiro. After translating it into Japanese, Uchida proactively recommended the book to Taisho University for a doctoral degree. In 1973 (at the age of 68), Yinshun was awarded a doctoral degree by Taisho University in Japan.

In 1976 (at the age of 71), after visiting Master Miaochen, who was suffering from liver disease, in Manila, Philippines, at the Mahayana Xinyuan Temple, Yinshun wrote "The People I Cannot Forget" in memory of him, following Miaochen's passing.

In 1977 (at the age of 72), Master Bendao held a ceremony to transmit the Three Platforms Full Ordination at the Sambao Temple in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, and invited Yinshun to serve as the preceptor. The ordination began on August 16 and was completed on September 4. After the ordination, Yinshun went to the Prajna Lecture Hall in Singapore to spread the Dharma. During his time in Singapore, he facilitated the compilation of "The Complete Works of Di Guan" by Master Yanpei and wrote the preface for it.

In May 1981 (at the age of 76), "The Origins and Development of Early Mahayana Buddhism" was published, suggesting that "Mahayana Buddhism" emerged from the "eternal remembrance of the Buddha," implicitly indicating the controversial idea that "Mahayana is not the word of the Buddha." In December, "Research on the Tathagatagarbha" was published.

In September 1983 (at the age of 78), he compiled and published "Miscellaneous Agama Sutras" and the "Yogacarabhumi Sastra" (section on phenomena). He also wrote "Compilation of the Miscellaneous Agama Sutras," included at the beginning of the volume.

In March 1985 (at the age of 80), "Sixty Years in the Dharma Ocean" was published. In July, "Exploration of Emptiness" was published.

In April 1988 (at the age of 83), "History of Indian Buddhist Thought" was published.

In March 1989 (at the age of 84), he began writing "Humanistic Buddhism: The Unity of Principle and Practice."

On January 6, 1990 (at the age of 85), he fell ill; on January 9, a CT scan revealed a cerebral hemorrhage, and he was urgently admitted to National Taiwan University Hospital for surgery on January 10. The operation went smoothly, and after about a month of recovery, he was discharged on February 10, moving to Yongguang Temple in Dajia.

In response to scholars abroad questioning the authorship of the "Mahaprajnaparamita Sastra" as Nagarjuna or suggesting that Kumarajiva added his views in the translation, Yinshun wrote "The Author and Translation of the Mahaprajnaparamita Sastra" in 1991 (at the age of 86). Master Zhaohui presented it at the "Eastern Religions Seminar."

In 1991 (at the age of 86), Fuyan Hermitage, rebuilt by Abbot Master Zhenhua, was completed and consecrated in October. A Bodhisattva Precepts Ceremony for lay practitioners was held at the hermitage, with Yinshun, Yanpei, and Zhenhua serving as the three masters. Several of Yinshun's disciples who had spread the Dharma overseas, including Yanpei, Renjun, Miaofeng, Yinhai, and Weici, attended the grand event.

In April 1993 (at the age of 88), he compiled his works prior to the major illness in 1971, writings published after the "Miaoyun Collection," and several unpublished pieces into a five-volume "Huayu Collection."

In July 1994 (at the age of 89), his autobiography "An Ordinary Life: Revised Edition" was published. From September 6 to 29, accompanied by his disciple Houguan and others, he visited Xiamen, Ningbo, Putuo, and other places.

On October 18, 2003, Fuyan Hermitage celebrated its 50th anniversary, and Yinshun was invited to the celebration.

On April 30, 2004 (on the twelfth day of the third lunar month), Fuyan Hermitage celebrated Yinshun's 100th birthday. On May 10, he moved to Hualien and underwent a physical examination at Tzu Chi Hospital, where pericardial effusion was discovered. He underwent heart surgery and then convalesced at Jing Si Hermitage.

On April 10, 2005, Yinshun




was hospitalized at Tzu Chi Hospital due to a fever and eventually passed away on June 4, 2005, due to heart failure, at the age of 99.

Throughout his life, Master Yinshun never ceased to teach and write. He authored, compiled, and edited over forty works, amounting to more than eight million words. His works were later collected into the "Miaoyun Collection" (24 volumes), "Huayu Collection" (5 volumes), and specialized books such as "History of Indian Buddhist Thought," "The Collection of Early Buddhist Scriptures," "A Study of Sarvastivada Literature and Masters," "The Origins and Development of Early Mahayana Buddhism," and others. His academic achievements were recognized by the Buddhist and academic communities both domestically and internationally.

Master Yinshun promoted and elucidated the concept of "Humanistic Buddhism" throughout his life, profoundly and broadly influencing contemporary Han Chinese Buddhism, especially in Taiwan. Master Cheng Yen, the founder of the globally renowned charity organization Tzu Chi, was one of his disciples.



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Master Yinshun's teachings and contributions have had a lasting impact on the practice and understanding of Buddhism. His emphasis on Humanistic Buddhism, which focuses on applying Buddhist principles to solve real-world problems and improve human life, has resonated with many practitioners and scholars. This approach bridges the gap between traditional monastic life and lay practice, making Buddhism more accessible and relevant to contemporary society.

His scholarly work, particularly in the field of Buddhist history and philosophy, has been influential. For instance, his "History of Chinese Chan Buddhism" provided a comprehensive analysis of the development of Chan (Zen) Buddhism from its origins in India to its evolution in China. His writings often challenged prevailing views and invited critical reflection, contributing to a deeper and more nuanced understanding of Buddhist teachings.

Furthermore, Master Yinshun's role as a teacher was significant. His guidance and mentorship of prominent figures such as Master Cheng Yen of Tzu Chi highlight his influence in shaping the next generation of Buddhist leaders. His teachings emphasized compassion, wisdom, and practical application of Buddhist principles in daily life.

Master Yinshun's life of dedication to the Dharma, rigorous scholarship, and compassionate teaching continues to inspire Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. His works remain a valuable resource for those seeking to understand Buddhism in a modern context, and his legacy lives on in the institutions and individuals he influenced.

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