Elder Zen Master Han-Shan Te-Ch'ing (1546-1623) was one of the three "dragon-elephants," or most illustrious monks, during the final years of the Ming dynasty -- "an age of corruption, internal oppression and external weakness" (Sung-peng Hsu).
Originally trained in the Scriptural Studies school as well as in Zen, he came to excel in other traditions as well, achieving great renown as a teacher and exponent of the Avatamsaka Sutra. He is particularly credited with reviving the Zen school in China.
Born to a humble family, he came to mingle with the greatest political figures of China through his acquaintance with the Empress Dowager. This master/disciple relationship led to his imprisonment, banishment and laicization. Only toward the end of his life was he rehabilitated.
In the following excerpts from his sermons and writings, Master
Han-Shan recommended the dual practice of Pure Land and Zen, emphasizing
self-cultivation and personal effort. Readers unfamiliar with the Pure
Land school are referred to Appendix I for an overview of Pure Land
Minh Thanh & P.D. Leigh, editors