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Title: Chan seng chan shi zi ran yi xiang yan jiu
Other Titles: Investigation of the natural imagery of chan poems
Authors: Kwok, Kam Hung (郭錦鴻)
Department: Dept. of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics
Degree: Master of Philosophy
Issue Date: 2006
Publisher: City University of Hong Kong
Subjects: Chinese poetry -- History and criticism
Zen poetry, Chinese -- History and criticism
Notes: CityU Call Number: PL2309.Z4 K94 2006
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 342-366)
Thesis (M.Phil.)--City University of Hong Kong, 2006
viii, 366 leaves ; 30 cm.
Type: Thesis
Abstract: Based on the Tripitaka Continuation and a number of selected Chan poems, this thesis explores the philosophical and aesthetic motivation behind the natural images employed in Chan poetry written by Chan monks. It is divided into five chapters. Chapter 1 consists of three parts. The first part analyzes the lotus imagery in Buddhist Scriptures, showing that it is employed in Chan poetry to symbolize the original purity of self-nature or Buddhist nature, the indistinguishability between essence and function, and the adamantine nature of sentient beings. The second part examines the image of the peach flower, with special reference to the case of the enlightenment of Lingyun Zhiqin, noting that the image signifies important Buddhist concepts such as sudden enlightenment, sudden awakening to the ultimate truth and the fall of humankind. The third part explores the symbolic meaning of Chinese plum flower, showing that it represents perseverance in one’s pursuit of the spiritual state of Chan, spiritual rebirth, and the return to the original state of the pure mind. Chapter 2 examines three different imageries of the moon, showing that the full moon represents the perfect Buddhist nature, the bright moon the intermingling of the Chan realm of non-being and flawed existence, and the reflection of the moon on water the elusive nature of being and non-being. The chapter concludes by pointing out that the imageries in question exemplifies the unity of the Chan realm and the form of life Chan teaching propounds. Chapter 3 investigates the various imageries of water, showing that clear and pure water is an icon for one’s purity and transcendental nature, flowing water for freedom and acceptance of fate, cloud for the Chan poet’s drifting on his way to the pursuit of enlightenment, rain for the perfect communion of self-nature and existence, for the infinitude of Buddha dharma, and for the harmony of the physical and the spiritual. Chapter 4 explores the various imageries of birds, showing that the imagery of the swan goose represents the Chan poet’s yearning for transcendence and liberation, the imagery of the small sparrow embodies the basic doctrine of Chan Buddhism, namely, “the ordinary mind is the Truth”, and the imagery of the yellow warbler signifies the perpetuation of the pure self-nature. Chapter 5 concludes by noting that investigating motivation behind the imageries in Chan poetry deepens our understanding of Chan Buddhism as they serve as the symbolisms for the tenets of Chan teaching. Accordingly, it is hoped that this study will lay the foundations for future research on the imagery of traditional Chinese poetry of which Chan poetry is an integral part.
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