Since 1840, being faced with the so-called “greatest change of Chinese
history and civilization in the millenniums”, Chinese intellectuals
strived hard for the reconstruction of social order and cultural value.
Against this background, the traditional religion cultures like
Confucianism and Buddhism had been revived, and foreign trends of ideas
imported into China, Christianity as one of them. A particularly
interesting phenomenon was that some intellectuals with a Buddhist
background were later converted to Christianity, while some with
Christian background later become Buddhist. Yin Shun (1906-2005, his
name was Zhang Lu-qin before becoming a monk) is also a very
representative figure. When he was a child, Yin Shun began to read lots
of books; he got enlightened education in a primary school in Haining,
of Zhengjiang province. After finishing school at 13, Yin Shun started
to study Chinese medicine. He preferred essential medical principle to
medical technology. At 16, he became a teacher in the local primary
school. In the process of teaching, he had more time to study a variety
of ideas and kept thinking about the significance of life. At last, he
became a monk in Putuo Mountain when he was 25.
Understanding the Theories of Laozi and Zhuangzi
Chinese traditional medicine has something with Taoism and its academic
school, at the beginning, Yin Shun chose some classic books as readings
such as Laozi, Zhuangzi, attempting to find a seat for his own
studying. However, he found Laozi and Zhuang’s theories can’t solve
one’s psychological confusions before long. In his opinion,
philosophic theory in Laozi and Zhuangzi is profound argument, but it
fails to compass its own limits. Their thought did not fit to the human
nature because they put the nature to the No.1 between nature and human.
Their ideal was to go back the nature state in which every thing would
be sample, including human’s life. The well-known social psychology
seems to be reasonable, while it lacks the spirit of active
forward-going. Living alone far away from society always brings
negative life view. Although the theories of Taoism, to some degree,
contributed me to enter Buddhist world and the philosophy of Taoism
Academics and the ways of their cultivating oneself got my partial
sympathy, I had determined not to be a Taoist and to wake up from the
His basic understanding of the philosophy of
Taoism is not only expressed by his mature thinking, but also provides
theoretical support for his awareness. The style of Taoist academics is
more suitable for the elders or the hopeless life. At that time, the
social requirement is to save nation and the poor people.
Confucianism Academics Upbringing
After a while, he picked
up the Confucianism Academics Scriptures that he had read in his
childhood in private school. Although there was the slogan “put down
the Confucian shop” in the society, Confucianism Academics had a series
of fine Kong fuand ambitions, which are full of passion for real life.
The Four Books is fundamental classic of Confucian. San Gang and Ba Mu
in the Great Learning was usually regarded as the Confucian core. Its
simple and practical feature, without doubt, could guide people’s life
according to Yin-Shun’s views at that time. Its social concerning is
totally different from the negative and self-closing Taoism.
However, the philosophy of the Confucian Academics is still unable to
reach his requirement. In his mind,
people-esteem and reason are exactly the mainstream of Chinese nation
culture. I can pay sympathy to it and speak highly of it. Anyway, it
could not release my sense of emptiness and confusion.
eyes, Confucian thinking is not only over worldly, but also imperfect
itself especially, it is short of something similar to the Taoism’s
When his thinking style was set later, Yin Shun once combed
this slim realization systemically. He argued that as the founder of
Confucianism Academics school, Confucius over emphasized the real
political and education, which is considered as non-religious elements.
Hence Confucius attached to sacrificing ceremony, but never referred to
the existence of God. Yinshun said,
To respect ghost and god but
keep distance is exactly the spirit of Confucianism academics since
Confucius found it. “Sage arranges culture and education through
setting some church and other temples” fully indicated the ancient
Chinese did not know what exactly the religion is, but they were quite
sure about making use of it as control tool over people.
addition, Confucian scholars from Song dynasty to Qing Dynasty followed
this tradition and gradually developed into refusing religion.
Yin Shun did not think Confucian academic culture lacking
life-compassing was a blessing of our Chinese nation. In the book China
religion Ups and Downs and Confucianism Academic School, he wrote:
Times has changed greatly, western civilization is following the step
of their strong and sharp weapons. Confucianism academic culture failed
to adapt to this situation, so it fell behind rapidly.……This is obvious
and strong proof that upper-class culture without religion and belief
Such thinking, no doubt, couldn’t establish itself.
In other words, Yin Shun could’t accept Confucianism wholesale.
Learning Christianity for 2 Years
Summer vacation in
1926, a teacher at a church primary school in Yin Shun’s hometown was
sick. The founder of the school got to know that Yin Shun would back to
hometown. So the founder invited him to teach in his church school.Yin
Shun agreed. The church service caught Yin Shun’s attention in his
teaching process. Under a friend’s recommendation, he got to know
Christianity and became more interested in it.
At this time, Yin
Shun found that the theories of Taoism academic school and Confucianism
academic school were both short of religious emotion. One is over weak,
another is over secular, and While Christianity is different from them.
It is sociable and you can feel the devout and pure religious
confidence. Yin Shun who has been focusing on life-compassing, now
seemed to find what he needed from the Christianity with confidence,
hope and love. Thereby, he devoted himself into Christianity with great
enthusiasm, such as praying, reading the Bible, and some magazines such
as True light, spiritual Light and Christian etc. He even once joined
the Spiritual Revival Conference.(SRC)
As the more knowledge of
Christianity he got and the higher degree of the research he did, at the
end of 1927, he finally got to know that Chinese anti-Christianity
movement had nothing with doctrine itself, but with the suspicion of
“culture invading” because of the international background of
Christianity. Surely, the basic factor causing Yin Shun’s conversion in
belief lied on his understanding Christianity doctrine itself. He
acknowledged that he could not accept some Christian doctrines. He said,
For example, believing will obtain eternal life or not believing
will is eternal death. Obeying me, survive; rebelling me, die. The
standard is only belief, without human’s behavior. This concept is
strong exclusiveness according to his opinion . All will be damaged
except for God and God’s believers. Under God’s love, we feel more
cruel hate like the feel of opposite class. Another reason is the soul
coming from God. If soul coming from the God meets fresh together, one
person is coming. According to the doctrine (only rebirth can be saved)
, most people will go to hell.
In 1960s, he clearly pointed out
his view that Basic Standing of Christianity is master-slave
relationship and its main method is to make people unknown and scatter.
According to his own scripture reading experience, God Jehovah
possesses Life and Death power of all things including human since God
created human beings and things. Once the created people stove and ate
the Witness Apple, he could judge what is true or what is wrong. Then
God would force the person to leave the Garden of Eden. Why does the
God do that? Yin Shun wrote:
In short, know nothing is a kind of
cheating-citizen policy. The purpose is to blind people, control their
mind and finally form a strong faith. Dispersion without organization
which would lead to argument, conflicts, revenge and fighting and so on,
belong to dispersion policy. These means can weaken unity power of
people and make God become unique gradually.
scriptures and all related magazine brought him into deep consideration
about his faith. All Christianity believes it as truth without any
suspect. While, Yi Shun who once worshiped Laozi, Zhuangzi, Confucious
and Mengzi, didn’t believe “God Love Us”. Therefore, he made a claim
firmly: “I am a Chinese. I have no idea to make myself to be a slave by
God’s will. I have never minded to be a master, as well not to be a
4．Enjoying the Buddhism
After a few
years reading, Buddhist sutra gradually let him realize,
judges some body being a layman or sage through one’s deed, not only
one’s belief wishes. Buddha not simply emphasizes oneself enlightenment
but much likes to profit everyone. Buddha pays more attention to
thorough awareness. Thorough awareness means thorough freedom. Buddha
is the sum of conviction, witness and charity. The cultivation of heart
and soul not only takes advantages of Confucian and Taoism but also
develops more. Christianity believes the confession and correction of
guilt, so Buddha does. Buddha possesses all religions merits including
basal principle and flexible methods. It is tolerant so that it can
adapt to various situation.
Yin Shun’s sure that the view about
three-life is most reasonable which guide people to be kind and thus can
elevate somebody to be a sage. Even though he can not enlighten
himself or even degrade, at the end, he will make progress and free
himself in the end. It is not just the absolute destination but also
the procession can encourage, comfort and guide us to go through the
journey with hope.
Under this circumstance, Yin Shun devoted
himself to Buddha in 1930. He became a monk in Putuo Moutain, Zhejiang
province in 25 years old. Since then, he began his 75—years Buddhist
life. During this period, he asked for learning, read great number of
scriptures taught and explained Buddhism sutra and wrote books from
Zhengjiang to Chongqing, then go to Taiwan taking path of Hong Kong.
The long journey tempered his will and also his Buddhism theoretic
system become much clearer and gained great success.
Significance of Yin Shun’s view on religions
time, the religious reality function was the Chinese intellectuals’
starting point in their theory.After 1840, the Chinese people faced the
realistic crisis together. This crisis enabled almost China's
intellectuals generally to pay attention to the path of saving both the
nation and rescuing people's suffering at that time. Each thought's real
value, including all kinds of religion, first should satisfy whether it
can relieve the reality Chinese people's misery. The religion demand of
Yin Shun embodied on the similar concern yet.
Extrication Question. Corresponding, Yin Shun hold the denial standpoint
on the external redeem. Whether somebody will become Buddhahood in the
sociality, they emphasized on the intrinsic consciousness of human.
Actually, it is an important view that human will become sage basing
one’s thinking and hard-working in the real life. The sage of Confucian
or the immortal of Taoism, is achieved through the manner above in the
realistic life. Buddhism had been an important part of the Chinese
beliefs world since it was spread to China. I think that one of reasons
lies in the similar between Buddhism and Confucian. As we know, both the
Bodhisattva spirit in the Mahayana Buddhism and the Confucian concern
on the social, for example, managing state affairs, making peace in our
world maybe reach the same goal or conclusion from different approaches.
However, the Chinese intelligentsia who had read the Four Books had the
ingrained thought in which Confucius said respecting the ghosts and
gods but keeping distance. Moreover, becoming a Saint with practicing
moral culture also nearly is a subconscious-like life pursue in their
Although the Yin Shun’s views on Christianity, Confucianism
and Buddhism maybe be subjected various appraisals, his thinking manner
about the question has obviously a Chinese character. In my opinion, his
thinking manner is both individual and universal significance