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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Death of Master Ben Huan (本焕): The End of an Era

[This essay was originally posted to "The Third Tale," a blog on Weebly. In transferring it I have updated and made corrections where necessary.]

The Chinese blogosphere and Buddhist community is mourning the passing of Master Ben Huan. He was born in 1907, so died at age 106 in the Chinese way of reckoning. An account of his life and death can be found on Wikipedia.

I had never met the Master, though I had been in the same room with him a few times. He was most recently abbot at Hongfa Temple in my city of Shenzhen (though he retired a few years ago).

Master Benhuan meditating at Putuoshan in younger days

I believe I'm correct in saying that this Master was the last of the old-time monks, born, shaved, and trained before the formation of the New China in 1949.

The Master (whose name meant something like "illustrious roots") was considered a disciple of the great Xuyun (also spelled "Hsuyun," meaning "Empty Cloud"), about whom more in another post. But we can say here: "illustrious roots" indeed.

This poster, seen at Hongfa Temple when Master Benhuan was retiring in 2009, advertises the investiture of the temple's new abbot, Yin Shun (印顺), shown on the right of Master Ben Huan. To the left is the rather ghostly-appearing Master Xuyun.

BTW the photos of a younger Benhuan above are copies of some hanging on a wall in the tea room at "my" temple, Hongyuan Si. A subsidiary of Hongfa (and therefore also developed under Master Benhuan), it sits just 20 minutes from where I live.

Categories: Buddhism, China

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