One of ancient China’s most beloved folk heroes is the colorful monk, Ji Gong. These fables of his escapades are guaranteed to entertain and amuse all.
Li Xiuyuan was born in the year 1130 in Tiantai, Zhejiang Province (Song Dynasty). He was 18 when he went to Lingyin Temple. It’s an immense structure on the hills above Hangzhou, near Shanghai. Li Xiuyuan was a true monk. His monastic name was Daoji and he used to work very hard at his chores.
Daoji’s job was to scrub the pots in the kitchen every morning. It’s well-known that Buddhist monks are all strictly vegetarian. They are absolutely prohibited from eating meat, but one day, Daoji shocked the other monks when he brought meat into the kitchen, and then went on to eat it. The abbots were not pleased in the least and decided to expel him from the Lingyin monastery.
A wayward monk
Daoji then took on the name Ji Gong. But the wayward monk was a little wild. His hair was unkempt and he always carried a gourd full of wine with him. His hat was dusty, his clothes were full of holes and the shoes were falling apart. He also carried a “magic” fan.
Despite looking like a tramp, Ji Gong had a heart of gold. He was kind of unique, and he traveled to wherever he felt he was needed. Having mastered the martial arts, Ji Gong had a keen sense of justice and loved using his skills to fight evil and right wrongs.
Ji Gong was humble and he always roamed around among ordinary folks. In those days, the boundaries between the human and divine world were blurred, and as someone who cultivated in the Buddha school for a number of years, Ji Gong possessed a few supernatural powers.
Summoning logs from a well
One story tells of Ji Gong using paranormal powers to pull logs out of a well. A temple was to be built in Hangzhou and desperately needed wood. But the best wood was found only in Sichuan Province, some 900 miles away. The monks were desperate. But nothing could faze Ji Gong. He used his magic powers to teleport the logs over one after another.
The other monks piled them up until the monk charged with counting suddenly yelled, “Enough!” Ji Gong had already beckoned another log, but hearing the monk, he stopped it mid-way. That last log remained half-submerged in the well, and later generations built a pavilion over it, naming it the “Divine Teleportation Well.”
Stopping a flying mountain peak
Another tale, Stopping a Flying Mountain Peak, tells of when Ji Gong gatecrashed a wedding and abducted the bride. He carried her away from the village which led all the guests to chase after him. The fact of the matter was Ji Gong had the supernormal power of clairvoyance and he saw that there was going to be a terrible landslide. The villagers did not heed his words to get out of the place.
That was when he abducted the bride. No sooner had the chase gone past the village, a nearby mountain peak broke off and landed right on the village. Huge rocks flew everywhere, shattering windows and flattening buildings in an instant.
Ji Gong is a featured immortal of Buddhism. There are many more stories about his adventures. Monk Jigong will always be remembered for his joyful, yet solemn demeanor and pragmatism. Ji Gong is one of the most endearing and beloved folk heroes in traditional Chinese myths and legends.