Legend

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The Fascinating Story of Chung Kwei, The Ultimate Catcher and Vanquisher of Hugnry Ghosts, Demons and Evil Spirits

Published Hulyo 21, 2012 by jptan2012

In the past few posts, I talked about ‘THE DREADED HUNGRY GHOST MONTH’, and ‘THE EFFECTS OF THE DREADED HUNGRY GHOST MONTH’, of course; I also posted about ‘THE RITUALS TO APPEASE AND PROTECT ONESELF FROM HUNGRY GHOSTS’, and the ‘PRECAUTIONS TO TAKE DURING THE HUNGRY GHOST MONTH’.

But if there’s one thing that can totally ensure your safety and protect you from the harms of the hungry ghosts and any ghosts especially during the hungry ghost month, that would be Chung Kwei (also spelled as Chong Kwei, Chung Kui, Chong Kui, Zhong Kwei, Zhong Kui, Zhung Kwei, and Zhung Kui).

Chung Kwei is the ultimate catcher and vanquisher of not only hungry ghosts but also of evil spirits and demons!

But who is Chung Kwei?

Chung Kwei (in Foo Kien) or Zhong Kui (as pronounced in Mandarin) 鍾馗 is a historical figure but unfortunately is largely considered as a mythological figure by westerners because of the lack of historical data about him.

Chung Kwei was born during the Tang Dynasty at Zhongnan Mountain in Shensi Province. According to legend, Chung Kwei is actually the fourth son, however, all of his older brother died at a very young age. Because of the old age of Chung Kwei’s mother and the number of times she has given birth, she didn’t conceive for a very long time. Knowing that the absence of a son has caused great sadness to her husband, she encouraged him to get a concubine, something that is totally acceptable during that time. However, because he loves his wife so much, getting a concubine was out of the question for him.

It is said that out of desperation, he went to consult a famous powerful sorcerer that is rumored to be a demon. His wife was against his decision but he persisted and won over his wife’s protest.

Soon after visiting the sorcerer, his wife conceived again, but at about the same time they notice that a big black scary mountain panther was visiting them. They knew that this is a sign from the devil. Because of this Chung Kwei’s mom asked the help of a brother to go and visit a Kuan Yin temple to pray for them. The brother traveled for a month to visit this temple, and on his way back, he brought with him an image of Kuan Yin. Her brother gave this to her and told her that the Buddhist monk in the Kuan Yin temple did a divination and told her that she’s conceiving a child that is part demon. The only way to save the baby is if she and her husband will earnestly ask for Kuan Yin’s help and make sure that they dedicate the baby’s life to public service, which at that time is really servicing the emperor.

The husband realizing his folly earnestly prayed to Kuan Yin, and they would offer incense, recite mantras and sutras, write sutras for Kuan Yin every single day until the time she went into labor.

While giving birth to Chung Kwei, she went into trance and saw Kuan Yin riding on a Piyao, vanquishing the big black scary mountain panther. She knew then that her baby is going to be saved.

Chung Kwei was born as an ugly boy. It is said that he has a face of a black panther. However, no matter how ugly he is, he is a very nice and kindhearted boy. The only thing that he seem to have gotten from the big black scary mountain panther is the color of the skin, the looks, his size (because he is also a big boy) and the bravery, but other than that he seems to be a boy with a very unusual kindness.

Chung Kwei or Zhong Kui is also a very intelligent boy. His father hired the best tutor for him, but both his parents always ensure that he has a devotion to both Buddhism and Taoism and they instilled in him the importance of being in service to the public/emperor.

As a man, he has integrity, talented and profoundly learned. There was just one problem; the people who don’t know him ridicule him because of his looks.

Because of his intelligence and because he is a learned person, he was able to pass the exam to be of service to his emperor. This was in the time of Emperor Kao Tzu. However, because of his looks the judgmental and corrupt officials, in particular a treacherous minister name Lu Qi, refuse him entry to the imperial court.

Out of desperation to be of service to the public and to the emperor, Chung Kwei decided to commit suicide at the imperial entrance, not because he was depressed but because he believes that if he cannot be of service to the sovereign as a human, he’ll be of service to the emperor/sovereign in spirit. He committed suicide because he wants to fulfill his mortal wish to be of service to any reigning sovereign, which is equal to serving the public.

However, since he was a mere mortal at that time and has not achieved special skills in Taoism his spirit was captured by a Taoist priest so that he can be put to rest by sending the spirit to heaven through various prayers. That’s the last time they have heard of Chung Kwei.

If you have read my post entitled – GETTING TO KNOW ‘THE GREAT SAGE, EQUAL OF HEAVEN’, THE MONKEY GOD SUN WUKONG – you may remember the story of the Buddhist Monk Xuan Zang who went to get for the emperor some sutras and Buddhist texts in India for China. It is because of that journey or expedition that led to Sun Wukong’s Buddhahood. The emperor who tasked Xuan Zong to get the religious texts in India is Emperor Ming Huang (AD 712 – 742).

Anyway, Emperor Ming Huang during his reign, which was years after the suicide of Chung Kwei, succumbed to an illness that he has to be confined in his room. Even after consulting top doctors, he remained to be ill, worst, he soon started to get delusional and would always complain that he is unable get sleep in the evening because of unwanted supernatural visitors, which according to historical texts were described by Emperor Ming Huang as little devils. Thing soon got worse because they would hear his voice shouting out of fear and anger, and they thought that he was getting mad.

His top ministers then decided that they should see Emperor Ming Huang themselves so that they can decide whether they should appoint an interim ruler while Emperor Ming Huang’s son is not yet of age. This proved to be a fortunate matter for Emperor Ming Huang because his top ministers also saw the ‘little devils’ and they now know that he is not mad and is actually telling the truth.

They all decided to call some Taoist priest and Buddhist monks to exorcise the ‘little devils’. However, for quite sometime nothing worked. Out of desperation, one of the top minister called all palace guards and staff to offer the best vegetarian food and fruits to the Jade Emperor and Kuan Yin, for them to help exorcise the palace.

What follows is the most controversial, of what is already a controversial story, because it is said that this part came directly from Chung Kwei who conveyed it through a spirit medium.

The Jade Emperor having received the offerings and the ‘hu’ (a Taoist prayer tool), decided to intervene with the matter by sending another immortal to vanquish the little devils. However, Kuan Yin knowing of Chung Kwei’s desire to be of service to the sovereign, and also knowing about Chung Kwei’s fate (Chung Kwei at that time was in ‘heaven’ waiting samsara) decided to request the Jade Emperor to grant Chung Kwei special power so that Chung Kwei can be a deity and vanquish the little devil and be of service to the sovereign.

The Jade Emperor agreed to Kuan Yin’s suggestion, however, he clarified that while he can grant special deity power to Chung Kwei, the true test of Chung Kwei as a deity lies on his bravery, and good heart when he was still a mortal. Kuan Yin knowing of Chung Kwei’s character assured the Jade Emperor that Chung Kwei will succeed.

Meanwhile, Emperor Ming Huang is still being bothered by the ‘little devils’, and things has gotten worst because now the whole palace is affected by the ‘little devils’. The emperor is seriously considering relocating the palace, but for some reason the manifestations of the ‘little devils’ seemed to have simply and suddenly stop. Taking caution not to be optimistic about the sudden silence of the ‘little devils’, Emperor Ming Huang and the ministers decided to wait for a few days before they conclude that the haunting has stopped. Furthermore, Emperor Ming Huang was also miraculously cured of his illness.

When it was confirmed by everybody that the haunting has stopped, Emperor Ming Huang asked the imperial guardian deity (by praying to his image) to reveal to him as to who vanquished the ‘little devils’. That same evening, Emperor Ming Huang dreamt of a scary creature who look like a demon himself visited the palace, captured the little devils and vanquished them by devouring them.

Still in his dream, Emperor Ming Huang approached the vanquisher and asked for his name. Chung Kwei then introduced himself and told Emperor Ming Huang his story.

When he woke up, Emperor Ming Huang instructed his ministers for more information about Chung Kwei. He then was told of what happened to Chung Kwei, which is basically a confirmation of what was told to him by Chung Kwei through a dream.

Emperor Ming Huang then commissioned Tzu Wu Tao (also spelled as Tzu Wu Dao), a then well known and one of the most celebrated artists of his time, to paint Chung Kwei. Also through Emperor Ming Huang’s intervention and persistence, Chung Kwei was canonized by Taoists priest with the title – GREAT SPIRITUAL DEMON VANQUISHER!

Soon, Taoist priests would call on Chung Kwei to help them vanquish or exorcise a person or a place. They would also found out that a blessed image of Chung Kwei acts as an extension of Chung Kwei’s power.

So to this day, Chung Kwei remains to be the most powerful deity to protect us from any evil spirits, especially during hungry ghost month!

TO UNDERSTAND MORE ABOUT THE HUNGRY GHOST MONTH, HUNGRY GHOSTS, IT’S EFFECTS, RITUALS AND PROTECTION READ THE FOLLOWING HUNGRY GHOSTS SERIES:

YOU MAY WISH TO READ THE FOLLOWING ALSO:

OR YOU CAN CLICK ON THE CATEGORY – KUWENTO TUNGKOL SA HUNGRY GHOST MONTH.

For questions, comments and suggestions, please email sanaakosirickylee@gmail.com

 

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The Eight Immortals

Published Abril 18, 2012 by jptan2012

One of the most revered and considered superior beings of Taoist legend are the Paht Tai Shien Cho or the Eight Immortals. It is unclear whether they have really lived at various times because no official record of them has been ever found. Most of the documents found that refers to the Eight Immortals are mostly religious texts and/or oral transmissions of their story.

The 8 Immortals is comprised of six men and two women. They are said to have attained immortality under various and different circumstances, but some Taoist texts states that they all received immortality when they bite into the Peach of Immortality, which is maintained by the Queen Mother of the South, or the mother of the Jade Emperor.

Collectively, they are considered to bring various luck and protection. To some extent they can be compared to the 18 Arhats of Buddhism and/or to the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ in Christianity. Only the Arhats and the Eight Immortals are much older than the disciples of Jesus Christ.

Both the The Eight Immortals and the 18 Arhats (more on the Arhats on a later post) are said to possess magical and supernatural powers.

Having the image of the Eight Immortals in our homes will deliver protection from negative energies, and they will also bestow good health, good fortune, wonderful opportunities, and various blessings, especially to those who honor them by offering incense, fruits, and flowers.

Each of the Eight Immortal carries a special implement that they use as a tool to help bestow their protection and blessing.

The Eight Immortals are Chung-Li Chuan, which is said to be the chief of the Eight Immortals, Kuo-Lao Chang, Lu Dongpin, Guo-Chiu Tsao, Tieh-Guai Li, Hsian-Tzu Han, , Tsai-Ho Lan, , Hsien-Ku Ho.

I’ll talk about the different immortals in my succeeding posts.

 

Understanding Mercy and Compassion: The Transformation of Avalokitesvara to Kuan Yin.

Published Pebrero 21, 2012 by jptan2012

In my previous post I wrote about the Goddess of Mercy Kuan Yin (also spelled as Kwan Yin, Quan Yin, Gwan Yin, Guan Yin), who is also known as the Buddha of Compassion. Now, allow me to share with you a brief ‘history’ of Kuan Yin.

People who have read my earlier posts knows of my devotion to the ‘Great Sage, Equal of Heaven’ the Monkey God or Monkey King called Sun Wukong. Sun Wukong is a Taoist celestial being who became really wild whom the Buddha pacified. However, it was really Kuan Yin who paved the way for Sun Wukong to be a Buddha. She did this out of her extreme compassion for Sun Wukong who at that time was already condemned for an eternal imprisonment. Kuan Yin did this not just for Sun Wukong but also for other immortals. Westerners largely look at this story as some sort of fantasy, but to Taoist and Chinese Buddhist they have high regard for the said story and believe it actually happened in the celestial world. However, the point here is not whether the story is true or not, but it hopes to illustrate the depth of Kuan Yin’s mercy and compassion that she was able to subdue one of the most powerful Taoist Immortal/Deity. It should be noted that it was implied in the story mentioned above that should Kuan Yin had to ‘fight’ with Sun Wukong, her power would not have match that of Sun Wukong. However, her real power is not with her strength as a Bodhisattva, although, I must clarify, she is very powerful, but more than her physical and celestial strength, is the power of her mercy and compassion that is said to be infinite!

However, Kuan Yin or Kuan Shi Yin (Guan Shi Yin) which means ‘The One Who Hears the Cries of the World” has a very unique transformation. Kuan Yin is Avalokitesvara in India and Cherezig in Tibet. Nevertheless, Kuan Yin is the female transformation of the said Bodhisattva. I need not talk about who Avalokitesvara in detail now because Kuan Yin is Avalokitesvara (also spelled as Avalokiteshvara), Avalokitesvara is Chenrezig, Chenrezig is Kuan Yin, they may have different names, and in the case of Kuan Yin she may have a different image but they’re one and the same. All the attributes of Kuan Yin are that of Avalokitesvara and Chenrezig, all the attributes of Avalokitesvara and Chenrezig is that of Kuan Yin!

Image of Avalokitesvara (also spelled as Avalokiteshvara).

Nevertheless, allow me to state that Kuan Yin in the form of Avalokitesvara first started in India, the land where Buddhism really started. He/She is a Bodhisattva, which is traditionally considered a little less important compared to the Buddhas. However, Avalokitesvara gained reverence equal to that of Buddhas and to some extent, specially amongst Chinese Buddhist, exceeds that of the Buddhas because as the Historical Buddha Sakyamuni himself shared through various sutras, Avalokitesvara should have been a Buddha already, however, he refused Buddhahood and wished to remain a Bodhisattva for the welfare of all sentient beings.

The transformation of Avalokitesvara to Kuan Yin is in itself a very interesting story. There are various stories about how Avalokitesvara became Kuan Yin.

One story is that in relation to Tripitaka Monk Xuan Zang who traveled to India to get some Buddhist texts that he can share with his countrymen. When he wrote about his journey he always refers to the Bodhisattva of Compassion as a female Kuan Yin, some people believes that this is one of the first time that Avalokitesvara is addressed as Kuan Shi Yin, which later was shortened into Kuan Yin. In his account of the manifestations of Kuan Yin she always appear as a miraculous being and always under miraculous circumstances.

Another story is that of Princess Miao Shan. I’ll skip the story at the moment, and I’ll share her story as written in Wikipedia at the bottom of this post.

Still, another story about Avalokitesvara’s transformation to Kuan Yin is quite simple and not as popular because it lacks the theatrical and flair of the other stories.

When Buddhism was first introduced to China, the religion is largely Taoism, which has Immortals or Deities that are very powerful and ‘masculine’. The compassionate deities and immortals are mostly female deities. Because of this the Chinese had difficulty in fully comprehending the attributes of Avalokitesvara.

Buddhist monks prayed to Kuan Yin to ask for her guidance. Some text says that Kuan Yin spoke to some Buddhist monks through their dreams and instructed them to introduce him as Kuan Yin with a female form. Other text states that they were able to divine this through an Avalokitesvara/Kuan Yin oracle. Whether it was through a dream or through an oracle, it was clear that the Buddhist monks who brought Buddhism to China started the female manifestation of Avalokitesvara. As we know this image became popularly known as Kuan Yin.

This raises the question as to why when experiencing Avalokitesvara’s miracle or vision, people see her as Kuan Yin. According to the explanation of a Chinese Buddhist monk, this is because Avalokitesvara will always appear in the form that people will understand or easily relate to.

I personally believe that the last story is the real reason why Avalokitesvara became Kuan Yin. It is because they need to put an image of mercy and compassion, and because of this Avalokitesvara transformed into Kuan Yin.

Avalokitesvara as Kuan Yin became so popular that even Tibetan Buddhist who is extremely familiar with Avalokitesvara, as a male Bodhisattva would still mention Kuan Yin. In fact, the biggest image of Avalokitesvara in the world is that of Kuan Yin which is found China.

The biggest image of Kuan Yin in the world is in China.

This also answers why some images of Kuan Yin depicts her as a flat-chested handsome young prince.

One of the semi-masculine form of Kuan Yin.

You can read my other posts about Kuan Yin entitled KUAN YIN: THE ONE WHO HEARS THE CRIES OF THE WORLD and PAYING HOMAGE TO KUAN YIN, THE BUDDHA OF COMPASSION.

If you’re interested to know about the Legend of Princess Miao Shan please read on the following that was lifted from Wikipedia.

Another story from the Precious Scroll of Fragrant Mountain describes an incarnation of Guanyin as the daughter of a cruel king who wanted her to marry a wealthy but uncaring man. The story is usually ascribed to the research of the Buddhist monk Chiang Chih-ch’i during the 11th century CE. The story is likely to have a Taoist origin. Chiang Chih-ch’i, when he penned the work, believed that the Guanyin we know today was actually a Buddhist princess called Miaoshan (妙善), who had a religious following on Fragrant Mountain. Despite this there are many variants of the story in Chinese mythology.

According to the story, after the king asked his daughter Miao Shan to marry the wealthy man, she told him that she would obey his command, so long as the marriage eased three misfortunes.

The king asked his daughter what were the three misfortunes that the marriage should ease. Miaoshan explained that the first misfortune the marriage should ease was the suffering people endure as they age. The second misfortune it should ease was the suffering people endure when they fall ill. The third misfortune it should ease was the suffering caused by death. If the marriage could not ease any of the above, then she would rather retire to a life of religion forever.

When her father asked who could ease all the above, Miao Shan pointed out that a doctor was able to do all of these.

Her father grew angry as he wanted her to marry a person of power and wealth, not a healer. He forced her into hard labor and reduced her food and drink but this did not cause her to yield.

Every day she begged to be able to enter a temple and become a nun instead of marrying. Her father eventually allowed her to work in the temple, but asked the monks to give her the toughest chores in order to discourage her. The monks forced Miao Shan to work all day and all night, while others slept, in order to finish her work. However, she was such a good person that the animals living around the temple began to help her with her chores. Her father, seeing this, became so frustrated that he attempted to burn down the temple. Miao Shan put out the fire with her bare hands and suffered no burns. Now struck with fear, her father ordered her to be put to death.

In one version of this legend, when Guanyin was executed, a supernatural tiger took her to one of the more hell-like realms of the dead. However, instead of being punished by demons like the other inmates, Guanyin played music, and flowers blossomed around her. This completely surprised the head demon. The story says that Guanyin, by merely being in that hell, turned it into a paradise.

A variant of the legend says that Miao Shan allowed herself to die at the hand of the executioner. According to this legend, as the executioner tried to carry out her father’s orders, his axe shattered into a thousand pieces. He then tried a sword which likewise shattered. He tried to shoot Miao Shan down with arrows but they all veered off.

Finally in desperation he used his hands. Miao Shan, realising the fate that the executioner would meet at her father’s hand should she fail to let herself die, forgave the executioner for attempting to kill her. It is said that she voluntarily took on the massive karmic guilt the executioner generated for killing her, thus leaving him guiltless. It is because of this that she descended into the Hell-like realms. While there, she witnessed first-hand the suffering and horrors that the beings there must endure, and was overwhelmed with grief. Filled with compassion, she released all the good karma she had accumulated through her many lifetimes, thus freeing many suffering souls back into Heaven and Earth. In the process, that Hell-like realm became a paradise. It is said that Yanluo, King of Hell, sent her back to Earth to prevent the utter destruction of his realm, and that upon her return she appeared on Fragrant Mountain.

Another tale says that Miao Shan never died, but was in fact transported by a supernatural tiger, believed to be the Deity of the Place, to Fragrant Mountain.

The Legend of Miao Shan usually ends with Miao Chuang Yen, Miao Shan’s father, falling ill with jaundice. No physician was able to cure him. Then a monk appeared saying that the jaundice could be cured by making a medicine out of the arm and eye of one without anger. The monk further suggested that such a person could be found on Fragrant Mountain. When asked, Miao Shan willingly offered up her eyes and arms. Miao Chuang Yen was cured of his illness and went to the Fragrant Mountain to give thanks to the person. When he discovered that his own daughter had made the sacrifice, he begged for forgiveness. The story concludes with Miaoshan being transformed into the Thousand Armed Guanyin, and the king, queen and her two sisters building a temple on the mountain for her. She began her journey to heaven and was about to cross over into heaven when she heard a cry of suffering from the world below. She turned around and saw the massive suffering endured by the people of the world. Filled with compassion, she returned to Earth, vowing never to leave till such time as all suffering has ended.

After her return to Earth, Guanyin was said to have stayed for a few years on the island of Mount Putuo where she practised meditation and helped the sailors and fishermen who got stranded. Guanyin is frequently worshipped as patron of sailors and fishermen due to this. She is said to frequently becalm the sea when boats are threatened with rocks. After some decades Guanyin returned to Fragrant Mountain to continue her meditation.

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