Yunmen Wenyan

Yunmen Wenyan

Infobox Buddhist biography
name = Yúnmén Wényǎn

img_size = 200
img_capt =
landscape =
birth_name =
other_names =
dharma_name =
birth_date = 862 or 864
birth_place = China
death_date = 949
death_place =
nationality = Chinese
denomination =
school = Ch'an
lineage =
title = Ch'an-shih
workplace =
education =
occupation =
teacher =
reincarnation_of =
predecessor =
successor =
student =
spouse =
partner =
children =
website =

Yúnmén Wényǎn (862 or 864pg 230, Dumoulin 1994.] -949 CE), (雲門文偃; Japanese: "Ummon Bun'en"; he is also variously known in English as "Unmon", "Ummon Daishi", "Ummon Zenji"), was a major"Yun-men Wen-yen (864-949) was one of the most eminent Zen personalities of his time." pg 230, Dumoulin 1994.] Chinese Zen master in Tang-era China. He founded one of the five major schools of Chan (Chinese Zen), the "Yunmen School", after succeeding his famous master, Xuefeng Yicun (or Hsueh-feng I-ts'un; Japanese: "Seppo Gison" [] ; another famous disciple of Yicun would be Fa-yen Wen-i (885-958)pg 233, Dumoulin 1994] ) (822-908), for whom he had served as a head monk. When founding his school, he taught at the "Yunmen" monastery of Shaozhou, from which he received his name. The Yunmen school flourished into the early Song Dynasty, with particular influence on the upper classes, and eventually culminating in the compilation and writing of the "Hekiganroku". The school would eventually be absorbed by the Rinzai school later in the 233 of Dumoulin 1994.]


Yunmen was born in the town of Jiaxing near Suzhou and southwest of Shanghai to the Zhang family (but later as a monk he would take the name Wenyan; to avoid confusion he will be referred to by his later name of "Yunmen"), apparently in 864 CE. His birth-year is uncertain; the two memorial stele at the "Yunmen" monastery mention he was 86 years old when he died in 949 CE, which suggests that 864 is his birth year.

While a boy, Yunmen became a monk under a "commandment master" named Zhi Cheng (as Miura and Sasaki describe it [Miura, Isshuu, and Ruth Fuller Sasaki, "Zen Dust: The History of the Koan and Koan Study in Rinsai (Lin-Chi) Zen"] , which usually refers to a specialist in vinaya: monastic rules and discipline; Sørensen mentions that some sources say that Chih-Ch'eng/Zhi Cheng was actually a "Ch'an" master) in Jiaxing. He studied there for several years, taking his monastic vows at age 20, in 883 CE. The teachings there did not satisfy him, and he went to Daozong's school (also known as Bokushu, Reverend Chen, Muzhou Daozong, Ch'en Tsun-su, Mu-chou Tao-tsung, Tao-ming, Muzhou Daoming etc.; "an eccentric disciple of Huang-po who practiced an extremely rigorous form of Zen in Mu-chou, after which place he was named) to gain enlightenment and legendarily had his leg broken for his trouble. It was first said around 1100 that Yunmen was crippled in the leg:

"Ummon Yunmen went to Bokushu's temple to seek Zen. The first time he went, he was not admitted. The second time he went, he was not admitted. The third time he went the gate was opened slightly by Bokushu, and thus Ummon stuck his leg in attempting to gain entrance. Bokushu urged him to "Speak! Speak!"; as Ummon opened his mouth, Bokushu pushed him out and slammed shut the large gate so swiftly that Ummon's leg was caught and was broken."

Daozong told Yunmen to visit the pre-eminent Zen master of the daypg 231 of Dumoulin 1994] , Xuefeng Yicun of Mt. Hsiang-ku, in Fuzhou (Fukushū) in modern-day Fujian, and become his disciple, as Daozong was too old (~100 years old) to further teach Yunmen. After a few years studying with him, Yunmen did so, and received after several years, enlightenment. While Yunmen had received his teacher's seal and approval, he nevertheless did not become abbot, probably because his stay was only on the order of 4 or 5 years. When Yicun died, Yunmen began travelling and visited quite a number of monasteries, cementing his reputation as a "Ch'an" master.

During a subsequent visit to the tomb of the Sixth Patriarch in Guangdong, Yunmen ended up joining (c. 911 CE) the monastery of Rumin Chanshi/Ling-shu Ju-min, who died in 918 CE; the two of them became great friends. With his death, Yunmen became head priest of the Lingshu monastery on Mt. Lingshu (Reiju-in). In this Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, the T'ang dynasty was greatly weakened, and entire sections of the empire had split away; the south was peaceful and developed, but the "North was torn by the ravages of war". The area of Southern China where Yunmen lived broke free during the rebellion of , a viceroy of the Liu family. Eventually, the Liu family became the rulers of the Southern Han (918-978) kingdom during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. The ruler, Liu Yan, visited the monastery for Rumin's cremation (as Liu often sought Rumin's advice), and met Yunmen.

Impressed, Liu Yan extended him his patronage and protection, as well as confirming his appointment as the new abbot of the Lingshu monastery. But Yunmen's fame drew a great flow of visitors from all over China and even from Korea. All these visitors proved too distracting for Yunmen's taste, and in 923, he asked the king (Liu Yan having died by this time) to aid him in building a new monastery on Mount Yunmen. The king acquiesced, and five years later, at the age of 64, Yunmen began living in and teaching in the monastery on the mountain from which he took the name by which he is best known. While the king and some of Yunmen's disciples continued to try to give Yunmen more responsibilities and honors, Yunmen refused, and returned to his monastery. This proved to be a wise decision, as his influence diminished considerably in succeeding years through palace intrigues and invasions.

One day, when Yunmen was 85 (or 86), he composed a farewell letter to his patron, the new king of the Southern Han, and gave a final lecture to his monks, finishing with the statement: "Coming and going is continuous. I must be on my way!" Then he (reputedly, in great pain because of his crippled leg) sat in a full lotus posture and died. He would be buried with great honors (but not as great as the state would have liked, as befitted a great master and spiritual minister of the state), and his surprisingly well-preserved corpse was exhumed several years later, and given a procession. In honor of this, his monastery was given a new name, and two stele erected, which recorded his biography. Yunmen was succeeded as abbot by Dongshan Shouchu (Japanese: "Tōzan Shusho"; d. 900 [pg 232, Dumoulin 1994.] ). Suhotsu became abbot in 990 CE; although at the time, his foremost disciple was accounted Pai-yün Shih-hsing, who had founded his own temple on the nearby Mt. Pai-yün. His corpse would be venerated until the 20th-century, when it would disappear during the chaos of the Cultural Revolution.


:"Ummon's school is deep and difficult to understand since its mode of expression is indirect; while it talks about the south, it is looking at the north." — Gyomay Kubose

Yunmen was renowned for his forceful and direct yet subtle teaching, often expressed through sudden shouts and blows with a staff, and for his wisdom and skill at oratory: he was "the most eloquent of the Ch'an masters." [pg 213 of J.C.H. Wu's "The Golden Age of Zen".] Fittingly, Yunmen is one of the greatest pioneers of "live words", "old cases", and paradoxical statements that would later evolve into the koan tradition, along with Zhaozhou (Japanese: "Jōshū Jūshin"). He also famously specialized in apparently meaningless short sharp single word answers, like "Guan!" (literally, "barrier" or "frontier pass") — these were called "Yunmen's One Word Barriers". These one-word barriers "...were meant to aid practice, to spur insight, and thus to promote realization. Not only his punchy one-syllable retorts, but also his more extended conversation and stories came to be used as koan." [pg 232 of Dumoulin 1994.] While his short ones were popular, some of his longer ones were iconic and among the most famous koans::"Yun-men addressed the assembly and said: "I am not asking you about the days before the fifteenth of the month. But what about after the fifteenth? Come and give me a word about those days.":"And he himself gave the answer for them: "Every day is a good day." ["Case 6. See k. Sekida, "Two Zen Classics", p. 161", pg 232 of Dumoulin 1994.]

Most were collected in the "Yúnmén kuāngzhēn chánshī guǎnglù" (雲門匡眞禪師廣錄). But not all were — 18 were later discovered when a subsequent master of the Yunmen school, one Xuetou Chongxian (Setchō Jūken, 980-1052 CE) published his "Boze songgu", which contained one hundred "old cases" (as koans were sometimes called) popular in his teaching line, in which the 18 Yunmen koans were included. Of the many stories and koans in "Blue Cliff Records", 18 involve Yunmen; eight of Yunmen's sayings are included in "Records of Serenity", and five in The Gateless Gate; further examples could be found in the "Ninden gammoku" [Chinese: "Jen-t'ien yen-mu", compiled by Hui-yen Chih-chao, a Lin-chi monk. He wrote a history of the Five Houses of Zen Buddhism: Yun-men, Ts'ao-tung, Kuei-yan, and Fa-yen, as well as his own, Lin-chi. See page 214 of Dumoulin 1994.] , and the "Ummonroku" ["Ummon Kyōshin zenji kōroku"; Chinese: "Yün-men K'uang-chen ch'an-shih kuang-lu"; shorter: "Ummon Ōsho kōroku". The most common abbreviation is just "Ummonroku" (Chinese: "Yün-men lu"), though. It was first published in three books in 1076. See page 241 of Dumoulin 1994.] . He was also considerably more mystical than certain other teachers who tended to concrete description; an apocryphal anecdote that began circulating around the beginning of the 1100s has Yunmen going so far as to forbid any of his sayings or teachings from being recorded by his many pupils ("What is the good of recording my words and tying up your tongues?" was one of his sayings):

:"Ch'an Master Yunju of Foyin had said:"::"When Master Yunmen expounded the Dharma he was like a cloud. He decidedly did not like people to note down his words. Whenever he saw someone doing this he scolded him and chased him out of the hall with the words, "Because your own mouth is not good for anything you come to note down my words. It is certain that some day you'll sell me!"::"As to the records of "Corresponding to the Occasion" (the first chapter of "The Record of Yunmen") and "Inside the Master's Room" (the first section of the second chapter of "The Record of Yunmen"): Xianglin and Mingjiao had fashioned robes out of paper and wrote down immediately whenever they heard them.""

His disciples reputedly numbered 790, an unusual number of whom became enlightened. These successors would spread the Yunmen school widely; it flourished as one of the "Five Schools" for about 300 years, after which it was absorbed into the Linji School towards the end of the Southern Song dynasty (~1127 CE).

Mention in later media

Yunmen's Japanese name, Ummon, was the namesake for a character which was featured prominently in Dan Simmons' acclaimed Hyperion Cantos science fiction series; Simmon's Ummon was a vastly advanced, intelligent AI from the "TechnoCore", who reveals key plot elements to the main characters, through koans and mondo (dialogue).

ee also

* Bodhidharma
* List of Buddhists
* List of Buddhist topics




* "Jingde Chuandeng Lu" 《景德傳燈錄》 (Jingde (era) Record of the Transmission of the Lamp)
* The Gateless Gate
* The Blue Cliff Record
* "Records of Serenity"
* cite book
last =Kubose
first =Gyomay M.
title =Zen Koans
publisher =H. Regnery
date =1973
location =Chicago
id =ISBN 978-0809290659; ISBN 0-8092-9065-0; OCLC 532206; LCCN 72011183

* cite book
last =Daoyuan
first =Shi
coauthors =Zhongyuan Zhang
title =Original teachings of Ch'an Buddhism: selected from The transmission of the lamp
publisher =Random House
date =1971
location =New York, Toronto
id =ISBN 0-394-71333-8

* Sørensen, Henrik Hjort. "The Life and Times of the Ch'an Master Yūn-men Wen-yan", pp. 105-131, Vol. 49 (1996) of "Acta orientalia", ISSN 0001-6438
* cite book
last= Dumoulin
first= Heinrich
others=Translated by James W. Heisig, Paul Knitter
title=Zen Buddhism: A History; Volume 1, India and China; With a New Supplement on the Northern School of Chinese Zen
format=Trade paperback
accessdate=Sun Jan 21 16:55:51 EST 2007
publisher= Macmillan Reference USA, imprint of Simon & Schuster Macmillan
location=New York, NY

External links

* [ Zen Buddhism: An Introduction to Zen with Stories and Parables]
* [ Ummon]
* [ Transcription online of] Pen-chi of Ts'ao-shan's "Questions and Answers", as translated in "Sources of Chinese Tradition" (de Bary, Chan and Watson, ed. and trans.)

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • List of koans by Yunmen Wenyan — The following is a list of kōans attributed to the Zen master Yunmen Wenyan. Koans *A monk once asked Ummon, What is the Buddha? Ummon answered thus: A dried shit stick! (Note: A dry shit stick was the medieval equivalent of toilet paper. Hence… …   Wikipedia

  • Yunmen — Chan Meister Yunmen Yúnmén Wényǎn (chinesisch 雲門文偃 / 云门文偃, jap. Ummon Bun’en; * 864; † 949), ist ein Meister des Chan, der am Ende der Tang Dynastie lebte. Er gilt als Gründer der Wolken Tor Schule, die eine der „Fünf… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Ummon — Yúnmén Wényǎn (雲門文偃) jap. Ummon Bunen (* 864; † 949), ist ein bekannter Meister des Chan, der am Ende der Tang Dynastie lebte. Er gilt als Gründer der Wolken Tor Schule, die eine der „Fünf Schulen im alten China ist, auf die sich alle heute noch… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Liste buddhistischer Patriarchen — Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Die Anfänge 2 Zen Schule 2.1 Indische Zen Patriarchen 2.2 Chinesische Zen Patriarchen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Urs App — (* 1949 in Rorschach) ist ein Schweizer Forscher in den Gebieten der Buddhismuskunde, Geistes und Ideengeschichte, Philosophie und der Geschichte der Ost Westbeziehungen. Inhaltsverzeichnis …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Urs App — Urs App, né le 10 août 1949 à Rorschach (Suisse) Urs App (né en 1949 à Rorschach en Suisse) est un historien des idées, religions et philosophies qui s intéresse particulièrement à l histoire et aux modes d interaction entre l Ouest et l Asie.… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Zen — For other uses, see Zen (disambiguation). Zen Chinese: Traditional: 禪 Simplified: 禅 Pinyin: Chán …   Wikipedia

  • Dongshan Shouchu — Not to be confused with Tung shan. Dongshan Shouchu School Ch an Personal Born ? China Died 900 Senior postin …   Wikipedia

  • Blue Cliff Record — The Blue Cliff Record (Chinese: 《碧巖錄》 Bìyán Lù; Japanese: Hekiganroku ) is a collection of Chán Buddhist koans originally compiled in China during the Song dynasty in 1125 (宋宣和七年) and then expanded into its present form by the Chán master Yuanwu… …   Wikipedia

  • Dahui Zonggao — Part of a series on Buddhism Outline · Portal History Timeline · Councils …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.