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Anti-Buddhist Memorials

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Anti-Buddhist Memorials: Text 2:

Yáo Chóng's Memorial Against Buddhism
& Will

Background

YÁO Chóng 姚崇 (650-721), canonized after his death as Wénxìan 文献, was the President of the Board of War under the Emperor Xuánzōng 玄宗 (Mínghuáng 明皇) (reign 12a-9).

In his famous biographical dictionary, Herbert Giles (1898:924) describes Yáo as something of a rich playboy, but tells us that that after success in reaching a high government bureaucratic position, he attracted the notice of the Empress Wǔ 武后 (reign 12a-6) by "his vigorous resistance to the Kitan [Qìdān 契丹] Tartars, and was soon raised to high office."

Modern Illustration

Yáo, who had gradually become a person of great Confucian rectitude, apparently had always been suspicious of religious charlatans. At Empress Wǔ's court, these included a certain Zhāng Yìzhī 张易之, a particularly handsome Daoist mountebank who had won the favor of the empress, and whom she elevated to the rank of duke. Perhaps worried about Yáo's suspicions of him, Zhāng denounced Yáo to the empress.

Yáo was dismissed from court and reassigned to administrative duties in the provinces. After the empress's death in 705, her successor, Emperor Zhōngzōng 中宗 (reign 12a-7), had the conniving Zhāng and his co-conspirator brother were executed.

At that point Yáo Chóng was ordered to return to the capital. The people of his provincial district "clung weeping around his horse's head, cut off his stirrups, and took away his whip, in order to prevent his departure." Or so at least we are told by his official biographers.

Two short-lived emperors came and went, and by 714, when he drafted his anti-Buddhist memorial, Yáo was one of the most influential men in China.

The text we have is from his official biography, and includes both a summary of his memorial and a passage from his will, ordering his children not to give in to the religious passions (and swindlers) of the era. Here are both of these passages in a slightly modernized version of J.J. M. deGroot's 1901 translation, pp.43-48.

Translation Source:
de Groot 1901: 43-48.

I have made the same modifications here as in the other two memorials in this section of the web site.


I. The Biographer's Introduction

1. Under the emperor Zhōngzōng 中宗 (reign 12a-7, AD 705-710), the princesses and the imperial cognates generally, had proposed to the emperor to consecrate people as monks and nuns; 先是中宗时公主外戚皆奏请度人为僧尼、

xiānshi zhōng zōng shí gōngzhǔ wàiqī jiē zòuqǐng dù rénwéi sēngní、

先是中宗時公主外戚皆奏請度人為僧尼、
2. there had also been a certain number who sacrificed their private wealth for the building of monasteries, while it had been so general a custom for wealthy families and people of influence to found such edifices, in order to shirk therein the services due to the government, that the country far and wide abounded with them. 亦有出私财造寺者、富户强丁皆经营避役、远近充满,

Yì yǒu chū sī cái zào sì zhě、fùhù qiáng dīng jiē jīngyíng bìyì、yuǎnjìn chōngmǎn,

亦有出私財造寺者、富戶強丁皆經營避役、遠近充滿,
3. But now (in 714) Yáo Chóng presented a memorial to the emperor, running follows: 至是祟奏曰、

zhìshì suì zòu yuē、

至是祟奏曰、

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II. Yáo Chóng's Memorial

4. Buddha does not dwell outside man, but is to be found in his heart. 佛不在外、求之于心。

fó bù zài wài、qiú zhī yú xīn.

佛不在外、求之於心。
5. Buddhochinga was a most clever man, but he was of no use for keeping the realm of Zhào intact;*

*Buddhochinga (or Buddhasiḿkha), Chinese Fótúchéng 佛图澄 was an Indian priest who in 310 came to Lòyáng 洛阳, "there became 'man of high distinction and great influence by his marvellous feats and arts, and contributed largely to the development of Buddhism in the realm of [Prior] Zhào" 前赵, (period 09b, AD 304-329) in the present Shānxī province. [JJMdG] Ernest Eitel (1904:39) suggests he was not active until about the middle of the fourth century. [DKJ]
佛图澄最贤无益于全赵、

Fótúchéng zuì xián wú yì yú quán Zhào、

佛圖澄最賢無益於全趙、
6. and Kumarajiva possessed many arts and capacities, but did not save Qín 秦 from destruction.*

*Kumarajiva (Chinese: Luóshíduōyì 罗什多艺) was the well known Indian Buddhist, a prolific translator of a number of sacred books into Chinese· in the [Later] Qín 后秦 dynasty (period 09j), in the capital of which, Cháng'ān 长安, he principally resided, existed from 384 to 417. [JJMdG]
罗什多艺不救于亡秦。

Luóshíduōyì bù jiù yú wáng Qín.

羅什多藝不救於亡秦。
7. Hé Chōng, saw his family die out,* and Fú Róng was defeated and killed;**

*Hé Chōng 何充 (290?-346) was a high official of the Eastern Jìn 東晉 dynasty (period 08c). He was a Buddhist zealot, but died without a son, as did his adopted heir , the son of his brother. See the Books of the Jìn Dynasty, 晉書, the official Standard History of that house, chapter 77, folio 9. [JJMdG]

** Fú Róng 符融 was brother and generalissimo to Fú Jiān 符堅, the third sovereign of the house of Qín (period 09f), who reigned from 357 to 384· Jr. 385 Fu Yung was defeated and slain. [JJMdG]
何充符融皆遭败灭、

hé chōng fú róng jiē zāo bàimiè、

何充符融皆遭敗滅、
8. Xiāng of Qí and the emperor Wǔ of the Liáng dynasty could not escape disastrous events .(comp. page 39). 齐襄梁武未免灾殃。

Qí Xiāng Liáng Wǔ wèi miǎn zāi yāng.

齊襄梁武未免災殃。
9. If you merely show earnestness of mind, compassion and charity, making your measures tend to the good of others, so that the creatures of Azure Heaven enjoy peace and happiness, then you are a being like Buddha; 但发心慈悲、行事利益、使苍生安乐、即是佛身、

Dàn fāxīn cíbēi、xíngshì lìyì、shǐ cāngshēng ānlè、jíshì Fó shēn、

但發心慈悲、行事利益、使蒼生安樂、即是佛身、
10. and how then is it useful to bestow consecration at random upon vicious people, who thus are made to demolish the orthodox doctrines? 何用妄度奸人令坏正法。

Hé yòng wàng dù jiān rén lìng huài zhèng fǎ.

何用妄度姦人令壞正法。

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III. The Emperor Responds

11. The emperor, on receiving this argument, ordered his officers to make secret enquiries about the clergy; and more than twelve thousand, who were members of it with false and irregular designs, were sent back into the lay world.*

*Source: Old Books of the Táng Dynasty, chapter 96, folio。.See also the New Books, chapter 124, folio 3. This event is also mentioned in chapter 8, folio 8 of the Old Books, but there the number of expelled members of the clergy is given as twenty thousand. [JJMdG]]
上纳其言令有司隐括僧徒、以伪滥澴俗者万二千余人。·

Shàng nà qí yán lìng yǒu sī yǐnkuò sēngtú、yǐ wěi làn huán sú zhě wàn èrqiān yúrén.

上納其言令有司隱括僧徒、以偽濫澴俗者萬二千餘人。

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IV. Yáo Chóng Admonishes his Children

12. The existing Buddhist sutras were translated by Kumarajiva, and Yáo Xīng 姚兴* with the books in his hands collated the translations with this man.

*A sovereign of the Later Qín 后秦 (period 09j), AD 394 to 415).
今之佛经罗什所译、姚兴执本与什对翻。

Jīn zhī Fó jīng Luóshísuǒyì、Yáo Xīng zhí běn yǔ shí duì fān.

今之佛經羅什所譯、姚興執本與什對翻。
13. He also erected pagodas in the village of Yǒngguì 永贵, and emptied his treasuries to make a religious show on a large scale; but for all that his life was not prolonged, and after him his dynasty died out. 姚兴造浮屠于永贵里、倾竭府库广事庄严、而兴命不得延、国亦随灭。

yáo xīng zào fútú yú Yǒngguì lí、qīng jié fǔkù guǎng shì zhuāngyán、ér xīng mìng bude yán、guó yì suí miè.

姚興造浮屠於永貴里、傾竭府庫廣事莊嚴、而興命不得延、國亦隨滅。
14. Qí was situated on the other side of the mountains eastward, and Zhōu to the right of the passes. 又齐跨山东、周据关右。

Yòu Qí kuà shān dōng、Zhōu jù guān yòu.

又齊跨山東、周據關右。
15. The state of Zhōu almost demolished Buddhism and improved its military power, 周则多除佛法而修缮兵威、

Zhōu zé duō chú fófǎ ér xiūshàn bīngwēi、

周則多除佛法而修繕兵威、
16. while in Qí an elaborate priesthood was formed, and safety was sought in the strength of Buddha. 齐则广置僧徒而依凭佛力。

Qí zé guǎng zhì sēngtú ér yīpíng Fó lì.

齊則廣置僧徒而依憑佛力。
17. Hence, when the two countries went to war together, the Qí dynasty was destroyed and lost its realm (in 577); 及至交战齐氏灭亡国、

Jízhì jiāozhàn Qí shì mièwáng guó、

及至交戰齊氏滅亡國、
18. if it had not patronized the convents, would it then have been rewarded with a restoration of its prosperity, or would it have thus been punished with defeat and ruin? 既不存寺、复何有修福之报、何其灭。

Jì bù cún sì、fù héyǒu xiūfú zhī bào、héqí miè?

既不存寺、復何有修福之報、何其滅。
19. The Emperor Wǔ of the Liáng dynasty made himself a slave for a myriad teams of horses;*

*This unsurpassed imperial Buddhist zealot (reign 10e-1) gave himself as a slave to a monastery, and then made his magnates ransom him for an enormous sum: a deed of the highest self-sacrifice and charity on behalf of the clergy. [JJMdG]
如粱武帝以万乘为奴、

rú liáng wǔ dì yǐ wànshèng wéi nú、

如粱武帝以萬乘為奴、
20. and the empress-mother Hú (of the Northern Qí 北齐 dynasty, consort of Wǔchéng 武成, reign 10l-4), made the inmates of the six harems embrace religious life; 胡太后以六宫入道、

hú tài hòu yǐ liù gōng rù dào、

胡太后以六宮入道、
21. and yet, in spite of these women thus mutilating their bodies, and that emperor disgracing his name, they lost their realm and ruined their family. 岂特身戮名辱皆以亡国破家。

Qǐ tè shēn lù míng rǔ jiē yǐ wángguó pòjiā.

豈特身戮名辱皆以亡國破家。
22. Not long ago, the emperor Xiàohé 孝和 (Zhōngzōng 中宗, reign 12a-4) sent out emissaries to ransom living animals (destined to be killed), and erected convents on a scale which ruined the dynasty; 近日孝和皇帝发使赎生、倾国造寺、

Jìnrì Xiàohé huángdì fā shǐ shú shēng、qīng guó zào sì、

近日孝和皇帝發使贖生、傾國造寺、
23. the princess Tàipíng 太平, as also Wǔ Sānsī 武三思 (3), and the rebellious imperial concubine Zhāng all caused people to embrace religious life, and they built convents;*

*Tài-píng was a daughter of the renowned empress Wǔ (reign 12a-6, AD 684-704); her biography is given in the New Books of the Tang Dynasty, chapter 83, folio 7. Wǔ Sānsī was a cognate of the imperial family, whose history occurs in chapter 206, folio 7 of the same work, as also in chapter 183 of the Old Books, folio 8.
太平公主武三思悖逆庶人张夫人等皆度人造寺、

Tàipíng gōngzhǔ Wǔ Sānsī bèinì shùrén Zhāng fūrén děng jiē dù rén zào sì、

太平公主武三思悖逆庶人張夫人等皆度人造寺、
24. and yet they did not at the conclusion of their course of life escape a violent death, or the ruin of their family, or the ridicule of the world. 竟术弥街成不免受戮破家、为天下所笑。

jìng shù mí jiē chéng bùmiǎn shòu lù pòjiā、wéi tiānxià suǒ xiào.

竟術彌街成不免受戮破家、為天下所笑。
25. Amongst the five emperors (period 01, 10,000-2207 BC) no father had to bury his son, no elder brother had to bewail the loss of a younger one; that is to say, because those emperors caused humanity and longevity to prevail, there did not occur any cases of premature death, nor any adversities. 且五帝之时父不葬子、兄不哭弟、言其致仁寿无夭横也。

Qiě Wǔdì zhī shí fù bù zàng zi、xiōng bù kū dì、yán qí zhì rénshòu wú yāo héng yě.

且五帝之時父不葬子、兄不哭弟、言其致仁壽無夭橫也。
26. And during the reign of the three imperial monarchs (reigns 01a-1 to 01a-3), each dynasty had a long existence, so that mankind lived in rest and peace, 三皇之代国祚延长、人用休息、

Sānhuáng zhī dài guó zuò yáncháng、rén yòng xiūxi、

三皇之代國祚延長、人用休息、
27. and the ministers enjoyed longevity like that of Péngzǔ* and Lǎo Dān (Lǎozǐ 老子); and yet Buddhism did not then exist.

*A Methuselah, who in the twelfth century BC was 700 years old. [JJMdG]
其人臣则彭祖老聃之类皆享退龄、当此之时未有佛教.

Qí rénchén zé Péngzǔ Lǎodān zhī lèi jiē xiǎng tuì líng、dāngcǐ zhī shí wèi yǒu Fójiào.

其人臣則彭祖老聘之類皆享退齡、當此之時未有佛教.
28. What strength then is there in transcribing the sutras of this religion, or in the molding of its images? what good effects do sacrifices produce, or donations to the Buddhas? 岂抄经铸像之力,设斋施佛之功耶。

Qǐ chāo jīng zhù xiàng zhī lì, shè zhāi shī Fó zhī gōng yé.

豈抄經鑄像之力,設齋施佛之功耶。
29. In the Historical Books of the Liú-Sòng 刘宋 dynasty (period 10c, AD 420-479), in the Traditions about Western Countries, mention is made of a renowned Buddhist priest who wrote a disquisition on the elucidation of obscurities; it professed to prove that, if intelligible arguments sufficiently explain and disentangle obscurities and enigmas, they ought to be read and brought into circulation. 宋书西域传有名侩为白黑论、理证明白足解沉疑、宜观而行之。

Sòng Shū Xīyù Chuán yǒu míng kuài wéi bái hēi lùn、lǐ zhèngmíng bái zú jiě chényí、yí guān ér xíng zhī.

宋書西域傳有名儈為白黑論、理證明白足解沉疑、宜觀而行之。
30. Now Buddhism means intelligence; but where in that disquisition is there one square inch to be found of intelligible matter?*

*The reader who might feel disposed to unravel this profound piece of philosophy, may find it in chapter 97 of the Books of the [Liú] Sòng Dynasty (Sòng Shū 宋书, folio 11, The learned writer was one Huìlín 慧琳, a Buddhist of the first half of the fifth century.
且佛者觉也、在乎方寸。

Qiě Fó zhě jué yě、zàihu fāngcùn.

且佛者覺也、在乎方寸。
31. I set forth that the keeping of myriads of images everywhere, is not a matter proceeding from the five elements of the human constitution (the wǔyùn 五蕴, viz: form, perception, consciousness, action, knowledge), and that the Buddhist religion would be quite complete if it occupied itself with nothing else than the promotion of mental quiet, charity, and commiseration, and with doing good, and abstaining from vice; 假有万像之广不出五蕴之中、但平等慈悲行善不行恶则佛道备矣、

Jiǎ yǒu wàn xiàng zhī guǎng bùchū wǔyùn zhī zhōng、dàn píngděng cíbēi xíngshàn bù xíng è zé Fó dào bèi yǐ、

假有萬像之廣不出五蘊之中、但平等慈悲行善不行惡則佛道備矣、
32. why then does it so deliberately drown itself in stories and tales, and why has it led itself into wrong paths by a worldly-minded clergy? 何必溺敛小说、惑于凡僧。

Hé bì nì liǎn xiǎoshuō、huò yú fán sēng?

何必溺斂小說、惑於凡僧。
33. It makes of the parables with which it illustrates its exhortations, authentic historical verities; 仍将喻品用为实录、

Réng jiāng yù pǐn yòng wéi shílù、

仍將喻品用為實錄、
34. by translating sutras and painting images it destroys the professions and trades, and subverts family life; 杪经写像破业倾家、

Miǎo jīng xiě xiàng pò yè qīng jiā、

杪經寫像破業傾家、
35. for by those sutras and idols the people are made to give themselves (to religious life), which means the same thing as caring about nobody any longer.

*The last character is unclearly printed. It appears to be 恡 lìn, an older form of 吝, stingy. It could possibly be 忪zhōng restless. [DKJ]
乃至施身、亦无所吝。

Nǎi zhì shī shēn、yì wú suǒ lìn.

乃至施身、亦無所恡。
36. That is what we may call delusion on a large scale. And some make likenesses of deceased persons, to use them, as they say, to send happiness to the latter in the hereafter. 可谓大惑也。亦有绿亡人造像、名为追福。

Kě wèi dà huò yě. Yì yǒu lǜ wáng rénzào xiàng、míngwéi zhuīfú.

可謂大惑也。亦有綠亡人造像、名為追福。
37. The doctrine of salvation knows many ways in which meritorious work may be performed; but (they say) such work must rise from the heart, and when any by-motives are at play, it must rather entail vindicatory punishments. 方便之教虽则多端功德、须自发心、旁助宁应获报。

Fāng biàn zhī jiāo suīzé duōduān gōngdé、xū zì fā xīn、páng zhù níng yìng huò bào.

方便之教雖則多端功德、須自發心、旁助寧應獲報。
38. With such reasoning people have long befooled each other, until those salvation works have become established customs, which damage the living, without benefiting the dead. 递相欺诳浸成风俗、损耗生人、无益亡者。

Dì xiāng qīkuáng jìn chéng fēngsú、sǔnhào shēngrén、wú yì wángzhě.

遞相欺誑浸成風俗、損耗生人、無益亡者。
39. Even those who think themselves intelligent and talented, wise and learned, are captivated by such habits of the times. 假有通才达识亦为时俗所拘。

Jiǎ yǒu tōngcái dá shí yì wéi shísú suǒ jū.

假有通才達識亦為時俗所拘。
40. The Thatāgata's spirit of universal charity would further the interests of all beings; but, surely, this is not the case if it harms the creatures who have not enough, and enriches an influential clergy who have more than enough. 如来普慈意存利物、损众生之不足、厚豪僧之有余、必不然矣。

Rúlái pǔ cí yì cún lì wù、sǔn zhòngshēng zhī bùzú、hòu háo sēng zhī yǒuyú、bì bùrán yǐ.

如來普慈意存利物、損眾生之不足、厚豪僧之有餘、必不然矣。
41 And if death is an ordinary occurrence from which, since remote antiquity, there has been no escape, what help then is afforded against it by the sutras and images we make? 且死者是常、古来不免、所造经像何所施为。

Qiě sǐ zhě shì cháng、gǔlái bù miǎn、suǒ zào jīng xiàng hé suǒ shī wéi.

且死者是常、古來不免、所造經像何所施為。
42. It being a fact that Shakyamuni's own religion is a great evil for all who live under the azure empyrean, so all of you, my children, ought to be on your guard against it. 夫释迦之本法为苍生之大弊、汝等各宜警策。

Fū Shìjiā zhī běn fǎ wéi cāngshēng zhī dà bì、rǔ děng gè yí jǐngcè.

夫釋迦之本法為蒼生之大弊、汝等各宜警策。
43. Let the principles of orthodoxy dwell in your heart, and be not like those sons and daughters who never grow wiser as long as they live. 正法在心、勿效儿女子曹终身不悟也。

Zhèngfǎ zàixīn、wù xiào érnǚzǐ cáo zhōngshēn bù wù yě.

正法在心、勿效兒女子曹終身不悟也。
44. When I shall be dead, then on no account perform on my behalf that mean religion; 吾亡后必不得为此弊法、

Wú wáng hòu bì bude wèicǐ bì fǎ、

吾亡後必不得為此弊法、
45. but if you should feel unable to follow orthodoxy in every respect, then give in to the popular custom, and from the first seventh day (after my death) until the last (the seventh) seventh day, let mass be celebrated by the Buddhist clergy seven times; 若未能全依正道、须顺俗情、从初七至终七任设七侩斋、

Ruò wèi néng quán yī zhèngdào、xū shùn súqíng、cóng chūqī zhì zhōng qī rèn shè qī kuài zhāi、

若未能全依正道、須順俗情、從初七至終七任設七儈齋、
46. and when, as these masses require it, you must offer gifts to me, use for that purpose the clothes and things which during my life I have worn on my body. 若随斋须布施、宜以吾绿身衣物。

Ruò suí zhāi xū bùshī、yí yǐ wú lǜ shēn yīwù.

若隨齋須布施、宜以吾綠身衣物。
47. But on no account use any other things of value for this end, lest you do a wrong thing which would carry no benefit with it; 充不得辄用余财为无益之枉事、

Chōng bude zhé yòng yú cái wéi wúyì zhī wǎng shì、

充不得輒用餘財為無益之枉事、
48. neither give recklessly of your private effects on the vain plea of procuring me happiness in the hereafter … 亦不得妄出私物、徇追福之虚谈。…

Yì bude wàng chū sī wù、xùn zhuīfú zhī xūtán. …

亦不得妄出私物、徇追福之虛談。…
49. and after your death let your sons and grandsons likewise be ordered to act in conformity with these my instructions." 汝等身没之后亦教子孙做吾此法云。

Rǔ děng shēn méi zhī hòu yì jiào zǐsūn zuò wú cǐ fǎ yún.

汝等身沒之後亦教子孫做吾此法云。

DeGroot makes the following interesting observation about this text, particularly in connection with the earlier writings of Fù Yì:

The chief value for us, of the philippics of Fù Yì and Yáo Chóng lies in the fact that they give us a clear insight into the reasons for the grudge and antipathy manifested by the Confucians to this day against this foreign religion. Then, as now, the chief reproach was that the people were deceived and led astray by it, as it did not, like the only true Confucianism, give verity pure and unalloyed. And especially its tenets concerning the possibility of raising the dead into a condition of higher bliss are idle gossip, its ceremonies instituted for that purpose absolutely valueless, nay, even detrimental, because of the outlays they entail.

Remarkable, however, are Yáo Chóng's instructions to his children: do not allow yourselves to be blinded by these doctrines; but if this be already done, and you feel bound to celebrate for me the customary Buddhist masses, well, let it be done, but without extravagance.

Where a declared enemy of this religion spoke thus to his own children brought up under his own eye, there, surely, the Buddhistic doctrines and practices of salvation must have taken very deep root in the heart of the nation, in its customs and manners. Possibly the father himself was not altogether free from the belief in their value. As a matter of, fact, salvation of the dead was always the sheet anchor with which this religion, since its earliest establishment in China, had secured for itself a safe position in the vast ocean of … Confucianism … .

(DeGroot 1901:48.)

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The Portrait of Yáo Chóng by an unknown artist is reprinted from
周佳榮 (ed.) 2000 人物中國歷史. 香港:香港教育圖書公司. p. 34.