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  • The Chan Whip Anthology: A Companion to Zen Practice by Jeffrey L. Broughton
  • Steven Heine (bio)
The Chan Whip Anthology: A Companion to Zen Practice. Translated by Jeffrey L. Broughton with Elise Yoko Watanabe. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. 240. Paper $35.00, isbn 978-0-190-20072-5.

The Chan Whip Anthology: A Companion to Zen Practice, a richly annotated bilingual translation by Jeffrey Broughton, along with a substantial introductory essay situating the Chan Whip Anthology (based on the Chan’guan cejin from around 1600) in its appropriate religious and philosophical contexts, provides a very valuable contribution to our understanding of the overall textuality of the Chan/Zen school. Broughton has produced several first-rate renderings, based on the highest scholarly standards, by making great use of the vast resources of Japanese commentaries and reference works and some of the major works of classical Chinese Chan, ranging from writings by Bodhidharma and Zongmi to the recorded sayings of Linji. Here, he adds significantly to available academic work on author/compiler Yunqi Zhuhong 雲棲袟­宏 (1535–1615), a crucial late-Ming-dynasty Buddhist thinker relatively overlooked or perhaps better known for other kinds of compositions from his large, thirty-four- volume complete works, in a way that will be greatly appreciated by specialists and that will also be worthwhile for use in advanced classes covering East Asian religions.

Chun-fang Yü was the first author in Western scholarship to examine in depth Zhuhong’s considerable impact on the revival of Buddhism, during a key transitional phase of Chinese history, in the monograph Renewal of Buddhism in China: Chu-Hung and the Late Ming Synthesis (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981). The only other translation of the Chan Whip Anthology, by J. C. Cleary in Meditating with Koans (Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1992), although beneficial in many ways, did not attempt to provide the extensive documentation that Broughton accomplishes in such a thorough and insightful fashion. This new version is a complete and reliable translation that includes the full Chinese edition appended near the end of the volume (pp. 170–200). With its “Index to the Chan Whip by Section” (pp. 205–208) and other helpful research tools, the book is exceptionally informative in regard to so many different aspects of explicating terminology and conceptual meaning that it inspires one to read and reread the text in order to absorb all the relevant perspectives and implications.

The Chan Whip Anthology, which plays a vital role in Buddhist history, features a distinctive approach to Zen philosophy; it is composed in a rather unique literary style that draws from but is somewhat different from most other Zen genres that have been translated into English. Historically, the Chan Whip Anthology is important because it represents the relatively little explored period of the late Ming and incorporates many ingredients of Yuan dynasty Chan literature, when Zhuhong helped [End Page 1291] promote the use of gong’an (kōan) study as the key to the path to enlightenment. Zhuhong more generally sought ways of establishing accord between the thought of Chan and Pure Land and the respective ritual techniques of gong’an and nianfo. This was done in light of the finding of pervasive underlying connections or convergences between the path of silent transmission and doctrines expressed in Mahāyāna sūtras, as well as the antinomian tendencies of Zen and the role of ethics in Confucianism, while further taking into account the challenges to Buddhism as a whole based on recent inroads made in China by sixteenth-century Jesuit missionaries, which Zhuhong fiercely rejected.

From the standpoint of philosophy, the anchor for Zhuhong’s evaluative account of the history of Chan theory and practice is his appropriation of the legacy of the notion of huatou, which Broughton translates as “cue” while discussing this editorial choice in relation to the more typical renderings of “critical phrase” or “key word” (pp. 3, 35–38), so as to highlight the process or means of metaphorically pointing to the moon rather than to focus on the end in itself (or moon). Also, the term yi, usually translated simply as “doubt,” for Broughton is “indecision-and-apprehension...


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