Last week I introduced the new film about the Chinese pilgrim Xuan Zang who travelled to India in the west in search of the true teaching of the Buddha, and spent years of struggle to achieve his aims.
He and others who travelled from China to India are really quite famous, and rightly so – lesser known are the other dedicated masters who headed east to pass on the teaching to Japan, which is what this animated film is about.
Ven. Jian Zhen (known as Ganjin in Japan) was one of the most respected Chinese monks of his time (688–763), and had thousands of followers and hundreds of monks he had ordained, and was the head of a large temple in Yangzhou during the Tang dynasty.
But when Japanese monks requested that he come to Japan to help establish a true Vinaya lineage there, he was willing to leave everything behind and set sail on a dangerous mission to bring the teaching to a foreign country.
Making a determination is one thing, and being able to fulfil it is another, and it took no less than six attempts and over a decade before he was able to reach his destination, having being thwarted by government officials on the one hand, and bad weather on the other previously.
During that time he had already gone blind, but even that didn’t stop him from going, and when he finally arrived he was greeted by the Emperor Shomu and his family, and set up the famous Todai-ji temple in Nara.
The film concentrates more on the old monk’s heroic efforts to reach Japan, and less on his mission when he got there, though the latter would of course have been interesting to know in more detail.
The film was produced by the Tzu Chi foundation in Taiwan, and has good production values, and a well written script, and subtitles in Chinese and English, but the upload is not of the best quality, so the subs are a little hard to read at times. It is well worth the effort though to learn more about this great missionary monk.
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