Subject: 和尚 héshàng monk
Culture: Chinese Buddhist
Setting: Qing empire, China 18-19thc
* Kennedy/Guo 2005 p69-70
"The stock Shaolin myth runs something like this: Bodhidharma was an Indian Buddhist monk who brought Chan Buddhism to China and, after a meeting with the Chinese emperor, settled in the Shaolin monastery. After residing there for a while Bodhidharma became concerned about the weak physical state of the monks and created a form of exercise and a form of marital art. He instituted a mandatory training program for all the monks, which included both his exercise plans, known as the Muscle Change Classic, and his martial arts system, which of course became known as kung fu.
"From these beginnings, the Shaolin temple became the central hub of martial arts development and excellence in China. The skill of the Shaolin monks was known throughout the empire. Their reputation became such that eventually the 'evil' Manchu emperor ordered the temple's destruction. The monks fought bravely, but the temple succumbed to flames and most of the monks were killed. Only a handful of monks escaped the conflagration and went on to spread the art of Shaolin kung fu to the good people of China.
"A solid ninety-five percent of that myth is clearly nonsense. It is easier to point to what is historically accurate: there was a Buddhist temple called Shaolin, and Bodhidharma did reside there for a period of time. Beyond that, the story is little more than hype, propaganda -- pulp journalism."
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Kuhn 1990 p111-
"In a society fearful of strangers, several aspects of monks' lives seem to have placed them in harm's way. One is the long, sometimes permanent condition of being a novice: the period between taking the tonsure ('leaving the family' -- ch'u chia) and receiving ordination. Although being ordained required a long period of study under a master (a senior monk) and generally had to be completed in one of the elite 'public monasteries,' becoming a novice was relatively easy and informal. The subject pronounced his intention of renouncing lay life, had his head shaved by his tonsure-master (the 'master' or shih-fu who would now be responsible for his training), and began to observe the 'ten prohibitions' (chastity, vegetarianism, and so on). Having left his own family, he now acquired a monastic 'family,' in which his master served as a surrogate parent and his fellow novices as brothers. A very large proportion of monks were brought up in the monastic life from adolescence. Their training generally took place in small 'hereditary' temples: those run by monastic 'families' and passed down from one generation to the next. Only years later, if at all, was a monk ordained at one of the large 'public' monasteries.
"In the meantime the novice was part of a large intermediate stratum of the unordained, a stratum easily entered and indeed easily exited. Although classified by the state (and by society at large) as a 'monk' (seng), he was forbidden to reside in any of the large, elite monasteries. Such 'monks' probably constituted the majority of the Buddhist clergy, and most soulstealing suspects (including two of the Hsiao-shan monks ....) were in fact of this group. The government's suspicions centered on such men, and it would not be surprising to find that popular fears ran along the same channels: these men were in limbo, neither of the orthodox family system nor of the certified clerical elite. This fact should lead us to question the usefulness of the designation 'monk,' which was used in government documents to describe virtually anyone with a robe and a shaved head, whatever his state of religious commitment or education. Many of these men, or perhaps even most of them, were not unambiguously in any of the approved categories that gave bureaucrats the reassuring idea that they had society under control."
"Buddhist and Taoist monasteries dotted the landscape of Qing-era China like the pustules of an especially vigorous case of chicken pox. A few were rich; most were poor; but, together, they acted not only as religious centres (ones that were, in Hungli’s eyes, infuriatingly beyond the close control of the Manchu state) but also as a sort of social safety-net. At a time when the rapid increases in China’s population were beginning to bear down heavily on many impoverished people, it was common for those who found themselves surplus to requirements on a family’s land, and those elderly who had no children to support them, to throw themselves on the mercy of the local monastery or nunnery. The surest way of doing so was to become a monk or nun. Those capable of pursuing a religious vocation all the way through to ordination had claim upon their monastery’s resources; even for the great majority who did not (and by the 1760s only 20 percent of China’s clergy possessed ordination certificates), begging became considerably more lucrative if one was a monk.
"The result was that China’s roads were thick with religious novices, almost all of them poorly educated and most at best sketchily aware of the chief tenets of their own religions. These monks were a perpetual thorn in the side of the administration; it was hard to distinguish between them and bandits or petty criminals on the run. The poorest ostentatiously displayed running sores and abscesses, not so much in an appeal for sympathy as in the expectation that they would be paid to move on before they could infect anyone else; the better-educated were if anything an even bigger threat. Lumped together, in the common phrase, as 'sorcerous Taoists and licentious Buddhists,' the latter were commonly associated with every sort of magic, from alchemy and exorcism to the search for immortality – making them logical suspects in any search for the perpetrators of “evil acts.” Either way, as Kuhn points out, 'to the bureaucratic mind, wandering beggars of any sort threatened public security. People without homes and families were out of control.'"
* Brownell/Wasserstrom eds. 2002 p71 (Matthew H Sommer, "Dangerous males, vulnerable males, and polluted males: The regulation of masculinity in Qing dynastic law" p67-88)
"Male clergy, both Buddhist and Taoist, were singled out for special scrutiny in the Qing code. By taking vows of celibacy, abstaining from marriage, and living apart from their natal families, these men stood outside the mainstream family order in the most basic ways. Late imperial officials were chronically suspicious of such men, seeing in them the very personification of the rootless rascal and all the dangers he represented; both Ming and Qing dynasties made repeated efforts to subject clergy to social and political control by registering them at particular institutions, by making novices the responsibility of their superiors, by banning the wandering of mendicant clergy, and by prohibiting men from joining clerical orders without registering and receiving permission from the local magistrate.
"The judiciary seems to have been particularly predisposed to suspect clergy of sexual aggression. According to Yasuhiko Karasawa, 'A standard narrative found in [legal] cases involving Buddhist monks was that of the monk who attempts or commits illicit sex (jian) with women.' This bias was reflected in legislation as well. For example, a Ming law adopted by the Qing code punished Buddhist or Daoist clergy at temples who seduced or abducted women, or who 'swindle[d] them out of money.' Another statute increased by two degrees the severity of penalties for any sexual offense committed by clergy. A further measure cited the 'substatute on rootless rascals' to impose the sentence of immediate beheading on 'lamas, Buddhist monks, and other clergy who commit[ed] [heterosexual or homosexual] rape and cause[d] the rape victim's death.' Clergy who committed sex offenses (and were spared execution) would be forced to resume secular life."
* Brownell/Wasserstrom eds. 2002 p69-70 (Matthew H Sommer, "Dangerous males, vulnerable males, and polluted males: The regulation of masculinity in Qing dynastic law" p67-88)
"This sexual predator was a subset of a more general stereotype of the dangerous outside male mentioned repeatedly in the Qing code; he appears in some of the earliest laws of the dynasty, but with increasing frequency and urgency in the new ones that accumulated over the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Qing lawmakers used a number of terms in various combinations to characterize him. He was 'violent' (xiong) and 'wicked' (e) and was described as one who 'habitually fights' (hao dou); he was a 'worthless, wicked reprobate' (bu xiao e tu), a 'depraved rogue' (diao tu). But most important, he was a 'guang gun': literally, a 'bare stick.'
"The Qing code's chapter on 'extortion' (kongxia qu cai) is the section most explicitly devoted to the rootless rascal. The original Ming dynasty statute that heads that chapter simply extends the robbery statutes to cover extortion; it says nothing specific about guang gun. But the substatutes appended over the course of the Qing dynasty did not elaborate on the theme of extortion and instead sought to punish habitual troublemaking by incorrigible individuals or groups. Many of these later substatutes have no direct link to extortion; indeed, over time, as new laws accumulated, the emphasis of the chapter shifted away from that specific crime to dangerous, antisocial behavior in general and to different groups of marginal men thought to threaten the social order.
"Running through the judicial discourse of the rootless rascal is a consistent conflation of certain kinds of crime (extortion, kidnapping, rape, seduction, sodomy, intimidation, robbery, banditry, heterodoxy, and so on) with certain kinds of men (Buddhist and Taoist clergy, local toughs, rootless migrants in frontier areas and cities, yamen clerks and runners, dislocated Miao tribesmen, eunuchs who had escaped palace supervision, and the like). One way or another, all of these men were seen as existing outside the mainstream pattern of settled households, the network of family and community relationships on which the Confucian order depended to enmesh and socialize individuals. Their victims were portrayed as 'the good people' (liang min) -- that is, law-abiding commoners: 'humble peasants,' chaste wives and daughters, and so on. These laws mandated harsh penalties of exile and death no to punish individual crimes so much as to remove the incorrigible troublemakers from society altogether."
"Rebellion, the Manchus thought, was likely to be sparked by popular religion. Both China’s Taoists and its Buddhists spawned sects over which the state had no control; these often splintered into semi-political secret societies, and spread word of their activities via networks of wandering monks – the very people who would soon become chief suspects in the  soulstealing affair."
* Yang 1999 p33-34
"After Buddhism migrated to China from India during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-25 A.D., 漢朝), the shovel became the weapon of priests. They used it to dig holes to bury the dead following the wars and famines that ravaged ancient China. They also used the shovels as defensive weapons when they traveled. In fact, the crescent moon shovel remained exclusively a monk's weapon until the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 A.D., 清朝).
"The head of a shovel can be used to attack the opponent's head, or to chop the foot. The crescent moon shape of the blade can be used to hook the enemy's weapon. When its user's back was against the wind, the shovel could also be used to scoop up dirt and throw it into the opponent's eyes, blinding him for the fight."