- Daniela CampoDaniela CampoDepartment of Asian Studies, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes
Xuyun 虛雲 (?–1959), also known in the West as Empty Cloud, was a famous Chan master and one of the principal monastic leaders of modern Chinese Buddhism. From the end of the Chinese empire to the first decade of the Maoist regime, Xuyun engaged in the physical reconstruction and institutional reform of six large monasteries of the Chan tradition. In his monasteries, he reintroduced disciplinary rules, meditation practice, and precept transmission and trained new generations of monastics. A former ascetic and an expert Chan practitioner, Xuyun led extended meditation retreats and instructed both monastic and lay Buddhists in the kan huatou method of meditation. Known as a miracle worker, he directed religious ceremonies and public rituals all over the country, attracting huge numbers of followers. Relying on his charisma and on his great authority at both a religious and an institutional level, this master actively worked for the transmission of Chinese Buddhism and helped shape its transition to the new social and political conditions: his long-term engagement in the preservation of the rules of Chinese monasticism and systematic effort to ensure the reproduction of Chinese Buddhism in general and of the Chan school in particular through Dharma transmissions can also be singled out among his most important contributions to modern Chinese Buddhism. Xuyun also was, and still is, one of the most revered Buddhist masters of the 20th century across China and the West. He acquired the reputation of a modern eminent monk during his lifetime, particularly after the 1953 publication of his autobiography—a work that fits neatly into the hagiographical tradition of the biographies of eminent monks, in terms of not only its themes, aims, and target audience but also its sources and its editorial method.