- John JorgensenJohn JorgensenHonorary Research Fellow, China Studies Research Center, La Trobe University
Huineng (d. 713), widely known as the 6th Patriarch of Chan Buddhism, was mostly an invented person, a symbol of the Sinification of Buddhism. The only reliable facts known about him were that he was a pupil of Hongren and taught “Chan” in the far south of China. A propaganda campaign elevating him to the 6th patriarch of Chan was launched in 730 by Shenhui, who almost alone fabricated “Huineng” out of a lack of information as the leader of the Chan School. However, Shenhui’s role was completely forgotten until the late 1920s when long-lost manuscripts from the caves of Dunhuang were discovered. Shenhui’s claim to being Huineng’s sole legitimate successor was overshadowed in the late 8th to 9th century by rivals claiming to be the only true disciples of Huineng. Thereafter, the Huineng legend became firmly fixed and gradually grew and remains popular. Huineng is seen as the founder of the Southern School of Chan, the only form of Chan to survive after the 10th century, and as the author of the Platform Sutra, a core Chan authority.