Stories from Ancient China: The Monk and the Tiger

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Shi Faan was also called Ci Qin. No one knew where he came from. He was a disciple of Huiyuan and was good at explaining sutras and inspiring others to correct their wrong deeds.

During the Jin dynasty's (A.D. 265-420) Yixi period an area of China called the Xinyang County was been terrorised by a tiger. Every morning one or two civilians were found mauled to death by a tiger, causing the locals to live in constant fear. As a away of preventing these killings the locals built a shrine in the countryside under a big tree where hundreds of residents lived.

One day Shi Faan wandered by the village. He went to the temple, thinking of spending the night there, but found the front door locked because the villagers were afraid of the tiger. Faan meditated under the big tree for the entire night.

In the early morning the tiger approached the north side of the tree. It seemed to be quite surprised and happy to see Faan, slowly approaching his feet. Faan recited sutras and taught the tiger the precepts. The tiger seemed to listen attentively without the slightest movement. After a while it left. At daybreak, the villagers rushed to the tree and found Faan unharmed. Seeing that he wasn't killed by the tiger they thought he was an immortal.

The tiger-caused disaster vanished. Villagers thus changed the place of worship into a full-fledged temple and asked Faan to be the abbot. They also donated nearby farmland to the temple.

Later on, Faan intended to draw some portraits and needed some verdigris for his paintings but couldn't find any. One night he dreamt of a person coming to his bed and telling him, "There are bronze bells below this ground." When Faan woke up he immediately dug into the ground and found two bronze bells. He was thus able to finish his painting. He eventually donated the other bell to Huiyuan, to help cast a Buddha stature.

As time went by, no one knew where Faan went.

(From Legends of Holy Monks, Vol. II)

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