Stories of Reincarnation: Huang Tingjian and Su Dongpo During the Northern Song Dynasty
(Minghui.org) The concept of reincarnation was always an important aspect of ancient Chinese belief and was one that people always used to explain and make sense of the world.
However, after scientific theories were introduced to China, and ever since China has been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), anything related to religion and deities has been vehemently prohibited and denied, so Chinese people today know very little about their traditional culture. Science requires concrete evidence before reaching a conclusion, but ancient Chinese people proved reincarnation in a rather different way.
The Northern Song Poet Huang Tingjian
Huang Tingjian (1045-1105) was a poet during the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127). He was renowned not only for his literacy but also for his filial piety. From a young age, he was a dutiful son who personally scrubbed his mother's chamberpot and continued to do so even after he became a high-ranking official. His virtuous character moved the hearts of many, and his story was selected to be included in the classic Chinese book The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars.
At the age of 26, Huang was ranked among the top few for the imperial examination, so he was assigned as a senior provincial official in Huangzhou. He was taking a nap in the office one day when he dreamed that he walked out of the office and come across a village. He saw a gray-headed old lady praying at the altar outside her house, muttering a strangely familiar yet foreign name. When Huang walked closer, he saw a fragrant and hearty bowl of celery noodles on the altar table, and somehow he lifted it up and finished the whole bowl. After that, he returned to his office and was awakened by the sound of knocking at his door. He realized that it had all been a dream, but strangely enough, the taste of celery was strong in his mouth.
The next day, the same dream occurred again, and he could still taste the celery on his tongue. Huang was bewildered and decided to investigate the matter himself. He followed the path from his dream and soon enough, he reached a village that was vaguely familiar. He walked straight to a house and knocked on the door. The old woman from his dream answered the door. He asked her why was she calling for people to eat her noodles and she replied, “It was the anniversary of my daughter’s death yesterday. Her favorite food was celery noodles, so I made it for her and called her to eat it. I do this every year.”
Huang asked, “How long has your daughter been deceased?” The old woman replied, “It has been 26 years.”
It then occurred to Huang that yesterday had been his 26th birthday!
Huang then asked about the daughter. The old woman explained, “I only had one daughter. She enjoyed reading and was a devoted Buddhist and a vegetarian. She was very filial but refused to get married. She also said that she wished to reincarnate as a male in her next life and become a literati. When she was 26 years old, she passed away due to illness. Before that, she promised that she would come back to visit me.”
Shocked, Huang asked to see the daughter’s room. He entered the room and found the furniture very familiar and comforting. There was a huge cupboard by the wall that was tightly locked. Huang was told that it was used to store all of the books that the daughter read when she was alive. “Can I take a look?” Huang asked. “I can’t open it because I don’t know where my daughter put the key,” the old woman replied. Huang suddenly recalled where the key was. He found it and opened the cupboard. There were many manuscripts. After further reading, he realized that the manuscripts were exactly the same as his answer script for the imperial examination!
Huang realized that he had been the woman's daughter in his previous life, and the old woman standing next to him was his mother! So he knelt down and greeted her as his mother.
After Huang returned to the office, he had people fetch the old woman and treated her like his own birth mother.
I was very moved by this story—ancient Chinese people were not as backward as we have assumed. One requires evidence before reaching a conclusion, therefore Huang took the effort to find the house in the real world, and his mother from his past life, before confirming the theory of reincarnation.
Today, even many scientists have confirmed the existence of reincarnation using similar methodologies, such as conducting field trips and recording the accounts of people who can recall their past lives in great detail.
Monk Fo Yin and Northern Song Dynasty Poet Su Dongpo
From ancient China, there are some complete accounts of past and present lives through reincarnation, which are invaluable for future generations. One such story concerned Monk Fo Yin and the Northern Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo.
There was once a monk named Wujie who was blind in one eye. In a momentary slip, Wujie broke the religious precept on lust with a woman named Honglian, and the affair was witnessed by his senior, Mingwu. Wujie was so ashamed that he passed away and then reincarnated. Mingwu had already envisaged that Wujie might commit sins of defaming the Budhha and monks in his next life. If so, he would be doomed, so Mingwu also passed away and reincarnated with Wujie.
In their next lives, Wujie became the poet Su Dongpo and Mingwu became Su’s good friend, the Monk Fo Yin. Initially, Su did not believe in the laws of Buddhism and was more interested in pursuing fame and fortune. However, Monk Fo Yin stayed by his side and always gave him advice. Su gradually accepted Buddhism and the concept of reincarnation and focused on diligent cultivation.
Category: Traditional Culture