Photographs and Information about Taiwan's Culture, Nature and People by Rich Matheson

Ji Gong道濟禪師, 濟公~The Drunk Monk(a bit more)

He goes by many names. Commonly known as Ji Gong (Chee Gong), Dao Ji(Daoji) and Ji Gong Huo Fuo. Also; Master Ji, Rinpoche Ji Gong, Li Xiuyuan, Hu Yin (Recluse from the Lake) and Elder Fang Yuan (Square Circle) and colloquially; The Mad Monk, The Drunk Monk and The Crazy Monk.
Ji Gong, along with Chi Yeh, Ba Yeh, Ba Jia Jiang, San Tai Tz etc. are certainly the most commonly seen figures in marching troupes during street parades and festivals here in Taiwan. Ji Gong is also one of the better known and understood gods by the general populace due to the popular TV series Ji Gong. Surprisingly there is very little English literature about him. In my three main Taiwanese folk religion references (one is English, two are Chinese) he is only mentioned in one, and then only in passing. Apparently the most influential work about Jigong is the 評演濟公傳(1898-1900)Pingyan Jigong Chuan, which has Ji Gong helping the poor and righting wrongs; much like a magical Chinese Robin Hood who is a martial arts master. When I asked about Ji Gong at a Taoist temple, I was told he was a Buddhist god, at a Buddhist temple on the same day I was told he was a Taoist figure. This follows Taiwanese folk religion in general, but it seems Ji Gong’s place in the pantheon is more murky than most.

Belying his popularity amongst Taiwanese, Ji Gong ranks only as a minor deity in the Chinese god pantheon. Ji Gong(1130-1209), was born a mortal, Li Xiu Yuan, to parents who were unable to have children yet, obviously, had one anyway. It is said that upon his birth in a temple, a statue of Mahakasyapa fell off its throne, signifying that the luohan had descended to earth. After his parents death he entered the monastic life in the Ling Yin Temple in Hangzhou. Differing from other monks, Li Xiu Yuan ate meat, drank wine and basically spurned the vinaya (traditonal code for monastics). For this and other eccentric behaviour, Li Xiu Yuan was expelled from the monastery.

For the remainder of his life, Li Xiu Yuan wandered from village to village in the coastal parts of Zhejiang 浙江 helping people. Through his good deeds, compassion and continued cultivation of Buddhism he gained magic powers. He died at the Jing Ci monastery on May 14th (solar-17 June 1207. Not long after his death, Ji gong was deified in Taoism and later recognized in Buddhism.

Some other interesting things about Ji Gong is his ties to the boxers, Taiwanese spirit-writing, spirit-possesion and spirit painting. As well as gambling. I am planning a Ji Gong temple trip around KHH and Tainan counties with a friend to find out more about this colorful fellow.


8 responses

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  4. Mike Chu

    I will be traveling to Taiwan in mid Aug, could you please give me addresses of all the Ji-Gong Temple in Taiwan which I intend to visit as much as I can.
    Thank you.
    Best regards

    Mike from Mauritius

    July 12, 2011 at 4:35 am

    • Mike, there are hundreds of Jigong temples. Many are concentrated in the south, especially around Jiashen and Chishan and the road between the two (provincial hwy 21) has many good ones. One of my favorites is in Jiashen 清隱寺(Qin Yin Monastery) (高雄縣甲仙鄉西安村和南巷40號 07-6752359) It’s out of the village nestled in the jungle on a hillside, but kind of hard to find.

      July 12, 2011 at 11:48 am

  5. Mike Chu

    Tks Rich…

    July 19, 2011 at 6:51 am

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