Stories from History: Guany Yunshi Resigned His Official Post to Seek the Principles of Buddhism

Yi Lian

PureInsight | August 22, 2007

[] Guan Yunshi
was a renowned lyric verse writer in the Yuan dynasty. He was the
descendant of an aristocrat of Uygur. His ancestral home was in today's
Jmusaer, Xinjiang Province. His grandfather was a high official with a
meritorious record for helping to establish the Yuan dynasty and held
the posts as Governor of the provinces of Hunan, Hubei, and Guangdong.
His father held an official post regulating government affairs in
Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces. His mother, the Lady of Zhao, was the
daughter of Lian Ximin, an official in regulatory government affairs.

Before Guan Yunshi was born, his mother had a dream about an immortal
who picked a constellation, changed it into a pearl, and give it to
her. While playing with the pearl, she accidentally swallowed it and
became pregnant.  

Guan Yunshi was very bright since childhood. He was skillful in martial
arts, good at horsemanship and archery during his teenage years. He
could hold a long lance while galloping on horseback. When he was
twenty, because of the meritorious service of his grandfather, he was
assigned as the highest official of the areas north and south of the
Huai River, guarding Yongzhou. He enforced military regulations with
strict discipline and kept the rewards and punishments fair.

One day he called his young brother, Hudu Haiya, and told him, "I
always look down upon official rank and fame. But because of
grandfather's noble rank I inherit the rank. I have been in the
official post for several years now and I should turn it over to you."
He wrote his father to inform him of his decision. He then turned over
the official document and took off the gold general's insignia and
happily gave it to his brother.

After resigning from the official post, Guan Yunshi headed towards the
Northern Capital. He got to know Yao Sui, a renowned writer. Yao
greatly admired Guan's sharp and precise classical Chinese prose and
his passionate classical music. Thus, Yao recommended Guan Yunshi to
Renzong, who was waiting to be enthroned as Emperor. When Renzong heard
about Guan's resignation from his noble office and giving it to his
brother, he told his officials: "It is hard to find the descendants of
generals with such meritorious records. Guan Yunshi presented the
Explanation of Classic of Filial Piety, which was highly praised by
Renzong. Renzong appointed him as a scholar of his residence before
ascending the throne.

On the first year of Yanyou (1314), when Renzong became emperor, Guan
Yunshi, then 28, was named Scholar of the Imperial Academy, senior
officer of Zhongfeng, official in charge of secretarial matters, and
court historian. People named him as "Young Academician."  Many
official in charge of academic affairs all wanted to be with him. He
and others discussed and drafted rules for renewing the imperial civil
service examination. Later, Guan presented a long letter sharply
critical of current social and state affairs. But the emperor didn't
adopt his suggestion. Guan Yunshi thought to himself: "Ancient sages
resigned from their high official posts and then occupied lower
positions. Now I take charge of Imperial Academy, which is higher than
the position I held. People will say I was looking for reputation and
seeking a good post. It is time for me to go." He thus resigned with an
excuse of illness and returned to southern China.  

Guan Yunshi lived in the Southern China for a decade. He traveled in
the mountains and recited poetry and wrote poems. Wherever he went,
government officials and their families all sought his company. They
treasured his poems and paintings, even just short pieces. Guan Yunshi
pondered: "I was trying to escape from undeserved reputation. But now
it follows me like a shadow. It is big and flourishing here. I shall
live in seclusion." Guan then lived anonymously and mixed with the
regular townfolk.  

Guan Yunshi studied Buddha dharma diligently after he lived in
seclusion in southern China. Once, he went to the Tianmu Mountain to
meditate and discuss Buddha dharma with Zhongfeng, a Buddhist monk.
They matched their skills sharply. Every summer, he went to the Bao
Mountain to meditate. During the Renzong reign, a monk named Daoping
from Hangzhou, raised funds for rebuilding the Tianlong Temple. Guan
Yunshi contributed generously and wrote "Mountain Boat" for the temple.

In his poems and songs, Guan Yunshi often expressed his lack of
interest in official rank and fame and thought of holding himself apart
from the world.

Translated from

Add new comment