In the spring of 1951, after the Venerable Master Hua had constructed Western Bliss Gardens Temple on Horse Mountain in Xiaoqiwan, Hong Kong, he made a vow to construct a Way-place that would have space for more Sangha members to apply effort in cultivating the Way.
Cixing Chan Monastery is situated on Lanto Island in the New Territories of Hong Kong. It is surrounded by mountain ranges and hidden in a grove of trees, and people rarely venture into the area. The monastery is a combination of the former Guoqing Chan Cottage and a two-story villa.
When the fiery waves of the Pacific War reached Lanto Island, Guoqing Chan Cottage was burned down by the Japanese troops. As a result, the Sangha dispersed in all directions, leaving only the framework of the cottage half-buried under the rubble of tiles and gravel. There was no door, no windows, and no roof─the four walls were crumbling, full of holes, and covered with weeds. In the autumn of 1953, with the permission of the guardians of Guoqing Chan Cottage, the remains of the cottage were given to the Venerable Master. The two-story villa was the generous offer of Layman Dong Guoqi, who had taken refuge with the Master. Although the villa was in slightly better condition, it had been abandoned for so long that it too was missing its windows and doors, and the only thing that made it better than the Cottage was that its roof was still intact. How did the Venerable Master go about rebuilding these dwellings that were ruined to the extent of being like a wasteland? The following is an account of the renovation of Cixing Chan Monastery:
In order to rebuild Cixing Chan Monastery, the Venerable Master dispensed with sleep and forgot to eat. Despite his weakened condition, he travelled extensively during the day and night, even when buffeted by winds and drenched by rains. The selection of workmen, the preparation of materials, the commissioning of images, the laying-in of provisions─not one bit of the work did not spring from his efforts. The Venerable Master wrote a verse:
As night falls on Magic Mountain,
I step out from Cixing Monastery.
The lone moon shines upon the poor monk;
The stars encircle Polaris.
Mundane affairs are like dreams;
How few are those who know!
Don't be turned by the dusts;
Then your six sense organs may become one.
Repairs were completed on the villa and the guest hall early in the spring of 1954. These formed the Left Wing of Cixing Chan Monastery. Aside from repairing the Great Hall, the Left Wing, and the guest hall, the Master also constructed a dining hall, a room for practicing in seclusion, and a cabin. To the left is the dragon-subduing rock and to the right is the tiger-taming stream. The architecture is superb, with white walls and red pillars framed by the surrounding mountains. It truly can be said to borrow the efficacious atmosphere of heaven and earth, surpassing all other natural settings. It is certainly not inferior in grandeur to the famous four great mountains and eight small mountains of China. It is in all respects comparable to the appearance of Nanhua, the Way-place of the Sixth Patriarch.
The following incident occurred during the rebuilding of Cixing Chan Monastery:
During 1953, a red-headed, green-bodied poisonous snake kept appearing at the Way-place. When the Sangha members first saw it, they caught it in a barrel and took it several miles beyond the grounds, but before the party had returned, the creature had already appeared on the monastery grounds, crawling along in plain sight. This happened time and again. The strangest thing was that once, after the snake had been taken to its destination, the man lifted the lid of the barrel to release it, but it was nowhere to be seen. The man replaced the cover with a light tap, and soon the severed body of half a snake fell out. By the time the man had returned, however, the body had become whole once again, and the poisonous snake was seen crawling in front of the Buddhahall, where it lifted its head and darted out its tongue.
Snakes belong to the class of dragons, and when the Venerable Master was in Manchuria, ten dragons took refuge with him. Therefore the Venerable Master proceeded to shape a golden dragon on top of the dragon-subduing rock, to the left and behind the left wing of the monastery. He fashioned it with teeth bared and claws brandished in such a way that it appeared to be on the verge of flight.
After the golden dragon was complete, the poisonous snake never reappeared. It is certainly true that virtue can subdue demons!
The tiger-taming stream is a mountain torrent several miles long. It flows to the right of the monastery, and every rainy season the flash floods on the mountain presented countless problems for travellers. Because of the difficulty, at the place where the stream passed under the road which lies within the Lingshan Way-place Memorial Arch [halfway down the mountain from Cixing Monastery], the Master constructed a bow-shaped stone bridge and beneath the bridge hollowed out a pond, making a pool for liberating life. After that, the mountain waters had easy passage down, and not only did the stream no longer obstruct travellers, but it actually benefitted stupid living beings.
From these various incidents one can see that the rebuilding of Cixing Chan Monastery is no casual occurrence. For thousands of years and myriads of generations, generations of great Buddhist cultivators will certainly arise from here. All those who work hard cultivating the Way will be drawn to gather at this place. The future accomplishments of Cixing Chan Monastery will definitely make a brilliant page in the history of Buddhism.