Reminder from last issue:
The renowned painter Zhang Daqian had been a novice monk, but was forced to return to lay-life by his mother. After marrying, he went to Thousand Buddhas Cave in Dunhuang, where he toiled diligently and made successful reproductions of the wall paintings. When he was residing in the United States, the Venerable Master Hua visited him and composed a poem for him.
Like lightning traveliug through space, high up to the heavens. The mood in his paintings is as quick as a lightning flash in space. In terms of both classical and modern art, the critical appraisal of his work is pretty high. How high is it? Almost as high as the heavens. When I presented this poem to him, he read the first four lines and said, "Good poem! Good poem!" The poem continues, "Guanyin manifests the appearance of a great hero." I meant that with his long beard, he looked very similar to one of the images of Guanyin Bodhisattva in the Great Compassion Mantra. Although there was this resemblance, I'm not saying that he was a manifestation of Guanyin Bodhisattva. Even if he were a transformation body of Guanyin Bodhisattva, he still cultivated, and he still fell into the lower realms. He became a monkey, too. Nevertheless, in this life, he looked like great hero with his long beard.
Amitabha would personally praise his elder's countenance. This is not necessarily the case, so don't interpret it as saying that Amitabha Buddha really praised him. I believe that even Amitabha Buddha himself would praise him and say he had the demeanor of an elder. Even though he had the look of an elder and a hero, he still resembled a monkey. When he read the lines, "Guanyin manifests the appearance of a great hero; Amitabha would personally praise his elder's countenance," he was so happy and said, "My! Wonderfully written!" Then he read the last two lines: "Although playfully roaming in samadhi is delightful," although you have been enjoying yourself and travelling at leisure, and it seems to be a lot of fun, "Do not forget the purple-golden lotus in the West." Don't forget that there are purple-golden lotus flowers in the Western Pure Land, which are even better than this. Seeing these two lines, he lowered his head and lamented several times, "Oh! I've fallen! I've fallen!" This is the affinity I once had with him.
In his late years, he went back to Taiwan. At Wai Shuangxi, a suburb of Taipei, he built the Maya Hermitage and grew some plants and trees. He was very fond of plum blossoms. Here in Carmel, he also had plum trees; however, American plum blossoms have no fragrance. He asked me to go and look at them in the spring, but I told him, "I'm afraid I can't spare the time." In his eighties, he contracted a slight illness and died.
So a famous painter of his time was gone. His life was picturesque, too; no wonder he was a painter. Everything that he did in his life was really like a picture. It's a pity that nobody has painted it. What he found most difficult to renounce was good food, so he specialized in cooking. He investigated how different dishes should be cooked and prepared. In Taipei, my disciple Zhang Guoguan often went to serve as a cook at his parties. Zhang Guoguan is also a famous chef. The above has been an account of Zhang Daqian's life.
→To be continued