Online Center for Resources on
Yan Bing 顏丙 (Ruru jushi 如如居士)

This site was founded by Alan Wagner in 2008 to serve as a center for the distribution and sharing of resources related to the ongoing project of reading and understanding the collected works of Yan Bing 顏丙, also known as Layman Ruru (Ruru jushi 如如居士), a Chan Buddhist layman of the Southern Song.

Still in its infancy, the site currently makes available Dr. Wagner’s PhD dissertation on Yan Bing. In the future it is planned also to offer digitized copies of Yan’s entire corpus, an ongoing accumulation of transcriptions and translations, and a list of occurences of Yan’s writing known to be preserved in extant published sources.


Practice and Emptiness in the Discourse Record of Ruru Jushi, Yan Bing (d. 1212), a Chan Buddhist Layman of the Southern Song
Alan G. Wagner, PhD dissertation, Harvard University, 2008

Thesis Abstract:

In this dissertation I study the works of one Chinese Buddhist layman, Yan Bing 顏丙, also known as Layman Ruru (Ruru jushi 如如居士, d. 1212). His extant writings survive in two editions, a handwritten manuscript of more than 400 pages and a woodblock print of 121 pages. In this rare and exceptional corpus we find a great wealth of primary material on Buddhist thought, culture, and practice in the Southern Song (1127–1279), including essays on doctrine, morality and meditation, written prayers and supplications, detailed ritual protocols, records of his formal Chan teachings, a complex diagram of the Buddhist cosmos, and essays and verses on the unity of the “Three Teachings” (Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism).

This study has two aims. First, it introduces Yan Bing to the English-speaking scholarly community by presenting a substantial volume of transcriptions and translations from his corpus. Second, it explores the relationship between the doctrine of “emptiness” or “nonduality” on the one hand and “conventional” Buddhist morality and ritual piety on the other. Both of these religious orientations are well represented in Yan’s works. As a second-generation dharma heir of Linji Chan Master Dahui Zonggao 大慧宗杲 (1089–1163), Yan emphasizes meditation and huatou contemplation as the fastest solution to the problem of karma and rebirth. At the same time, he strongly urges adherence to the Buddhist precepts, the cultivation of merit, and the pursuit of rebirth in Amitābha Buddha’s Pure Land.

The study proceeds through a careful examination of the relationship between one’s store of karmic merit and the possibility of attaining “sudden” enlightenment; the various uses to which Yan applies the doctrine of nonduality in his preaching; and an extensive comparison with another Buddhist layman, the Pure Land devotee Wang Rixiu 王日休 (d. 1173). We find that Yan sees “conventional” religiosity as a support to the pursuit of ultimate liberation and that different understandings of “emptiness” have a tangible impact on programs of practice.