This article is about a Buddhist monk who became a minor Taoist deity. For the Liu Song
general, see Tan Daoji
Daoji (2 February 1130–16 May 1207),commonly known as Ji Gong, was a Chán Buddhist monk of the Southern Song Dynasty in China. He was born with the name of Li Xiuyuan. (李修元). Some sources have cited his name as Lǐ Xiūyuán (李修缘, the only difference being the third character of his name).
Ji Gong was for his wild and eccentric behavior while openly breaking monastic codes (such as openly drinking wine and consuming meat), but was still compassionate by nature and possessed supernatural powers. By the time of his death, Ji Gong became a folk hero in China and was invoked as a folk religious deity. Ji Gong is often invoked by oracles to assist in worldly affairs. Buddhists also invoke Ji Gong in folk stories and koans.
Li Xiuyuan was born to a former military advisor, Li Maochun. After the death of his parents, at the age of 18 Li was sent off to Hangzhou and was ordained a Buddhist monastic at Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou. He was ordained by the vinaya master Huiyuan and was given the monastic name Daoji. Unlike a traditional Buddhist monk, Daoji did not like to follow the traditional monastic code. Daoji had a penchant for openly eating meat and drinking wine; his robes were often tattered and dirty from travelling from place to place, and stumbling while intoxicated. However, Daoji was kind hearted and was always ready to lend a helping hand to ordinary people. He would often treat the sick and fight against injustice. The monks, bewildered and fed up with his behavior, expelled Daoji from the monastery. From then on, Daoji roamed the streets and helped people whenever he could.
According to legends, while cultivating in the Buddha's teaching, Daoji was said to attain magical powers. Many who noticed his eccentric yet benevolent and compassionate nature began to think that he was an incarnate of a bodhisattva, or as a reincarnate of an arhat. He was widely recognized by the public as the incarnate of the Taming Dragon Arhat (simplified Chinese: 降龙罗汉; traditional Chinese: 降龍羅漢; pinyin: Xiánglóng Luóhàn), one of the eighteen legendary arhats.
When Daoji died at the Jing Ci monastery on the 14th day of 5th Lunar month (17 June 1207), syncretic Taoism began to revere Daoji as a god from heaven and later adopted him as a deity. Not long after that, Buddhism began to recognize Daoji's compassionate efforts and is involved in many classic koans.
The I Kuan Tao has also adopted him into their pantheon of deities, citing Zhang Tianran, contemporary founder of the I-Kuan Tao, as the incarnation.
Ji Gong can usually be seen smiling in tattered monastic robes, and usually carries a bottle of wine in his right hand, and a fan (believed to be magical) in his left hand. He wears a hat with the Chinese character Fo （佛）, meaning "Buddha". He can also be seen holding his shoes in his right hand. Because of his carefree nature, he is rarely ever shown with a serious facial expression.
Daoji in popular culture 
- The life of Daoji has also been popularized in a TV series which aired in 1993 called (in English) "Legends of Ji Gong."
- Comedic actor and director Stephen Chow portrayed Ji Gong in his 1993 movie Ji Gong (film).
- In 2010, the Legend of Crazy Monk was based on Daoji screened on mainland China.
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