Mulian Rescues His Mother


Xin ke chu xiang yin zhu Quan shan Mulian jiu mu xing xiao xi wen (Mulian rescues his mother) is a drama by Ming playwright Zheng Zhizhen (1518–95). The story originated from Fo shuo Yulanben jing, a Chinese translation by Dharmaraksa during the Western Jin dynasty (265–316) of the Indian Ullambana sutra, which tells the story of Mulian, one of the Syakamuni Buddha’s closest disciples and endowed with supernatural powers. Maudgalyāyana in the original sutra is Mulian in the Chinese version. After Mulian’s mother dies, she goes to hell because of her evil deeds in life. After learning of the sufferings of his mother, Mulian, the filial son, seeks the Buddha’s help. After staging a massive ritual on the 15th day of the lunar month of July with chanting and abundant sacrificial offerings, Mulian descends to hell to save his mother. According to Chinese folklore, every year on this day, during the festival for the deliverance of hungry ghosts, the gates of hell were opened and all suffering spirits were allowed to return and see their living descendants and to enjoy grand feasts. Large-scale rituals were held on this day and Mulian became one of the folk deities. At the end of lunar July, which was called the Ghost Month, the ghosts had to return to the underworld. Zheng Zhizhen was a native of Qimen, Anhui Province, who wrote for enjoyment. He compiled this work, based on earlier literature and poetic dramas and popular sung dramas, but with additional twists in the plot. During the late Ming, regional operas were prevalent. As economic development came to Anhui, itinerant merchants there spread this drama widely throughout the country. The work was printed by Tang Fuchun at Fuchun Tang, his workshop in Nanjing during the Wanli era, where many other dramas were also printed. This copy has simple and unadorned illustrations, with added notations to texts that might be difficult for a reader to understand. The work consists of 102 folds, in eight juan and six volumes. The first part narrates a story about a man named Fu Xiang and his widow who goes to hell and about the filial son who saves his mother. The second part describes Mulian being guided by the Buddha in search of his mother. The last part describes Mulian’s reunion with his mother, how his mother is saved, and how she meets her husband in heaven.

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Fuchun Tang, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province


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8 juan in 6 volumes : illustrations

Last updated: January 3, 2018