In Bells, Gongs, and Wooden Fish, Venerable Master Hsing Yun grants voices to the objects of daily monastic life to tell their stories in this collection of first-person narratives. From monastic shoes to robes and alms bowls, these everyday objects tell the story of their lives and the life of Buddhism from their own perspective. Originally published in 1953, the collected sketches are both lyrical and satiric. The collection of inanimate speakers describe and criticize the state of Chinese Buddhism in the early twentieth century in which educating the laity is an afterthought and the day-to-day activities of monastics are dominated by funerary rites. Bells, Gongs, and Wooden Fish showcases the beginnings of Master Hsing Yun's work as a Buddhist reformer, and describes a path to revolutionize, modernize, and humanize Buddhism that resonates to this day.
Venerable Master Hsing Yun is a Chinese Buddhist monk, author, philanthropist, and founder of the Fo Guang Shan monastic order, which has branches throughout Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, and the Americas. Ordained at the age of twelve in Jiangsu Province, China, Master Hsing Yun has spent his over seventy years as a Buddhist monk building what he calls Humanistic Buddhism: Buddhism that meets the needs of people and is integrated into all aspects of life. In 1949, Master Hsing Yun came to Taiwan and began to nurture the new burgeoning Buddhist culture in Taiwan. He served as an editor and contributor to many Buddhist magazines and periodicals, authoring the daily columns "Between Ignorance and Enlightenment," "Dharma Words," and "Hsing Yun's Chan Talk," as well as starting his own Buddhist magazine, Awakening the World, in 1957, and the first daily Buddhist newspaper, the Merit Times, in 2000. Master Hsing Yun authored many important works including the Song of Silence, the Biography of Sakyamuni Buddha, and National Master Yulin. Master Hsing Yun also edited and sponsored the Fo Guang Encyclopedia, the most authoritative Buddhist reference work in the Chinese language. His contributions have reached as far as sponsoring Buddhist music and art, to creating Buddhist programming for television, radio, and the stage.