Buddhist monk, writer of Northern Zhou and Sui. Tanyan’s secular surname was Wang 王. His ancestral home was Sangquan 桑泉 in Puzhou 蒲州 (modern Linjin 臨晉, Shanxi). At the age of sixteen, Tanyan visited a monastery and listened to a monk lecturing on the Niepan jing 涅槃經 (Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra
). At that moment he decided to become a Buddhist monk. Tanyan lived in seclusion in the Taihang 太行 Mountains. Yuwen Tai 宇文泰 (505–556) showed great respect to Tanyan while he served in the Western Wei court. During the Jiande period (572–578) of Emperor Wu of the Northern Zhou, Tanyan went to Chang’an where he was selected to debate with Zhou Hongzheng 周弘正 (496–574), an envoy from the southern Chen court. Tanyan lost the competiton, but Zhou Hongzheng regarded Tanyan as his master. Before Zhou Hongzheng returned to the south, he composed forty poems “Feng yun shan hai shi” 風雲山海詩 (Poems on wind, cloud, mountain and ocean) and sent them to Tanyan, who replied with poems on the same subject.
Tanyan again became a recluse in the Taihang Mountains when Emperor Wu undertook his proscription of Buddhism. He returned to Chang’an after Emperor Xuan 宣 (r. 579–579) lifted the ban on Buddhism. He died at the age of seventy-three.
Tanyan has only one extant poem which is preserved in the Xu Gaoseng zhuan 續高僧傳, Shi ji of Feng Weine, and Lu Qinli’s Xian Qin Han Wei Jin Nanbeichao shi. His only extant prose piece, “Lin zhong yi qi” 臨終遺啟 (Last testament), is preserved in Yan Kejun’s Quan shangguo Sandai Qin Han Sanguo Liuchao wen. (Source: Knechtges, David R., and Taiping Chang. Ancient and Early Medieval Chinese Literature: A Reference Guide, Part Two. Leiden: Brill, 2014, p. 1076–77. https://brill.com/display/title/19546)