Master Renyi (仁义法师) is the first bhikkhuni bodhisattva in the history of Chinese Buddhism to attain the incorruptible body.
She was born in a wealthy family in Shenyang, Liaoning, and named Jiang Sumin. She was born during that time when the Chinese Revolution just started in 1911. At that time, her parents still bound her feet according to feudal practices and intended to educate Sumin according to the ways of a traditional lady. When she was 7 years old, her family sent her to a private school to study the zither, chess, calligraphy and painting. These were skills that every fine lady of ancient China should have.
Buddhism is for people with the right Karma and Sumin is one of them. She had no interest for the things being taught in the private school and found Buddhist scriptures interesting instead. From time to time, she would sneak to nearby temples to listen to the sutra chanting. She even managed to memorize the sutra in that manner. At the same time, Sumin also discover that the monks lead a hard life due to constant shortage of clothing and food. Thus she secretly donated to the temple without telling her family. In this manner, she grew up under the influence of Dharma. Naturally, that influenced her desire to help others and she started studying traditional Chinese Medicine, including acupuncture. When she came of age, her parent broached the topic of marriage and she expressed her desire to become a nun.
In traditional China, being a nun was despised upon and her parent made utmost effort to marry her off. Thus, she was quickly married to a family in Tonghua, Jilin Province. Her marriage was not a happy one and she didn’t have any children. Her in-laws were extremely unhappy with the barren Sumin and their attitude became worse when her husband passed away. That lead to her resolute decision to become a nun. In the autumn of 1940, Jiang Sumin went to Mt. Wutai, which is a holy Buddhist place dedicated to Manjushri Bodhisattva. She became a nun in Xiantong Temple and was given the Dharma name, RenYi (仁义) which means of benevolence and righteousness.
Her main practice centered around farming and meditation. Unlike modern times, monks and nuns had to depend on themselves for food. Thus many people had to farm in order to survive. As Zen Buddhism was her main practice, she quickly integrated zen into her daily routine. In that manner, she single-handedly converted large track of waste land into farm land.
In addition, she continued her medicine study. Unfortunately, even the Buddhist temples were not immune from wars and social upheavals. Master Renyi thus left Mt. Wutai and went all the way to Shenyang in 1942 to further study medical sciences. Shenyang College of Traditional Chinese Medicine became her home for four years as she hone her medical skills.
The war broke out again in 1950 and Master Renyi did not hesitate to volunteer as a front line medic. Although she is small in size and her feet were bounded, she managed to save numerous lives in the battle field as she lugged injured soldiers to the medical base. She performed her medical duties while chanting sutra and would continue even when she was shot in the wrist.
She did not return to the temple after the war but was posted to various hospital. For her, helping people is part of her practice and there is no difference between saving a life and chanting in a temple. In this manner, she helped numerous patients and became respected for her acupuncture skills.
Master Renyi returned to Mount Wutai in 1982. She was 71 years old at that time. She was formerly ordained in the Tayuan Monastery and officially became a bhikkhuni. In the second year, Master Renyi went on a pilgrimage to Mt. Jiuhua (another holy Buddhist site). Upon seeing the dilapidated temple there, she sold her property and used the funds to repair the temple. Although she was old, she did not stay in the renovated temple she sponsored. She preferred travelling around and benefiting people she met along the way.
Master Renyi passed away on October 7th of the lunar calendar in 1995 at Tonghui Zen Monastery, age 85. According to her instructions, she was buried and her disciples exhumed her grave after three years to find her body incorruptible. When they opened the coffin vat of Master Renyi, they saw her whole body non-decayed, her teeth and nails did not fall off and her skin was still elastic, and even her hair had grown a little. Her bosom had disappeared. Strangely, the posture of her corpse differ from her initial burial. Her right hand was slightly raised and reminded her them of how she had always performed acupuncture. Master Renyi is a pioneer for a nun attaining the state of incorruptibility and her body was gold leafed and is currently enshrined in the Tonghui Zen Monastery (通慧禅林) in Mt. Jiuhua