John Blofeld

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John Eaton Calthorpe Blofeld (Born Anthony, 2 April 1913 – 7 June 1987) was a British writer on Asian thought and religion, especially Taoism and Chinese Buddhism.

Early life

Blofeld was born in London in 1913.[1] In his youth, he happened to come across a small statue of Gautama Buddha and, without knowing what it was, he felt a great passion to possess it, and then privately offered it flowers and prostrated before it every night. Experiences like this led Blofeld to believe in reincarnation, and that he had been a Buddhist in China in a previous life.[2] He was educated at Haileybury College, then Downing College, Cambridge University where he read natural sciences but did not complete his degree. Instead he left in his second year for travels to China.[3] From 1932 to 1935 he lived in Hong Kong, teaching English at the Munsang College at Kai Tak Bun, Kowloon City<Munsang College> and learning Cantonese.[4] Then in the summer of 1935, he moved to China, having obtained a teaching position at the Hebei Academy of Industry in Tianjin, with a teaching schedule that would allow him to spend three nights a week in Beijing.[5] Family matters called him back to England in the summer of 1937, so he was not present when the Japanese occupied northern China.

War years and after

Returning to Hong Kong in September 1937, he mostly resided in and traveled around China until 1949, visiting monasteries and all the sacred mountains[6] and talking to Mongolian lamas, Zen masters, Taoist sages, and others. He lived for some time in Peking, and traveled through Asia (Tibet, Mongolia, China, India, and Burma) to visit the places where those religions lived within their practitioners. He talked to Taoist eremites (hermits), spent time in monasteries and experienced how alive the spiritual culture of China was in this period. Blofeld became a pupil of Hsu Yun but actually received training in Ch'an (Zen) meditation from Hsu Yun's pupils at a monastery near Kunming, Yunnan. He also received Vajrayana teachings.

Starting in 1937, he traveled around south China and southeast Asia, visiting Guilin,[7] Hanoi,[8] Kunming (where he spent ten months meditating in the Hua Ting monastery),[9] and eventually returned to Hong Kong to resume teaching at the Min Sheng Academy. But after several months there, he returned to England in 1939, to enroll in the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, where he studied Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Malaysian. His academic studies were again interrupted, this time by World War II. After one year of studies, he enlisted in counterintelligence (otherwise he would have been conscripted without a choice of which service to enter), and was soon promoted and sent to the British Embassy in Chongqing as cultural attache, on the basis of his proficiency in Chinese.[10]

When the war ended, Blofeld returned to England and, in six months, received a master's degree in literature at the University of Cambridge. In 1946, he flew to Hebei. He had a Chinese National Government grant to study Tang Dynasty Buddhism, and taught English at Shi Fan University.[11]

Seeing that a Communist takeover was imminent, Blofeld fled Beijing with his pregnant wife.[12] He then taught English in Hong Kong (1949-1951) and Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok (1951-1961).[13] During these years he also visited Darjeeling to study with Nyingma teachers including Dudjom Rinpoche and Dodrupchen Rinpoche.

Blofeld worked for the United Nations (ECAFE, later ESCAP - Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) (1961-1974), and then retired.[14] In his later years, he conducted extensive lecture tours of America and Canada (1978-1980), and subsequently studied Chinese composition and literature.

His studies and his collected experiences with the sages and mystics of China are of special interest, because he entered this realm in an era before the Cultural Revolution which aimed at annihilating all ties to the old feudal Chinese identity.

His own view on the practices and beliefs he encountered was always marked by admiration of this lived spirituality. In the beginnings of his travels and studies, he was not very familiar with the native languages, and held a skeptical position against the shamanistic elements of those religions. But as his studies dove deeper into the complex symbolism of Asian thought, he developed a broader view, and became himself a deeply spiritual man. Blofeld mentored Red Pine in his translation work. According to Red Pine, Blofeld "was a very sincere Buddhist who practiced every night for several hours and loved what he did. I don't think he ever stopped learning."[15]

Personal life

At age 34, Blofeld married Change Mei-fang, of whom he wrote, “She was half Manchu and half Chinese ... She was a woman of excellent character, intelligent and capable, but she was extremely argumentative! This goes to show that the old saying, 'Heaven punishes the guilty', is not just an empty slogan.”[16]

His first child was a son, named Ming Deh (“Bright Virtue”), born in Hong Kong the year he fled the Communist takeover of Beijing. A year later, his daughter, Shueh Chan (“Snow Beauty”) was born.[17]

He died of cancer at age 74 in Bangkok, Thailand. His ashes occupy a place of honor in a Chinese Guan Yin temple he had helped build in 1951.[18]

He left a son and daughter who currently reside in Spain and Chesham. He has four granddaughters and a grandson.

Selected works

  • The Huang Po Doctrine of Universal Mind - 1947, under pseudonym Chu Ch'an
  • The Path to Sudden Attainment, a treatise of the Ch'an (Zen) school of Chinese Buddhism by Hui Hai[ar] of the T'ang Dynasty - 1948
  • The Zen Teaching of Huang Po: On the Transmission of Mind - 1959
  • City of Lingering Splendour : A Frank Account of Old Peking's Exotic Pleasures - 1961
  • The Zen Teaching of Hui Hai - 1962
  • I Ching, the Book of Change - 1968
  • The Way of Power. A guide to Tantric mysticism of Tibet - 1970
  • The Tantric Mysticism of Tibet : A Practical Guide to the Theory, Purpose, and Techniques of Tantric Meditation - 1970
  • The Secret and Sublime: Taoist Mysteries and Magic - 1973
  • Atisha: A biography of the renowned Buddhist sage - 1974, Translated by Thubten Kelsang Rinpoche and Ngodrub Paljor, with John Blofeld.
  • Bodhisattva of Compassion : The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin - 1977
  • The jewel in the lotus: An outline of present day Buddhism in China - 1977
  • Mantras: Sacred Words of Power - 1977
  • Wheel of Life : The Autobiography of a Western Buddhist, ISBN 0-87773-034-2, 1978
  • Taoism: The Quest for Immortality - 1978
  • Gateway to Wisdom: Taoist and Buddhist Contemplative Healing Yogas - 1979 -1980
  • The Chinese Art of Tea - 1985
  • My Journey in Mystic China: Old Pu's Travel Diary - 2008 (originally published in Chinese in 1990)


  1. Blofeld 2008, pg. 4
  2. Blofeld 2008, pp. 5-7
  3. Blofeld 2008, pg. 2
  4. Blofeld 2008, pg. 90
  5. Blofeld 2008, pp. 35-6
  6. Huang Li-Sung in Blofeld 2008, pg. xxxi
  7. Blofeld 2008, pg. 127
  8. Blofeld 2008, pg. 134
  9. Blofeld 2008, pp. 134-149
  10. Blofeld 2008, pp. 159-160
  11. Blofeld 2008, pg. 224
  12. Blofeld 2008, pg. 242
  13. Blofeld 2008, pg. 245
  14. Blofeld 2008, pg. 246
  15. KJ Interviews: Dancing with Words: Red Pine's Path into the Heart of Buddhism
  16. Blofeld 2008, pp. 225-6
  17. Blofeld 2008, pg. 243
  18. Daniel Reid in Blofeld 2008, pp. xxi-xxv


Historical people list

Historical people

Main subcategories of People are: Historical people - Living people - All people - People categories ... (Is a bio not here, or minimal?)

Masao Abe Robert Baker Aitken Ron Allen (playwright) B. R. Ambedkar Ananda
Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Thero Angulimala Aniruddha Mahathera Anuruddha Nauyane Ariyadhamma Mahathera
Aryadeva Asai Ryōi Assaji Atiśa Nisthananda Bajracharya
Benimadhab Barua Joko Beck Sanjaya Belatthiputta Charles Henry Allan Bennett Hubert Benoit (psychotherapist)
John Blofeld Bodhidharma Edward Espe Brown Polwatte Buddhadatta Thera Buddhaghosa
Acharya Buddharakkhita Marie Byles Ajahn Chah Rerukane Chandawimala Thero Channa
Chokgyur Lingpa Edward Conze L. S. Cousins Brian Cutillo 1st Dalai Lama
2nd Dalai Lama 3rd Dalai Lama 4th Dalai Lama 5th Dalai Lama 6th Dalai Lama
7th Dalai Lama 8th Dalai Lama 9th Dalai Lama 10th Dalai Lama 11th Dalai Lama
12th Dalai Lama 13th Dalai Lama Bidia Dandaron Alexandra David-Néel Marian Derby
Devadatta U Dhammaloka K. Sri Dhammananda Dharmaditya Dharmacharya Dharmakirti
Dharmapala of Nalanda Anagarika Dharmapala Dharmottara Dignāga Dōgen
Dongchu Dongshan Liangjie Khakyab Dorje, 15th Karmapa Lama Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, 16th Karmapa Rangjung Dorje, 3rd Karmapa Lama
Heinrich Dumoulin Düsum Khyenpa, 1st Karmapa Lama Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö Walter Evans-Wentz Family of Gautama Buddha
Frederick Franck Gampopa Gelek Rimpoche Gö Lotsawa Zhönnu-pel Gorampa
Maha Pajapati Mahapajapati Mahapajapati Gotami Rita Gross Gurulugomi
Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo Tsangpa Gyare Gendun Gyatso Palzangpo Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso Dolpopa
Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen Gyeongbong Han Yong-un Thich Nhat Hanh Walisinghe Harischandra
Eugen Herrigel Ernő Hetényi Marie Musaeus Higgins Raicho Hiratsuka Shin'ichi Hisamatsu
Hsuan Hua Huiyuan (Buddhist) Christmas Humphreys K. N. Jayatilleke 2nd Jebtsundamba Khutughtu
9th Jebtsundamba Khutughtu Jeongang Kadawedduwe Jinavamsa Mahathera Ken Jones (Buddhist) David Kalupahana
Dainin Katagiri Katyayana (Buddhist) Bob Kaufman Kaundinya Jack Kerouac
Bogd Khan Khema Ayya Khema Dilgo Khentse Dilgo Khyentse
King Suppabuddha Jamgon Kongtrul Kukkuripa Kumar Kashyap Mahasthavir Kunkhyen Pema Karpo
Drukpa Kunley Trevor Leggett Arthur Lillie Karma Lingpa Robert Linssen
Longchenpa John Daido Loori Albert Low Luipa Taizan Maezumi
Mahakasyapa Mahākāśyapa Mahamoggallana Mahasi Sayadaw Jyotipala Mahathera
Nagasena Mahathera S. Mahinda Gunapala Piyasena Malalasekera Marpa Lotsawa Peter Matthiessen
Maudgalyayana Maya (mother of Buddha) Maya (mother of the Buddha) Gustav Meyrink Edward Salim Michael
Milarepa Mingun Sayadaw Sōkō Morinaga Hiroshi Motoyama Mun Bhuridatta
Myokyo-ni Nagarjuna Nagasena Soen Nakagawa Bhikkhu Nanamoli
Matara Sri Nanarama Mahathera Nanavira Thera Nanda Naropa Nichiren
Kitaro Nishida Gudō Wafu Nishijima Nyanaponika Nyanaponika Thera Nyanatiloka
Thothori Nyantsen Ōbaku Toni Packer Padmasambhava Sakya Pandita
Paramanuchitchinorot Pema Lingpa Prajñāvarman Punna Rāhula
Thotagamuwe Sri Rahula Thera Walpola Rahula Paul Reps Caroline Rhys Davids Sonam Rinchen (Buddhist geshe)
Hammalawa Saddhatissa Kazi Dawa Samdup Chatral Sangye Dorje Ajahn Sao Kantasīlo Sariputta
Sayadaw U Tejaniya Seongcheol Seungsahn Shantideva Shavaripa
Sheng-yen Zenkei Shibayama Takamaro Shigaraki Silabhadra Sīlācāra
Shin Maha Silavamsa Śrāvaka Subhashitaratnanidhi Subhuti Suddhodana
Śuddhodana D. T. Suzuki Shunryū Suzuki Taklung Thangpa Tashi Pal The ten principal disciples
Tiantong Rujing Tilopa Chögyam Trungpa Tsangnyön Heruka Yeshe Tsogyal
Upali Uppalavanna Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo Xuanzang Yasa
Yashodhara Yasodharā Linji Yixuan Zanabazar Śāriputra

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