Several days later, the remaining bandits found their leader wandering in the woods. They were overjoyed to see him alive, for they had assumed him to be dead, but then they were terribly saddened to discover that he had lost his mind. He no longer recognized them or even knew his own name. He was covered in dried blood and his own filth. And he remembered nothing. When he could speak, they knew he was surely mad because he asked to be taken back to Chang–an to his father the Royal Minister. His tone of voice, his manner, his expression had all softened. He was almost effeminate.
Out of respect for their former leader, they took him to the Ch'ing Feng Temple and left him under the care of the monks. The bandits donated a large sum of gold, some of which they had taken from Yang's packhorse, and requested that the monks nurse their leader back to health. If his memory and sanity did not return, the monks were to humor him and tend to him as best they could until the time of his natural death. Though the bandits of the horse clans are said to be uncivilized, there is honor even among outlaws, and they had great sympathy for the horrors their leader must have suffered at the hands of the demons he had described.
On the evening of the bandits' departure, Master Lao Shan, the Abbot of Ch'ing Feng Temple, returned and the monks brought the madman to him to tell his improbable tale. To their great surprise, the two immediately recognized each other, and the Abbot asked the monks to leave them.
When they were alone, the madman kowtowed to the Master, sobbing and making abject apology. He told his story, and at the end he said, "Please, who am I? I have all the memories of my life as Yang, but how can that be me if I am in the body of this bandit, whom the other bandits say is their leader, Han Lung? They tell me I have lost my mind from the tortures the demons put me through. They say I must have fabricated all my memories of being Yang. Am I Han Lung, with no memory of my own past, with the absurd belief that I am the son of a Royal Minister? Please, Master, do you know who I am?"
"I recall that is what Yang said when we first met," said Lao Shan. "Tell me, who do you see when you look in the mirror?"
"I have looked in the mirror many times. So much that the bandits took it away from me. Each time, I see Han Lung. There is no mistake."
"And who is the I who sees Han Lung?"
There was a long pause. "Yang," said the madman. "Inside, I am Yang. Of that I am certain. Han Lung's body is what I occupy, but I know I am Yang."
"And yet a true madman would be entirely convinced of the truth of his own delusions. What you say to me is precisely what the mad Han Lung would say."
"But Master, Han Lung was dead. How can I be a corpse brought back to life?"
"How can you be the consciousness of one man trapped in the corpse of another which was brought back to life? Each tale is equally fantastic. Which is more plausible? I will send you to Yang's father. Will he believe your story? Will he recognize your true identity?"
The madman wept. "I have pondered this for days until it drove me mad and then made me sane again. He will not. My father will rather believe that Han Lung murdered his son, having tortured out of him all the personal memories I would be likely to present as evidence that I am Yang."
"In fact," said Lao Shan, "I have just come from Chang–an, where Yang's father has already buried the bones of his son. They were found with his clothes in an abandoned house near the ancient dolmens."
The madman wept more loudly, pounding his breast and tearing at his hair.
"Yang's younger brother is now the heir. Is the Minister likely to believe in the miracle of his first son's survival in the body of a notorious criminal? Or would he, and the new heir, have Han Lung immediately arrested and put to death of the brutal murder of Yang?"
"Please, Master, I understand that whatever I may believe — whatever I may hold true within myself — what others see of me has more power to decide my identity than what I believe myself. But surely, you of all people must believe my story. You were there when the bandits attacked us. You warned me not to run. It was me — Yang — who abandoned you to the bandits. I did not know you were the great Master Lao Shan. I took you for a lowly monk. I am sorry for that. I am truly sorry."
"Let me ask you," said Lao Shan, "how do you know that I do not have a similar tale to tell? What if the demons perform this charade of theirs again and again for their amusement? What if I am actually the bandit Han Lung whose spirit was taken from his body before his death and put into the reanimated body of a dead old monk named Lao Shan? Could you know?"
The madman did not have to think long before he answered, "No. But all the monks here believe you to be their Master. You must be him."
"All the bandits believe you to be their leader, Han Lung. Must you not be him?"
"But they believe I am insane. The monks don't think that of you!"
"Perhaps Han Lung studied the sutras as a youth. Perhaps he was a monk before he became a bandit. Perhaps I am a better imposter than you."
The madman put his hands over his ears. "Please, Master," he begged as his tears darkened the wooden floor, "call me by a name. Call me Yang or call me Han Lung and that is who I shall be. If you do not save me, I will surely go mad again, and this time I will die."
"It is not in my power to decide who you are. I recall telling Yang that the cause of enjoyment and the cause of suffering were the same."
"Yes. I remember. You also said that the self is an illusion. Now I understand that pain and suffering both come from the self."
"And have you learned the nature of the self?"
The madman wept bitterly at those words, remembering how he had scoffed at the old monk. He cried for a long time, until there were no more tears. "I understand," he said finally. "I cannot go home. Let me stay here. You were to be my tutor for the sutras. I will stay to study the Buddha's teachings with you."
"And I will be honored to teach you whether you are Yang or Han Lung," said the Master.
In the T'ang histories, it is said that the mad bandit Han Lung became a distinguished disciple of Master Lao Shan, but nothing is said about the nature of Han Lung's madness. Upon the Master's passing, Han Lung became Abbot of Ch'ing Feng Temple and was known officially as “Master Anatman,” for by then he was widely renowned for his teaching of the doctrine of “no self.” No details are given for why he was also called “Master Madman.”
Even during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1643 A.D.), one could still view the prayer beads that Master Lao Shan had passed down to his successor. They were made of cherry and ebony wood and displayed on top of a folded ricepaper text at Ch'ing Feng Temple. It is said that Tang Yin, an early Ming scholar widely known for exposing unscrupulous practitioners of Taoist alchemy, transcribed the above tale from that text. (He is referred to in an anonymously–written cautionary narrative of the period called “The Alchemist and His Concubine.”) Stylistic clues suggest that Tang Yin's text may have been later embellished by Wang Shih–cheng (1525–1590 A.D.) sometime after he wrote his scandalous novel, Gold Vase Plum.
Ch'ing Feng Temple was destroyed by fire under the Manchus in 1647.