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Shitou Xiqian (Shih-t'ou Hsi-ch'ien) (700-790) played an important role in the early development of Zen, with three of the five traditional schools of Chinese Zen tracing their origins through Shitou and his heirs.

A disciple of Huineng, he was only fifteen when the Huineng died. Just before his death Shitou asked his teacher for instructions for when he was gone. According to the story, the Sixth Patriarch told him, "Go to Hsing-szu (Qingyuan Xingsi)." (who was a Dharma brother) but Shitou thought he meant "hsun szu," (to contemplate)  which sounds identical in Chinese. And so Shitou meditated diligently. Finally an elder monk recognized Shitou’s confusion and, the mistake clarified, Shitou went to visit Xingsi.

Qingyuan, upon Shitou's arrival: "Where did you come from?"

Shitou: "I came from Tsaohsi," (He came from the Sixth Patriarch.)

Qingyuan: "Did you attain anything there?"

Shitou: "I was not missing anything even before I got there," (As his Buddha-nature was complete even before he went there, there was nothing to attain.)

Qingyuan: "If you are not in need of anything, why did you go to Tsaohsi?"

Shitou: "If I had not gone to Tsaohsi, how would I know that I was not in need of anything?" (If he had not gone to Tsaohsi, he would not have realized that he always had the Buddha-nature.)

Shitou moved to South Peak Temple on South Mountain and be built a hut on a big stone which looked like a platform. He lived and taught there for 25 years and took the name Shitou Heshang, which means "Stone Monk."