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Title: Zen Culture
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Anyone who examines the Zen arts is immediately struck by how modern
they seem. The ceramics of 16th-century Zen artists could be
interchanged with the rugged pots of our own contemporary crafts
movement; ancient calligraphies suggest the monochromes of Franz Kline
or Willem de Kooning; the apparent nonsense and illogic of Zen parables
(and No theater and Haiku poetry) established the limitations of
language long before the theater of the absurd; 400-year-old Zen
architecture seems to be a copy of modern design ideas such as modular
sizing, exposed woods, raw materials, bare walls, uncluttered space and
a California marriage of house and garden.

Zen values experiencing things over analyzing them. Perhaps if we can
take the power of direct perception, sharpened by the devices of Zen
art, back to everyday activities, we will find a beauty in common
objects that we previously ignored.

Selected Reviews

_The notoriously grumpy _Kirkus Reviews _said, "Thomas Hoover has a
considerable gift for expressing his appreciation and understanding of
various arts associated with Zen. . . . These are deftly treated, with
a concise synopsis of the historical development of each; and together
Hoover's discussions provide an excellent introduction to the
aesthetics of Japanese culture."

_Library Journal _said, "Hoover covers the ground in an easy and
informative way, describing the origins of Zen itself and the Zen roots
of swordsmanship, architecture, food, poetry, drama, ceramics, and many
other areas of Japanese life. The book is packed with facts, the
bibliography is excellent, the illustrations few but most appropriate,
and the style clear and smooth. A most useful book for all

_Asian Studies _declared, "Highly recommended. ZEN CULTURE moves easily
from the political climate that gave rise to Zen to the cultural areas
- art, architecture, theatre, literature, flower arrangement, design,
archery, swordsmanship - where Zen has manifested itself."

As for the influence of the Zen aesthetic, the_ Houston Chronicle
_said, "Hoover suggests we need only look around. Modern furniture is
clean, simple lines in unstained, unadorned woods. And that old fad
became a habit, houseplants. These are all expressions of ideas born
with Zen: understatement, asymmetry, intuitive perception, nature
worship, disciplined reserve."

"Highly recommended," said _The Center for Teachers of Asian Studies._

"Western intellectuals have tried to represent the height of Buddhist
mysticism within the pages of mere books, reducing an ineffable
experience into a written report. Predictably such attempts have failed
miserably. ZEN CULTURE by Thomas Hoover comes the closest to
succeeding," said_ Hark Publishing_.

"ZEN CULTURE, concerned as it is with the process of perception as much
as with actual works of art, can open our sense so that we experience
anew the arts of both East and West, ancient and modern." declared the
_Asian Mail_.

And to go multi-media, _NYC-FM _in New York said, "Hoover takes us on a
grand tour of Zen archery and swordsmanship, flower arranging, drama,
food, gardening, painting, poetry, architecture. His book is
essentially one by a connoisseur."



Zen Culture

The Zen Experience


The Moghul


Wall Street _Samurai_

     (The _Samurai_ Strategy)

Project Daedalus

Project Cyclops

Life Blood


All free as e-books at


Throughout the entire Far East of China, Korea, and Japan, we see the
system of a unique culture which originated in the sixth century,
reached its meridian in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and
began to decline in the seventeenth century, but which is still kept up
in Japan even in this day of materialism and mechanization. It is
called _Zen Culture_."

SOHAKU OGATA,_ Zen for the West


   Thomas Hoover

Random House New York

Copyright © 1977 by Thomas Hoover

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright
Conventions. Published in the United States by Random House, Inc., New
York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited,

ISBN 0-394-41072-6

Manufactured in the United States of America

Key Words:

Author: Thomas Hoover

Title: Zen Culture

Zen History,  Haiku, Zen, Ceramics, Archery, Landscape Garden, Stone
Garden, Ink Landscape, Zen Architecture, Sword, Katana, No Theater, Noh
Theater, Japanese Tea Ceremony, Tea Ceremony, Flower arranging,
Ikebana, Zen Ceramic Art,  Raku, Shino, Ryoanji-ji


Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for permission to
reprint previously published material:

AMS Press, Inc.: Two three-line poems from page 75 of Diaries of Court
Ladies of Old Japan; Doubleday & Company, Inc.: Eight Haiku poems from
An Introduction to Haiku by Harold G. Henderson. Copyright © 1958 by
Harold G. Henderson; The Hokuseido Press Co. Ltd.: Poem on page 35 of
The Kobin Waka-Shu, translated by H. H. Honda. Poem on page 82 of
History of Haiku, Vol. II by R. H. Blyth; Penguin Books Ltd.: A tanka
from 'Ise Monogatari' by Ariwara Narihira. Reprinted from page 71 of The
Penguin Book of Japanese Verse, translated by Geoffrey Bownas and
Anthony Thwaite (1964). Copyright © 1974 by Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony
Thwaite; Shambala Publications, Inc. (Berkeley, California): Poems on
pages 15 and 18 of The Sutra of Hui-Neng; Stanford University Press:
Poem on page 91 of An Introduction to Japanese Court Poetry by Earl
Miner; Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc.: Three lines of verse from page
130 of The Noh Drama; University of California Press: Four-line Haiku
poem from page 104 of The Year of My Life: A Translation of Issa's Oraga
Haru, translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa. Copyright © I960, 1972 by The
Regents of the University of California.


THE AUTHOR'S THANKS go to Anne Freedgood for editing the manuscript and for
her many helpful suggestions; to Professor Ronald F. Miller for
critical advice on things Western, ranging from art to aesthetics; to
Professor Gary D. Prideaux for introducing the author to both Japan and
Japanese linguistics; to Tatsuo and Kiyoko Ishimoto for assistance in
interpreting Japanese architecture; and to others who have graciously
reviewed the manuscript at various stages and provided helpful
suggestions, including Julie Hoover, Lynn Grifo, Anna Stern and Ellen
O'Hara. I am also grateful for guidance from Professors Shigeru
Matsugami and Takashi Yoshida, formerly of Tottori University, and from
the garden artist Masaaki Ueshima. The insights of yet others, lost in
years of questioning and research, are acknowledged here in spirit if
not, unfortunately, in name.

Japanese Chronology

JOMON CULTURE (2000 B.C. [?]-ca. 300 B.C. )

YAYOI PERIOD (ca. 300 B.c-ca. A.D. 300)

MOUND TOMB ERA (ca. A.D. 300-552)

ASUKA PERIOD (552-645)

Buddhism introduced (552)

Chinese government and institutions copied



Japan ruled from replica of Chinese capital of Ch'ang-an built at
Nara (710)

Bronze Buddha largest in world dedicated at Nara (752) Compilation of
early poetry anthology Manyoshu (780)

Scholarly Buddhist sects dominate Nara

HEIAN PERIOD (794-1185)

Capital established at Heian-kyo (Kyoto) (794)

Saicho (767-822) introduces Tendai Buddhism from China (806)

Kukai (774-835) introduces Shingon Buddhism from China (808)

Last mission to Tang court ends direct Chinese influence (838)

Tale of Genji written by Lady Murasaki (ca. 1002-1019)

Honen (1133-1212) founds Pure Land, or Jodo, sect (1175)

Taira clan takes control of government, ousting aristocracy (1159)

Minamoto clan replaces Taira (1185)


Warrior outpost in Kamakura becomes effective capital (1185) Eisai
(1141-1215) introduces _koan_-oriented Rinzai sect of Zen

         on Kyushu (1191)

Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-1199) becomes shogun (1192)

Hojo clan assumes real power in Kamakura (1205)

Shinran (1173-1262) founds rival Amidist sect called True Pure

Land, or Jodo Shin (1224)

Dogen (1200-1253) founds _zazen_-oriented Soto Zen (1236)

Nichiren (1222-1282) founds new sect stressing chants to Lotus Sutra


Hojo regency ended; Kamakura destroyed (1333)

Emperor Godaigo briefly restores imperial rule (1334)

Ashikaga Takauji (1305-1358) ousts Godaigo, who establishes

rival court (1336)

Takauji becomes shogun, beginning Ashikaga era proper (1338) Muso
Soseki (1275-1351) convinces Takauji to found sixty-six

Zen temples throughout Japan (1338)

Landscape gardens evolve to reflect Zen aesthetic ideals Ashikaga
Yoshimitsu (1358-1408) establishes relations with

Ming China (1401)

Zeami (1363-1443), encouraged by Yoshimitsu, creates No


Golden Pavilion built by Yoshimitsu (begun 1394)

Sung monochromes imported, inspiring re-creation of Chinese

          schools (fourteenth century)

Yoshimasa (1435-1490) becomes shogun (1443)

Onin War begins, to devastate Kyoto for ten years (1467)

Silver Pavilion built by Yoshimasa; Zen architecture (1482)

Tea ceremony begins to take classic shape as a celebration of

           Zen aesthetics

Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506), greatest Japanese landscape artist Abstract
stone gardens appear (ca. 1490)

General anarchy envelops country (ca. 1500)

Portuguese discover Japan, introduce firearms (1542)

Francis Xavier arrives to preach (1549)

Ashikaga shogunate overthrown by Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582)


Nobunaga begins unification of Japan (1573) Nobunaga assassinated

Hideyoshi (1536-1598) assumes control and continues unification (1582)

Sen no Rikyu (1520-1591) propagates Zen aesthetics through

         tea ceremony

City of Edo (Tokyo) founded (1590)

Hideyoshi unsuccessfully invades Korea, returns with Korean

           ceramic artists (1592)

Momoyama Castle built by Hideyoshi, giving name to the age

Rise of elaborate arts in opposition to Zen aesthetic ideals Tokugawa
Ieyasu (1542-1616) appointed shogun (1603)

Ieyasu defeats forces supporting Hideyoshi's heir (1615)


Ieyasu founds Tokugawa shogunate (1615)

_Daimyo_ forced to begin system of attendance on Tokugawa in


Basho (1644-1694), greatest Haiku poet

Popular arts of Kabuki and woodblock prints arise in Edo

Classic Zen culture no longer supported by shogunate

Hakuin (1685-1768) revives Zen and broadens appeal

Zen culture influences popular arts and crafts


Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220)

Six Dynasties (220-589)

Sui dynasty (589-618)

Tang dynasty (618-907)

Five Dynasties (907-960)

Northern Sung dynasty (960-1127)

Southern Sung dynasty (1127-1279)

Yuan (Mongol) dynasty (1279-1368)

Ming dynasty (1368-1644)



ANYONE WHO EXAMINES the Zen arts is immediately struck by how modern they
seem. Many of the most famous stone gardens are abstract expressionism
pure and simple, created out of found objects. The ceramics of the
sixteenth-century Zen artists could be interchanged with the rugged
pots of our own contemporary crafts movement and few people would
notice a difference. Ancient Zen calligraphies, bold and slashing,
suggest the monochromes of Franz Kline or Willem de Kooning, and if the
word "impressionistic" has any real meaning left, the spontaneous,
intuitive, impulsive Zen painters should have first claim to it. The
apparent nonsense and illogic of Zen parables established the
limitations of language long before the theater of the absurd decided
to ridicule our modern doublespeak; indeed, our new-found skepticism
about language as a medium for communication was a commonplace to
Japanese artists who created both a drama (the No) and a poetry (the
Haiku) that neatly circumvent reliance on mere words for expression--and
in two entirely different ways. Four-hundred-year-old Zen architecture
appears to be virtually a copy of contemporary design ideas: modular
sizing, exposed woods and materials, movable partitions,
multifunctional rooms, bare walls and uncluttered space, indirect
lighting effects, and a California marriage of house and garden. The
celebrated tea ceremony might be considered an early form of Japanese
group therapy, while Zen landscape gardens are nothing less than a
masterful deception masquerading as the "natural" look.

If all this were not coincidence enough, consider for a moment our
present-day artistic conventions and aesthetic ideals. Like much of
what we consider "modern," Zen arts tend to be as simple as possible,
with clean, even severe, lines. Decoration for its own sake is
virtually nonexistent; Zen artists had no more taste for the ornate
than we do today. The works of medieval Zen artists were rough and
asymmetrical, with a skillful exploitation of deliberate imperfections
and blemishes to make the viewer aware of both the materials used and
the process of creation. If it is true that classic art makes one aware
of the form and romantic art makes one aware of the artist, Zen art
makes one aware of the work of art itself.

We have absorbed into our Western culture almost unawares such Zen
cultural forms and aesthetic principles as Japanese ideas of
architecture, gardens, and flower arranging. Other forms, such as Haiku
poetry and Zen-style ceramics, we have borrowed in a more open-handed
way, freely acknowledging the source. Actually, none of the Zen arts is
really out of our reach, and a critical following has developed in the
West for almost all of them. The great Irish poet and dramatist William
Butler Yeats embraced the Zen-inspired No drama, although he probably
knew next to nothing about Zen. (For that matter, we should recall that
no English-language books were written on Zen until well into the
twentieth century.) It seems fair to say that the Zen arts have touched
us because they express some view of the world that we have, several
hundred years later, quite independently come to share.

Yet for all the seeming familiarity, there remains an alien quality. We
are not always aware of the really quite extraordinary mind
manipulation inherent in Zen art. Why, for instance, does a Japanese
garden often seem much larger than it really is? How does the Japanese-
style room alter human perception in such a way that people's
experience of each other is intensified? Why do Zen ceramics always
manage to make one take special notice of their surface? This subtle
manipulation of perception is all done by ingenious but carefully
hidden tricks. But since the Zen arts appear so modern, we are lulled
out of looking below the surface to find the fundamental differences.

Most important of all, it is easy to miss what is surely the most
significant quality of Zen arts--their ability to unlock our powers of
direct perception. Since Zen teaches that categories and systematic
analysis hinder real understanding of the outer

(or inner) world, many Zen arts are specifically designed to awaken our
latent ability to perceive directly. They appear innocent enough on the
surface, but they involve a subtle mind- massage not obvious to a
casual observer. It is this added dimension of Zen art that truly sets
it apart from anything we have produced in the twentieth century.

In these pages I will attempt to trace the history and characteristics
of both Zen and the Zen arts--to explain where they came from, why they
arose, what they were intended to do, and how they go about doing it. I
have also included some Western-style analysis of their very non-
Western qualities. The aesthetic ideas embedded in Zen culture and its
perception-inducing works of art are among the most stunning
achievements in world art history. Zen culture, concerned as it is with
the process of perception as much as with actual works of art, can open
our senses so that we experience anew the arts of both East and West,
ancient and modern.


PART I: The Beginnings: Prehistory to 1333

1.	Zen Culture and the Counter Mind
3.	The Prelude to Zen Culture
5.	The Rise of Japanese Buddhism
7.	The Chronicles of Zen
9.	Zen Archery and Swordsmanship
PART II: The Age of High Culture: Ashikaga (1333-1573)

11.	The Great Age of Zen
13.	Zen and the Landscape Garden
       8.    The Stone Gardens of Zen

       9.    Zen and the Ink Landscape

10.	The Zen Aesthetics of Japanese Architecture
12.	The No Theater
PART III: The Rise of Popular Zen Culture: 1573 to the Present

14.	Bourgeois Society and Later Zen
16.	The Tea Ceremony
18.	Zen Ceramic Art
20.	Zen and Haiku
22.	Private Zen: Flowers and Food
24.	The Lessons of Zen Culture



   Part  I



      Zen Culture and the Counter Mind

_        Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.

         _Matthew 6:28

_Pre-Buddhist clay figure _(haniwa)

THE ZEN TRADITION extends back some fifteen hundred years to a wandering
Indian teacher of meditation named Bodhidharma. As Indian gurus are
fond of doing, Bodhidharma left his homeland and journeyed abroad,
following what was in those days a well-beaten trail to China. Upon
reaching Nanking, he paused to visit the Chinese Emperor Wu, a man
known to be a particularly devout Buddhist. The emperor was delighted
to receive his famous Indian guest and proceeded immediately to boast
of his own accomplishments. "I have built many temples. I have copied
the sacred _sutras_. I have led many to the Buddha. Therefore, I ask
you: What is my merit: What reward have I earned?"     Bodhidharma
reportedly growled, "None whatsoever, your Majesty." The emperor was
startled but persisted, "Tell me then, what is the most important
principle or teaching of Buddhism?" "Vast emptiness," Bodhidharma
replied, meaning, of course, the void of nonattachment. Not knowing
what to make of his guest, the emperor backed away and inquired, "Who
exactly are you who stands before me now?" To which Bodhidharma
admitted he had no idea.

Sensing that the emperor was not yet prepared for such teachings,
Bodhidharma left the palace and traveled to a mountain monastery to
begin a long career of meditation. Over the years his reputation for
wisdom gradually attracted many followers--dissident Chinese who
rejected classical Buddhism and all its rigmarole in favor of
Bodhidharma's meditation, or _dhyana_, a Sanskrit term they pronounced
as Ch'an--later to be called Zen by the Japanese. This teaching of
meditation and vast emptiness shared very little with other branches of
Chinese Buddhism. Ch'an had no sacred images because it had no gods to
worship, and it de-emphasized the scriptures, since its central dogma
was that dogma is useless. Handed down from master to pupil was the
paradoxical teaching that nothing can be taught. According to Ch'an
(and Zen), understanding comes only by ignoring the intellect and
heeding the instincts, the intuition.

Thus Zen became the religion of the antirational, what might be called
the counter mind. The counter mind has taken on more concrete
significance in recent years with the discovery that the human mind is
not a single entity but is divided into two quite different functional
sections. We now know that the left hemisphere of the brain governs the
logical, analytical portion of our lives, whereas the right hemisphere
is the seat of our intuitive, nonverbal perception and understanding.
As far back as the ancient Greeks, we in the West have maintained an
almost unshakable belief in the superiority of the analytical side of
the mind, and this belief may well be the most consistent
distinguishing quality of Western philosophy. By contrast, the East in
general and Zen in particular have advanced the opposite view. In fact,
Zen masters have deliberately developed techniques (like illogical
riddles or _koan_) to discredit the logical, verbal side of the mind so
that the intuitive perceptions of the right hemisphere, the counter
mind, may define reality.

What is the counter mind really like? What is there about it that has
caused Western thinkers to disavow its functions for so many centuries?
The answer to these questions is not simple, but the path leading to it
is directly before us. Zen has produced a rich culture which we may now
examine at length. As the scholar-diplomat Sir George Sansom has
pointed out, "The influence of [Zen] upon Japan has been so subtle and
pervading that it has become the essence of her finest culture." And in
the classical culture of Japan it is possible to find the most
revealing examples of the arts of the counter mind. Zen culture invites
us to experience reality without the intervening distractions of
intellect, categories, analysis. Here we may find the best evidence of
what the intuitive side of the mind can produce--evidence all the more
fascinating because it repudiates many of the most cherished
assumptions of Western civilization.

When examined closely, Zen culture in Japan reveals at least three
interrelated aspects or faces. First there are the fine arts, creations
of beauty but also devices whereby the Zen masters transmit otherwise
inexpressible insights. Interestingly enough, the Zen masters did not
trouble to invent new art forms but rather co-opted existing Japanese
(and sometimes Chinese) forms and revised them to suit Zen purposes.
During medieval times, the Chinese-style gardens so favored by the
Japanese aristocracy were adopted for use around Zen temples, but not
before they were first converted into small-scale landscape "paintings"
and later into monochrome abstractions. Chinese ink painting, both that
of the Sung academy and that of eccentric Chinese Ch'an monks, was
imported and made the official art of Zen. Ideas from Shinto
architecture were combined with design details from mainland Ch'an
monasteries to produce the Zen-inspired classic Japanese house. Various
types of rustic dramatic skits popular among the Japanese peasants were
converted by Zen aesthetes into a solemn theater experience called the
No, whose plays and narrative poetry are so austere, symbolic, and
profound as to seem a kind of Zen Mass.

In the later years of popular Zen culture, poets revised the standard
Japanese poetic form, which might be compared loosely to the Western
sonnet, into a shorter, epigrammatic expression of the Zen outlook--the
seventeen-syllable Haiku. Zen ceramics are a curious mixture of
Japanese folk craft and Chinese technical sophistication; flower
arranging is a link between Zen and the Japanese love of nature,
blossoms and beauty; even formal Japanese cuisine is often more a
celebration of Zen ideals than a response to hunger. The famous
Japanese tea ceremony evolved from a Chinese party game into a solemn
episode for the celebration of ideal beauty, inner calm, and the Zen
concept of living.

The second face of Zen culture is best seen in the way in which
Japanese life differs from our own. This is not to suggest that every
Japanese is a living exemplar of Zen, but rather that many of the
peculiarities--both good and bad--of the way of life we now think of as
Japanese are traceable to attitudes stemming from Zen. In the military
sphere, Zen influence began as a special approach to swordsmanship and
archery and ended as a disciplined contempt for death beyond what any
other religion has inspired, save possibly in a few saints. In the
military arts, as in other areas of life, Zen both led and followed
Japanese culture--molding that culture and also presenting a vehicle for
the expression of tendencies far older than Zen, among them the
historic Japanese love of nature, the acceptance of hardship as
uplifting to the spirit, the refusal to distinguish between the
religious and the secular, and the capacity for the most unpleasant
sorts of self-discipline. It might be said that the ideals of Zen
struck a respondent chord in the Japanese character, bringing harmony
where once there had been random notes.

Zen also brought something new to the Japanese which might be described
as a religion of tranquility, or the idea that tranquility is the main
objective of religion. The underside of this tranquility is its sense
of humor. Zen, with its absurdist _koan_, laughs at life much the way
the Marx brothers did. What exactly can you make of a philosophical
system whose teacher answers the question, "How do you see things so
clearly?" with the seeming one-liner, "I close my eyes"? Zen has long
used the comic view of life to deflate those who start believing in
their own systems and categories. It is easier to be tranquil about
existence when you recognize the pointlessness of solemnity.

The other side of the religion of tranquility is the need to maintain
peace of mind in the face of chaos. Sitting quietly in meditation is
the traditional mainstay of Eastern religion, but Zen manages to carry
the mental repose born of meditation back into daily life. This
equanimity is the product of inner resources brought into being by
spiritual training. You need not study Zen to have it, but it is Zen's
most tangible goal. The Japanese, whose ability to ignore external
distractions in a hectic world is possibly their best-known national
trait, have deliberately used Zen and Zen arts (such as the tea
ceremony, flower arranging, or ink painting) to counteract the stresses
of modern life.

The follower of Zen is protected from the incursions of the world by an
inverted (in our Western terms) understanding of what is real and what
illusory. One of the all-time favorite _koan_ helps to make this clear.
The _koan_ describes three monks watching a banner flutter in the
breeze. One monk observes, "The banner is moving," but the second
insists, "The wind is moving." Finally, the third monk says, "You are
both wrong. It is your mind that is moving." The point here is that, in
modern times, most Westerners view the physical world as the operative
reality and the unseen, nonphysical world as an abstraction (comforting
or not, depending upon our beliefs or immediate needs, the spiritual
world is said to grow less abstract to those in foxholes). But Zen
takes the opposite tack; it holds that true reality is the fundamental
unity of mind and matter, inner spirit and external world. When life is
viewed in such terms, there can be no success or failure, happiness or
unhappiness; life is a whole, and you are simply part of it. There are
no dualities, hence there is nothing to worry about. The result is
perfect tranquility.

Of course, one small thread remains to be tied. What do you do about
daily life, where the world carries on as though it really does exist,
dualities and all? Quite simply, Zen would have you treat the physical
world exactly as followers of Western religions sometimes treat the
spiritual world--as a convenient fiction whose phenomena you honor as
though they existed, although you know all the while that they are
illusions. The world of strife and relative values may trouble those
who mistake it for the real thing, but the Zen-man echoes the words of
Hamlet, "We that have free souls, it touches us not." The world is in
fact meaningless. It is one's mind that is moving.

However startling such a doctrine may be to Western rationalists, it
has engendered such Japanese phenomena as the _samurai_ swordsmen and
the kamikaze pilot, both of whom could, in the Japanese phrase, live as
if already dead. On a less dramatic scale, it allows the modern
Japanese to be spiritually content and enjoy mental repose in a crowded
subway, or to find solitude in a paper-walled house amid noisy
neighbors. They wrap their cocoon of tranquility about them and become
spiritually apart. Again, it is possible to enjoy this inner repose
without Zen, but only in a Zen culture could it become a national

The third face of Zen, the deep concern with and understanding of what
constitutes beauty, also preceded Zen culture in Japan to some degree.
As with many of the existing Japanese art forms, the native sense of
taste was co-opted by Zen culture and bent to the rules of Zen.
Aesthetic discernment was as important for social advancement in
medieval, pre-Zen Japan as good grammar is in the West today, and the
characteristic attention to small details, the genuine ability to
notice things, from the feathered pastel hues of a partially opened
blossom to the colored refractions in a drop of dew, was already well
developed. In the centuries before Zen, the notion that aesthetics in
Japan could reflect a philosophical point of view would have seemed
strange. But to the taste-makers of Zen culture the arts were the
handmaiden of spiritual ideas; their arts had to make a statement, and
as a result art became an expression of religion, not so much a direct,
point-blank depiction of religious motifs as in Christian art, but
rather a belief that art itself is an inherently religious concern--an
idea Zen shares with the ancient Greeks. But whereas the Greeks strove
for perfect form as an exemplification of man's kinship with the gods,
the Zen artist carefully avoids final perfection, not wishing to
idealize a physical world whose very existence he finds problematical.

Perhaps the most noticeable principle of Zen art is its asymmetry; we
search in vain for straight lines, even numbers, round circles.
Furthermore, nothing ever seems to be centered. Our first impulse is to
go into the work and straighten things up--which is precisely the effect
the artist intended. Symmetrical art is a closed form, perfect in
itself and frozen in completeness; asymmetrical art invites the
observer in, to expand his imagination and to become part of the
process of creation. The absence of bilateral symmetry mysteriously
compels the observer to reach past surface form and touch the
individuality of a work. Even more important, Zen asymmetry forcefully
draws one away from any mental connection one might have between
completed form and notions of completion and timelessness in material
things. Zen denies the significance of the external world and
underscores the point by never depicting it in static, stable, or
closed terms. Greek art was a tribute to perfection; Zen art is a
statement, if only implicit, that the objective world should never be
taken too seriously.

The ideas taught by asymmetry in the visual arts are paralleled in the
literary arts by the device of suggestion. This quality, first seen in
pre-Zen aristocratic poetry, was brought to new heights by the Zen
Haiku poets. Among other things, a Haiku poem sets you up for the last
line, which kicks your imagination spinning into imagery. The most
famous Haiku poem of all probably demonstrates this quality as well as

_An ancient pond;

A frog leaps in:

The sound of water.

_Try to stop yourself from hearing that splash in your imagination, or
try to stifle the images and details your mind wants to fill in. Just
as with the off-balance picture or garden, the Zen poet has forced you
to be a part of his creation. But more significantly, he has achieved a
depth and reverberation impossible with mere words. Explicit art ends
with itself; suggestive art is as limitless and profound as one's
imagination can make it.

Another obvious quality of Zen art is its simplicity. Again one thinks
of the spareness and purity in Greek art, and again the connection is
wrong. A more useful comparison would be with the diverse, textured
arts of India, whether sensuous statuary or fabrics decorated over
every square inch. Indian art is a celebration of life and vigor,
whereas Zen, with its philosophy that categories and distinctions do
not exist, is naturally unsympathetic to decorative multiplicity. The
happy result of this rather sober outlook is that Zen art seems
surprisingly modern; it is never cluttered, busy, gaudy, overdone. The
forms--whether in the classic Japanese house, the stone garden, or a
simple ceramic pot--are invariably clean and elegant. And by avoiding
overstatement, the Zen artist manages to convey the impression of
disciplined restraint, of having held something in reserve. The result
is a feeling of strength, the sense that one has only glimpsed the
power of the artist rather than experienced everything he had to offer.
The Zen artist may deny one voluptuousness, but in the empty spaces one
senses a hidden plenitude.

Along with simplicity goes naturalness and lack of artifice. Zen art
always seems spontaneous and impulsive, never deliberate, thought-out,
or contrived. To achieve this, the artist must so master his technique
that it never interferes with his intentions. Again the lesson is
contempt for the material world; one must never give the impression of
having taken one's art, or

indeed life itself, too seriously. This deceiving sense of naturalness
is particularly striking in the later Zen ceramic art, in which potters
went out of their way to give their bowls a coarse, uneven finish. They
tried very hard to give the impression that they were not trying at
all. The joinery of the Japanese house is first assembled with the care
even an early European cabinetmaker might find excessive; and then it
is left unpolished, to age naturally! Such is the inverted snobbery of
Zen aesthetics.

Another quality of Zen art is its understatement or restraint. It does
not yield all its secrets on first viewing; there are always depths
which become apparent with further study. This storehouse of latent
profundity is frequently found in the narrative poetry of the No drama,
which, although suggestive in something like the manner of the lighter
Haiku poems, has a cutting edge capable of slowly penetrating the
deeper emotions. Through language seemingly concerned only with
externalities, the characters of the No give us the full sense of their
inner anguish, somehow communicating to us sorrows too deep for words.
In the same way, Zen-inspired stone gardens have hidden qualities.
Unlike formal European or Persian gardens, which are mainly surface and
reward the viewer with all their decorative beauty on the first visit,
Zen gardens present you with new pleasures and insights each time you
study them. Because it conceals its profundity, Zen art is never fully
knowable on first acquaintance; there is always something more when one
is prepared to receive it.

Perhaps the most puzzling, yet curiously rewarding, aesthetic principle
in Zen art is its seeming celebration of the ravages of time. The Zen
Japanese consider a taste for newness the mark of the aesthetic
parvenu. To be sure, Westerners who have acquired a preference for
antiques are sometimes looked upon as more sophisticated than those
preferring the latest machine-made item; yet Zen taste has an important
difference--the Japanese would never "restore" an antique. The signs of
age and wear are to them its most beautiful qualities. This convoluted
attitude actually began in pre-Zen aristocratic times, when courtiers
concluded that the reason cherry blossoms or autumn leaves were so
beautiful was their short season. Soon, the more perishable something
was, the more aesthetically satisfying it became. (One unfortunate
result of this point of view was a lot of mediocre poetry about the
dew.) Later, Zen took over this attitude, extending it to things that
perish slowly, and before long, things old and worn out--already
perished, in a sense--were thought the most beautiful of all. This idea
fitted well with the Zen notion that material things were dross and
should not be accorded excessive importance. The curious thing is that
the idea works; old objects, desiccated and apparently used up, have a
nobility that makes one contemplate eternity and scorn the fashions of
the moment. Broken and patched tea bowls or frayed scrolls seemingly
falling apart are indeed more beautiful than they were when new. The
patina of age is a lesson that time is forever and that you, creature
of an hour, would do well to know humility in the face of eternity.

Finally, the aesthetic principles of Zen culture's third face also
reflect the practical concerns of its second face, tranquility. Zen art
exudes an unmistakable calm and repose of the spirit. Contemplating a
stone garden or viewing the measured movements of the tea ceremony, one
realizes that Zen art is certain of itself, and it imparts this
certainty, this gentle voice of inner calm, to one's spirit. The things
that matter are settled, and those that do not are winnowed out like
chaff in the wind. And here you realize that Zen art is, last and
foremost, a virile creation of strength and surety.

Perhaps the most startling thing about the Zen creations of the counter
mind is that few Japanese are willing even to discuss them, let alone
analyze them. Zen is the enemy of analysis, the friend of intuition.
Analysis is to art what grammar is to a living language, the dull
afterthought of the scholar, and Zen culture despises excessive
interpretation as a leech on the spirit of life. The Zen artist
understands the ends of his art intuitively, and the last thing he
would do is create categories; the avowed purpose of Zen is to
eliminate categories! The true Zen-man holds to the old Taoist proverb,
"Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know." Ask a
Japanese to "explain" a Zen rock garden and he will inspect you
blankly, uncomprehending. The question will never have occurred to him,
and he may try to spare you embarrassment by pretending you never asked
or by changing the subject. Should you persist, he may go out and take
its dimensions for you, thinking by this objective, modern response to
satisfy your Western requirements. When you stop asking and surrender
to a kind of intuitive osmosis, you will have begun the journey into
the culture of the counter mind.


The Prelude to Zen Culture

_It was a clear, moonlit night . . . Her Majesty . . . sat by the edge
of the veranda while Ukon no Naishi played the flute for her. The other
ladies in attendance sat together, talking and laughing; but I stayed
by myself, leaning against one of the pillars between the main hall and
the veranda.

'Why so silent?' said Her Majesty. 'Say something. It is so sad when
you do not speak.'

      'I am gazing into the autumn moon,' I replied.

'Ah yes,' she remarked, 'That is just what you should have said.'

_ From _The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, ca. _A.D. 995

ZEN CULTURE did not spring upon the Japanese islands as an alien force,
dislodging native beliefs, ideals, and values. It could indeed be
argued that precisely the opposite happened, that the Japanese actually
used Zen as a framework over which to organize their own eclectic
beliefs about reverence toward nature, aesthetics, anti-
intellectualism, artistic forms and ideals, and basic attitudes toward
life. The truth, however, lies somewhere between: Zen did not reshape
Japan, but neither did Japan reshape Zen. Rather, the two melted
together, with the resulting amalgam often seeming to be all Zen, while
actually being, in many instances, merely older Japanese beliefs and
ideals in a new guise.

Some of the most fundamental qualities of Japanese civilization had
their origins in high antiquity, when the Japanese had no writing and
worshiped gods found among fields and groves. These early Japanese had
no religious doctrines other than respect for the natural world and the
sanctity of family and community. There were no commandments to be
followed, no concept of evil. Such moral teachings as existed were that
nature contains nothing that can be considered wicked, and therefore
man, too, since he is a child of nature, is exempt from this flaw. The
only shameful act is uncleanliness, an inconsiderate breach of the
compact between man and nature.

The early Japanese left no evidence that they brooded about nature or
required rituals to subdue it. Rather, the natural world was welcomed
as a joyous if unpredictable companion to life, whose beauty alone was
sufficient to inspire love. This reverence for nature, which lay deep
within the Japanese psyche, was in later centuries to become a
fundamental part of Zen culture. Like the early Japanese, the followers
of Zen believed the world around them was the only manifestation of god
and did not bother with sacred icons or idols, preferring to draw
religious symbolism directly from the world as it stood.

The first arrivals on the Japanese archipelago were a Stone Age people,
known today as "Jomon," who left artifacts across a time span beginning
in the fourth millennium B.C. and lasting until the early Christian Era.
Arriving in Japan from northeast Asia via a land bridge now submerged,
they remained primarily in the north, where they lived in covered pits,
buried their dead in simple mounds, and, most importantly for the later
Japanese, developed a ceramic art of low-fired vessels and figurines
whose loving awareness of material and form re-emerged centuries later
as a characteristic of Zen art.

The free, semi-nomadic life of the Jomon was disrupted around the time
of Aristotle by the arrival of various groups of invaders known
collectively as the "Yayoi." These Bronze Age warriors eventually
replaced the Jomon, first driving them farther into the north and
finally eradicating them entirely. The gods and culture of the Yayoi
indicate a tropical origin, perhaps the vicinity of South China. They
settled in the southern islands, where they erected tropical dwellings
and began the cultivation of rice. Soon they were making implements of
iron, weaving cloth, and molding pottery using the wheel and high-
temperature kilns. The descendants of the Yayoi became the Japanese

For the first several hundred years of Yayoi hegemony, their ceramics,
although technically more sophisticated, showed less artistic
imagination than those of the Jomon. In the fourth century A.D.,
however, after the consolidation of their lands into a unified state, a
new era of artistic production began. From this time until the
introduction of Buddhism in the sixth century, an interlude known as
the Mound Tomb era, the arts of Japan blossomed, producing some of the
finest sculpture in the ancient world. The Yayoi mound tombs, often
many acres in size, were filled with the implements of their
aristocratic owners (much as were the pyramid tombs of Egyptian
pharaohs), and around their perimeters were positioned hollow clay
statues, presumably as symbolic guardians. These realistic figures,
ordinarily two or three feet in height, are today known as _haniwa_.
Fashioned in soft brown clay, they portrayed virtually all the
participants in early Japanese life: warriors in armor, horses standing
at the ready, courtiers, rowdy farmers, fashionable laThes-in-waiting,
and even wild boar.

The making of _haniwa_ died out after the sixth century, as Chinese
Buddhist culture gradually took hold among the Japanese aristocracy,
but the underlying aesthetic values were too fundamental to perish.
When Zen culture came to flower in medieval times, all the early
artistic values awoke from what seems to have been only a slumber;
monk-artisans returned to an emphasis on natural materials--whether in
soft clay tea bowls, in unworked garden rocks, in the architecture of
unfinished woods, or in a general taste for unadorned simplicity. These
men created their art and architecture from seemingly rough and
imperfect materials out of deliberate choice rather than necessity--a
preference rare if not unique in human experience.

During the years following the introduction of pre-Zen Buddhism, the
Japanese disowned their native values and artistic instincts as they
slavishly copied Chinese culture and reproduced the ornate and
elaborate arts of mainland Buddhism. The nature-worshiping tribes of
Japan were awed by the seemingly powerful religion of China. They were
no less impressed by the manner in which the Chinese emperor ruled his
land, and shortly after becoming acquainted with China they set about
copying the Chinese form of government. Equally important, the
previously illiterate Japanese adopted a Chinese system of writing--a
confusing arrangement whereby Chinese symbols were used for their
phonetic value rather than for their meaning. This lasted for several
centuries, until the Japanese finally gave up and created a simplified
system which included their own syllabary or alphabet.

Having borrowed Chinese administration and Chinese writing, the
Japanese next decided to re-create a Chinese city, and in the year 710
they consecrated Nara, a miniature replica of the T'ang capital of
Ch'ang-an. The city was soon overflowing with Chinese temples and
pagodas. Newly ordained Japanese priests chanted Buddhist scriptures
they scarcely understood, while the native aristocracy strode about in
Chinese costume reciting verses of the T'ang poets.

Japan had never really had a city before Nara, and its population
quickly rose to some 200,000. Yet less than a century after its
founding it was abandoned by the court--possibly because the new
Buddhist priesthood was getting out of hand-- and a new capital was laid
out on the site of present-day Kyoto. This new city, founded at the
beginning of the ninth century and known as Heian, was deliberately
kept free of Buddhist domination, and within its precincts the first
truly native high culture arose as Chinese models were gradually
transcended. No longer copiers, the aristocrats of Heian turned inward
to bring forth a highly refined secular civilization.

To understand the foundations of Zen beauty, it is necessary to examine
this Heian culture in some detail, for many of the Zen arts and the
aesthetic rules later associated with Zen arose in these early
aristocratic years. If civilization may be gauged by the extent to
which relations are mediated by artificiality, this would surely be the
finest example in all history. Etiquette and sentimentality were the
touchstones. The courtiers occupied their days with elaborate
ceremonies, extravagant costumes, and lightweight versifying, and their
nights with highly ritualized amorous intrigues, conducted in a fashion
so formal that the courtly love of Provence seems brusque in
comparison. Initially the court had modeled its behavior on the T'ang
dynasty, but in the year 894, a hundred years after the founding of
Heian, relations with the T'ang court were suspended. There were few
formal contacts with China until the coming of Zen several centuries
later. Since the country was unified and at peace, interest in affairs
of state gradually disappeared altogether, freeing the aristocracy to
create a misty, artificial world all its own.

This period, whose aesthetic values were the precursor of Zen art, was
also Japan's great age of literature. The idleness of the court
provided an abundance of free time and equally abundant boredom--
circumstances that brought into being rich, textured psychological
novels, some of the earliest and most revealing diaries of the world's
literature, and a concern with poetry never equaled elsewhere, before
or since. These works of literature depict a society preoccupied with
beauty, where life and art merged, and founded on a conviction, later
to become ingrained in Japanese life and Zen art, that the ability to
appreciate beauty was the most important characteristic an individual
could possess.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this great age of literature is the
fact that the work was produced almost entirely by women. Theirs was
the aesthetic legacy that later became the foundation for Zen taste,
including the overwhelming importance of brushstroke calligraphy, the
subtle sense of what constitutes beauty and what excess, the vocabulary
of aesthetics, the elaborate concern with the use of color, and the
refinement of the poetic form that eventually led to Zen Haiku.

Taste in the use of color is an excellent place to begin examining the
Heian heritage, for in later years the Zen arts would be characterized
by muted, carefully matched natural shades whose application followed
sophisticated rules of taste. The seriousness with which colors were
matched by Heian courtiers is revealed in a famous diary of the era:

_One [of the court ladies' dresses] had a little fault in the color
combination at the wrist opening. When she went before the royal
presence to fetch something, the nobles and high court officials
noticed it. Afterwards, [she] regretted it deeply. It was not so bad;
only one color was a little too pale.1


       Episodes in another diary reveal the importance attached to
properly matched shades:

_It is dawn and a woman is lying in bed after her lover has taken his
leave. She is covered up to her head with a light mauve robe that has a
lining of dark violet. . . . The woman . . . wears an unlined orange
robe and a dark crimson skirt of stiff silk. . . . Near by another
woman's lover is making his way home in the misty dawn. He is wearing
loose violet trousers, an orange hunting costume, so lightly coloured
that one can hardly tell whether it has been dyed or not, a white robe
of stiff silk, and a scarlet robe of glossy, beaten silk.2


       This interest in the colors (and textures) of materials remains
a Japanese characteristic to this day, perpetuated by Zen and post-Zen
aesthetes, who sensibly realized that this outgrowth of their culture
surpassed that found anywhere else in the world.

As may be gathered from the passage above, celibacy was not part of the
fashionable world of Heian Japan. Marriages were sanctioned only after
the sexual compatibility of the couple had been established, a ritual
carried out by a young man calling at a young lady's quarters for
several nights running before officially announcing his intentions to
her parents. The secret visits were, of course, secret to no one, and
at times a young lady might initiate the test by an open invitation.
Such a letter also allowed the man to judge her handwriting in advance
and thus not waste his time courting a girl wanting in accomplishment.
The following diary passage reveals the curious Heian association of
penmanship and sex:

_I remember a certain woman who was both attractive and good-natured
and who furthermore had excellent hand-writing.

Yet when she sent a beautifully written poem to the man of her choice,
he replied with some pretentious jottings and did not even bother to
visit her. . . . Everyone, even people who were not directly concerned,
felt indignant about this callous behavior, and the woman's family was
much grieved.3


        In a society where brushwork was a primary test of social
acceptability, it is not hard to find the roots of Japan's later great
age of Zen monochrome painting, for, as Sir George Sansom has pointed
out, to write beautifully is to solve certain fundamental problems of
art--particularly when that writing is executed with the brush.

The writing materials used by Heian courtiers and the calligraphy they
set down became important tools for the Zen arts. Writers made use of
what the Chinese called the "Four Treasures": a brush of animal hair or
bristle, a block of solid ink made of lampblack and glue, a concave
inkstone for grinding and wetting the dried ink, and a paper or silk
writing surface. These materials are all thought to have been
introduced into Japan by a Korean Buddhist priest sometime near the
beginning of the seventh century, but they already had a long history
in China--possibly as much as a thousand years.

With these materials the Heian calligrapher--and later the Zen
monochrome artist--created a subtle world of light and shade. The
preparation for writing (and later, painting) is itself a ritual of
almost religious significance. The ink, called sumi, must be prepared
fresh each time it is used: a small amount of water is introduced into
the concave portion of the inkstone, and the slightly moistened ink
block is slowly rubbed against the stone until the proper shade is
realized. The brush is soaked thoroughly in water, dried by stroking it
on a scrap of paper, dipped into the new ink, and applied directly to
the writing surface. The writer or artist holds the brush perpendicular
to the paper and spreads the ink in quick strokes, which allow for no
mistakes or retouching.

Where the male scholars of the Heian period labored with complex
Chinese ideograms, the female artists and calligraphers were able to
work in a new, simplified syllabary of approximately fifty symbols,
which had been invented by a Buddhist priest in the early Heian era.
Since this new script was less angular and geometrically formal than
Chinese writing, it lent itself to a sensuous, free style of
calligraphy whose rules later spilled over into Zen aesthetics. The new
"women's script" called for brushstrokes that were a pirouette of
movement and dynamic grace, requiring the disciplined spontaneity that
would become the essence of Zen painting. Indeed, all the important
technical aspects of later Zen monochrome art were present in early
Heian calligraphy: the use of varying shades of ink, the concentration
on precise yet spontaneous brushwork, the use of lines flexible in
width and coordinated with the overall composition, and the sense of
the work as an individual aesthetic vision. The lines record the
impulse of the brush as it works an invisible sculpture above the page;
the trail of the brush--now dry, now flushed with ink--is a linear record
of nuances in black across the white space beneath. The total mastery
of brushwork and the ink line gave the monochrome artists a foundation
of absolute technical achievement, and the Zen calligrapher-poets a
tradition of spontaneity in keeping with Zen ideals.

Another legacy to Zen artists was the creation of spontaneous verse,
which also sharpened the faculties and required a sure mastery of
technique. Since virtually all communication was in the form of poems,
to move in polite circles a man or woman had to be able to compose a
verse on any subject at a moment's notice. A famous female novelist and
diarist recalled a typical episode:

_The Lord Prime Minister . . . breaks off a stalk of a flower-maiden
which is in full bloom by the south end of the bridge. He peeps over my
screen [and] says, "Your poem on this! If you delay so much the fun is
gone" and I seized the chance to run away to the writing box, hiding my

 Flower-maiden in bloom--

 Even more beautiful for the bright dew,

Which is partial, and never favors me.

"So prompt!" said he, smiling, and ordered a writing box to be brought
[for himself]. His answer-

 The silver dew is never partial.

 From her heart

The flower-maiden's beauty.4


        The quality of such impromptu verse is necessarily strained,
but the spirit of impulsive art revealed in this episode survived to
become an important quality of Zen creations.

The Heian era bequeathed many artistic forms and techniques to later
Zen artists, but even more important was the attitude toward beauty
developed by the Heian courtiers. Their explicit contributions were a
sense of the value of beauty in life and a language of aesthetics by
which this value could be transmitted. One of the more lasting
attitudes developed was the belief that transience enhanced loveliness.
(The idea of transience seems to be one of the few Buddhist concepts
that entered Heian aesthetics.) Beauty was all the more arresting for
the certainty that it must perish. The perfect symbol for this,
naturally enough, was the blossom of the cherry tree, as may be seen
from a poem taken at random from a Heian-period compilation.

_O cherry tree, how you resemble

this transitory world of ours,

for yesterday you were abloom

and gone today your flowers.5

_Many of the later verities of Zen art can be traced to this first
philosophical melancholy over life's transience which developed in the
Heian era. The vehicle for this heritage was a special vocabulary of
aesthetic terms (providing distinctions few Westerners can fully
perceive) which could describe subtle outer qualities of things--and the
corresponding inner response by a cultivated observer--by the use of
fine-grained aesthetic distinctions.6 The word that described the
delicate discernment of the Heian courtiers was _miyabi_, which was
used to indicate aspects of beauty that only a highly refined taste
could appreciate: the pale shades of dye in a garment, the fragile
geometry of a dew-laden spider web, the delicate petal of a purple
lotus, the texture of the paper of a lover's letter, pale yellow clouds
trailing over a crimson sunset. If the beauty were more direct and less
muted, it was described as _en_, or charming, a term marking the type
of beauty as sprightly or more obvious. The most popular aesthetic term
was _aware_, which refers to a pleasant emotion evoked unexpectedly.
_Aware _is what one _feels _when one sees a cherry blossom or an autumn
maple. (This internalization of aesthetic qualities was later to have
great import for the Zen arts, whose reliance on suggestiveness shifted
a heavy responsibility to the perceiver.) As the notion of beauty's
transience became stronger, the term also came to include the feeling
of poignancy as well as pleasure and the awareness that delight must

These terms of refined aristocratic discernment became thoroughly
ingrained in Japanese life and were passed on to Zen aesthetics, which
added new terms that extended the Heian categories to reverence for
beauty past its prime and for objects that reflect the rigors of life.
The Zen aesthetes also added the notion of _yugen_, an extension of
_aware _into the region of poignant foreboding. At a brilliant sunset
one's mind feels _aware_, but as the shadows deepen and night birds
cry, one's soul feels _yugen_. Thus the Zen artists carried the Heian
aesthetic response into the inner man and turned a superficial emotion
into a universal insight.

The most important aspect of the Japanese character to surface during
the Heian era, at least from the standpoint of later Zen culture and
ideals, was faith in the emotions over the intellect. It was during
this period that the Japanese rejected for all time a rigorously
intellectual approach to life. As Earl Miner wrote in his description
of pre-Zen Heian society, "The respect accorded to correct or original
ideas in the West has always been given in Japan to propriety or
sincerity of feeling. And just as someone without an idea in his head
is archetypally out of our civilization, so the person without a true
feeling in his heart is archetypally out of the Japanese."7 From such an
attitude it is not far to the Zen intuitive approach to understanding.

The early years of Japanese isolation saw a people with a rich nature
religion whose arts revealed deep appreciation for

material and form. The coming of Chinese culture brought with it
Buddhism, which became a national religion and provided a vehicle for
the dissemination of Zen. Finally, the aristocratic civilization of the
Heian era developed Japanese sensitivity to remarkable levels,
providing later generations with a valuable framework of taste and
standards. The court civilization of Heian was ultimately dethroned by
medieval warriors, who themselves soon came under the sway of Zen.
Although the Zen artist-monks of the medieval era brought into being a
new culture with its own rules of taste and behavior, they were always
in the debt of the earlier ages.


The Rise of Japanese Buddhism

_The new doctrine of the Buddha is exceeding excellent, although
difficult to explain and comprehend. _(Message accompanying the first
image of the Buddha to enter Japan, ca. A.D. 552)



DURING THE SIXTH CENTURY B.C., in the rich and reflective civilization
flourishing in what is today northeast India and Nepal, a child was
born to the high-caste family of Gautama. He was later known by various
names, including Siddhartha (the one who has reached the goal),
Sakyamuni (sage of the Sakyas), or simply Buddha (the enlightened). His
childhood was idyllic, and at the age of sixteen he took a wife, who
bore him a son. As a youth he was completely sheltered from the sorrows
of the flesh through the offices of his father, who commanded the
servants never to let him leave the palace compound. Yet finally, the
legends relate, he managed to escape this benign prison long enough to
encounter old age, sickness, and death. Understandably distressed, he
began pondering the questions of human mortality and suffering, a
search which led him to a holy man, whose devoutness seemed to hold the

True to his convictions, he renounced wealth, family, and position and
embarked upon the life of an ascetic. A spiritual novice at the age of
twenty-nine, he traveled for the next six years from sage to sage,
searching for the teachings that might release him from the prison of
flesh. Finally, with disciples of his own, he left all his teachers and
devoted himself to meditation for another six years, at the end of
which he was close to death from fasting and privation. But he was no
nearer his goal, and abandoning the practices of traditional religion,
he set out to beg for rice. Although his disciples immediately deserted
him as unworthy to be a teacher, he was undeterred and enjoyed his
first full meal since leaving his father's palace. He then had a deep
sleep and learned in a dream that realization would soon be his. He
proceeded to a wood and began his final meditation under the now
legendary Bodhi tree--where he at last found enlightenment. Gautama had
become the Buddha.

For the next forty-nine years he traveled the length of India preaching
a heretical doctrine. To appreciate what he taught, one must grasp what
he preached against. At the time, the predominant religious system was
Brahmanism, which was based upon the Upanishads, a collection of early
Vedic writings. According to this system, the universe was presided
over by the Brahman, an impersonal god-form which was at once a
pantheistic universal soul and an expression of the order, or _dharma_,
of the cosmos. This universal god-form was also thought to reside in
man, in the form of the _atman_, roughly translatable as the soul; and
the individual was believed to be able to rise above his physical
existence and experience the uniting of this _atman _with the larger
god-form through practice of a rigorous physical and mental discipline,
which became known as yoga. Not surprisingly, all formal communications
with the universal

god-form had to be channeled through a special priest class, who called
themselves Brahmans.

The Buddha disputed these beliefs. He taught that there was no
universal god and hence no internal soul, that there is, in fact, no
existence in the world. All perception to the contrary is illusory.
Enlightenment therefore consists not of merging one's atman with the
greater god-head, but rather in recognizing that there actually is
nothing with which to merge. Consequently the aim is to transcend the
more troublesome aspects of perception, such as pain, by turning one's
back on the world--which is nonexistent in any case--and concentrating on
inner peace. The Buddha stressed what he called the "Four Noble Truths"
and the "Eightfold Path." The Four Noble Truths recognized that to live
is to desire and hence to suffer, and the Eightfold Path (right views,
right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right
effort, right mindfulness, right concentration) provided a prescription
for the resolution of this suffering. Followers of the Eightfold Path
understand that the external world is illusory and that its desires and
suffering can be overcome by a noble life, guided by mental fixation on
the concept of nonexistence.

The original teachings of the Buddha are more a philosophy than a
religion, for they admit no supreme god, nor do they propose any
salvation other than that attainable through human diligence. The aim
is temporal happiness, to be realized through asceticism--which was
taught as a practical means of turning one's back on the world and its
incumbent pain. There were no scriptures, no sacred incantations, no
soul, no cycle of rebirth, nothing beyond one's existential life.

Since the Buddha left no writings or instructions regarding the
establishment of a religion in his name, his followers called a council
some ten years after his death to amend this oversight. This first
council produced the earliest canon of Buddhist teachings, a group of
_sutras _or texts purporting to reproduce various dialogues between the
Buddha and his disciples. A second council was held exactly one hundred
years later, supposedly to clarify points raised in the first meeting.
But instead of settling the disagreement which had arisen, the meeting
polarized the two points of view and shattered monolithic Buddhism once
and for all.

As Buddhism spread across India into Ceylon and Southeast Asia, a
distinct sectarian split developed, which might be described as a
controversy between those who strove to preserve the teachings of the
Buddha as authentically as possible and those who were willing to admit
(some might say compromise with) other religions. The purer form, which
was established in Southeast Asia, came to be called Hinayana, or the
Lesser Vehicle (purportedly because of the exclusionary strictness of
its views). The other branch, comprising the beliefs that spread to
China and thence to Japan, was described as Mahayana, or the Greater

This division also resulted in two versions of the _sutras _being
canonized. That revered by the Hinayanists is known as the Pali Canon
and was set down in the Pali language (a dialect of Indian Sanskrit)
around 100 B.C. The _sutras_ of the eclectic Mahayanists grew over the
centuries, with additions in Sanskrit, Tibetan, and, later, Chinese. In
addition to the original thoughts of the Buddha, they included large
sections of commentary or secondary material. The Chinese,
particularly, had strong speculative minds and thought nothing of
amending the teachings of a simple Indian teacher. The Indians also
found the Buddha's thought a shade too austere for their tastes, but
instead of embellishing it as the Chinese did, they gradually plowed it
back into the theological melange of pantheistic Hinduism until it
finally lost any separate identity.

Buddhism is said to have officially reached China during the first
century A.D., and after some three hundred years of adjusting it to suit
their established teachings of Confucianism and Taoism, the Chinese
embraced it as their own. (It was the admittance of Taoist beliefs into
Chinese Buddhism that laid the foundations for the school of Ch'an
Buddhism, the parent of Japanese Zen.) Buddhism did not replace the two
earlier Chinese religions but, rather, provided an alternative
spiritual framework wherein the Chinese, structured, Confucianist bent
of mind could be merged with their Taoist yearning for mystical
philosophy to produce a native religion at once formal and
introspective. During the third, fourth, and fifth centuries a virtual
parade of Indian Mahayana Buddhist teachers traveled north around the
high Himalayas and into China, there to dispense their own respective
brands of the Buddha's thought. The Chinese, on their part, set about
importing Indian Sanskrit _sutras_ and translating them via a process
whereby Indian philosophical concepts were rendered directly by pre-
existing Chinese terms--the literal pounding of round Indian pegs into
square Chinese holes. Since no more effective way has yet been found to
destroy the originality of foreign ideas than to translate them word
for word into the nearest native approximation, Chinese Buddhism
became, in many ways, merely a rearrangement of existing Chinese

The date Chinese Buddhism was introduced to Japan has traditionally
been set at A.D. 552. In that year, the records state, a Korean monarch,
fearful of belligerent neighbors, appealed to the Japanese for military
assistance, accompanying his plea with a statue of the Buddha and a
missal of _sutras_. Since the Japanese had for many centuries reserved
their primary allegiance for their sun-goddess, whose direct descendant
the emperor was thought to be, they were wary of new faiths that might
jeopardize the authority of the native deities. After much high-level
deliberation it was decided to give the Buddha a trial period to test
his magical powers, but unfortunately no sooner had the new image been
set up than a pestilence, apparently smallpox, swept the land. The new
Buddha was swiftly consigned to a drainage canal by imperial decree.

Twenty years later a new emperor came to the throne, and he was
persuaded to give the Buddha another try by a political faction which
thought a new religion might undermine the theological position of the
established nobility. By odd coincidence, no sooner had a new Buddha
been imported than another plague broke out. The new Buddha statue and
all accompanying trappings were disposed of, but the plague only
worsened, allowing the pro-Buddhist faction to turn the tragedy to
their advantage by blaming those who had desecrated the statue. After
more political maneuvering, this faction took the somewhat
unprecedented step of assassinating the hesitant emperor in order to
ensure a place for Buddhism in Japanese life. Finally the faith did
catch hold, and, by the beginning of the seventh century, temples and
pagodas were being built.

As interest grew in both the doctrines of the Buddha and the political
innovations of the new T'ang dynasty, which had come to power in China
in 618, the Japanese aristocracy began to copy Chinese civilization,
gradually abandoning much of their indigenous culture. Although new
Japanese monks were soon writing and reciting Chinese _sutras_,
Buddhist ideas, now twice removed from their Indian origins, were
grasped imperfectly if at all by most Japanese. Indeed, few of the
early aristocracy who professed Buddhism viewed it as anything other
than a powerful new form of magic--a supplement to the native gods, or
_kami_, who presided over harvests and health. Given the difficulty
Japanese scholars had in understanding Chinese texts, it is easy to
sympathize with later Zen monks who claimed the _sutras_ were mainly a
barrier to enlightenment.

Three fundamental types of Buddhism preceded Zen in Japan: the early
scholarly sects which came to dominate Nara; the later aristocratic
schools whose heyday was the noble Heian era; and, finally, popular,
participatory Buddhism, which reached down to the farmers and peasants.
The high point of Nara Buddhism was the erection of a giant Buddha some
four stories high whose gilding bankrupted the tiny island nation but
whose psychological impact was such that Japan became the world center
of Mahayana Buddhism. The influence of the Nara Buddhist establishment
grew to such proportions that the secular branch of government,
including the emperor himself, became nervous. The solution to the
problem was elegantly simple: the emperor simply abandoned the capital,
leaving the wealthy and powerful temples to preside over a ghost town.
A new capital was established at Heian (present-day Kyoto), far enough
away to dissipate priestly meddling.

The second type of Buddhism, which came to prominence in Heian, was
introduced as deliberate policy by the emperor. Envoys were sent to
China to bring back new and different sects, enabling the emperor to
fight the Nara schools with their own Buddhist fire. And this time the
wary aristocracy saw to it that the Buddhist temples and monasteries
were established well outside the capital--a location that suited both
the new Buddhists' preference for remoteness and the aristocracy's new
cult of aesthetics rather than religion.

The first of the Heian sects, known as Tendai after the Chinese T'ien-
t'ai school, was introduced into Japan in 806 by the Japanese priest
Saicho (767-822). The Tendai stressed the authority of the Lotus Sutra,
which recognized the Buddha as both an historical person and the
realization in human form of the universal spirit--an identity implying
the oneness of the latent Buddha nature in all matter, animate and
inanimate. Although the school was avowedly eclectic, embracing all the
main Mahayana doctrines, it was bitterly opposed by the Nara schools,
which campaigned unsuccessfully to convert Tendai novices. Saicho
countered their opposition by pointing out that his Buddhism was based
on an actual sutra, purportedly the Buddha's own words, whereas the
schools of Nara had contented themselves primarily with wrangling over
commentaries or secondary interpretations of the Buddha's teachings.
Saicho also introduced the question of individual morality, a concern
conspicuously absent in Nara Buddhism.

The Tendai sect became dominant during the ninth and tenth centuries,
when its center on Mt. Thei (on the outskirts of Kyoto) swelled to over
three thousand buildings. Although Saicho himself appears to have been
benign in nature, practicing the principles of morality he taught, in
later years the Mt. Thei Tendai complex became the base for an army of
irascible monks who frequently descended upon Kyoto to harass courtiers
and citizens alike. In the late sixteenth century, the entire complex
was burned to the ground and thousands of monks slaughtered by a fierce
shogun who was determined to stop the intervention of Tendai monks in
public affairs. Tendai survives today as a religion primarily of the
upper classes, with a membership of something over a million, but even
by the end of the Heian era it had become mainly ceremonial.

The other Buddhist sect to gain prominence during the Heian era was
Shingon, founded by a younger contemporary of Saicho named Kukai (774-
835). He also went to China, where he studied teachings of the Che-yen
school, a type of Buddhism known as "esoteric" because of its kinship
to the mystical Tantrism of Tibet. The elaborate rituals of the
Japanese Shingon temples were an immediate success with the
ceremonially minded Heian aristocracy. Shingon was superb theater, with
chants, incantations, sacred hand signs (_mudra_), and meditation on
the sacred _mandala_--geometrical diagrams purportedly containing the
key to the cosmological meaning of reality. The headquarters for the
Shingon school was established on Mt. Koya, near Kyoto but sufficiently
removed that the monks were not tempted to dabble in state affairs.
Nevertheless, in later years it too became a stronghold for mercenary
warrior-monks, with the result that it also was chastened by an
outraged shogun. Today there are Shingon monasteries in remote mountain
areas, standing regal and awesome in their forested isolation, and the
sect still claims over nine million practitioners, scattered among a
host of offshoots.

The popular, participatory Buddhism which followed the aristocratic
sects was home-grown and owed little to Chinese prototypes. Much of it
centered around one particular figure in the Buddhist pantheon, the
benign, sexless Amida, a Buddhist saint who presided over a Western
Paradise or Pure Land of milk and honey accessible to all who called on
his name. Amida has been part of the confusing assemblage of deities
worshiped in Japan for several centuries, but the simplicity of his
requirements for salvation made him increasingly popular with the Heian
aristocrats, who had begun to tire of the elaborate rigmarole
surrounding magical-mystery Buddhism. And as times became more and more
unstable during the latter part of the Heian era, people searched for a
messianic figure to whom they could turn for comfort. So it was that a
once minor figure in the Buddhist Therarchy became the focus of a new,
widespread, and entirely Japanese cult.

The figure of Amida, a gatekeeper of the Western Paradise, seems to
have entered Buddhism around the beginning of the Christian Era, and
his teachings have a suspiciously familiar ring: Come unto me all ye
who are burdened and I will give you rest; call on my name and one day
you will be with me in Paradise. In India at this time there were
contacts with the Near East, and Amida is ordinarily represented as one
of a trinity, flanked by two minor deities. However, he is first
described in two Indian _sutras _which betray no hint of foreign
influence. During the sixth and seventh centuries, Amida became a theme
of Mahayana literature in China, whence he entered Japan as part of the
Tendai school. In the beginning, he was merely a subject for meditation
and his free assist into Paradise did not replace the personal
initiative required by the Eightfold Path. Around the beginning of the
eleventh century, however, a Japanese priest circulated a treatise
declaring that salvation and rebirth in the Western Paradise could be
realized merely by pronouncing a magic formula in praise of Amida,
known as the _nembutsu: Namu Amida Butsu_, or Praise to Amida Buddha.

This exceptional new doctrine attracted little notice until the late
twelfth century, when a disaffected Tendai priest known as Honen (1133-
1212) set out to teach the _nembutsu_ across the length of Japan. It
became an immediate popular success, and Honen, possibly unexpectedly,
found himself the Martin Luther of Japan, leading a reformation against
imported Chinese Buddhism. He preached no admonitions to upright
behavior, declaring instead that recitation of the _nembutsu _was in
itself sufficient evidence of a penitent spirit and right-minded
intentions. It might be said that he changed Buddhism from what was
originally a faith all ethics and no god to a faith all god and no

What Honen championed was actually a highly simplified version of the
Chinese Jodo school, but he avoided complicated theological exercises,
leaving the doctrinal justifications for his

teachings vague. This was intended to avoid clashes with the priests of
the older sects while simultaneously making his version of Jodo as
accessible as possible to the uneducated laity. The prospect of
Paradise beyond the River in return for minimal investment in thought
and deed gave Jodo wide appeal, and this improbable vehicle finally
brought Buddhism to the Japanese masses, simple folk who had never been
able to understand or participate in the scholarly and aristocratic
sects that had gone before.

Not surprisingly, the popularity of Honen's teachings aroused enmity
among the older schools, which finally managed to have him exiled for a
brief period in his last years. Jodo continued to grow, however, even
in his absence, and when he returned to Kyoto in 1211 he was received
as a triumphal hero. Gardens began to be constructed in imitation of
the Western Paradise, while the _nembutsu_ resounded throughout the
land in mockery of the older schools. The followers of Jodo continued
to be persecuted by the Buddhist establishment well into the
seventeenth century, but today Jodo still claims the allegiance of over
five million believers.

An offshoot of the Jodo sect, destined to become even more popular, was
started by a pupil and colleague of Honen called Shinran (1173-1262),
who also left the Tendai monastery on Mt. Thei to become a follower of
Amida. His interpretation of the Amida _sutras _was even simpler than
Honen's: based on his stuThes he concluded that only one truly sincere
invocation of the _nembutsu_ was enough to reserve the pleasures of the
Western Paradise for the lowliest sinner. All subsequent chantings of
the formula were merely an indication of appreciation and were not
essential to assure salvation. Shinran also carried the reformation
movement to greater lengths, abolishing the requirements for monks
(which had been maintained by the conciliatory Honen) and discouraging
celibacy among priests by his own example of fathering six children by
a nun. This last act, justified by Shinran as a gesture to eliminate
the division between the clergy and the people, aroused much
unfavorable notice among the more conservative Buddhist factions.
Shinran was also firm in his assertion that Amida was the only Buddha
that need be worshiped, a point downplayed by Honen in the interest of
ecumenical accord.

The convenience of only one _nembutsu _as a prerequisite for Paradise,
combined with the more liberal attitude toward priestly requirements,
caused Shinran's teachings to prosper, leading eventually to an
independent sect known as Jodo Shin, or True Pure Land. Today the Jodo
Shin, with close to fifteen million followers, enjoys numerical
dominance over other forms of Japanese Buddhism.

The Amadist salvation movement was confronted by its only truly
effective detractor in the person of the extremist Rencho (1222-1282),
who later took for himself the name of Nichiren, or Sun Lotus. An early
novice in the Tendai monastery, he took a different tack from the Amida
teachers, deciding that all essential Buddhist truth was contained in
the Lotus Sutra itself. Although the Tendai school had originally been
founded on the study of the Lotus Sutra, he believed the school had
strayed from the _sutra's _precepts. Denouncing all sects impartially,
he took a fundamentalist, back-to-the-Lotus text for his sermons.
Sensing that most of his followers might have trouble actually reading
a _sutra_, he produced a chanting formula of his own which he claimed
would do just as well. This Lotus "_nembutsu_" was the phrase _namu
myoho renge-kyo_, or Praise to the Lotus Sutra. The chanting Amidists
had met their match.

The Tendai monks on Mt. Thei did not receive this vulgarization of
their teachings kindly, and their urgings, together with his
intemperate pronouncements regarding imminent dangers of a Mongol
invasion, led in 1261 to Nichiren's banishment to a distant province.
Three years later the truth of his warnings became all too apparent and
he was recalled by the government. But on his return he overplayed his
hand, offering to save the nation only if all other Buddhist sects were
eliminated. This was too much for the Japanese ruling circles; they
turned instead to a new band of warriors trained in Zen military
tactics who promptly repelled the invasion without Nichiren's aid.

Persecution of his sect continued, reaching a high point in the mid-
sixteenth century, when a band of rival Tendai monks burned twenty-one
Nichiren temples in Kyoto, slaughtering all the priests, including a
reputed three thousand in the last temple.

The sect has survived, however, and today Nichiren Shoshu and its lay
affiliate, the Soka Gakkai, or Value Creation Society, claim the
membership of one Japanese in seven and control of the country's third
largest political party. The Soka Gakkai recently dedicated a vast new
temple at the foot of Mt. Fuji, said to be the largest religious
structure in existence. With services that often resemble political
conventions, the Nichiren sect has achieved might once have been
thought impossible: it has simplified even further the ingenuous
philosophy of its founder, embellishing the praise of the Lotus Sutra
with marching bands and gymnastic displays in sports-stadium

The Japanese reformation represented by Amidism and Nichiren was a
natural outcome of the contempt for the average man that characterized
the early sects. It also opened the door for Zen, which found an appeal
among the non-aristocratic warrior class to equal that of the popular
Buddhist sects among the peasantry and bourgeoisie. As it happened, the
warriors who became fired with Zen also took control of the government
away from the aristocracy after the twelfth century, with the result
that Zen became the unofficial state religion of Japan during its great
period of artistic activity.


The Chronicles of Zen

_A special transmission outside the _sutras_; No reliance upon words
and letters; Direct pointing to the very soul; Seeing into one's own
essence. _(Traditional Homage to Bodhidharma)




_THERE IS A ZEN tradition that one day while the Buddha was seated at
Vulture Peak he was offered a flower and requested to preach on the
law. He took the flower, and holding it at arm's length, slowly turned
it in his fingers, all the while saying nothing. It was then that his
most knowing follower smiled in understanding, and the silent teaching
of Zen was born. That wordless smile is believed to have been
transmitted through twenty-eight successive Indian patriarchs, ending
with the famous Bodhidharma (ca. A.D. 470-534), who traveled to China in
520 and founded the school of Ch'an Buddhism, becoming the first
Chinese patriarch.

What Bodhidharma brought to China was the Indian concept of meditation,
called _dhyana _in Sanskrit, Ch'an in Chinese and Zen in Japanese.
Since the transmission of the wordless insights of meditation through a
thousand years of Indian history must, by definition, have taken place
without the assistance of written scriptures or preaching, the identity
and role of the twenty-eight previous Indian patriarchs must be
approached with caution. It has been suggested that the later Chinese
Ch'an Buddhists, striving for legitimacy of their school in the eyes of
colleagues from more established sects, resurrected a line of
"patriarchs" from among the names of obscure Indian monks and
eventually went on to enshroud these faceless names with fanciful
biographies. These Indian patriarchs reportedly transmitted one to the
other the wordless secrets of _dhyana_, thereby avoiding any need to
compose _sutras_, as did the lesser-gifted teachers of the other

Although Bodhidharma clearly was an historical figure, he made no
personal claims to patriarchy and indeed was distinguished more by
individuality than by attempts to promulgate an orthodoxy. Arriving
from India to teach meditation, he was greeted by an emperor's boasts
of traditional Buddhism's stature in China. Bodhidharma scoffed and
marched away, reportedly crossing the Yangtze on a reed to reach the
Shao-lin monastery, where he sat in solitary meditation facing a cliff
for the next nine years. This famous interview and Bodhidharma's
response were the real foundation of Zen.

Bodhidharma seems to have gone essentially unnoticed by his
contemporaries, and in the first record of his life--Biographies of the
High Priests, compiled in 645--he is included simply as one of a number
of devout Buddhists. He is next mentioned in _The Transmission of the
Lamp_, a sourcebook of Zen writings and records assembled in the year
1004. In point of fact, Bodhidharma, like the Buddha, seems not to have
left a written account of his teachings, although two essays are extant
which are variously attributed to him and which probably maintain the
spirit if not necessarily the letter of his views on meditation. The
most quoted passage from these works, and one which encapsulates the
particular originality of Bodhidharma, is his praise of meditation, or
_pi-kuan_, literally "wall gazing." This term supposedly refers to the
legendary nine years of gazing at a cliff which has become part of the
Bodhidharma story, but it also may be taken as a metaphor for staring
at the impediment that reason places in the path of enlightenment until
at last the mind hurdles the rational faculties. His words are reported
as follows:

_When one, abandoning the false and embracing the true, and in
simpleness of thought abides in _pi-kuan_, one finds that there is
neither selfhood nor otherness. . . . He will not then be guided by any
literary instructions, for he is in silent communication with the
principle itself, free from conceptual discrimination, for he is serene
and not-acting.1


This emphasis on meditation and the denial of reason formed the
philosophical basis for the new Chinese school of Ch'an. By returning
to first principles, it was a denial of all the metaphysical baggage
with which Mahayana Buddhism had burdened itself over the centuries,
and naturally enough there was immediate opposition from the more
established sects. One of Bodhidharma's first and most ardent followers
was Hui-k'o (487-593), who, according to The Transmission of the Lamp,
waited in vain in the snows outside Shao-lin monastery, hoping to
receive an auThence with Bodhidharma, until at last, in desperation, he
cut off his arm to attract the Master's notice. Some years later, when
Bodhidharma was preparing to leave China, he left this pupil his copy
of the Lankavatara Sutra and bade him continue the teachings of
meditation. Today the one-armed Hui-k'o is remembered as the Second
Patriarch of Ch'an.

It seems odd that one who scorned literary instruction should have
placed such emphasis on a _sutra_, but on careful reading the
Lankdvatara, a Sanskrit text from the first century, proves to be a
cogent summary of early Ch'an teachings on the function of the counter
mind. According to this _sutra_,

_Transcendental intelligence rises when the intellectual mind reaches
its limit and, if things are to be realized in their true and essence
nature, its processes of mentation . . . must be transcended by an
appeal to some higher faculty of cognition. There is such a faculty in
the intuitive mind, which as we have seen is the link between the
intellectual mind and the Universal Mind.2


Regarding the achievement of self-realization by meditation, the
_sutra_ states,

_[Disciples] may think they can expedite the attainment of their goal
of tranquilisation by entirely suppressing the activities of the mind
system. This is a mistake . . . the goal of tranquilisation is to be
reached not by suppressing all mind activity but by getting rid of
discriminations and attachments. . . .3


This text, together with the Taoist ideas of the T'ang Chinese, became
the philosophical basis for early Ch'an. Indeed, traditional Zen owes
much of its lighthearted irreverence to the early Taoists, who combined
their love of nature with a wholesome disregard for stuffy
philosophical pronouncements, whether from scholarly Confucianists or
Indian _sutras_.

The Taoists were also enemies of attachments, as exemplified by an
admonition of the famous Chuang Tzu, the fourth-century B.C. Taoist
thinker who established much of the philosophical basis for this
uniquely Chinese outlook toward life:

_Do not be an embodier of fame; do not be a storehouse of schemes; do
not be an undertaker of projects; do not be a proprietor of wisdom. . .
. Be empty, that is all. The Perfect Man uses his mind like a mirror--
going after nothing, welcoming nothing, responding but not storing.4

_Bodhidharma, practitioner of "wall-gazing" meditation, probably knew
nothing of Taoism, but he seems to have sensed correctly that China
would provide a home for his Buddhism of nonattachment. The Chinese of
the Tang era (618-907) did indeed find in his teachings a system
remarkably congenial to their own thousand-year-old philosophy of
_tao_, or The Way. Even the practice of _dhyana_, or meditation,
resembled in a sense the Chinese tradition of the ascetic, solitary
hermit, musing on the essence of nature in a remote mountain retreat.
Whether Ch'an was really Buddhism masquerading as Taoism or Taoism
disguised as Buddhism has never been fully established: it contains
elements of both. But it was the first genuine merging of Chinese and
Indian thought, combining the Indian ideas of meditation and
nonattachment with the Chinese practice of nature reverence and nature
mysticism (something fundamentally foreign to the great body of Indian
philosophy, either Hindu or Buddhist).

The Third Patriarch after Bodhidharma was also a wandering mendicant
teacher, but the Fourth chose to settle in a monastery. This
introduction of monastic Ch'an coincided roughly with the beginning of
the T'ang dynasty, and it brought about a dramatic rise in the appeal
of Ch'an to the Chinese laity. It made the new faith respectable and an
acceptable alternative to other sects, for in the land of Confucius,
teachers who wandered the countryside begging had never elicited the
respect that they enjoyed in India. Before long, the Fourth Patriarch
had a following of some five hundred disciples, who constructed
monastery buildings and tilled the soil in addition to meditating on
the _sutras_. The ability to combine practical activities with the
quest for enlightenment became a hallmark of later Zen, accounting for
much of its influence in Japan.

The Fifth Patriarch, Hung-jen (605-675), continued the monastery,
although at another spot, which was to be the location of an historic
turning point in the history of Ch'an. Out of it was to come the Sixth
Patriarch, Hui-neng (638-713), sometimes known as the second founder of
Chinese Ch'an, whose famous biographical treatise, The Sutra of Hui-
neng, is revered as one of the holy books of Zen. In this memoir he
tells of coming to the monastery of the Fifth Patriarch as an
illiterate but precocious youth, having been spiritually awakened by
happening to hear a recitation of the Vajracchedika Sutra, better known
as the Diamond Sutra. He made the mistake of revealing his brilliance
and was immediately banished by the Fifth Patriarch to pounding rice,
lest he embarrass the more experienced brothers and be in peril of his
safety. According to his account, he lived in obscurity for many months
until one day the Fifth Patriarch called an assembly and announced that
the disciple who could compose a stanza which would reveal an
understanding of the essence of Mind would be made the Sixth Patriarch.

All the monks assumed that the leading scholar of the monastery, Shen-
hsiu, would naturally win the contest, and all resolved not to bother
composing lines of their own. The story tells that Shen-hsiu struggled
for four days and finally mounted his courage to write an unsigned
verse on a wall corridor at midnight.

_Our body is the Bodhi-tree,

And our mind a mirror bright.

Carefully we wipe them hour by hour,

And let no dust alight.5


         This verse certainly demonstrated the concept of the mind's
nonattachment to phenomena, but perhaps it showed an attachment of the
mind to itself. In any case, it did not satisfy the Fifth Patriarch,
who recognized its author and advised Shen- hsiu privately to submit
another verse in two days. Before he had a chance, however, the
illiterate Hui-neng, between sessions of rice pounding, chanced along
the hallway and asked that the verse be read to him. Upon hearing it,
he dictated a stanza to be written next to it.

_There is no Bodhi-tree,

Nor stand of a mirror bright.

Since all is void,

Where can the dust alight_?6

          The story says that all were amazed, and the Fifth Patriarch
immediately rubbed away the stanza lest the other monks become jealous.
He then summoned Hui-neng late at night, expounded the Diamond Sutra to
him, and presented him with the robe and begging bowl of Bodhidharma--
together with advice to flee south in the interest of safety.

Thus Hui-neng became the Sixth Patriarch, began the Southern school of
Ch'an, which would later be transmitted to Japan, and established the
Diamond Sutra as the faith's primary scripture. And so it was that the
Lankavatara Sutra of Bodhidharma, a rich moral and spiritual treatise,
was replaced by the more easily understood Diamond Sutra, a repetitive
and self- praising document whose message is that nothing exists:

_notions of selfhood, personality, entity, and separate individuality,
as really existing, are erroneous--these terms are merely figures of
speech. . . . Develop a pure, lucid mind, not depending upon sound,
flavor, touch, odor, or any quality . . . develop a mind which alights
upon no thing whatsoever.7


With this _sutra_ as text, the Southern Ch'an masters turned ever
farther away from intellectual inquiry, since even the mind itself does
not exist. (It has even been suggested that the biography of the
founder of Southern Ch'an was revised in later vears to render him as
unschooled and illiterate as possible, the better to emphasize the
later Ch'an's contempt for scholars and scholarship.)

By the time of Hui-neng's death, China was basking in the cultural
brilliance of the Tang dynasty. Oddly enough, the sect of Southern
Ch'an, which was at odds with the intellectual life of the T'ang, was
the Buddhist sect most prospering. The T'ang became the golden age of
Ch'an, producing the vast majority of great Zen thinkers as well as the
classic techniques for teaching novices. Perhaps the fact that Ch'an
was outside the mainstream of Chinese culture during the T'ang period
contributed to the independent character of its teachers; during the
later Sung dynasty, when Zen became fashionable among scholars and
artists, few dynamic teachers were to be found.

The main objective of the Ch'an teachers was to inculcate a basically
Taoist view of the world using a Buddhist framework. Such famous
Taoists as Chuang Tzu had long demonstrated the irrelevance of logical
inquiry into the mind through the use of absurdist stories which
confounded conventional understanding. To this the Ch'an teachers added
the Buddhist teaching that the mind cannot understand external reality
because it is itself the only reality. The hand cannot grasp itself;
the eye cannot see itself; the mind cannot perceive itself. Quite
obviously, no amount of logical introspection can elicit this truth;
therefore the mind must abandon its pointless questing and simply float
with existence, of which it is merely an undifferentiated part.

But how can such a truth be taught? Teaching ideas is the transmission
of logical constructions from one mind to another, and the essence of
Zen is that logical constructions are the greatest impediment to
enlightenment. In answer, the Zen masters took a page from the Taoists
and began using nonsense conundrums, later known as _koan_, as well as
frustrating question-and-answer sessions, known as _mondo_, to
undermine a novice's dependence on rational thought. A new monk would
be presented with an illogical question or problem by the head of a
monastery, who would then monitor his response. (Examples might
include: Why did Bodhidharma come from the West, that is, from India to
China? Does a dog have Buddha-nature? What was your face before your
mother was born?) If the novice struggled to construct a response using
logical thought processes, he faded; if he intuitively and
nondiscursively grasped the truth within the _koan_, he passed.

This pass-or-fail technique differentiated Ch'an from all previous
Buddhist sects; Ch'an allowed for no gradual progress upward in the
spiritual Therarchy through the mastery of rituals. In the early days
of the Tang dynasty, when the number of initiates was small, the great
masters of Ch'an directly tested the non-rational understanding of
novices; in the later years of the Sung dynasty it was necessary to
develop a more impersonal procedure, such as handing out the same _koan
_to a number of novices during a lecture. The more effective exchanges
between the old T'ang masters and their pupils began to be reused by
later teachers in the Sung, who had neither the genius to create new
challenges for their novices nor the time to tailor-make a special
problem for each new face appearing at the monastery. Out of this there
was gradually canonized what are now the classic _koan _of Zen. Late in
the Tang and early in the Sung period the _koan_ themselves began to be
written down and used as the scriptures, resulting in a catalog said to
number around seventeen hundred today. The _koan_ is a uniquely Zen
creation, a brilliant technique developed by the T'ang masters for
transmitting a religion which revered no scriptures and had no god. It
appears nowhere else in the vast literature of world mysticism.

Several of the greatest masters of the T'ang developed their own
schools of Ch'an, and the two most successful--the Lin-chi (Japanese
Rinzai) and the Ts'ao-tung (Japanese Soto)--were later transmitted to
Japan. The Rinzai school pursued a technique of "sudden" enlightenment;
the Soto school, "gradual" enlightenment. These terms can be
misleading, however, for sudden enlightenment may require more time
than gradual. The gradual school taught that by sitting in meditation
(Japanese _zazen_) for long periods of time--kept awake by thrashings if
necessary--one's mind slowly acquires a detachment from the

world of false reality perceived by one's discriminating senses and
thus achive enlightenment. It is a slow, cumulative process. By
contrast, the sudden school de-emphasizes _zazen _in favor of study of
_koan_. The student struggles with _koan_, building up a kind of
hopeless tension which may last for years, until at last his logical
processes suddenly short-circuit and he attains enlightenment.
Practitioners of the sudden school also use shouts and beatings to jolt
novices out of their linear, sequential thought patterns. Students of
the gradual school are also invited to study _koan_, and those in the
sudden school are encouraged to practice _zazen_, but each school
believes its own approach is best.

Although the latter T'ang era saw the persecution of Buddhism in China,
with the coming of the Sung dynasty, Ch'an basked in the official
encouragement of the court. The _koan _of T'ang masters were compiled
and stuThed, while the _sutras_ of orthodox Buddhism suffered from
neglect. But the real future of Ch'an Buddhism was to lie with the
Japanese. In the latter part of the twelfth century a Japanese Tendai
monk named Eisai (1141-1215), concluding that Japanese Buddhism had
become stagnant and lifeless, journeyed to China to learn the
developments that had taken place during the years that Japan had
isolated herself. He naturally went to a T'ien-t'ai monastery, which
had been the source of so much Japanese Buddhism, but there he
discovered Chinese Buddhists immersed in Ch'an. The new faith seemed a
healthy answer to Japanese needs, and on a second visit he stuThed
Ch'an until he received the seal of enlightenment. A fully accredited
Zen master, he returned to Japan in 1191 to found the first Rinzai
temple, on the southern island of Kyushu.

Although his introduction of a new sect inspired the customary
opposition from the Tendai monks on Mt. Thei, the new faith challenging
the usefulness of scholarship found a receptive audience among the
newly emergent warrior class. Basically illiterate, the warriors often
felt themselves intellectually inferior to the literary aristocracy,
and they were delighted to be informed that a scholarly mind was an
impediment rather than an asset in life. They also found Zen's emphasis
on the quick, intuitive response agreeably in accord with their
approach to armed combat. Eisai soon found himself invited to head a
temple in Kyoto and later in the new warrior capital of Kamakura.
Perhaps his most practical move was the composition of a treatise
designed to win for Zen a place in the hearts of the nationalistic
military establishment and at the same time to conciliate the Tendai
monks on Mt. Thei. In his Propagation of Zen for the Protection of the
Country he described Zen as follows:

_In its rules of action and discipline, there is no confusion of right
and wrong. . . . Outwardly it favors discipline over doctrine, inwardly
it brings the Highest Inner Wisdom.8


Although it may seem paradoxical that a pacifist religion like Zen
found immediate favor with the rough warrior class of  Japan, it had an
obvious appeal. As Sir George Sansom has explained it,

_For a thoughtful warrior, whose life always bordered on death, there
was an attraction, even a persuasion, in the belief that truth comes
like the flash of a sword as it cuts through the problem of existence.
Any line of religious thought that helped a man understand the nature
of being without arduous literary stuThes was likely to attract the
kind of warrior who felt that the greatest moments in life were the
moments when death was nearest.9


The Japanese warriors were captured by the irreverent, anti- scholastic
qualities of Rinzai, with its reliance upon anecdotal _koan _and
violent jolts of enlightenment. Thus the ruling warriors of Japan began
studying _koan_, even as the peasantry at large was chanting praises to
Amida and the Lotus Sutra.

The aristocratic priest Dogen (1200-1253), who also left the Tendai
monastery for China and returned to establish the meditative, gradual
school of Soto Zen, is generally considered the second founder of
Japanese Zen. Although he grudgingly

acknowledged the usefulness of _koan _as an aid to instruction, Dogen
considered _zazen _meditation the time-proven method of the Buddha for
acTheving enlightenment. For scriptural support, he preferred to go
back to the earlier Hinayana sutras for their more authentic accounts
of the words of the Buddha, rather than to rely on Mahayana sources,
which had been corrupted over the centuries by an elaborate metaphysics
and polytheism. Dogen had not originally planned to start a school of
Zen but merely to popularize _zazen_, to which end he wrote a small
treatise, General Teachings for the Promotion of Zazen, which has
become a classic. This was followed a few years later by a larger, more
generalized work which was to become the bible of Japanese Soto Zen,
_Shobogenzo_, or _Treasury of Knowledge Regarding the True Dharma_. In
this work he tried to stress the importance of _zazen _while at the
same time acknowledging the usefulness of instruction and _koan_ where

         There are two ways in which to set body and mind right: one is
to hear the teaching from a master, and the other is to do pure _zazen_
yourself. If you _hear_ the teachings the conscious mind is put to
work, whilst _zazen_ embraces both training and enlightenment; in order
to understand the Truth, you need both.10

Unlike the conciliatory Eisai, Dogen was uncompromising in his
rejection of the traditional schools of Buddhism, which he felt had
strayed too far from the original teachings of Gautama. He was right,
of course; the chanting, savior-oriented popular Buddhists in Japan
were, as Edwin Reischauer has noted, practicing a religion far closer
to European Christianity of the same period than to the faith started
by the Buddha--an atheistic self-reliance aimed at finding release from
all worldly attachments. Dogen's truths did not rest well with the
Buddhist establishment of his time, however, and for years he moved
from temple to temple. Finally, in 1236, he managed to start a temple
of his own, and gradually he became one of the most revered religious
teachers in Japanese history. As his reputation grew, the military
leaders invited him to visit them and teach, but he would have no part
of their life. Possibly as a result of Dogen's attitude, Soto Zen never
became associated with the warrior class, but remained the Zen of the
common people. Today Soto (with approximately six and a half million
followers) is the more popular version of Zen, whereas Rinzai (with
something over two million followers) is the Zen of those interested in
theological daring and intellectual challenge.

Historically a religion at odds with the establishment--from Bodhidharma
to the eccentric T'ang masters--Zen in Japan found itself suddenly the
religion of the ruling class. The result was a Zen impact in Japan far
greater than any influence Ch'an ever realized in China.


Zen Archery and Swordsmanship

_ (THE KAMAKURA ERA--1185-1333)

The anti-scholasticism, the mental discipline--still more the strict
physical discipline of the adherents of Zen, which kept their lives
very close to nature--all appealed to the warrior caste. . . . Zen
contributed much to the development of a toughness of inner fiber and a
strength of character which typified the warrior of feudal Japan. . . .

                                   Edwin Reischauer, _Japan: Past and

THE BEGINNINGS of the Zen era are about the middle of the twelfth century,
when the centuries-long Heian miracle of peace came to an end. The
Japanese aristocracy had ruled the land for hundreds of years
practically without drawing a sword, using diplomatic suasion so
skillful that Heian was probably the only capital city in the medieval
world entirely without fortifications. This had been possible partly
because of the ruling class's willingness to let taxable lands slip
from their control--into the hands of powerful provincial leaders and
rich monasteries--rather than start a quarrel. For occasions when force
was required, they delegated the responsibility to two powerful
military clans, the Taira and the Minamoto, who roamed the land to
collect taxes, quell uprisings, and not incidentally to forge
allegiances with provincial chieftains. The Taira were in charge of the
western and central provinces around Kyoto, while the Minamoto
dominated the frontier eastern provinces, in the region one day to hold
the warrior capital of Kamakura. The astounding longevity of their rule
was a tribute to the aristocrats' skill in playing off these two
powerful families against each other, but by the middle of the twelfth
century they found themselves at the mercy of their bellicose agents,
awakening one day to discover ruffians in the streets of Kyoto as
brigands and armed monks invaded the city to burn and pillage.

The real downfall of the _ancien regime_ began in the year 1156, when a
dispute arose between the reigning emperor and a retired sovereign
simultaneously with a disagreement among the aristocracy regarding
patronage. Both sides turned to the warriors for support--a formula that
proved to be extremely unwise. The result was a feud between the Taira
and Minamoto, culminating in a civil war (the Gempei War) that lasted
five years, produced bloodshed on a scale previously unknown in Japan,
and ended in victory for the Minamoto. A chieftain named Minamoto
Yoritomo emerged as head of a unified state and leader of a government
whose power to command was beyond question. Since Yoritomo's position
had no precedent, he invented for himself the title of shogun. He also
moved the government from Kyoto to his military headquarters at
Kamakura and proceeded to lay the groundwork for what would be almost
seven hundred years of unbroken warrior rule.

The form of government Yoritomo instituted is generally, if somewhat
inaccurately, described as feudalism. The provincial warrior families
managed estates worked by peasants whose role was similar to that of
the European serfs of the same period. The estate-owning barons were
mounted warriors, new figures in Japanese history, who protected their
lands and their family honor much as did the European knights. But
instead of glorifying chivalry and maidenly honor, they respected the
rules of battle and noble death. Among the fiercest fighters the world
has seen, they were masters of personal combat, horsemanship, archery,
and the way of the sword. Their principles were fearlessness, loyalty,
honor, personal integrity, and contempt for material wealth. They
became known as _samurai_, and they were the men whose swords were
ruled by Zen.

Battle for the _samurai_ was a ritual of personal and family honor.
When two opposing sides confronted one another in the field, the
mounted _samurai_ would first discharge the twenty to thirty arrows at
their disposal and then call out their family names in hopes of
eliciting foes of similarly distinguished lineage. Two warriors would
then charge one another brandishing their long swords until one was
dismounted, whereupon hand-to-hand combat with short knives commenced.
The loser's head was taken as a trophy, since headgear proclaimed
family and rank. To die a noble death in battle at the hands of a
worthy foe brought no dishonor to one's family, and cowardice in the
face of death seems to have been as rare as it was humiliating.
Frugality among these Zen-inspired warriors was as much admired as the
soft living of aristocrats and merchants was scorned; and life itself
was cheap, with warriors ever ready to commit ritual suicide (called
_seppuku _or _harakiri_) to preserve their honor or to register social

Yoritomo was at the height of his power when he was killed accidentally
in a riding mishap. Having murdered all the competent members of his
family, lest they prove rivals, he left no line except two ineffectual
sons, neither of whom was worthy to govern. The power vacuum was filled
by his in-laws of the Hojo clan, who very shortly eliminated all the
remaining members of the Minamoto ruling family and assumed power. Not
wishing to appear outright usurpers of the office of shogun, they
invented a position known as regent, through which they manipulated a
hand-picked shogun, who in turn manipulated a powerless emperor. It was
an example of indirect rule at its most ingenious.

Having skillfully removed the Minamoto family from ruling circles, the
Hojo Regency governed Japan for over a hundred years, during which time
Zen became the most influential religion in the land. It was also
during this time that Zen played an important role in saving Japan from
what was possibly the greatest threat to its survival up to that time:
the invasion attempts of Kublai Khan. In 1268 the Great Khan, whose
Mongol armies were in the process of sacking China, sent envoys to
Japan recommending tribute. The Kyoto court was terrified, but not the
Kamakura warriors, who sent the Mongols back empty-handed. The sequence
was repeated four years later, although this time the Japanese knew it
would mean war. As expected, in 1274 an invasion fleet of Mongols
sailed from Korea, but after inconclusive fighting on a southern
beachhead of Kyushu, a timely storm blew the invaders out to sea and
inflicted enough losses to derail the project. The Japanese had,
however, learned a sobering lesson about their military preparedness.
In the century of internal peace between the Gempei War and the Mongol
landing, Japanese fighting men had let their skills atrophy. Not only
were their formalized ideas about honorable hand-to-hand combat totally
inappropriate to the tight formations and powerful crossbows of the
Asian armies (a _samurai_ would ride out, announce his lineage, and
immediately be cut down by a volley of Mongol arrows), the Japanese
warriors had lost much of their moral fiber. To correct both these
faults the Zen monks who served as advisers to the Hojo insisted that
military training, particularly archery and swordsmanship, be
formalized, using the techniques of Zen discipline. A system of
training was hastily begun in which the _samurai_ were conditioned
psychologically as well as physically for battle. It proved so
successful that it became a permanent part of Japanese martial tactics.

The Zen training was urgent, for all of Japan knew that the Mongols
would be back in strength. One of the Mongols' major weapons had been
the fear they inspired in those they approached, but fear of death is
the last concern of a _samurai _whose mind has been disciplined by Zen
exercises. Thus the Mongols were robbed of their most potent offensive
weapon, a point driven home when a group of Mongol envoys appearing
after the first invasion to proffer terms were summarily beheaded.

Along with the Zen military training, the Japanese placed the entire
country on a wartime footing, with every able-bodied man engaged in
constructing shoreline fortifications. As expected, in the early summer
of 1281 the Khan launched an invasion force thought to have numbered
well over 100,000 men, using vessels constructed by Korean labor. When
they began landing in southern Kyushu, the _samurai_ were there and
ready, delighted at the prospect of putting to use on a common
adversary the military skills they had evolved over the decades through
slaughtering one another. They harassed the Mongol fleet from small
vessels, while on shore they faced the invaders man for man, never
allowing their line to break. For seven weeks they stood firm, and then
it was August, the typhoon month. One evening, the skies darkened
ominously in the south and the winds began to rise, but before the
fleet could withdraw the typhoon struck.

In two days the armada of Kublai Khan was obliterated, leaving hapless
onshore advance parties to be cut to ribbons by the _samurai_. Thus did
the Zen warriors defeat one of the largest naval expeditions in world
history, and in commemoration the grateful emperor named the typhoon
the Divine Wind, Kamikaze.

The symbols of the Zen _samurai _were the sword and the bow. The sword
in particular was identified with the noblest impulses of the
individual, a role strengthened by its historic place as one of the
emblems of the divinity of the emperor, reaching back into pre-Buddhist
centuries. A _samurai's _sword was believed to possess a spirit of its
own, and when he experienced disappointment in battle he might go to a
shrine to pray for the spirit's return. Not surprisingly, the
swordsmith was an almost priestly figure who, after ritual
purification, went about his task clad in white robes. The ritual
surrounding swordmaking had a practical as well as a spiritual purpose;
it enabled the early Japanese to preserve the highly complex formulas
required to forge special steel. Their formulas were carefully guarded,
and justifiably so: not until the past century did the West produce
comparable metal. Indeed, the metal in medieval Japanese swords has
been favorably compared with the finest modern armorplate.

The secret of these early swords lay in the ingenious method developed
for producing a metal both hard and brittle enough to hold its edge and
yet sufficiently soft and pliable not to snap under stress. The
procedure consisted of hammering together a laminated sandwich of
steels of varying hardness, heating it, and then folding it over again
and again until it consisted of many thousands of layers. If a truly
first-rate sword was required, the interior core was made of a sandwich
of soft metals, and the outer shell fashioned from varying grades of
harder steel. The blade was then heated repeatedly and plunged into
water to toughen the skin. Finally, all portions save the cutting edge
were coated with clay and the blade heated to a very precise
temperature, whereupon it was again plunged into water of a special
temperature for just long enough to freeze the edge but not the
interior core, which was then allowed to cool slowly and maintain its
flexibility. The precise temperatures of blade and water were closely
guarded secrets, and at least one visitor to a master swordsmith's
works who sneaked a finger into the water to discover its temperature
found his hand suddenly chopped off in an early test of the sword.

The result of these techniques was a sword whose razor- sharp edge
could repeatedly cut through armor without dulling, but whose interior
was soft enough that it rarely broke. The sword of the _samurai _was
the equivalent of a two-handed straight razor, allowing an experienced
warrior to carve a man into slices with consummate ease. Little wonder
the Chinese and other Asians were willing to pay extravagant prices in
later years for these exquisite instruments of death. Little wonder,
too, that the _samurai _worshiped his sidearm to the point where he
would rather lose his life than his sword.

Yet a sword alone did not a _samurai_ make. A classic Zen anecdote may
serve to illustrate the Zen approach to swordsmanship. It is told that
a young man journeyed to visit a famous Zen swordmaster and asked to be
taken as a pupil, indicating a desire to work hard and thereby reduce
the time needed for training. Toward the end of his interview he asked
about the length of time which might be required, and the master
replied that it would probably be at least ten years. Dismayed, the
young novice offered to work diligently night and day and inquired how
this extra effort might affect the time required. "In that case," the
master replied, "it will require thirty years." With a sense of
increasing alarm, the young man then offered to devote all his energies
and every single moment to studying the sword. "Then it will take
seventy years," replied the master. The young man was speechless, but
finally agreed to give his life over to the master. For the first three
years, he never saw a sword but was put to work hulling rice and
practicing Zen meditation. Then one day the master crept up behind his
pupil and gave him a solid whack with a wooden sword. Thereafter he
would be attacked daily by the master whenever his back was turned. As
a result, his senses gradually sharpened until he was on guard every
moment, ready to dodge instinctively. When the master saw that his
student's body was alert to everything around it and oblivious of all
irrelevant thoughts and desires, training began.

Instinctive action is the key to Zen swordsmanship. The Zen fighter
does not logically think out his moves; his body acts without recourse
to logical planning. This gives him a precious advantage over an
opponent who must think through his actions and then translate this
logical plan into the movement of arm and sword. The same principles
that govern the Zen approach to understanding inner reality through
transcending the analytical faculties are used by the swordsman to
circumvent the time-consuming process of thinking through every move.
To this technique Zen swordsmen add another vital element, the complete
identification of the warrior with his weapon. The sense of duality
between man and steel is erased by Zen training, leaving a single
fighting instrument. The _samurai _never has a sense that his arm, part
of himself, is holding a sword, which is a separate entity. Rather,
sword, arm, body, and mind become one. As explained by the Zen scholar
D. T. Suzuki:

_When the sword is in the hands of a technician-swordsman skilled in
its use, it is no more than an instrument with no mind of its own. What
it does is done mechanically, and there is no [nonintellection]
discernible in it. But when the sword is held by the swordsman whose
spiritual attainment is such that he holds it as though not holding it,
it is identified with the man himself, it acquires a soul, it moves
with all the subtleties which have been imbedded in him as a swordsman.
The man emptied of all thoughts, all emotions originating from fear,
all sense of insecurity, all desire to win, is not conscious of using
the sword; both man and sword turn into instruments in the hands, as it
were, of the unconscious. . . .1


Zen training also renders the warrior free from troubling frailties of
the mind, such as fear and rash ambition--qualities lethal in mortal
combat. He is focused entirely on his opponent's openings, and when an
opportunity to strike presents itself, he requires no deliberation: his
sword and body act automatically. The discipline of meditation and the
mind-dissolving paradoxes of the _koan _become instruments to forge a
fearless, automatic, mindless instrument of steel-tipped death.

The methods developed by Zen masters for teaching archery differ
significantly from those used for the sword. Whereas swordsmanship
demands that man and weapon merge with no acknowledgment of one's
opponent until the critical moment, archery requires the man to become
detached from his weapon and to concentrate entirely upon the target.
Proper technique is learned, of course, but the ultimate aim is to
forget technique, forget the bow, forget the draw, and give one's
concentration entirely to the target. Yet here too there is a
difference between Zen archery and Western techniques: the Zen archer
gives no direct thought to hitting the target. He does not strain for
accuracy, but rather lets accuracy come as a result of intuitively
applying perfect form.

Before attempting to unravel this seeming paradox, the equipment of the
Japanese archer should be examined. The Japanese bow differs from the
Western bow in having the hand grip approximately one-third of the
distance from the bottom, rather than in the middle. This permits a
standing archer (or a kneeling one, for that matter) to make use of a
bow longer than he is tall (almost eight feet, in fact), since the
upper part may extend well above his head. The bottom half of the bow
is scaled to human proportions, while the upper tip extends far over
the head in a sweeping arch. It is thus a combination of the
conventional bow and the English longbow, requiring a draw well behind
the ear. This bow is unique to Japan, and in its engineering principles
it surpasses anything seen in the West until comparatively recent
times. It is a laminated composite of supple bamboo and the brittle
wood of the wax tree. The heart of the bow is made up of three squares
of bamboo sandwiched between two half-moon sections of bamboo which
comprise the belly (that side facing the inside of the curve) and the
back (the side away from the archer). Filling out the edges of the
sandwich are two strips of wax-tree wood. The elimination of the
deadwood center of the bow, which is replaced by the three strips of
bamboo and two of waxwood, produces a composite at once powerful and
light. The arrows too are of bamboo, an almost perfect material for the
purpose, and they differ from Western arrows only in being lighter and
longer. Finally, the Japanese bowstring is loosed with the thumb rather
than the fingers, again a departure from Western practice.

If the equipment differs from that of the West, the technique, which
verges on ritual, differs far more. The first Zen archery lesson is
proper breath control, which requires techniques learned from
meditation. Proper breathing conditions the mind in archery as it does
in _zazen _and is essential in developing a quiet mind, a restful
spirit, and full concentration. Controlled breathing also constantly
reminds the archer that his is a religious activity, a ritual related
to his spiritual character as much as to the more prosaic concern of
hitting the target. Breathing is equally essential in drawing the bow,
for the arrow is held out away from the body, calling on muscles much
less developed than those required by the Western draw. A breath is
taken with every separate movement of the draw, and gradually a rhythm
settles in which gives the archer's movements a fluid grace and the
ritual cadence of a dance.

Only after the ritual mastery of the powerful bow has been realized
does the archer turn his attention to loosing the arrows (not, it
should be noted, to hitting the target). The same use of breathing
applies, the goal being for the release of the arrow to come out of
spontaneous intuition, like the swordsman's attack. The release of the
arrow should dissolve a kind of spiritual tension, like the resolution
of a _koan_, and it must seem to occur of itself, without deliberation,
almost as though it were independent of the hand. This is possible
because the archer's mind is totally unaware of his actions; it is
focused, indeed riveted in concentration, on the target. This is not
done through aiming, although the archer does aim--intuitively. Rather,
the archer's spirit must be burned into the target, be at one with it,
so that the arrow is guided by the mind and the shot of the bow becomes
merely an intervening, inconsequential necessity. All physical actions--
the stance, the breathing, the draw, the release--are as natural and
require as little conscious thought as a heartbeat; the arrow is guided
by the intense concentration of the mind on its goal.

Thus it was that the martial arts of Japan were the first to benefit
from Zen precepts, a fact as ironic as it is astounding. Yet meditation
and combat are akin in that both require rigorous self-discipline and
the denial of the mind's overt functions. From its beginning as an aid
in the arts of death, Zen soon became the guiding principle for quite
another form of art. In years to come, Zen would be the official state
religion, shoguns would become Zen patrons extraordinaire, and a
totally Zen culture would rule Japan.

Part II


ASHIKAGA (1333-1573)


The Great Age of Zen

_For we are lovers of the beautiful, yet simple in our tastes, and we
cultivate the mind without loss of manliness.
_Pericles, ca. 430 B.C.



_Golden Pavilion, Kyoto

_THE  FLOWERING of Zen culture might be described as the Periclean age of
Japan. As with fifth-century Greece, this was the era that produced
Japan's finest classical art at the same time that rampant plagues and
internecine warfare bled the land as never before. Government, such as
it was, rested in the hands of the Ashikaga clan, men ever ready to
sacrifice the general good in furtherance of personal interests. That
these interests happened to include Zen and the Zen arts probably
brought scant solace to their subjects, but today we can weigh their
selfishness against the culture they sponsored. In any case, all who
admire the classic Zen cultural forms should be aware that their price
included the heartless taxation of and disregard for the entire peasant
population of Japan.

The historical backdrop for the Ashikaga era reads like a Jacobean
tragedy peopled by cutthroat courtiers ever alert to advantage in
chambers or in battle. The political shape of the Ashikaga era began to
emerge in the early years of the fourteenth century as the once
invincible Kamakura rule of the Hojo family dissolved, plunging Japan
into a half-century of war and feuding over the identity of the
rightful emperor. Throughout much of the century the provincial _daimyo
_warlords and their _samurai _warred up and down the length of the
land, supporting first one emperor, then another. It was during this
time and the two centuries following that Zen became the official state
religion and Zen monks served as foreign diplomats, domestic advisers,
and arbiters of taste.

The political troubles that ended the Kamakura warrior government and
unseated the Hojo seem to be traceable to the war against the Mongols.
It was a long and costly operation which left most of the _samurai_
impoverished and angered at a government that could give them only
cheerful thanks rather than the lands of the vanquished as was
traditional  practice. The general discontent found a focus in the
third decade of the fourteenth century when a Kyoto emperor named
Godaigo attempted to unseat the Hojo and re-establish genuine imperial
rule. After some minor skirmishes, the Hojo commissioned an able
general nanied Ashikaga Takauji (1305-1358) from an old Minamoto family
to march on Godaigo and settle the difficulty. Along the way Takauji
must have thought things over, for when he reached Kyoto instead of
attacking the emperor's forces he put the Hojo garrison to the sword.
Shortly thereafter, another general supporting the imperial cause
marched out to Kamakura and laid waste the Hojo capital. The last few
hundred Hojo supporters committed suicide en masse, and the Kamakura
age was ended.

Godaigo gleefully set up the new Japanese government in Kyoto, and soon
it was like old times, with aristocrats running everything. In a
serious miscalculation, he assumed that the

provincial warlords had joined his cause out of personal loyalty rather
than the more traditional motive of greed, for he gave the Hojo estates
to his favorite mistresses while regarding warriors like Takauji as
hardly more than rustic figures of fun. As might have been expected,
another war soon broke out. This time the conflict lasted for decades,
with almost unbelievable convolutions, including a number of decades in
which Japan had two emperors. At one point Takauji found it necessary
to poison his own brother, and it has been estimated that his military
exploits cost some sixty thousand lives, not to mention the general
ruin of the country at large. The end result was that the forces of
Godaigo were defeated, leaving Japan in the hands of the Ashikaga

For all his bloodletting, Takuji was also a patron of the Zen sect,
giving it a formal place in the national life and encouraging its
growth and dissemination. One of his closest advisers was the great Zen
prelate Muso Soseki (1275-1351), whose influence made Rinzai Zen the
official religion of the Ashikaga era. An astutely practical man, Muso
established the precedent for doctrinal flexibility which allowed Zen
to survive while emperors and shoguns came and went:

_Clear-sighted masters of the Zen sect do not have a fixed doctrine
which is to be held to at any and all times. They offer whatever
teaching the occasion demands and preach as the spirit moves them, with
no fixed course to guide them. If asked what Zen is, they may answer in
the words of Confucius, Mencius, Lao Tzu or Chuang Tzu, or else in
terms of the doctrines of the various sects and denominations, and also
by using popular proverbs.1


Like many Zen teachers, Muso enjoyed the company of the powerful. He
began his career in statecraft as a supporter and confidant of the ill-
fated Emperor Godaigo. When Godaigo was deposed, he adjusted his
allegiance and became the high priest of the Ashikaga house. He was
soon the constant companion of Takauji, advising him on policy,
flattering his taste in Zen art, and secretly trying to give him a bit
of polish. Although Takauji could scarcely have had time for extensive
meditation amid his continual bloodletting, Muso preached to him in odd
moments and soothed his occasionally guilty conscience.

Since Takauji was clearly haunted by his treatment of Godaigo, Muso
suggested that the former emperor's ghost might find repose if a
special Zen temple was built in his memory. The project was well
underway when funds ran low, whereupon the resourceful Muso suggested
sending a trading vessel to China to raise foreign-exchange cash. The
venture was so successful that before long regular trade was
established-- naturally enough under the guidance of Zen monks. In later
years a special branch of government was established devoted
exclusively to foreign trade and directed by well-traveled prelates of
Zen. (The Chinese regarded this trade as the exchange of Chinese gifts
for Japanese tribute, but the Japanese were willing to overlook the
insult in the interest of profit.) Muso's other lasting contribution to
the growth of Zen influence was persuading Takauji to build a Zen
temple in each of the sixty-six provinces, thereby extending state
support of the religion outside of Kyoto ruling circles.

Takauji was the founder of a line of Ashikaga shoguns who gave their
name to the next two centuries of Japanese history. His entire life was
spent on the battlefield, where he concentrated his energies on
strengthening the shogunate through the liberal application of armed
might. In a sense he prefigured the attitude of John Adams, who once
lamented that he must study war so that his grandsons might fashion art
and architecture. Indeed, Takauji's grandson was the famous aesthete
Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1408), who ascended to shogun in 1368 and
soon thereafter brought to flower a renaissance of the Zen artistic
tradition of Sung China.

Yoshimitsu was only nine years of age when he became shogun, so the
early years of his reign were guided by regents of the Hosokawa clan,
who put to rest any remaining dissidence. Consequently, when Yoshimitsu
came of age, he felt secure

enough in his office to tour the country, visiting religious shrines
and establishing his place in the pageant of Japanese history. More
significantly for the rise of Zen culture, he also turned his eyes
abroad, encouraging the trade with China by stabilizing political
relations and becoming the best customer for the silks, brocades,
porcelains, and--most important--Sung paintings brought back by the Zen

In a very short time, Yoshimitsu had become addicted to the Chinese
finery and antique Ch'an art of the Sung which his monks were
importing. He was fortunate that the country was stable and peaceful
enough to allow him his whims, especially since he almost entirely lost
interest in all functions of government save taxation, which he found
necessary to apply to the peasants in ever greater measure in order to
support his patronage of the arts. Absorbed with aesthetics and Zen
art, he became a cloistered sovereign whose luckless subjects were left
on their own to weather fortunes that alternated between starvation and
the plague, leavened by intermittent wars among provincial chieftains.
The peasantry, however, was not blind to his callous priorities, and it
is said that his reputation survived into the nineteenth century,
maintained by country folk who would trek to a certain temple to revile
an old statue of the Ashikaga shogun.

His personal failings notwithstanding, Yoshimitsu was the key figure in
bringing about the rise of Zen art. His contributions were manifold: he
founded a Zen monastery which became the school for the great landscape
painters of the era; his personal patronage was largely responsible for
the development of the No drama; his example and encouragement did much
to bring into being the identification of Zen with landscape garden
art; his own practice of _zazen _under the guidance of a famous Zen
monk set an example for the warrior court; his interest in tea and
poetry served both to set the stage for the development of the tea
ceremony as an aesthetic phenomenon and to temper the literary tastes
of his warrior followers; and, finally, his interest in Zen-inspired
architecture was responsible for the creation of one of the most famous
Zen chapels in Japan.

When Yoshimitsu retired in 1394 to enter Zen orders, leaving the
government to his nine-year-old son, he ensconced himself in a palace
in the Kyoto suburbs and proceeded to build a chapel for Zen
meditation. The Golden Pavilion, or_ Kinkaku-ji_, as it came to be
known, was a wooden teahouse three stories high whose architectural
beauty is now legendary.

There were few if any previous examples of this type of multistory
structure, although it has been suggested that the idea may have been
copied from a comparable temple in southern China. (The turn-of-the-
century American critic Ernest Fenollosa suggested that it was modeled
after the structure Kublai Khan constructed for a garden in Shang-tu,
which Coleridge called Xanadu, after the translation of the name by
Marco Polo: "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/A stately pleasure-dome decree.")
Whatever its origins, the building superficially resembled a low-rising
pagoda--each successive story was a more or less smaller version of the
one below. The two lower floors were used for evening entertainments of
music, poetry, and incense, while the top floor was a tiny meditation
chapel (whose ceiling was covered with gold leaf, thereby giving the
building its name). Set in the midst of a beautiful landscape garden,
the sweeping roofs, painstaking wooden joinery, and exquisite unpainted
woods of the Golden Pavilion were a landmark of Zen taste destined to
influence the course of Japanese architecture for centuries.

The Golden Pavilion was the crowning act of Yoshimitsu's career, a
fitting monument to the man who, more than any other, was responsible
for the rise of Zen culture. Under his rule, Japanese monks first
brought back from China the finest examples of Ch'an-inspired art, from
which they derived and mastered the artistic principles of the vanished
Sung era and went on to re-create if not surpass the great Sung age of
artistic production. The momentum for Zen culture produced by
Yoshimitsu lasted through the reign of his grandson Yoshimasa (1435-
1490), the last great Ashikaga patron of Zen art.

As a shogun, Yoshimasa was even more distracted by Zen than his famous
grandfather. He concentrated on encouraging

the school of Sung-style ink painting, the Zen ritual of ceremonial
tea, the art of flower arranging, and new styles of Zen-influenced
architecture. Unfortunately, his apparently hereditary absence of
interest in affairs of state ultimately brought about the
disintegration of the Japanese political fabric. As the office of
shogun weakened to the point of symbolism, Yoshimasa's power to tax
became so frail that he was finally forced to borrow from the Zen
monasteries. The real power in the land passed to the local feudal
lords, or _daimyo_, men who governed entire domains, raised their own
armies, and exercised far greater power than the _samurai_ of earlier

What remained of Yoshimasa's power came to be exercised by his
mistresses and his scheming wife, Tomi-ko. By his late twenties he was
ready to retire entirely, the better to pursue Zen and its arts, but
none of the women in the palace had yet presented him with a son who
could become titular shogun. By 1464 Yoshimasa's patience was exhausted
and he turned to one of his brothers who was in monastic orders and
persuaded him to begin an apprenticeship for the shogunate. The brother
wisely hesitated, pointing out that Tomi-ko, who was still in her
twenties, might yet produce a son; but Yoshimasa won him over with
solemn assurances that all sons who arrived would be made priests.

Less than a year later Tomi-ko did indeed bear a son, setting the stage
for the struggle that would eventually destroy Kyoto and signal the
decline of the Ashikaga age of Zen culture. As it happened, there was
already an animosity between Yoshimasa's principal adviser, Hosokawa
Katsumoto, and Hosokawa's father-in-law, Yamana Sozen. When the child
was born, Hosokawa, a member of the historic family of Ashikaga
regents, favored retaining Yoshimasa's brother as shogun, so the
ambitious Tomi-ko turned to Yamana to enlist his aid in reverting the
office of shogun back to Yoshimasa and thence to her son. With a
natural excuse for conflict finally at hand, the two old enemies Yamana
and Hosokawa gathered their armies--both numbering near eighty thousand--
outside Kyoto. The impending tragedy was obvious to all, and Yoshimasa
tried vainly to discourage the combatants. By that time, however, his
voice counted for nothing, and in 1467 the inevitable conflict, now
known as the Onin War, began.

The war raged for a decade, until virtually all the majestic temples of
Kyoto were burned and pillaged. Ironically, one of the few temples to
escape destruction was Yoshimitsu's Golden Pavilion, which fortunately
had been situated well outside the

precincts of the main city. Although both Hosokawa and Yamana Thed in
1473, the fighting continued, as participants on both sides defected,
changed leaders, and fought among themselves until no one could recall
what the original war had been about. Finally, after ten full years of
almost constant fighting, it became apparent that the carnage had
accomplished nothing. One dark night the two armies folded their tents
and stole away--and the war was no more. A remarkably senseless
conflict, even by modern-day standards, the Onin War effectively
obliterated all evidence in Kyoto of the marvelous Heian civilization,
as well as the early Ashikaga, leaving nothing but a scorched palette
for the final century of Zen art.

Yoshimasa, in the meantime, had long since removed himself from affairs
of state. Since his shogun brother had switched sides during the war
and become a general for Yamana, the succession question was
simplified. Tomi-ko took time out from her vigorous war-profiteering to
prevail upon Yoshimasa to appoint her son, then four years old, shogun.
She thereby became de facto shogun herself, encouraging Yoshimasa in
his desire to retire while enriching herself handsomely with
imaginative new taxes. The war proved a windfall for Tomi-ko, who lent
funds to both sides to keep it going, and her cupidity played no small
role in the final destruction of ancient Kyoto.

Immersed as he was in the world of Zen and Zen culture, Yoshimasa
seemed oblivious to the sea of official corruption around him, and
indeed there was probably little he could have done to prevent it. He
loved the refined company of women and avoided warriors, whose rough
manner offended him but in whose hands lay the only real power in the
country. As the government disintegrated, he made his own contribution
as a connoisseur and patron of the fine arts, bringing to culmination
the movement in Zen art that left Japan a legacy far more lasting than
any that mere diplomacy could have left. Like his European
counterparts, the Medici, Yoshimasa balanced his failings in politics
with faultless aesthetic judgment, endowing the Zen arts with new
standards in architecture, painting, gardening, the No theater, the tea
ceremony, and ceremonial flower arranging. Perhaps he should not be
faulted for doing what he understood best.

Yoshimasa also left a physical monument intended to rival the Golden
Pavilion. In 1466, as he contemplated retirement, he began plans to
construct a villa for meditation. With the outbreak of war he was
forced for a number of years to devote his attentions to the repair of
the imperial residence, but after the war he renewed his intentions to
retire into Zen aesthetics. His decision was strengthened by family
troubles, including Tomi-ko's displeasure with the number of his
mistresses, a problem that finally exploded when her young son, the
shogun, demanded to marry one of them rather than a girl of Tomi-ko's
choosing. In 1482, amid the general ruin and confusion, Yoshimasa
resolved to begin the construction of his retirement villa. Financial
circumstances had changed since his original plan eighteen years
earlier, and his interest in Zen was even deeper, so instead of the
sumptuous palace once planned, he built a small pavilion of exquisite
taste and restraint. It stands today, a forerunner of the traditional
house, and is known as the Silver Pavilion, or _Ginkaku-ji_, because of
the popular belief that he originally planned to cover portions with
silver leaf. _Ginkaku-ji _has two stories, the first in Zen temple
style and the second in _shoin _style. The deliberately unpainted wood
exterior of the two-story chapel has weathered to the color of bark,
and it has all the dignity its five hundred years demand.

There were almost a dozen Ashikaga shoguns after Yoshimasa, but none
had any influence on the course of history. The century after his
retirement is known as the Age of the Country at War, and it is
remembered for almost continuous civil strife among _daiymo_, the
provincial chieftains who had swallowed up the _samurai_. In this
period Japan was less a nation than several hundred small fiefdoms,
each controlled by a powerful family and constantly in arms against its
neighbors. Little wonder that many of the greatest Zen artists left
Kyoto never to return; the capital was a desolate ruin, without power
and without patrons. This condition prevailed until late in the
sixteenth century, when individuals of sufficient military genius to
reunite the country again appeared.

The influence of Zen was probably as pervasive in medieval Ashikaga
Japan as Christianity was in medieval Europe. A Zen monk was the first
Ashikaga shogun's closest adviser, and in later years Zen monasteries
virtually took over foreign policy. (Indeed, Zen monks were the only
Japanese educated enough to deal with the Chinese.) Yoshimitsu
formalized the relationship between Zen and the state, setting up an
official Therarchy among the Zen temples in Kyoto (the so-called "Five
Mountains" or Gozan, of Tenryu-ji, Shokoku-ji, Kennin-ji, Tofuku-ji,
and Manju-ji). These state temples became the resident schools for Zen
painters and artists and also provided diplomats and government
officials for the China trade. (They made Yoshimitsu so ardent a
Sinophile that he once had some Japanese pirates who were troubling
Chinese trading vessels captured and boiled alive.) Under the reign of
Yoshimasa the China trade dwindled, but Zen monks continued to
influence the government in directions that best suited their own
interests. Wealthy from their commercial undertakings, they were in a
position to finance some of Yoshimasa's more lavish projects, and in
later years they helped him design the garden of the Silver Pavilion,
including a detached building for tea drinking and meditation--the
forerunner of the modern teahouse. This was the finest hour of Zen
influence in official circles, for Yoshimasa was the last Ashikaga
shogun whose preferences had any influence on the course of Japanese
life. After his death, the artists who had surrounded him scattered to
the provinces to find patrons. Within a decade the Silver Pavilion and
its garden were virtually abandoned. Zen as a religion also went to the
provinces, and gradually its following grew as sympathetic teachers who
no longer cared for the company of the mighty were content to explain
the rewards of nonattachment to the people at large.

The many faces of Japanese Zen were paradoxical indeed. The Kamakura
warriors turned to Zen for strength on the battlefield, whereas the
Ashikaga court found in it aesthetic escapism and spiritual solace in a
crumbling world. That an age such as the Ashikaga could have nourished
high arts has puzzled historians for centuries, and no entirely
satisfactory explanation has yet been advanced. Perhaps art flourishes
best when social unrest uproots easy conventions. Fifth-century Athens
produced its most enduring art at a time when the land was rent by the
fratricidal Peloponnesian War and the city itself was haunted by the
plague. Renaissance Florence is another example. Today Kyoto, like
modern Athens and modern Florence, is a living museum, concerned more
with traffic and tourist hotels than with the long-forgotten blood
baths which once raged in its streets. Seemingly forgotten, too, are
the warring Ashikaga, at whose behest the noble Zen arts of Japan were


Zen and the Landscape Garden

_To see a World in a grain of sand,

And a Heaven in a wild flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,

And Eternity in an hour.

_William Blake

_Renge-ji Temple, Kyoto


_Tenryu-ji Temple, Kyoto, ca.1343


FOR AT LEAST a millennium before the coming of Zen to Japan, gardens had
been constructed in China which were founded on underlying religious
motives, but only with the rise of Zen in Japan did gardens become
deliberately symbolic of the human quest for inner understanding.
During the Heian era Japanese aristocrats copied Chinese pleasure
parks, and during the Kamakura many of them were translated by
practitioners of the Jodo sect into fanciful reproductions of Amida's
Western Paradise. After the rise of Zen influence among artists and
intellectuals of the Ashikaga age, the gay polychrome of these earlier
gardens was supplanted by a sober blend of rocks, trees, sand, and
water--Japanese copies of, first, Sung Chinese gardens and, later, Sung
monochrome landscape paintings. In their landscape "painting" gardens,
Zen artists captured the reverence for nature which, for them, was a
cornerstone of Zen philosophy.

The origins of Far Eastern landscape gardens have been traced to an
obscure Chinese legend which predates the Christian Era. It describes
five holy islands, situated off the shores of Shantung province, whose
peaks soared thousands of feet into the ocean mist and whose valleys
were a paradise of perfumed flowers, snow-white birds, and immortals
who plucked the trees for pearls. These islanders, who lived in palaces
of precious metals, enjoyed eternal youth and had the capacity to
levitate at will, although for extended journeys they might choose to
ride on the backs of docile flying cranes. However, like Adam and Eve,
these paradise dwellers wanted more. Since their islands were floating
rather than attached to bedrock, they complained to the ruling deity,
requesting more substantial support. The supreme ruler of ancient China
was more understanding than the God of Mesopotamia; instead of evicting
the island immortals, he obligingly sent out a flotilla of giant
tortoises to hold the islands on their backs and secure them in place.

During the Han era (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) various Chinese emperors
reportedly sent out expeditions to locate these islands, but they were
always unsuccessful. Finally, the Han Emperor Wu hit upon the notion
that if he were to construct an idealized landscape on his estate, the
immortals might abandon their misty ocean isles for his park, bringing
with them the secrets of eternal life. A garden park was built on a
scale intended to rival that of paradise; and to make the immortals
feel even more welcome, various rocks symbolizing cranes and tortoises
were installed, items the Japanese would one day include in their
gardens as symbols of longevity. No immortals materialized, but the
Chinese landscape garden was launched in considerable style.

During the ensuing Six Dynasties era (A.D. 220-589), Chinese gardens
began to reflect the beliefs of the new religion of

Buddhism. The lake-and-island gardens of the aristocracy ceased to
represent the legend of the misty isles and became instead a symbol of
the Western Paradise of Amida Buddha. As time passed, the growing
influence of Taoism deepened the Chinese feeling for nature itself
without reference to any particular legend. In later years, as scholars
sought out mountain retreats in the rugged south of China, soaring
peaks came to be part of the standard landscape garden, a need
sometimes realized by situating the garden against a backdrop of
distant mountains or by piling up rocks on the island in the garden

The interest in garden art continued to grow during the T'ang dynasty
(618-907), as poets and philosophers increasingly turned to nature for
religious and artistic inspiration. Interestingly enough, their
perception of nature was not idealized in the manner of the Florentine
landscapists but rather emphasized the rugged, untamed qualities of the
mountains and streams. It was this sense of nature as the embodiment of
a free spirit that they tried to capture in their gardens. Theirs was a
reverence for nature as it was in the wild; if it must be domesticated
into a garden, the sense of freedom should be preserved as far as

When the Shinto nature worshipers of Japan encountered the advanced
civilization of China, they may have recognized in the Chinese Taoist
feeling for nature a similarity to their own beliefs. It had never
occurred to the Japanese to construct a domestic abstraction of nature
for contemplation, but the new idea of a garden seems to have had its
appeal. When a copy of the Chinese capital was created in Nara, the
Japanese architects were careful to include a number of landscape
gardens around the imperial palace. After the government moved to Kyoto
and launched the regal Heian era, a rage for things Chinese became the
consuming passion of the Japanese aristocracy; Heian nobles built
Chinese-style houses and lake-and-island gardens, complete with
Chinese-style fishing pavilions extending out over a lake. Since these
pleasure parks were intended for parties of boaters and strollers, they
had few religious overtones. Instead the lake became a thoroughfare for
pleasure barges, on which idle courtiers cruised about dressed in
Chinese costume, and reciting Chinese verses. These gardens were rich
with plum and cherry trees, pines, willows, and flowering bushes, and
often included a waterfall near at hand, in keeping with Chinese
convention. The central island gradually lost its original symbolism as
an Elysian holy isle as the nobles linked it to shore with stone
footbridges. In these grand parks the Heian nobles gave some of the
most sophisticated garden parties ever seen.

After relations with China fizzled to a stop around the beginning of
the tenth century, the Japanese garden began to evolve on its own. It
was always an emblem of power, making it essential that when the
warrior government moved to Kamakura a leader no less imposing than
Minamoto Yoritomo should oversee the creation of the main garden at the
new capital. Significantly, the garden in Kamakura was constructed as
part of the Buddhist establishment, rather than as an extension of
Yoritomo's private estate. Perhaps this transformation of the garden
into Buddhist temple art was a consequence of the Western Paradise
beliefs of Amadism (a forerunner had been the late-Heian Western
Paradise garden outside Kyoto at Uji); perhaps it was the first
implicit acknowledgment of the nature mysticism of Zen; or perhaps the
Kamakura warriors simply believed that a private garden would smack too
much of the decadence of Kyoto. Whatever the reason, the coming of Zen
seems to have been coincidental with a new attitude toward the
connection between gardens and religion. The frivolous polychrome of
the Heian pleasure park was clearly a thing of the past; gardens became
solemn and, as the influence of Zen grew, increasingly symbolic of
religious ideas.

The monks who visited China to study Ch'an (as well as Ch'an monks who
migrated to Japan) were, of course, familiar with the landscape gardens
of the Sung Chinese. These gardens had purged many of the more
decorative elements of the T'ang-period pleasure parks and reflected
the reverential attitudes of the Taoists and Ch'an Buddhists toward the
natural world. At least one of these Sung-style gardens was produced in
Kyoto during the early years of renewed contacts with China. Oddly
enough, however, it was the Sung ink paintings that would eventually
have the greatest influence on Zen landscape gardens. The Sung
paintings captured perfectly the feeling Japanese Zen monks had for the
natural world, leading them to conclude that gardens too should be
monochromatic, distilled versions of a large landscape panorama.

Not surprisingly, the attitude that a garden should be a three-
dimensional painting sparked the long march of Japanese garden art into
the realm of perspective and abstraction. In fact, the manipulation of
perspective advanced more rapidly in the garden arts than in the
pictorial. Without going into the Chinese system of perspective in
landscape painting, let it be noted that whereas the Chinese relied in
part upon conventions regarding the placement of objects on a canvas to
suggest distance (for example, the relative elevation of various tiers
of landscape elements on the canvas was often an indication of their
distance), the Zen artists learned to suggest distance through direct
alteration of the characteristics our eye uses to scale a scene. And
since many of these gardens were meant to be viewed from one vantage
point, they became a landscape "painting" executed in natural

The manipulation of perspective may be divided roughly into three main
categories: the creation of artificial depth through overt
foreshortening, thereby simulating the effects of distance on our
visual sense; the use of psychological tricks that play on our
instinctive presumptions regarding the existence of things unseen; and
the masterly obliteration of all evidence of artifice, thereby
rendering the deception invisible.

Zen gardeners' discovery of the use of foreshortening in a garden took
place at almost the same time that the Florentine artist Uccello (1397-
1475) began experimenting with natural perspective in his landscape
oils. Although this example of artistic convergence can hardly be more
than coincidence, certain of the devices were similar. As the American
garden architect David Engel has observed, the Japanese learned that
the apparent depth of a scene could be enhanced by making the objects
in the distance smaller, less detailed, and darker than those in the
foreground.1 (In the garden of Yoshimitsu's Golden Pavilion, for
example, the rocks on the spectator side of the garden lake are large
and detailed, whereas those on the far side are smaller and smoother.)
As time went by, the Japanese also learned to use trees with large,
light-colored leaves at the front of a garden and dark, small-leafed
foliage farther back. To simulate further the effects of distance, they
made paths meandering toward the rear of a garden grow narrower, with
smaller and smaller stones. The pathways in a Japanese garden curve
constantly, disrupting the viewer's line of sight, until they are
finally lost among trees and foliage set at carefully alternated
levels; streams and waterfalls deceptively vanish and reappear around
and behind rocks and plantings. Zen artists also found that garden
walls would disappear completely if they were made of dark natural
materials or camouflaged by a bamboo thicket, a thin grove of saplings,
or a grassy hillock.

Many methods of psychological deception in a Zen garden exploit
instinctive visual assumptions in much the same way that a judo expert
uses his victim's body for its own undoing. A common trick is to have a
pathway or stream disappear around a growth of trees at the rear of a
garden in such a way that the terminus is hidden, leading the viewer to
assume it actually continues on into unseen recesses of the landscape.
Another such device is the placement of intermittent obstructive
foliage near the viewer, causing the diminution in perception that the
mind associates with distance. Japanese gardeners further enhance the
sense of size and depth in a garden plot by leaving large vacant areas,
whose lack of clutter seems to expand the vista. Dwarfing of trees is
also a common practice, since this promotes the illusion of greater
distance. And finally, flowers are rigidly excluded, since their
appearance would totally destroy all the subtle tricks of perspective.
Zen garden masters prefer to display their flowers in special vase
arrangements, an art known as Ikebana.

The manipulation of perspective and the psychological deception of the
Zen garden are always carefully disguised by giving the garden an
appearance of naturalness and age. Garden rocks are buried in such a
manner that they seem to be granite icebergs, extruding a mere tip from
their ancient depths, while the edges of garden stones are nestled in
beds of grass or obscured by applications of moss, adding to the sense
of artless placement. Everything in the garden--trees, stones, gravel,
grass--is arranged with a careful blending of areas into a seemingly
natural relationship and allowed to develop a slightly unkempt, shaggy
appearance, which the viewer instinctively associates with an
undisturbed natural scene. It all seems as uncontrived as a virgin
forest, causing the rational mind to lower its guard and allowing the
garden to delude the viewer with its artificial depth, its
psychological sense of the infinite.

The transformation in garden art the Zen artists wrought can perhaps
best be emphasized by comparing the traditional Chinese garden with the
abstract landscape created by Japanese artists of the Ashikaga and
later eras. 'The Japanese regarded the garden as an extension of man's
dwelling (it might be more accurate to say that they saw the dwelling
as an extension of the garden), while the Chinese considered the garden
a counterpoise for the formality of indoor life, a place to disown the
obligations and conventions of society. It has been suggested that the
average Chinese was culturally schizophrenic; indoors he was a sober
Confucian, obedient to centuries-old dictates of behavior, but in his
garden he returned to Taoism, the joy of splendor in the grass, of
glory in the flower.

In spite of this, the Chinese garden was more formal than the type that
developed in Japan, and it included numerous complicated corridors and
divisions. The Chinese gardens of the T'ang aristocracy were intended
for strolling rather than viewing, since the T'ang aesthetes
participated in nature rather than merely contemplating it.
Accordingly, Chinese gardens (and Heian copies of them) included
architectural features not included in the later Zen landscapes. The
Chinese apparently believed that if one is to duplicate the lakes and
mountains, then all the items normally seen in the countryside should
be there, including the artifacts of man. The Chinese garden welcomed
the physical presence of man, whereas the landscape gardens developed
in Japan are at their finest when viewed without people, if only
because the presence of man acts as a yardstick to destroy the illusion
of perspective and exaggerated distance. (However, a Zen-inspired form
of Japanese stroll garden for use in connection with the tea ceremony
did develop, as will be noted later.)

The plaster wall of a Chinese garden was often an integral element of
the decoration, and its shape and topping were part of the overall
aesthetic effect. The Japanese, on the other hand, chose to de-
emphasize the presence of the wall. Stated differently, the purpose of
the wall around a Chinese garden was to keep outsiders from seeing in,
whereas the wall of a Japanese garden was to prevent those inside from
having to see out--a fundamental difference in function and philosophy.

The dissimilarity in Chinese and Japanese attitudes toward garden rocks
also deserves mention. The Japanese preferred interesting naturalness
in their stones; they avoided blandness, but were wary of freakish,
distracting shapes. The Chinese, in contrast, were charmed by
curiosities, and they sought out garden rocks with fantastic, even
grotesque contours. This preference seems to have grown out of a desire
to duplicate the craggy mountainsides so often seen in Sung landscape
paintings. They searched for unnaturally shaped stones in lake bottoms,
where the action of water had honeycombed them. (In fact, this
particular passion, which became known as "rockery," led to a bit of
forgery during the latter part of the Ming era, when ordinary rocks
were carved to the desired shape and then placed under a waterfall
until they were smoothed sufficiently to disguise the deception.)

The presence of so many unnatural features in Chinese gardens tended to
give them a rococo quality, which Zen artists were careful to avoid,
and the hemispherical, symmetrical motif of Chinese gardens was
transformed into the angular, asymmetrical style that suited Zen
aesthetic theory. The fundamental impression a Chinese garden gives is
that of skilled artifice, of being a magical, slightly fabulous
landscape of dreams. Zen artists transformed this into a symbolic
experience of the world at large, distilled into a controlled space but
suggesting the infinite. The result was to change a form that has been
essentially decorative into something as near to pure art as can be
wrought with the primeval elements of tree, water, and stone. Gardens
had been used before to approximate this or that monarch's conception
of paradise, but never before had they been employed to express an
otherwise ineffable understanding of the moral authority of the natural

Zen gardens differ even more greatly from Western garden

design. The geometrical creations of Europe, such as the palace garden
at Versailles, were fashioned to provide wide-open vistas reaching
toward the horizon, while the naturalistic Zen garden is closed in upon
itself like a form of curved space, producing the illusion of an
infinite wilderness in a few acres. It is intended primarily for
viewing; there are no grassy dells for loitering. It is expected to
serve functions ordinarily reserved for art in the West: it both
abstracts and intensifies reality, being at once symbolic and explicit
in design, and the emotion it evokes in the viewer gives him a deeper
understanding of his own consciousness.

The four gardens in Kyoto that perhaps best demonstrate the principles
of early Zen landscape were all constructed under the patronage of the
Ashikaga: the first two, Saiho-ji (ca. 1339) and Tenryu-ji (ca. 1343),
were designed by the Zen monk Muso under the reign of Takauji; the
garden of the Golden Pavilion (1397) was executed under the influence
of Yoshimitsu; and the garden of the Silver Pavilion (1484) was guided
by Yoshimasa. All four were created on the sites of earlier gardens
dating from the Heian or Kamakura eras which Zen artists both purified
and modified, making changes roughly analogous to the reworking of a
rococo marble statue of a rotund courtier into a free-standing muscular
nude. It is also illustrative of the age that these one-time private
estates were transformed into what were to become essentially public
parks, albeit under the management of Zen temples.

The first of the gardens to be designed was the one at Saiho-ji, a
temple on the western edge of Kyoto, popularly known as the "Moss
Temple," or Kokedera. During the Heian and Kamakura eras this site
belonged to a prominent family who constructed two temple gardens
toward the close of the twelfth century in honor of Amida and his
Western Paradise. Fashioned long after contacts with China had been
broken, these Amida gardens already disowned many of the decorative
motifs in the earlier, Tang-style parks. They were self-contained and
natural and had no pretense of being symbolic. This was to change,
however, around the time that Ashikaga Takauji assumed power, when the
owner hit upon the notion of converting these gardens of the Jodo sect
into something appropriate to the new school of Zen. The project was
begun with the understanding that the famous Zen priest Muso Soseki
would come to preside over the new temple as abbot, and work was begun
under his guidance.

The resulting garden is on two levels, like the original dual garden of
Amida, but the Zen designer used the levels to suggest many of the
features of a larger universe. It was not yet a fully developed
landscape, but rather a contemplative retreat for strolling which
strove to emphasize minor aspects of the natural features of rocks,
ponds, trees, grasses, and moss. Even so, many of the features of later
landscape gardens are traceable to Muso's design here, particularly the
rugged rockwork of the islands in the large lake on the lower level,
which later inspired the rockwork of Yoshimitsu's Golden Pavilion
garden. Located up the hill is a "dry cascade," suggested by the
skillful arrangement of round, flat-topped stones carefully set in a
place where water never ran. Already, the obligatory waterfall of the
Chinese garden had been abstracted into a quiet symbolism. The garden
bespeaks a sober, ancient grace and dignity--and reveals aesthetic
concepts peculiar to Zen.

The garden of Tenryu-ji is at the temple founded by Takauji, at the
suggestion of Muso, as a site for the repose of the soul of the Emperor
Godaigo, whom Takauji had driven out of Kyoto. It will be recalled that
the expense associated with building this temple was the occasion of
Takauji's again opening trade with China, an act that led to the real
explosion of Zen art. Muso also became the official abbot of the temple
and is thought to have contributed to the redesign of its garden--it had
previously been part of an imperial country villa. Muso's contribution
is questionable, however, since the garden shows evidence of influence
from the "landscape-painting" design of Sung China and the peculiarly
Sung usage of "rockery." It may have been laid out earlier by some
emigrant Chinese Ch'an monk who was aware of the latest Sung garden
theory. The rock shapes are not grotesque, however, but rather show the
crisp angularity later to become a Japanese trademark. A small islet of
three stones suggests the three levels of a landscape painting, and at
the back there is a simulated waterfall of rugged dry stones. The lake
and its islands are monochromatic and severe, and the footbridge
traditional to Sung landscape gardens is represented by three long flat
stones crossing a narrow portion of the rear part of the lake. This
garden is probably the only Sung-style creation in Japan, but its
impact on Zen gardeners was considerable, since it showed the effects
Ch'an Buddhism had had on Chinese garden art. Muso undoubtedly
recognized the garden as a worthy model for Zen artists, and he
probably did no more than put a few final Japanese touches on the work.

By the time of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, builder of the third Zen landscape
garden, Ch'an garden concepts were undoubtedly

better understood in Japan than in China. Yoshimitsu had often gone to
Saiho-ji to meditate in the garden, and he knew exactly what was
required for the landscape garden to surround his Golden Pavilion. He
selected a site known as the North Hill Villa, an estate originally
built by an aristocratic family using funds they had got serving as
spies to report the activities of the Kyoto aristocracy to the Kamakura
warlords. Constructed in 1224, the original garden represented the last
flowering of the Heian- (or T'ang Chinese) style garden; that is, it
was a purely decorative boating pond. When Yoshimitsu acquired the
site, he immediately demolished the Chinese-style residence with its
fishing pavilion projecting out onto the lake. Then he turned his
attention to the garden, paring down the central island and adding
smaller islands by bringing in massive stones from the surrounding
hills. To obtain the necessary trees, he simply selected those that
caught his eye in the gardens of the powerless aristocracy.

      Today the garden at the Golden Pavilion covers approximately four
and a half acres (although it seems much larger), with a lake occupying
about one-third of the total area. The pavilion sits at the lake's
edge, but in past times before the waters shifted, it was in its midst.
When viewed from the pavilion, as was the original intention, the
garden seems a landscape vista. Several of the small islets scattered
about the lake have their own dwarf pines, while others are no more
than massive protruding stones, chosen for an abstract resemblance to a
tortoise or cane. In the portion of the lake closest to the pavilion
everything is wrought in great detail, whereas stones on the far side
are vague and diffuse, so that the distant shoreline seems lost in
misty recesses. The hillsides surrounding the garden are covered with
foliage, and there is no clear demarcation between the garden and the
hills. Executed at a time when resources were almost limitless, the
garden of the Golden Pavilion is one of the finest Zen landscape
gardens ever created. It stands as a watershed between the modification
of Chinese styles and the maturity of Japanese Zen art.

Yoshimasa, architect of the fourth great Zen landscape garden, was also
fond of Saiho-ji and had studied its garden, as well as that of the
Golden Pavilion, with great care. But the Silver Pavilion and its
garden were built after the disastrous Onin War, when the available
resources were nothing like those of the earlier Ashikaga shoguns.
Although he was surrounded by a coterie of Zen aestheticians, it
appears Yoshimasa designed the garden himself, assisted by a new class
of professional garden workers drawn from the outcast _eta_ class
(outcast because they were associated with the meat and hides industry
and thus pariahs to all good Buddhists), who had been engaged by the
Zen priests to take care of the heavy work involved in stone movement
and placement. Many of these _eta_ became famous for their artistic
discernment, and one, the famous Zen-ami, is regarded as one of the
foremost garden architects of the Ashikaga era.

The garden at the Silver Pavilion was modeled after the one at Saiho-ji
and made the same use of bold, angular stones-- a mixture of flat-
topped, straight-sided "platform" rocks and tall slim stones
reminiscent of Sung landscape paintings of distant mountains. Like
Saiho-ji, the garden is on two levels, with the rear reminiscent of a
mountain waterfall. At one side of the garden the pond is spanned by a
stone footbridge connecting either side of the shore with the central
island. Shaped dwarf pines abound, and the surface of the water,
interrupted here and there with massive stones, is peaceful and serene.
Little wonder Yoshimasa preferred his tasteful pavilion and its
distilled microcosm of landscape to the ravaged ruins of Kyoto. Here he
could rest in meditation, letting his eye travel over the placid
waters, past the flowering trees which framed the symbolic waterfall,
upward to the silhouette of the towering pines on the far hillside to
watch the moon rise in the evening, bathing his world in silver. In
this peaceful setting he could relish the last, closing years of the
great Ashikaga age of Zen art.

The art of the landscape garden did not end with Yoshimasa, of course;
rather, it shifted in its direction and purpose. Already beginning was
the next phase of Zen garden art, the abstract sand-and-stone gardens.


The Stone Gardens of Zen

_ And this our life, exempt from public haunt, Finds tongues in
trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones . . .

_As You Like It

_Daisen-in Temple, Kyoto,  ca. 1513



Ryoan-ji, Kyoyo, 1490


IN THE CLOSING decade of the fifteenth century, the long evening parties
of Zen aesthetics were over; Kyoto lay in ruins after the Onin War, and
a new, sober mood gripped the land. Virtually all the temples and
estates in Kyoto, together with their gardens, were abandoned relics;
and the once indulgent patronage of aristocrats and shoguns was gone
forever. A reflective, contemplative mood settled over the houses of
Zen. Out of this era of penurious disarray developed a style of temple
garden which many hold to be the most profound expression of Zen art:
the dry landscape, or _kare sansui_. Fashioned from the most austere
materials, sand and stone, these waterless vistas were the final step
in the creation of three-dimensional reproductions of Sung ink
paintings. They condensed the universe into a single span, and they
were primarily, if not wholly, monochromatic. More importantly, they
were intended exclusively for meditation. Whereas earlier landscape
gardens had always striven for a quality of scenic beauty, these small
temple gardens were meant to be a training ground for the spirit, a
device wherein the contemplative mind might reach out and touch the
essence of Zen. These later Zen gardens were also reduced in size and
scope, since a temple yard in such diminished times could not
accommodate the spacious parks once available to the aristocracy.
Stylized, often abstract representations of nature, they dispensed with
all decorative possibilities the better to promote the serious business
of meditation.

Perhaps the best example of this type of monochrome "painting" garden
is the famous creation at Daisen-in, a part of the Daitoku-ji temple
compound in Kvoto. The sand-and-stone garden here is on all sides of
the temple building, placing the viewer literally in the middle of a
Sung landscape. The focus of the painting, however, is in one small
corner of the grounds, where a pair of head-high vertical stones have
been used to represent Sung mountain peaks while striated white sand
placed around and among the larger background mountains, together with
smaller flat-topped rocks in the foreground, suggest the inrush of
water from a symbolic waterfall. The simulated stream of white sand
winds among river rocks as it passes across the front of the viewing
platform. Included in the design are a stone bridge crossing one
portion of the sandy stream and a large boat-shaped stone enhancing the
symbolism of water. The water seems to disappear under the temple
veranda and emerge on the other side as a shimmering white sea.
Adjacent to the tall mountain stones are several ancillary rocks
approximately waist-high, over which flow rivulets of white sand,
suggesting a cataract captured in monochrome. Just as an expert Zen
painter extracts the details of a scene in a few strokes of the brush,
so the master of Daisen-in succeeded in distilling from the natural
world precisely those elements that excite the spirit.

This classical _kare sansui _garden is thought to have been designed
around 1513, reconstructed from one of the run-down temples left after
the Onin War. Credit for the design is traditionally (but probably
erroneously) given to the artist So'ami (1472-1525), a well-known
painter. The distinction between painting and garden art was
necessarily blurred, since these gardens were in fact intended to copy
paintings more than nature. The true mark of a Zen painter was his
ability to handle rocks and mountains in the prescribed manner, with
sharp, angular brushstrokes devoid of softness or sentimentality.
Naturally enough, stones with this same quality were essential for the
_kare sansui _gardens, but such stones were extremely rare and prized
almost beyond price. Trees could be grown; stones had to be found in
the mountains and moved somehow to Kyoto.

During the heyday of the Kamakura and Ashikaga glory, there were
resources at hand to find, move, and position stones--and at times
armies of over a thousand men were impressed into service for this
task. After the Onin War no such battalions were available, but there
was a ready source of superb stones: the burned-out temple and estate
gardens of old Kyoto. Furthermore, monks from many of the earlier
temples had systematically pillaged the estates of Heian nobles for
stones, using the cream of the stone collections from earlier centuries
to create their small gardens. So when the builders of Daisen-in began
to collect stones, they had the finest examples of centuries of
collecting at their disposal. Hence the magnificent stones at Daisen-in
actually represent the _creme de la creme_ of garden stonework, rising
phoenix-like out of the destruction of older estates.

What were the qualities of these stones that they should have been
hauled for hundreds of miles and prized by shoguns and Zen aesthetes
alike? What did Zen artists look for when they scavenged the
surrounding mountains for special rocks? They wanted rocks that looked
like the mountains and crags in ink paintings. This meant light-colored
stones with striated sides and sharp edges, with no hint of the hand of
man about them. They looked not so much for odd formations as for
natural shapes that possessed an authoritative, monumental quality. One
particularly prized shape was flat-topped and vertical-sided, looking
like a massive tree stump cut off about a foot above the ground.
Another valuable stone was shaped like a steep-sided volcanic island
which, nestled in a bed of sand, gave the impression of rising from the
depths of the ocean. Oblong stones with lengthwise striations or
incisions were valued for their similarity to towering vertical
mountains; and rounded, flat-bottomed stones, for their resemblance to
natural river rocks. The subjective "feel" of a stone was important;
perfectly smooth stones or those with no memorable characteristics had
no place in _kare sansui_. Those used must have the vigorous face of
centuries, the weathered texture of antiquity.

Daisen-in was unquestionably the best of the Zen "painting" gardens:
possibly designed by an experienced Zen painter, it contained the
finest stones from an entire era of intensive collecting; and it was
heir to centuries of garden mastery, from which was distilled the
essence of landscape art. Its understated authority is the product of a
long development of such Zen ideals as simplicity, starkness,
austerity, and spareness. One would be tempted to declare it the finest
example of the Zen _kare sansui _art were it not for an even more
striking garden of the same era: Ryoan-ji.

Unlike Daisen-in, the garden at Ryoan-ji is not a symbolic mountain
scene. It is instead a work of abstract art on a canvas of sand which
goes beyond a symbolic representation of a landscape scene to provide a
distillation of the very universe. It is internationally regarded as
the very essence of Zen, and it is almost impossible to describe, in
either words or pictures. It has a spirit that seems to rise up for
those who come into its presence, evoking an immediate response even in
someone who has no understanding of Zen.

Ryoan-ji was apparently built around 1490, which makes it roughly
contemporaneous with Yoshimasa's Silver Pavilion. As early as 985 the
site of Ryoan-ji had been used as the location of a private chapel for
retired Heian emperors, and in the twelfth century a government
minister of the Heian took it over and constructed a country villa, to
which his grandson added a lavish Chinese-style lake and island garden
in 1189. Thus the site had abundant water, something missing from other
_kare sansui _gardens--although the style dictated that no water be used
in the final Zen garden. After the fall of Heian and throughout the
Kamakura deluge, the lake became a sort of lingering _ancien regime
_touch, recalling the elegance of former days. (The remains of the
lake, undoubtedly much modified through the centuries, still survive as
part of the Ryoan-ji temple complex.)

The original Heian owners retained possession of the site until
approximately 1450, when it was purchased by Katsumoto Hokusawa,
adviser to the Ashikaga and one of the instigators of the Onin War.
During his period of ownership, Katsumoto built a country villa
overlooking the lake-and-island garden, and like Yoshimitsu, he
requested that his villa be made into a Zen temple when he Thed. As it
turned out, the Onin War caused his wishes to be executed sooner than
he might have expected; shortly after the villa was built the estate
was transferred to the Myoshin-ji branch of the Rinzai sect, which also
controlled a nearby temple called Ryoan-ji. Not long after Katsumoto's
death, his villa and other estate buildings were set on fire during the
Onin War and joined the general ruin of much of the rest of Kyoto.

In the last decade of the fifteenth century the burned-out estate was
restored by Katsumoto's son, but in replacing the buildings he chose a
new style of Zen architecture known as _shoin_, which included a
special bay window and desk modeled after those in Chinese Ch'an
monasteries. The _shoin _style had been recently popularized in Kyoto
by Yoshimasa, who chose the design for several buildings surrounding
his Silver Pavilion. The _shoin _window overlooked the lake-and-island
garden, but since the later Zen monks who controlled the estate had no
interest in decorative landscape art, they walled off a small courtyard
in front of the window and installed a flat _kare sansui _garden for
contemplation, which soon eclipsed in interest the older lake-and-
island landscape. Shortly thereafter the _shoin_ building was in turn
destroyed by fire, giving the monks an excuse to bring in a pavilion
with a long viewing veranda from the neighboring Seigen-in temple. This
veranda, which was positioned along the long axis of the _kare sansui
_garden, now permits group meditation, something not possible from the
single window of the earlier _shoin _structure.

Modern visitors to Ryoan-ji still pass through the older landscape
garden en route to the main temple pavilion. From this vantage point
only the outer wall of the sand-and-stone garden can be seen; there is
no hint of what lies inside. On the temple steps the fragrance of
incense mingles with the natural perfume of the ancient trees which
line the pathways of the lake. As one enters the dimly lighted hallway
of the temple, street shoes are replaced by noiseless, cushioned
slippers. Shod in silence, visitors walk along the temple hallways onto
the long hojo veranda facing the garden, where the brilliance of the
shimmering sand washes unexpectedly over the senses. The effect is
sudden and striking.

What one sees, in purely prosaic terms, is an area of rippled sand
about the size of a tennis court, set about with fifteen not
particularly unusual (by Ashikaga standards) stones arrayed in five
distinct clusters. The white sand is raked lengthwise (a routine task
for a lay brother), and concentric circles are traced around each of
the stones, imparting an illusion of ripples. In the garden proper
there is not a tree, indeed not a blade of grass, to be seen; the only
suggestion of living matter is the bed of ancient moss in which each
group of stones lies nestled. On the three sides of the garden opposite
the veranda stands the ancient courtyard wall, whose oil-stained
earthen brown contrasts splendidly with the pure white sand. Above the
wall, which is capped with black clay tile in Chinese fashion, one can
see the tall trees of the landscape garden, obscuring what must once
have been a grand view of old Kyoto to the south.

Each of the five clusters of stones seems balanced around its own
center of gravity, and the clusters, in turn, appear to be balanced
with one another--with the two groups of stones on the left being
approximately equal in mass to the three groups on the right. As is the
case in most Ashikaga gardens, each grouping is dominated by one
obviously assertive member, against which the smaller, less
authoritative stones strain for prominence, producing a sense of
tension. Simultaneously, there is a feeling of strength about each of
the groups, since each cluster is set on an island of mossy soil, which
acts as a base to unite the assemblages. Aesthetic stability is also
achieved by the placement of the stones at sufficient depth (or
apparent depth) within their nest of moss so that only their tips seem
to protrude above the floor of the garden.

The stones are set in two groups of two stones, two groups of three,
and one group of five. Each of these groupings displays one or another
of the various Ashikaga garden conventions. Both groups of two stones
make explicit use of contrasting shapes between their members, a
standard Zen device. One of the pairs is composed of a long, vertical
rock set like an upturned blade in the sand, with a companion that is
hardly more than a negligible lump, a token foil. The other pair has
one sharp-sided vertical stone with a flat plateau as a top,
accompanied by a larger round rock which spreads at the base. As has
been noted, the Ashikaga gardeners prized flat-topped stones highly
because of their resemblance to the angular brushstrokes of certain Zen
ink painters. Life, in this case, was made to imitate art, or rather
sculptural art was made to imitate the pictorial. Both pairs of stones
are situated slightly off the lengthwise axis of the garden,
maintaining the asymmetry considered so essential.

In the two groups of three stones, the intent is to establish the
visual pre-eminence of the largest member and to flank it with two
comparatively insignificant smaller stones--usually differentiated in
shape and attitude--thereby forming a vertical triangle with the peak of
the largest stone representing the apex. This particular arrangement
was so common in Ashikaga gardens that it became known as the "three-
deity" stone setting, supposedly a pious reference to a Buddhist legend
but probably merely a convenient tag for a standardized artistic
device. The last grouping is five stones, since arrangements of four
were considered too symmetrical by Zen gardeners. In this case, the
group is dominated by one large central boulder with four ancillary
rocks spread about its base like the feet of a granite beast.

Such, in physical terms, is the arrangement of the garden, and when so
described it seems undeserving of all the acclaim. Its subjective
qualities tell a bit more of the story. It seems clear that the
inclination of the stones is intended to evoke a sense of motion, for
they have all been placed with their longer axis corresponding to that
of the garden. This quality is further enhanced by the practice of
raking the sand lengthwise, which makes the observer's eye sweep from
left to right or right to left. And although the overall purpose of the
garden is to induce mental repose, it has a dynamic tension, such as a
high-speed photograph of surging rapids in a mountain stream might
catch. But the sand, like the blank spaces in a Chinese ink drawing, is
as important as the placement of the stones. The empty areas both
emphasize the stones and invite the mind to expand in the cosmological
infinity they suggest.

This interaction between form and space is one of the keys to Ryoan-
ji's compelling suggestiveness. Evoking a sense of infinity in a
strictly confined space, it is a living lesson in the Zen concept of
nothingness and nonattachment. It expresses a timelessness unknown in
earlier landscape gardens, particularly those of the Heian era, which,
with their fading blossoms and falling leaves, were attuned to the
poignant transience of life. In the Ryoan-ji garden, the Heian
aesthetic concept of _aware_, the thought that beauty must die, has
been replaced by the Zen idea of _yugen_, which means, among other
things, profound suggestiveness, a reduction to only those elements in
a creative work that move the spirit, without the slightest concession
to prettiness or ornament. The number and placement of stones seem
arbitrary, but they are intuitively perfect--like a phrase from
Beethoven that, with the alteration of a single note, could be
transformed into a comic tune. Like all masterpieces, Ryoan-ji has
simplicity, strength, inevitability.

Between them, the gardens at Daisen-in and at Ryoan-ji encompass the
range of _kare sansui _gardening in Ashikaga Japan. The first is a
symbolic landscape of parched waterfalls and simulated streams drawn in
monochromatic granite; the second, a totally non-representative
abstraction of stone arrangements in the sand-covered "flat-garden"
style. The _kare sansui _flat-garden style, in particular, has no real
counterpart in world art. Imagine the Egyptians, Greeks, or Florentines
collecting rocks, strewing them about a bed of sand in a courtyard, and
calling it religious art. Ryoan-ji seems strikingly modern today and in
fact it was only after a critical following for abstract art developed
in the West that the Zen _kare sansui_ was "discovered." As recently as
the 1930s Ryoan-ji was ignored, an unkempt sandpile the monks rarely
bothered to rake; and only in 1961 was the garden at Daisen-in restored
to what is believed to be its original condition. Ryoan-ji is now the
most celebrated site in Japan and so internationally appreciated that a
full-sized replica has been constructed in the Brooklyn Botanic
Gardens, New York.

Zen gardeners were sophisticated aestheticians, and one can

recognize in their work at least two artistic techniques that the West
did not discover until this century. The first is the Surrealist
principle, derived from the earlier Dadaist idea, of _objets trouves_,
that is, the use of aesthetically interesting natural or accidental
materials as part of an artistic composition. The stones of Ryoan-ji
and other Ashikaga gardens were left in the condition in which they
were discovered and used in the gardens as stones, yet they were also
symbols for something larger than themselves. The second "modern"
artistic principle found in Zen gardens is the reliance on abstract
expressionism. Flat gardens like Ryoan-ji are not meant to depict a
natural scene; they are exercises in the symbolic arrangement of mass
and space. The Zen gardeners actually created a new mode of artistic
expression, anticipating the West by several centuries.

Perhaps Ryoan-ji went unnoticed for so long because it was not
explicitly intended as a work of art, but rather as a statement in
physical terms of the essence of mystical truth. One's reaction upon
first coming into the presence of Ryoan-ji is like the famous Western
mystic Meister Eckhart's description of the realization of Oneness,
called _satori_ in Zen: "Then at once, God comes into your being and
faculties, for you are like a desert, despoiled of all that was
particularly your own. . . ." Ryoan-ji presents this desert in physical
terms, a place of no attachments and no antagonistic polarities. This
is Zen art at its most noble; beauty and aesthetics are present, but
they are secondary to a realm of the spiritual.


Zen and the Ink Landscape

  _Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard

  Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;

  Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared,

 Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone.

_ John Keats

_Sesshu (1420-1506) _ Shin _style


ASHIKAGA MONOCHROME ink painting is one of the finest moments of Japanese
art. Monochrome painting, which began in China as a logical extension
of brush calligraphy, came to be the ultimate medium for the
transmission of Japanese Zen. A Zen painter has been described as a man
who studies technique for twenty years and then throws himself on the
mercy of inspiration. The works of Zen artists often seem to have been
tossed off without effort, but this is the deliberate deception of the
consummate master. Like the slash of the Zen swordsman, the absolute
accuracy of the Zen artist's brushstroke can come only from one whose
mind and body are one. The purpose of Zen painting is to penetrate
beyond the perceptions of the rational mind and its supporting senses,
to show not nature's surface but its very essence. The artist paints
the enlightenment of a moment, and there is therefore no time to labor
over each stroke; the technique must flow thoughtlessly, from deep
within, capturing the fleeting images of the inner sense, beyond mind
and beyond thought.

To watch a Zen painter is to receive a lesson in the discipline of Zen.
As he sets out to create a work, he first brings to hand the essential
artistic materials: brush, inkstone, ink, paper. Kneeling on the floor,
he spreads the paper out before him, and as he grinds and mixes the
ink, begins to envision the outline and scope of his work. Like a
_samurai_ warrior before a battle, he banishes thoughts of the world
and in a state of contemplation organizes his energies for a burst of
action. When the ink is ready, the paper smoothed, an appropriate brush
tested for point and feel, and his spirits composed, he strikes.

The ink is absorbed almost immediately by the fibrous rice paper
preferred by Zen artists, allowing no alteration of a line once it has
been set down. If the artist is dissatisfied with a stroke, he attempts
no corrections but tears up the work and begins another. In contrast to
conventional Western oil painting, which allows for retouching, an ink
brushstroke on paper (or silk, which is sometimes used) becomes dull
and lifeless if it is painted over, and corrections are always obvious
when the painting dries. The work must flow out of the Zen discipline
of no-mind. The artist never pauses to evaluate his work; the ink flows
in an unending flurry of strokes--heavy or sparing, light or dark, as
required--producing a sense of rhythm, movement, form, and the artist's
vision of life's inner music.

The discipline of ink painting was only one of the qualities that
endeared it to Zen painters. Equally important was the understated,
suggestive art it made possible. Learning from the Chinese, Ashikaga
Japanese discovered that black ink, carefully applied to suggest all
the tones of light and shade, could be more expressive and profound
than a rainbow of colors. (A similar lesson has been learned by modern
photographers, who

often find black and white a medium more penerating than color.) The
Chinese painters of the T'ang and Sung dynasties were the first to
discover that black ink could be made to abstract all pigments and
thereby suggest, more believably than actual color paintings, the real
tones found in nature. Whereas the medium of ink has been used in the
West primarily for line drawings and lithographs, the Eastern artists
use ink to produce the illusion of color--an illusion so perfect that
viewers must at times remind themselves that a scene is not in full
polychrome. And just as the seemingly unfinished artistic statement
nudges the viewer into participating in a work, the suggestive medium
of monochrome with its implied rather than explicit hues tricks the
viewer into unwittingly supplying his own colors.

The Zen insight that the palette of the mind is richer than that of the
brush has been best described by a Japanese artist and critic, who
explained the rich suggestiveness of black ink, called _sumi_ by the

_At first glance, this bit of ink on a sheet of white paper seems dull
and plain, but as one gazes at it, it transforms itself into an image
of nature--a small part of nature, to be sure, seen dimly, as though
through a mist, but a part that may guide one's spirit to the
magnificent whole. Armed with pigments by the dozen, artists have tried
for centuries to reproduce the true colors of nature, but at best
theirs has been a limited success. The _sumi-e _[ink painting], by
reducing all colors to shades of black, is able, paradoxically, to make
one feel their genuine nuances. . . . By recognizing that the real
colors of nature cannot be reproduced exactly, the _sumi-e _artist has
grasped one of the most fundamental truths of nature. He is, therefore,
more in tune with her than the painter who tries to engage her in oils
and water colors.1


Zen painting seems to have been created, like the religion itself, by
antischolastic thinkers of the latter T'ang dynasty. The eccentric
monks who invented _koan_ paradoxes also seem to have been fond of
calligraphy and monochrome painting. These monks, together with non-
Buddhist painters at odds with academic styles, loved to outrage their
conservative colleagues by flinging ink at the paper and smearing it
about with their hands, their hair, or sometimes the body of an
assistant. Even those who restricted themselves to the brush delighted
in caricature and unconventional styles. The school of painting
represented by disaffected Tang literati and Ch'an monks came to be
well respected (much like the abstract expressionist school of today)
and was given the name of "untrammeled class." During the Sung dynasty,
Ch'an monks became respectable members of Chinese society, and
gradually three distinct types of Ch'an-influenced painting were
established. One, known in Japanese as _zenkiga_, featured didactic
figure paintings (_zenki-zu_) illustrating Ch'an parables, depicting
Bodhidharma in some legendary situation, recording the critical moment
of a _koan_, or simply illustrating a Zen adept practicing self-
discipline through some humble task.

The second type was portraiture, known as _chinzo_.  These solemn,
reverential studies of well-known teachers, sometimes executed in muted
pastels as well as in ink, clearly were intended to represent the
physical likeness of the sitter as closely as possible. They must be
ranked among the world's finest portraits. The insight into character
in the _chinzo_ is not so harsh as that of Rembrandt nor so formal as
that of the Renaissance Florentines, but as sympathetic psychological
studies they have rarely been surpassed.

The third type of painting associated with Ch'an is the monochrome
landscape. Landscape was not originally a major Ch'an subject, but
Ch'an monks experimented with the traditional Chinese treatment of such
scenes and so influenced Chinese landscape painting that even academic
paintings during the Sung dynasty reflected the spontaneous insights of
Ch'an philosophy. Landscapes represent Chinese painting at its finest,
and the Japanese Zen painters who embraced the form made it the great
art of Zen.

The technical mastery of landscape painting had been achieved late in
the T'ang dynasty when the problems of

perspective, placement, and vantage point were solved. The classic
rules for the genre, which were formalized during the early Sung
dynasty, were respected for several hundred years thereafter in both
China and Japan. One must appreciate these rules if one is to
understand the Far Eastern landscape. To begin with, the objective is
not photographic accuracy, but a representation of an emotional
response to nature, capturing the essentials of a landscape rather than
the particular elements that happen to be present in a single locale.
(In fact, Japanese Zen landscapists frequently painted Chinese scenes
they had never seen.) Nature is glorified as a source of meditative
insight, and the artist's spontaneity is expressed within a rigid

Certain specific items are expected to appear in every painting:
mountains, trees, rocks, flowing water, roads, bridges, wildlife,
houses (or at least thatched huts). The mountainsides vary with the
seasons, being lush and sensuous in spring, verdant and moist in
summer, crisp and ripe in autumn, and austerely bare in winter. The
tiny human figures show the dignity of retired Sung officials at a
hermitage; there are no genuine farmers or fishermen. The paintings
have no vanishing point; receding lines remain parallel and do not
converge. The position of the viewer is that of someone suspended in
space, looking down on a panorama that curves up and around his range
of sight.

To depict distances extending from the immediate foreground to distant
mountain ranges, a painting is divided into three distinct tiers, each
representing a scene at a particular distance from the viewer. These
include a near tableau close enough to show the individual leaves on
the trees and ripples on the water, a middle section where only the
branches of three trees are delineated and water is usually depicted as
a waterfall, and a far section containing mountain peaks. Since these
three levels represent quantum jumps in distance, fog or mist is often
introduced to assist in slicing the painting into three planes.

These landscape conventions were the subject of volumes of

analysis and interpretation during the Sung dynasty. According to the
painter Han Cho in a work dated 1121:

_In paintings of panoramic landscapes, mountains are placed in ranges
one above the other; even in one foot's space they are deeply layered;
. . . and proper order is adhered to by first arranging the venerable
mountains followed by the subservient ones. It is essential that . . .
forests cover the mountain. For the forests of a mountain are its
clothes, the vegetation its hair, the vapor and mists its facial
expressions, the scenic elements its ornaments, the waters its blood
vessels, the fog and mists its expressions of mood.2


Two characteristics of Sung landscape paintings that were later to
become important elements in the canon of Zen aesthetic theory were the
use of empty space as a form of symbolism, later to be found in all of
Zen art from rock gardens to the No theater, and the specific treatment
of rocks and trees, elements that the Zen school would one day take as
metaphors for life itself. These characteristics have been eloquently
described by the Western critics Osvald Siren and Ernest Fenollosa,

_We hardly need dwell on the well-known fact that the Chinese painters,
and particularly those who worked in Indian ink, utilized space as a
most important means of artistic expression, but it may be pointed out
that their ideas of space and their methods of rendering it were far
from the same as in European art. Space was not to them a cubic volume
that could be geometrically constructed, it was something illimitable
and incalculable which might be, to some extent, suggested by the
relation of forms and tonal values but which always extended beyond
every material indication and carried a suggestion of the infinite.3

The wonderful twisted trees, mighty mountain pines and cedars, loved by
these early Chinese and later Japanese, which our Western superficial
view first ascribed to some barbarian taste for monstrosities, really
exhibit the deep Zen thinker in their great knots and scaly limbs that
have wrestled with storms and frosts and earthquakes--an almost
identical process through which a man's life-struggles with enemies,
misfortunes, and pains have stamped themselves into the wrinkles and
strong muscular planes of his fine old face. Thus nature becomes a vast
and picturesque world for the profound study of character; and this
fails to lead to didactic overweighting and literary conceit, as it
would do with us, because character, in its two senses of human
individuality and nature individuality, are seen to become one.4_

During the early years of the Sung dynasty, two distinct styles of
landscape painting developed, which today are known as "Northern" and
"Southern," reflecting their geographical locations. Although it is
extremely dangerous to venture generalizations about painting schools,
it might be said that the Northern school produced comparatively
formal, symmetrical works done in sharp, angular, ax-like brushstrokes
which distinguished clearly between ink line and ink wash and in which
the distant mountains were generally portrayed as crisply as the
foreground. In contrast, the Southern school as a rule preferred a more
romantic treatment of landscape elements, with rounded hills and misty
valleys. Distant mountains were portrayed in graded washes of ink,
suggesting mysterious recesses bathed in fog, while the middle ground
was filled with rolling hills mellowed by a sense of diffuse lighting.
A Chinese critic of the period described a Northern artist's work as
all brush and no ink, and a Southern artist's as all ink and no brush--a
simplified but basically accurate characterization of the two schools.

The Northern style was originally centered around the northern capital
of Kaifeng and the Southern around Nanking in the Yangtze valley, but
when the Sung court fled to the South after the fall of the northern
capital in 1127, the styles of the two schools were merged to some
degree in a new academy that was established in the lovely southern
city of Hangchow. Painters of the Southern Sung dynasty, as this later
era came to be known, often were masters of both styles, sometimes
producing jagged Northern landscapes, sometimes misty Southern vistas,
or sometimes combining the two in a single painting. In time, however,
as the mood of the age grew increasingly romantic and Ch'an Buddhism
became more influential in academic circles, the jagged brushstrokes of
the Northern painters retreated farther and farther into the mist,
leaving the landscapes increasingly metaphorical, with contorted trees
and rugged, textured rocks.

This new lyrical style, which predominated in the last century of the
Sung painting academy, was primarily the creation of two artists, Ma
Yuan (active ca. 1190-1224) and Hsia Kuei (active ca. 1180-1230), whose
works were to become the models for Ashikaga Zen landscapes. They both
experimented with asymmetry and the deliberate juxtaposition of
traditional landscape elements. Space became an element in its own
right, particularly in the works of Ma Yuan, whose "one-corner"
compositions were often virtually blank save for a bottom corner. An
eclectic stylist, he frequently depicted the foreground in the ax-cut
brushstrokes and sharp diagonals of the North, while distant mountains
in the same painting were treated by the soft, graded washes of the
South. Hsia Kuei did much the same, except that he took a marked
interest in line and often painted foreground trees and rocks in sharp
silhouette. In later years, after the Ming dynasty came to power,
Chinese tastes reverted to a preference for the Northern style, but in
Japan the so-called Ma-Hsia lyric school was revered and copied by Zen
artists who found the subjective treatment of nature a perfect
expression of Zen doctrines concerning intuitive insight.

The Southern Sung academy did not deliberately produce

Ch'an art; it was the Japanese who identified the Ma-Hsia style
explicitly with Zen. However, during the early years of the thirteenth
century, an expressionist, Ch'an school of art-- the heir of the earlier
T'ang eccentrics--arose and produced a spontaneous style of painting as
unpredictable as Zen itself. The center for this protest school of
landscape art was not the Sung academy but rather a Ch'an monastery
near Hangchow, and its leader was a monk named Mu-ch'i (ca. 1210-ca.
1280), who painted all subjects--landscapes, Ch'an _koan_, and
expressionistic still-lifes--with brushstrokes at once skillfully
controlled and deceptively casual. His was a disciplined spontaneity. A
master of technique, he deliberately disregarded all the conventions.
As time passed, various staid painters of the Sung academy heard his
siren call of ecstasy and abandoned their formal styles, ending their
days drinking with the Ch'an monks in monasteries around Hangchow, lost
in the sheer exhilaration of ink and brush.

When Japanese monks began traveling to China, their first encounter
with landscape painting was in these monasteries. Consequently, the
styles and the paintings of the Ch'an Mu-ch'i school were the first to
be sent to Japan. In later years, after the Northern school of painting
was again in vogue in China, Ming Chinese were only too happy to unload
outdated Southern Sung monochromes on the eager Japanese. The
emissaries of Yoshimitsu (as well as earlier traveling monks) had their
pick of these works, with the result that the very best examples of the
spontaneous Mu-ch'i and the lyric Ma-Hsia styles of Sung painting are
today in Japan.

The paintings of Mu-ch'i, the first Chinese monochrome art to be seen
in Japan, were an instant success, and Zen monks rapidly took up the
style. The most successful imitator was a Japanese priest-painter named
Mincho (1351-1431), who before long was producing landscapes virtually
indistinguishable from Mu-ch'i's. It was almost as though Mu-ch'i had
risen from the dead and begun a new career in Japan a century later.
Subsequently, the landscapes of the Ma-Hsia school found their way to
Japan, and before long a second "Sung dynasty" was in full swing under
the Ashikaga. Japanese Zen had found its art, and soon Yoshimitsu had
established a painting academy at the temple of Shokoku-ji, where
painter-monks gathered to study each new boatload of Sung works and to
vie with one another in imitating Chinese brush styles.

The head of the Zen academy was the priest Josetsu (active ca. 1400-
1413), who took full control after Yoshimitsu's death in 1408.
Josetsu's famous "Man Catching a Catfish with a Gourd," a parable of
the elusiveness of true knowledge, is a perfect example of Japanese
mastery of Sung styles, with its sharp foreground brushwork and misty
distant mountains. The Zen academy dominated Japanese art until well
after the Onin War, exploring and copying the great Sung works, both
those in the lyric academic style and those in the spontaneous Ch'an
style. Josetsu was succeeded by his pupil Shubun (flourishing 1423-d.
ca. 1460), whose vast (attributed) output of hanging scrolls and
sixfold screens was a precise re-creation of the Sung lyric style. He
was not a mere imitator, but rather a legitimate member of a school
long vanished, with a genuine understanding of the ideals that had
motivated the Southern Sung artists. Shubun was a perfect master, a Zen
Raphael, who so disciplined his style that it seemed effortless. His
paintings are things of beauty in which the personality of the artist
has disappeared, as was the intention of the Sung masters, resulting in
works so perfectly of a type that they stand as a foundation on which
others might legitimately begin to innovate.

However, under Shubun's successor Sotan (1414-1481), the academy
continued to copy the techniques of dead Sung artists (as so often
happens when art is institutionalized), producing works that showed no
glimmer of originality. Zen art had reached maturity and was ready to
become its own master; but it needed an artist who would place more
trust in his own genius than in the dictates of the academy.

The individual who responded to this need is today looked upon as the
finest Japanese artist of all time. Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506) was a pupil
of Shubun and very nearly the contemporary of Sotan. Painting out of a
profound sense of the spirit of Zen, Sesshu was able to dismantle the
components of Sung landscapes and reassemble them into an individual
statement of Zen philosophy. It is thought that he became a Zen priest
early in life and spent his formative years in an obscure rural village
on the Inland Sea. However, records show that at the age of thirty-
seven he was a priest in a reasonably high position at Shokoku-ji,
under the patronage of Yoshimasa, and a member of the academy presided
over by Shubun. He apparently studied under Shubun until shortly before
the Onin War, when he left Kyoto for a city on the southwestern coast
and soon was on his way to China aboard a trading vessel.

Traveling as a Zen priest and a painter of some reputation, Sesshu was
immediately welcomed by the Ch'an centers of painting on the mainland
and by the Ming court in Peking. Although he was able to see and study
many Sung paintings not available in the Kyoto Ashikaga collection, he
was disappointed in the Ming artists he encountered and returned to
Japan declaring he had found no worthy teacher in China except her
streams and mountains. He also pronounced Josetsu and Shubun the equals
of any Chinese painters he had met--probably the first time in history
such a statement could have gone unchallenged. He never again returned
to Kyoto, but established a studio in a western seaside village, where
he received the mighty and passed his years in painting, Zen
meditation, and pilgrimages to temples and monasteries. According to
the traditional account, he declined an opportunity to become Sotan's
successor as head of the Kyoto academy, recommending that the post be
given to Kano Masanobu (1434-1530), who did in fact assume a position
as official painter to the shogun in the 1480s. It later passed to
Masanobu's son Kano Motonobu (1476-1559). This launched the decorative
Kano school of painting which dominated Japanese art for centuries

Sesshu was a renegade stylist who mastered the Sung formulas of Shubun
early in his career and then developed striking new dimensions in ink
painting. Despite his scornful assessments of Ming art, he learned a
great deal in China which he later used, including an earthy realism
that freed him from Shubun's sublime perfection, a sense of design that
allowed him to produce large decorative sixfold screens which still
retained the Zen spirit, and, perhaps most importantly, the Ch'an-
inspired ''flung ink" technique which took him into the realm of semi-

abstraction. In his later years he became famous for two distinct
styles which, though not without Chinese precedents, were strongly

In the first of these, known as _shin_, the polished formulas of Shubun
were supplanted by a controlled boldness, with rocks and mountains
outlined in dark, angular brushstrokes seemingly hewn with a chisel.
The landscapes were not so much sublimely unattainable as caught and
worked to his will. The reverence for nature remained, but under his
hand the depiction was almost cubist; the essence of a vista was
extracted in an intricate, dense design of angular planes framed in
powerful lines. Delicacy was replaced by dominance. Precursors of this
style can be found in the works of Ma Yuan and Hsia Kuei, both of whom
experimented in the hard, Northern-influenced techniques of
brushstroke, but it was Sesshu who was the true master of the
technique. Writing in 1912, the American critic Ernest Fenollosa
declared him to be the greatest master of the straight line and angle
in the history of the world's art.

Sesshu's second major style was _so_, an abstraction in wash combining
the tonal mastery of the Southern Sung school with the "flung ink," or
_haboku_, of the Ch'an school--a style in which line is almost entirely
ignored, with the elements of the landscape being suggested by
carefully varied tones of wash. A viewer familiar with the traditional
elements of the Sung landscape can identify all the required
components, although most are acknowledged only by blurred streaks and
seeming dabs of ink which appear to have been applied with a sponge
rather than a brush. In contrast to the cubist treatment of the _shin
_style, the _so _defines no planes but allows elements of the landscape
to blend into one another through carefully controlled variations in
tonality. As effortless as the style appears to be, it is in fact a
supreme example of mastery of the brush, an instrument intended for
carving lines rather than subtle shading and blending of wash.

Because Sesshu chose to live in the secluded provinces, he did not
perpetuate a school, but artists in Kyoto and elsewhere drew on his
genius to invigorate Zen painting. One artist inspired by him was
So'ami, a member of the Ami family which flourished during the
academy's heyday. The earlier members of the family had produced
acceptable works in the standard Sung style, but So'ami distinguished
himself in a number of styles, including the _so_. The other artist
directly influenced by Sesshu was the provincial Sesson (ca.1502-
ca.1589), who took part of the earlier master's name as his own and
became adept in both _shin _and _so _techniques. Although he, too,
avoided strife-ridden Kyoto, he became famous throughout Japan, and his
works suggest what the academy might have produced had Sesshu chosen to
remain part of the Zen establishment. Yet even in Sesson's work one can
detect a polished, effortless elegance that seems to transform Sesshu's
hard-earned power into an easy grace, a certain sign that the creative
phase of Zen art had ended.

The Ashikaga era of Japanese monochrome landscape is really the story
of a few inspired individuals, artists whose works spanned a period of
something more than one hundred and fifty years. As men of Zen, they
found the landscape an ideal expression of reverence for the divine
essence they perceived in nature. To contemplate nature was to
contemplate the universal god, and to contemplate a painting of nature,
or better still to paint nature itself, was to perform a sacrament. The
landscape painting was their version of the Buddhist icon, and its
monochrome abstraction was a profound expression of Zen aesthetics.
Like the artists of the Renaissance, the Ashikaga artists worshiped
through painting. The result is an art form showing no gods but
resonant with spirituality.


The Zen Aesthetics of Japanese Architecture

_Architecturally [the Zen-inspired Silver Pavilion's] chief interest
lies in the compromise which it exhibits between religious and domestic
types, and a new style of living apartments (called _shoin_) which
specialists regard as the true forerunner of the Japanese dwelling.

 _George B. Sansom_, Japan: A Short Cultural History

Traditional Zen-style house


_Traditional interior w/ Zen art alcove


ASK ANY JAPANESE why the traditional Japanese house is bitterly cold in
winter and uncomfortably hot in summer, and he will unfailingly tell
you that the design is historically adapted to the climate. Inquire
about his purpose in rejecting furniture, thus to kneel daylong on a
straw floor mat, and he will explain that the mat is more comfortable.
Question his preference for sleeping on a wadded cotton floor pallet
instead of a conventional mattress and springs, and he will reply that
the floor provides surer rest. What he will not say, since he assumes a
Westerner cannot comprehend it, is that through these seeming physical
privations he finds shelter for the inner man.

The exquisite traditional Japanese house has been compared to an
outsized umbrella erected over the landscape, not dominating its
surroundings but providing a shaded space for living amid nature. The
outside resembles a tropical hut, while the inside is an interworking
of Mondrian geometries. Together they represent the culmination of a
long tradition of defining and handling interior space, using natural
materials, and integrating architecture and setting. The Japanese house
is one of those all too rare earthly creations that transcend the
merely utilitarian, that attend as closely to man's interior needs as
to his physical comfort.

The classic house evolved over two millennia through the adaptation and
blending of two dissimilar architectural traditions--the tropical nature
shrine, which was part of the Shinto religion of the early immigrants
to Japan, and the Chinese model, beginning with the palace architecture
of the T'ang dynasty and culminating in the designs used in the
monasteries of Chinese Ch'an Buddhism. The early immigrants, the Yayoi,
today are believed to have arrived from points somewhere to the South,
bringing a theology that defied the earth, the sun, and all the
processes of nature. Their shrines to these gods were like conventional
Oceanic huts. Thanks to a peculiar quirk of Shinto, which dictates that
certain of these wood-and-thatch shrines be dismantled and built anew
every two decades, it is still possible to see these lovely structures
essentially as they were two millennia ago. Spartan and elegant in
their simplicity, they were lyrically described by the nineteenth-
century Western Japanophile, Lafcadio Hearn:

_The typical shrine is a windowless oblong building of un-painted
timber with a very steep overhanging roof; the front is a gable end;
and the upper part of the perpetually closed doors is a wooden
latticework--usually a grating of bars closely set and crossing each
other at right angles. In most cases the structure is raised slightly
above the ground on wooden pillars; and the queer peaked facade, with
its visorlike apertures and the fantastic projections of beamwork above
its gable-angle, might remind the European traveler of old gothic forms
of dormer There is no artificial color. The plain wood soon turns,
under the action of rain and sun, to a natural gray varying according
to surface exposure from a silvery tone of birch bark to a somber gray
of basalt.1


_Although the early immigrants lived first in caves and later in roofed
pits dug into the earth, by the beginning of the Christian Era the
aristocracy was building elevated dwellings on posts, with roofs
supported not by the walls but by a central horizontal ridge pole
suspended between two large columns at either end of the structure.2


It was, in fact, identical to the Shinto shrine design described by
Hearn. As a home for the Shinto gods, this tropical design may well
have been adequate, since nature spirits are presumably adapted to the
rigors of a Japanese winter, but the Yayoi must have found that it
enforced an unwelcome communion with the seasons. Even so, Hearn's
description could be applied almost without alteration to the external
qualities of the traditional dwelling as it finally evolved. One still
finds the thatch roof, the use of pillars to suspend the floor above
the ground, unfinished natural wood, and the virtual absence of nails.

During the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. the early Japanese became
aware of the complex Chinese culture on the Asian mainland, and by the
beginning of the eighth century they had forsworn the primitive
tropical architecture of Shinto and begun to surround themselves with
palaces and temples modeled on the Chinese. During the Heian era, a
Chinese-inspired aristocrat dwelling developed which represented a
compromise between Japanese requirements and Chinese models. Although
influenced by T'ang Chinese palaces, it was the first indigenous
Japanese architectural style and is known as _shinden_.

The _shinden _mansion was a sprawling complex dominated by a main
building facing a pond, around which were flanked ancillary structures
connected to it by open galleries protected only by a roof. These open
galleries, being very much the fashion, were also built around the
outside of all the larger rooms and served as passageways. There were
no solid walls inside the buildings; privacy was obtained by curtains
and two-part horizontal doors hinged at the top and attached to the
ceiling. Adopting Chinese construction methods, Japanese began roofing
the buildings with dark clay tiles instead of native thatch, and walls
were frequently surfaced with clay rather than wood planks or woven
straw. Exterior woods were painted Chinese vermilion instead of being
left to age naturally.

Furnishings were meager, and rooms were not identified according to
usage; the building was one large area temporarily divided according to
the needs of the moment. Instead of chairs there were movable floor
mats of woven straw, while around the exterior of the rooms there were
heavy shutters; these could be removed in summer or replaced by light
bamboo blinds, which rolled down like window shades. Lighting was not a
prominent feature of _shinden _mansions, and in winter the aristocracy
huddled around a smoky fire in almost total darkness, the price of
seeing being to open the blinds and freeze.

The _shinden_ style suppressed for a time the indigenous affection for
simplicity and unadorned natural materials revealed in the earlier,
pre-Heian dwellings. However, it was never really naturalized, and it
was eventually to be remembered in Japan's architectural history
largely as an aberrant interlude, whose major legacy was the sense of
openness or fluid space in the classic Zen house.

When the _samurai _warriors of the Kamakura era (1185-- 1333) assumed
power, they did not immediately disown the architectural styles of the
Heian nobles, but merely added (or, in some cases, removed) features in
response to their martial needs and their new Zen outlook. As the
country was at war, there was no logic in detached rooms and open
galleries, and the _samurai _immediately tightened up the design,
putting the entire house under one roof. They eliminated the pond and
added a surrounding board fence for protection, even as interior
curtains and hinged doors were replaced by sliding doors of paper over
a wooden frame. And as rooms became more clearly identified, they were
defined in terms of function. The early influence of Zen was seen most
noticeably in the gradual disappearance of the ornamental aspects of
_shinden _design as the _samurai _came to prize austerity and

During the Ashikaga era (1333-1573) which followed, when Zen monks
assumed the role of advisers and scribes for the illiterate military
rulers, a special writing desk, called a _shoin_,

appeared in the houses of the more influential _samurai_. The _shoin
_was a window alcove with a raised sill, which overlooked a private
garden and was used by the monks for reading and writing. Next to this
was a _chigai-dana_, a wall cabinet recessed in a niche and used for
storing papers and writing, utensils. (These new domestic appointments
had been lifted by the Zen monks directly from the chief abbot's study
in Chinese Ch'an monasteries.) The _shoin _study room immediately
became a focus of fashion among the _samurai_, even those who could
neither read nor write, and before long it was the finest room in a
house. Guests began to be received there and another feature from Zen
monasteries was added: the art-display alcove, or tokonoma. (In Chinese
Ch'an monasteries the _tokonoma _was a special shrine before which
monks burned incense, drank ceremonial tea, and contemplated religious
artwork. That such a shrine should appear in a reception room of a
social-climbing _samurai_'s house is vivid testimony to the pervasive
influence of the Zen monk advisers.) The _samurai_ also added an entry
vestibule called a _genkan_, still another feature drawn from Zen
temples. As a result of all these additions and modifications,
_shinden_ architecture was completely transformed into a functional
_samurai _house whose style became known as _shoin_. Forgotten were the
Chinese tile roofs and vermilion paint; thatch and unfinished woods
reappeared. Paradoxically, the supplanting of _shinden _design by
_shoin _was in many ways merely the ousting of a T'ang Chinese style by
a Sung Chinese style. However, the T'ang architecture had been that of
the Chinese court, whereas the Sung was drawn from Ch'an monasteries
and coincidentally contained many of the aesthetic ideals of the
earlier native Japanese dwellings and shrines.

By the waning years of the Ashikaga era, the _shoin _design had
influenced virtually every aspect of Japanese architecture, bringing
into being almost all the qualities of what is now thought of as the
traditional Japanese house. The movable floor mats were replaced by
wall-to-wall _tatami_, woven straw mats bound with a dark fabric band
at either end and standardized to a size of approximately three by six
feet. Soon rooms were being defined in terms of the number of _tatami
_required for the floor--and modular architecture had been invented.
Sliding, but removable paper partitions called _fusuma_ became the
standard room dividers, and the _tokonoma_ became less a religious
shrine than a secular display case where vertical monochrome scrolls
and flower arrangements were put on view. Oddly enough, one of the few
Chinese innovations the Japanese persistently chose to ignore was the
chair. As a result, a Japanese residence has always maintained an entry
vestibule where footwear is removed, something unnecessary for the
Chinese, who had no reason to consider the floor a couch and could keep
their shoes on. One important side effect of this choice is that eye
level in the Japanese room--that is, the level from which the room, its
art, and its appointments are viewed--has remained significantly lower
than in houses with furniture, a characteristic that influences the
placement of art as well as the layout of the accompanying garden.

The culminating style of Japanese architecture was the sukiya house,
essentially a free-hand rendering of the formal _samurai shoin_. The
_sukiya_ style reflected a number of aesthetic and architectural ideas
embodied in the Zen-inspired Japanese teahouse, and it allowed for
considerable experimentation with materials and design. Less powerful
and more delicate than the _shoin_, it was in many ways the ultimate
extension of Zen austerity, even to the point where walls were often
left unplastered. The _shoin_ had been the house of warriors; the
_sukiya _was a style for the common man and as such has contributed
significantly to the overall tradition of Japanese architecture.
_Shoin_ and _sukiya _houses, heirs to the legacy of Zen monks and later
Zen aesthetes, are the reference point for what is now understood to be
the traditional Japanese dwelling.

The deceptively fragile appearance of the house makes it appear at
first an impractical invention for a land faced with recurrent
earthquakes. Yet its lightness and flexibility, like those of a judo
expert, actually contribute to its safety. Part of the reason is its
foundation, which "floats" with the earth rather than being anchored
rigidly. The traditional house is not held up by walls but by stout
columns, almost a half-foot in diameter, embedded at their base in
niches sunk into large, individually placed stones which are only
partially buried. These columns reach through the house to the ceiling,
whose weight secures them in their precarious foundation. In ordinary
houses, the roof is a steeply sloping, four-sided pyramid whose light
underframe is covered with multiple layers of shingles made from the
tough bark of the _hinoki_ tree.

A second set of shorter posts, similarly supported bv partially buried
stones, holds up the platform that is the floor, a wooden deck of
closely fitted planks set about two feet above the earth. The outer
perimeter of the flooring becomes a veranda or walkway, called the
_engawa_, and the inner space is partitioned into rooms by light walls
of paper, plaster, and wooden grillwork. The outer walls of the house,
which serve no structural purpose, are sliding latticework panels
called _shoji_, which are covered with translucent white rice paper,
bathing the exterior rooms in a soft daytime light. The _shoji_,
ordinarily installed in pairs approximately six feet high and three
feet wide, unite rather than divide the interior and exterior; during
the summer they slide open to provide fresh air and direct
communication with the outdoors. If greater insulation or safety is
required, a second set of sliding panels, or _amado_, similar in
appearance to Western doors, may be installed outside the _shoji_.
Between columns too narrow to accommodate a pair of _shoji_ there may
be a solid wall consisting of a two-inch-thick layer of clay pressed
into a bamboo and rice-straw framework and finished inside and out with
a thin veneer of smooth white plaster. Similar walls may be built
inside the house where appropriate, and they and the columns are the
house's only solid surfaces. The dull white color and silken texture of
the plaster walls contrast pleasantly with the exposed natural grain of
the supporting columns.

Interior rooms are separated by partitions consisting of light wooden
frames covered in heavy opaque paper, often decorated with unobtrusive
designs. These paper walls, called _fusuma_, are suspended from tracks
attached to overhead crossbeams. They slide to form instant doorways,
or when removed entirely, convert two smaller rooms into one large
apartment. _Fusuma_ provide little privacy between rooms except a
visual screen, and it is rumored that this undesired communication
increasingly inhibits lovemaking by modern parents.

The overhead crossbeams, installed between the columns at a height of
slightly over six feet, are similar to the columns in diameter and
appearance. The ceiling of the rooms is roughly two feet above the
crossbeams, or _kamoi_, with the intervening space usually filled
either by a vertical open wooden latticework, the _ramma_, or a
plaster-and-board combination, the _nageshi_. On exterior walls of the
_ramma_ is ordinarily a solid extension of the _shoji_  which inhibits
air flow from the outside. The _kamoi_, _nageshi_, and _ramma _have a
structural as well as aesthetic obligation; they are the only solid
lateral supports between the upright columns. The ceiling itself is a
light wood latticework over which has been laid a platform of thin
boards still in their natural state, as is all the woodwork.

Visitors enter through the _genkan _portico, where street shoes are
replaced by soft-soled slippers, to prevent scratches on the exposed
wooden veranda and hallways. At the entrance to a _tatami_-carpeted
room, the slippers too are relinquished, and host and guests are both
in stocking feet, a state that encourages familiarity. The reception
room is empty as a cell, and as it basks in the diffuse light of the
_shoji_, it seems suspended in time--heedless of the season. The only
furniture may be a small central table around which guests and host
seat themselves on square cushions. Or perhaps there are lamps with
rice-paper shades, one or two knee-high chests of drawers, and if the
weather requires it, one or more charcoal braziers, either a small
moveable hibachi for hand warming or a larger heater sunk into a center
recess in the flooring, often beneath the table, or both. The purpose
of these is apparently more symbolic than functional, for they do
little to influence the temperature in the paper-walled rooms.
Arrangements for summer cooling are equally metaphysical; the _shoji
_are simply thrown open in hopes of snaring wayward breezes, whose
meager cooling is enhanced psychologically by the tinkle of wind bells
hung in the verandas.

The aesthetic focus of the room is the _tokonoma_, or picture recess,
set into one of the plaster walls, with a raised dais for its floor and
an artificial, lowered ceiling. The _tokonoma _has a small _shoji_-
covered window at one side which illuminates a hanging scroll, and
there is usually an incense burner (in recognition of its original
monastic function) or a simple flower arrangement on its floor.
Adjacent to the _tokonoma_ is the _chigai-dana_, a shelved storage area
hidden by sliding panels, which may be used to store _kimonos_ or
bedding rather than the writing implements of Zen monks as in the past.
The _tokonoma _and _chigai-dana _are separated by a thin dividing wall
whose outer edge is fronted by a single polished post, the _toko-
bashira_, a natural tree trunk stripped of its bark to reveal its
gnarled surface texture. The _toko-bashira _has the quality of polished
driftwood, intended to bring a touch of raw nature to the otherwise
austere and monastic ambience of the room.

As the guest kneels on the cushions and sips green tea, the host may
slide aside a rear _shoji _to reveal the roofless garden of the inner
courtyard, his private abstraction of the natural landscape. Flowers
are purposely absent, but in their place may be tiny shaped pines, a
pond, and receding, rocky pathways. The mossy stones glisten with dew
(or with water from a recent dousing by the host in preparation for his
guests), and the air is fresh with the scent of greenery. Only upon
careful inspection does the deception evaporate and the garden reveal
itself to be a tiny plot surrounded by a bamboo and plaster fence; the
natural world has been extracted and encapsulated into a single view,
at once as authentic as the forest and as artfully detailed as a
Flemish miniature. This view--a heritage of Zen _shoin _design--is vital
to the aesthetic magic of the house, for it brings the works of man and
nature together in a way that blurs their distinction. Exterior space
is united with interior space just as Zen philosophy identifies the
external world as an extension of man's inner life.

Indeed, all the subjective aspects of the Japanese house are Zen-
inspired. The most apparent design feature is the clean lines that mark
the boundaries of space, from the geometrical delineation of floor
areas, brought out by the dark bindings of the tatami, to the exposed
skeletal framework of columns and horizontal beams. By deliberately
excluding curved lines (whose implied sensuality would be at odds with
Zen ideals of austerity) in the partitioning of space, the house
achieves a geometrical formality both elegant and pure. This sense of
free space is further realized by the rigorous exclusion of extraneous
ornamentation (again a Zen aesthetic precept) and by placing all
essential furnishings in the center of the room rather than around the
sides, as in the West. Design aesthetics are also served by the
emphasis on the natural texture of materials and the contrast realized
when different materials (such as clay walls and exposed wood) are
placed side by side. Finally, the indirect lighting provided by the
_shoji _gives daytime rooms a subjective sense of perpetual afternoon,
mellowing the visual properties of the materials, softening harsh
colors to pastels, and enhancing the overall feeling of naturalness in
the exposed woods.

The removable partitions, both internal and external, create a sense of
interdependent yet fluid space so startling to Westerners that it is
often the first thing they notice in a Japanese house. The concept is,
of course, derived from a basic philosophical presumption inherent in
all Zen art, from ink paintings to ceramics, that freedom is most
keenly perceived when it is exercised within a rigorous framework of
constraints and discipline. More important, and more difficult to
define, is the Zen concept of _shibui_, the studied restraint that
might be described as knowing when to stop. _Shibui_, perhaps more than
any other aesthetic principle, typifies the influence of Zen on
Japanese ideals. It means many things, including the absence of all
that is not essential; a sense of disciplined strength deliberately
held in check to make what is done seem effortless; the absence of the
ornate and the explicit in favor of the sober and the suggestive; and
the elegance that can be realized when the purest of natural materials
are integrated in a formal, balanced orchestration.3

In addition to the aesthetic aspects, there is also a quality of
psychological suggestion stemming from Zen in the Japanese house. Zen
monks early realized that the cell-like austerity of a room could be
used to manipulate the consciousness of those caught in its precincts.
The impact of this was well described by the early-twentieth-century
traveler Ralph Adams Cram:

_There is something about the great spacious apartments, airy and full
of mellow light, that is curiously satisfying, and one feels the
absence of furniture only with a sense of relief. Free from the rivalry
of crowded furnishings, men and women take on a quite singular quality
of dignity and importance.4


'The "singular quality of dignity and importance" is one of the most
fundamental discoveries of Zen interior designers. In the absence of
decorative distractions, one must concentrate on his own mind and on
the minds of others present. Host and guest find their focus on one
another has been deliberately enhanced, breaking down the barriers of
separateness and individual identity. Each word, each gesture is
rendered richer, more significant. Heinrich Engel, who understood the
source of the mysterious effects which Ralph Adams Cram could only
describe in bewilderment, has explained this phenomenon:

_[The individual interior room] provides an environment that requires
man's presence and participation to fill the void. Room in the Western
residence is human without man's presence, for man's memory lingers in
the multiple devices of decoration, furniture, and utility. Room in the
Japanese residence becomes human only through man's presence. Without
him, there is no human trace. Thus, the empty room provides the very
space where man's spirit can move freely and where his thoughts can
reach the very limits of their potential.5


Stated differently, the Japanese room forces introspection on those who
enter it alone--a function completely in keeping with the interests of
Zen. Souls who have felt the weight of too much liberty (and undeserved
decorator's license) will find here a solemn retreat and a heightened
sense of internal awareness. Here as never before one's mind is one's
own, undistracted by the prosaic implements of living with which
Westerners ordinarily engulf themselves. One should be warned, however,
that this liberation of the consciousness is powerful stuff. The
Japanese Zen room is a concentration cell which, although it can unite
the minds of those who share it, can often tell those who enter it
alone more than they want to know about their own interior lives.

The restraining discipline taught by Zen has both made the traditional
Japanese house possible and reconciled its inhabitants to the practical
difficulties of living in it. Although few Westerners would accept the
inconvenience and sometime discomfort of these houses, many of the
early Zen designers' ideals have begun to be seen in architecture and
design in the West. It is well known that the Japanese integration of
house and environment influenced Frank Lloyd Wright and that a purging
of ornamentation was the credo of the Bauhaus. The  Japanese principle
of modular design is now influential in the West, and we have finally
discovered the possibilities for multiple uses of space, with modern
"efficiency" apartments that combine all living functions, from dining
to entertaining to sleeping, in a single room. Interest has grown
recently in the texture of interior materials, which it is now realized
provide a necessary visual warmth, and there is increasing integration
of living areas with gardens, patios, and the outdoors, and a blessed
reduction in superfluous decoration, with the re-establishment of
emphasis on clean lines, open space, and the quality of light. Perhaps
most important of all, we in the West are finally taking to heart what
the Japanese Zen monks knew in medieval times: that domestic
architecture and interiors can and should fulfill a requirement in our
lives that is ordinarily served by art.


The No Theater

_It is not, like our theatre, a place where every fineness and
subtlety must give way; where every fineness of word or of word-cadence
is sacrificed to the "broad effect"; where the paint must be put on
with a broom. It is a stage where every subsidiary art is bent
precisely upon upholding the faintest shade of difference; where the
poet may be silent while the gestures consecrated by four centuries of
usage show meaning.

_Ezra Pound and Ernest Fenollosa_, Classic Noh Theatre of Japan

Noh actor with mask


_Noh stage with chorus


THE ASHIKAGA age of Zen art is remembered today not only for gardens,
painting, and architecture but also for drama and poetry. The leading
political figure of the era, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, was himself an
accomplished poet in the short verse forms once so popular with Heian
courtier-aesthetes. But the most exalted poetry of the age was that
written for the No drama, a literary art form born of Zen and at once
as austere as a stone garden and as suggestive as a monochrome
painting. The No is performed today virtually as it was six hundred
years ago, and in its ritual symbolism it seems at times a cross
between the Christian Mass and an Aeschylean tragedy. The essence of
Zen aesthetic theory is evoked throughout its haunting poetry, its
understated but intense style of acting, its delicately carved masks,
and its mournful music and songs.

Like other Zen arts, the No was fashioned out of materials from distant
times and places. The first Japanese dramatic arts were derived from
various forms of Chinese farces and court dances. The farces, or
_gigaku_, were popular with the Nara aristocracy, while the dances, or
_bugaku_, came into favor with the more refined Heian court. Although
the _bugaku _form undoubtedly influenced Japanese ideas on the blending
of drama and dance, by the end of the Heian era it had become a
lifeless ceremony for the emperor and his court--a role it still enjoys
on occasions when performances are staged for the imperial family.

The real origins of the No are traceable to a somewhat lustier Chinese
import, a circus-type entertainment called by the Japanese _sarugaku_.
In addition to the display of various physical feats of daring, the
_sarugaku _included farcical playlets and suggestive, sometimes
indecent dances. A common theme seems to have been the lampooning of
clergy, both Buddhist and Shinto. (In this respect, the development of
native drama in Japan ran parallel with the resurgence of dramatic art
in Europe after the Middle Ages, as citizens on both sides of the globe
taunted the theological enslavement of feudal society by burlesques and
dances ridiculing hypocritical authority figures.)

The studied indecency of early _sarugaku _was undoubtedly intended to
parody the pomposity of Shinto rituals. But as time went by, the rustic
dance-stories evolved into a more structured drama, the _sarugaku-no-
No_, which was the thirteenth-century Japanese equivalent of the
European morality play. The earlier farces were transformed into
comedies known as _kyogen _(in which wily servants repeatedly tricked
their masters), which today serve as interlude pieces to relieve the
gravity of a program of No plays, just as the early Greek satyr plays
were performed after a trilogy of tragedies in the Athenian theater.

In the early versions of the sarugaku-no-No, the performers sang and
danced, but as the form matured a chorus was added to supply the verses
during certain segments of the dance. By the middle of the fourteenth
century, about the time of Chaucer's birth, Japanese No was already an
established dramatic form, containing all the major elements it has
today. It was, however, merely village drama, and so it might have
remained except for a chance occurrence in the year 1374.

In that year Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, already shogun at age seventeen,
attended a performance of the _sarugaku-no-No _for the first time. The
entertainment was a great favorite with his subjects, and he was trying
to establish himself as a man of the people. A particularly well-known
actor was scheduled to perform in Kyoto, and Yoshimitsu went to see
him. The actor was Kannami (1333-1384), today famous as the father of
the No. Yoshimitsu was excited by Kannami, but he was even more
enthralled by the actor's handsome eleven-year-old son Zeami (1363-
1444), who also appeared in the play. Yoshimitsu became Kannami's
patron, but young Zeami he took to his couch (a common enough
occurrence in _samurai_ circles of the age). Zeami was devoted to the
No, even as Yoshimitsu became devoted to Zeami, and thus began the long
marriage of Zen culture and the No theater.

Through Yoshimitsu the _sarugaku-no-No _came under the influence of the
circle of Zen aesthetes surrounding him, and what had once been a broad
popular entertainment became an aristocratic art. Supported by
Yoshimitsu's patronage, Zeami became the Shakespeare of the No, writing
the finest plays in the repertoire as well as several volumes of essays
on aesthetic theories and acting technique. Although Zeami claimed to
have learned everything from his father, the austere and poetic No that
came to perfection during the Ashikaga was largely his own creation.
His poetry has never been equaled, and his handbook of technique has
remained the No actor's bible. Yet he might never have been heard of
had it not been for Yoshimitsu, who, in the words of Donald Keene,
found the No brick and left it marble.

The classic No stage is a splendid example of Zen-influenced
architecture. The stage is a platform of golden, polished wood

covered by a heavy arched roof supported by stout pillars at each of
the four corners. The entire structure projects out into the audience,
almost as though a wooden shrine had been reconstructed in the middle
of the auditorium. The actors approach the platform along a wide entry
ramp that leads off stage right to a curtained entranceway at the rear
of the auditorium. The ramp has three small pine trees spaced evenly
along its length, while on the backdrop of the stage proper there is a
painting of a massive gnarled pine. As though to suggest Shinto origins
for the drama, the stage and entrance ramp are symbolically separated
from the audience by an encircling expanse of white sand, spanned at
the very front of the stage by a small symbolic wooden stair. The
acting platform is square, approximately twenty feet by twenty, with an
additional rear area to accommodate the musicians and another area at
stage left where the chorus kneels. Underneath the stage, unseen by the
audience, are a number of large clay pots, a traditional acoustic
device to amplify the resonance of the actors' voices. The few
properties used in the plays are introduced and removed through an
auxiliary entrance at the rear of the stage.

The beginning of the play is signaled offstage by the high- pitched
wail of a bamboo flute. Two attendants with bamboo poles lift back the
variegated brocade curtain covering the doorway to the ramp, and the
musicians, either three or four in number, enter single file and
position themselves in the prescribed order along the rear of the
stage--the flautist sitting on the floor Japanese style, and the two
major drummers on stools they carry with them. (If a bass drum is
required, its player must join the flautist on the floor.) The No flute
is not particularly unusual, except for an exceptionally strident tone,
but the two primary No drums are unlike anything in the West. Although
they are of different sizes, both resemble a large hourglass with an ox
hide drawn over either end and held taut by heavy leather cords. The
smaller drum, whose hide surface the players must periodically soften
with his breath, is held on the player's right shoulder and struck with
the right hand. Its sound is a muffled, funereal boom, lower in pitch
than that of the other, larger drum, the larger drum is held on the
player's left knee and struck with the fingers of the left hand, which
may be protected by thimbles of leather or ivory. It produces a sharp,
urgent click, used to punctuate the cadence of the performance. The
bass drum used in certain dramas is played with drumsticks in the
Western manner. The drummers also sometimes provide rhythm by
interjecting monosyllabic shouts between drumbeats.

As the musicians enter, so does the chorus, eight or ten men dressed in
formal Japanese "black tie" kimonos. They seat themselves Japanese
style in two rows along stage left, where they must remain immobile for
the duration of the play (which may be well over an hour). Since
younger Japanese are less resigned to the persistent ache accompanying
the traditional seating posture than their elders, the chorus usually
tends to be well on in years. The chorus fills in dialogue for the
actors during dance sequences; it makes no commentary on the action as
does the chorus in Greek tragedy, nor does it have any special identity
as part of the cast. Its members merely take up the voice of the actors
from time to time like a dispassionate, heavenly choir.

With chorus and orchestra present, the overture begins. The first
sounds are the piercing lament of the flute and the insistent crack of
the drums, against which the drummers emit deep-throated, strangled
cries. This stunning eruption of sound signals the entrance of the
dramatis personae as the brocade curtain is again drawn aside for the
first cast member, usually a _waki_, or supporting actor, who enters
with measured, deliberate pace onto the entrance ramp, where he
advances with a sliding, mechanical tread toward the stage.

The _waki_, often representing an itinerant monk dressed in subdued
black robes, begins telling the story, either in his own voice or aided
by the chorus, establishing the locale and circumstances of the scene
about to unfold, after which he retires to a corner of the stage and
seats himself to await the entrance of the protagonist, or _shite_. The
brocade curtain parts again to reveal the _shite_, richly costumed and
frequently masked, who approaches to sing and dance out his story
before the waiting _waki_. The _shite's _splendid costume contrasts
strikingly with the austerity of the stage and the other costumes.

On first appearance the _shite _ordinarily is intended to be a human
form, albeit often a troubled one, but as his tale unfolds he becomes
not so much an actual being as the personification of a soul. If the
play is in two parts, in the second part he may assume his real
identity, often only hinted in the first, of a spirit from the dead.
Prefiguring the Shakespearean soliloquy, the confessional song of the
_shite _speaks for the universal consciousness as he pours out his
tortured inner emotions. As the _shite _sings, the knowing _waki
_serves as confessor and provides a foil for any dialogue. The play
climaxes with the dance of the _shite_, a stiff, stylized, sculptural
sequence of mannered postures and gestures which draw heavily upon
traditional Shinto sacred dances. With this choreographic resolution
the play closes, and all exeunt single file as they entered--to the
restrained acknowledgment of the audience.

The No repertoire contains five primary categories of plays. There are
"god plays," in which the shite is a supernatural spirit, frequently
disguised, whose divinity is made manifest during the final dance. In
"warrior plays," the _shite _may be a martial figure from the Kamakura
era who speaks in universal terms about his own personal tragedy.
"Woman plays" are lyric evocations of a beautiful woman, often a
courtesan, who has been wronged in love. The fourth category includes a
grab bag of dramas often focusing on an historical episode or on the
_shite _being driven to madness by guilt or, in the case of a woman,
jealousy. Finally, there are "demon plays," in which the shite is a
vengeful ogre, often sporting a flowing red or white wig, who erupts
into a frenzied dance to demonstrate his supernatural displeasure over
some event.

Many of the classic plays are a study of the tortured mental world of
the dead. Even in warrior plays and woman plays the central character
is frequently a spirit from the nether world who returns to chronicle a
grievance or to exact some form of retribution from a living
individual. Plot is deliberately suppressed. Instead of a story, the
play explores an emotional experience or a state of mind--hatred, love,
longing, fear, grief, and occasionally happiness. The traditional
components of Western drama--confrontation, conflict, characterization,
self-realization, development, resolution--are almost entirely absent.
In their place is the ritualized reading of an emotional state that
rarely grows or resolves during the play; it is simply described.

The artistic content of the No is embodied in the masks, dances, and
poetry, all of which deserve to be examined. The masks carved for the
No drama are the only representative sculptured art form of Zen;
indeed, Zen was basically responsible for the disappearance of a
several-hundred-year-old tradition of Buddhist sculpture in Japan.
During the late Kamakura era, Japanese wood sculpture went through a
phase of startling

realism; but the Zen monks had no use for icons or statues of Buddhist
saints, and by the beginning of the Ashikaga era Japanese statuary was
essentially a thing of the past. However, the Japanese genius for wood
carving had a second life in the No masks. No plays required masks for
elderly men, demons, and sublime women of all ages. (The No rigidly
excluded women from the stage, as did the Kabuki until recent times.)

No masks, especially the female, have a quality unique in the history
of theater: they are capable of more than one expression. No masks were
carved in such a way that the play of light, which could be changed by
the tilt of the actor's head, brought out different expressions. It was
a brilliant idea, completely in keeping with the Zen concept of
suggestiveness. No companies today treasure their ancient masks, which
frequently have been handed down within the troupe for centuries, and
certain old masks are as famous as the actors who use them.

For reasons lost to history, the masks are somewhat smaller than the
human face, with the unhappy result that a heavy actor's jowls are
visible around the sides and bottom. They also cup over the face,
muffling to some extent the actor's delivery. The guttural No songs,
which are delivered from deep in the chest and sound like a curious
form of tenor gargling, are rendered even more unintelligible by the
mask. This specialized No diction, which entered the form after it had
passed from popular entertainment to courtly art, is extremely
difficult to understand; today even cognoscenti resort to libretti to
follow the poetry.

The slow-motion movement around the stage, which goes by the name of
"dance" in the No, is one of its more enigmatic aspects for Western
viewers. As R. H. Blyth has described it, "the stillness is not
immobility but is a perfect balance of opposed forces."1 Such movements
as do transpire are subtle, reserved, and suggestive. They are to
Western ballet what the guarded strokes of a _haboku _ink landscape are
to an eighteenth-century oil canvas. They are, in fact, a perfect
distillation of human movement, extracting all that is significant--much
as a precious metal is taken from the impure earth. The feeling is
formal, pure, and intense. As described in a volume by William Theodore
de Bary:

_When a No actor slowly raises his hand in a play, it corresponds not
only to the text he is performing, but must also suggest something
behind the mere representation, something eternal--in T. S. Eliot's
words, a "moment in and out of time." The gesture of an actor is
beautiful in itself, as a piece of music is beautiful, but at the same
time it is the gateway to something else, the hand that points to a
region as profound and remote as the viewer's powers of reception will
permit. It is a symbol, not of any one thing, but of an eternal region,
of an eternal silence.2


The evocation of an emotion beyond expression--of "thoughts that do
often lie too deep for tears"--is the special Zen aesthetic realm of
_yugen_. The quality, heightened to almost unendurable levels by
poetry, is that of a Zen landscape: sparse, monochromatic, suggestive.
Universal human emotions are cloaked in obscurity rather than set forth
explicitly. The passion is open-ended, a foreboding sonnet with the
last line left for the listener to complete. Zeami and other No poets
believed that the deepest sentiments cannot be conveyed by language;
the poetry merely sets the stage and then sends the listener's
imagination spinning into the realm of pure emotion, there to discover
an understanding too profound for speech. In Western terms, if King
Lear were a _shite_, he would speak in understated terms of the
darkness of the heath rather than chronicle his own anguish.

The concept of _yugen_, the incompleteness that triggers, poetic
emotions in the listener's mind is, as has been previously noted, an
extension of the Heian concept of _aware_. Like _yugen_, _aware
_describes not only the properties of some external phenomenon but also
the internal response to that phenomenon. _Aware _originally meant the
emotional lift and sense of poignancy experienced in contemplating a
thing of beauty and reflecting on its transience. Yugen extends this
into the realm of eternal verities; not only beauty but all life fades,
happiness always dissolves, the soul passes alone and desolate. In an
art form that transmits _yugen_, none of this is stated; one is forced
to feel these truths through suggestion, the degree of feeling
depending, of course, upon the sensitivity of the individual. One can
find excellent examples of _yugen _in almost any No drama of the
fifteenth century, like the following from "The Banana Tree" (Basho),
by Komparu-Zenchiku:

_Already the evening sun is setting in the west,

Shadows deepen in the valleys,

The cries of homing birds grow faint.3


        Here the sense of universal loneliness at nightfall, the
emptiness one feels in a desolate locale, the Gothic coldness that
penetrates from the physical senses into one's interior emotions, are
all much more fully realized through the simple evocation of the scene
than would be possible by detailing them explicitly. The mournful call
of evening birds in the bleak, empty, windswept fields cuts, like the
No flute, to the very core of one's feelings.

The No is perhaps the most difficult Zen art for Westerners to enjoy.
The restrained action transmits virtually nothing of what is occurring
onstage, and the poetry does not translate well. (As Robert Frost once
observed, in translations of poetry, it is the poetry that is lost.)
The music is harsh to the Western ear; the chorus interrupts at
intervals that seem puzzling; the strange cries and dances befog the
mind. Most important of all, the concept of _yugen _is not a natural
part of Western aesthetics. The measured cadences of the No have, for
the Westerner, all the mystery of a religious ceremony wrought by a
race of pious but phlegmatic Martians. Yet we can admire the taut
surface beauty and the strangely twentieth-century atonality of the

Its enigmatic remoteness notwithstanding, the No remains one of the
greatest expressions of Ashikaga Zen art. Some of Zeami's texts are
ranked among the most complex and subtle of all Japanese poetry. For
six hundred years the No has been a secular Zen Mass, in which some of
mankind's deepest aesthetic responses are explored.

Part III




Bourgeois Society and Later Zen

_God has given us the Papacy; let us enjoy it.

_ Pope Leo X, 1513

THE ASHIKAGA was the last era in Japan entirely without knowledge of
Europe. In 1542 a Portuguese trading vessel bound for Macao went
aground on a small island off the coast of southern Japan, and the
first Europeans in history set foot on Japanese soil. Within three
years the Portuguese had opened trade with Japan, and four years after
that Francis Xavier, the famous Jesuit missionary, arrived to convert
the heathen natives to the Church. For the eclectic Japanese, who had
received half a dozen brands of Buddhism over the centuries, one
additional religion more or less hardly mattered, and they listened
with interest to the new preaching, far from blind to the fact that the
towns with the most new Christians received the most new trade. Indeed,
the Japanese appear to have first interpreted Christianity as an exotic
form of Buddhism, whose priests borrowed the ancient Buddhist idea of
prayer beads and venerated a goddess of mercy remarkably like the
Buddhist Kannon. In addition to bringing a new faith, the Portuguese,
whose armed merchant ships were capable of discouraging pirates, were
soon in full command of the trade between China and Japan--a mercantile
enterprise once controlled by Zen monks.

Still, the direct influence of Europe was not pronounced. Although
there was a brief passion for European costume among Japanese dandies
(similar to the Heian passion for T'ang Chinese dress), the Japanese by
and large had little use for European goods or European ideas. However,
one European invention won Japanese hearts forever: the smoothbore
musket. The Japanese, sensing immediately that the West had finally
found a practical use for the ancient Chinese idea of gunpowder, soon
made the musket their foremost instrument of social change. Overnight a
thousand years of classical military tactics were swept aside, while
the Japanese genius for metal-working turned to muskets rather than
swords. Musket factories sprang up across the land, copying and often
improving on European designs, and before long Japanese warlords were
using the musket with greater effect than any European ever had. The
well-meaning Jesuits, who had arrived with the mission of rescuing
Japanese souls, had succeeded only in revolutionizing Japanese capacity
for combat.

The musket was to be an important ingredient in the final unification
of Japan, the dream of so many shoguns and emperors in ages past. The
process, which required several bloody decades, was presided over by
three military men of unquestioned genius: Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582),
Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598), and Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616). The
character of these three men is portrayed in a Japanese allegory
describing their respective attitudes toward a bird reluctant to sing.
Nobunaga, the initiator of the unification movement and one of the
crudest men who ever lived, ordered bluntly, "Sing or I'll wring your
neck." Hideyoshi, possibly the most skillful diplomat in Japanese
history, told the bird, "If you don't want to sing, I'll make you."
Ieyasu, who eventually inherited the fruits of the others' labor,
patiently advised the bird, "If you won't sing now, I'll wait until you
will." Today the years dominated by Nobunaga and Hideyoshi are known as
the Momoyama era, and the following two centuries of peace presided
over by Ieyasu and his descendants are referred to as the Tokugawa.

After the Onin War, which had destroyed the power of the Ashikaga
shogunate and the aristocratic Zen culture of Kyoto, Japan had become a
collection of feudal fiefdoms. The emperor and Ashikaga shoguns in
Kyoto were titular rulers of a land they in no way governed. Into this
regional balance of power came Nobunaga, who began his military career
by killing his brother in a family dispute and taking control of his
home province. Shortly thereafter he defeated a powerful regional
warlord who had invaded the province with an army far outnumbering his
own. The victory made him a national figure overnight and destroyed the
balance of dynamic tension that had preserved the system of autonomous
_daimyo_ fiefs. Rival _daimyo_, covetous of their neighbors' lands,
rushed to enlist his aid until, in 1568, he marched into Kyoto and
installed a shogun of his own choosing.

When the Buddhists on Mt. Hiei objected to Nobunaga's practices of land
confiscation, he marched up the hill and sacked the premises, burning
the buildings to the ground and killing every last man, woman, and
child. This style of ecumenicity had been practiced often enough among
the Buddhists themselves as one sect warred against the other, but
never before had a secular ruler dared such a feat. This act and the
program of systematic persecution that followed marked the end of
genuine Buddhist influence in Japan.

Nobunaga's armies of musket-wielding foot soldiers were on the verge of
consolidating his authority over all Japan when he was unexpectedly
murdered by one of his generals. The clique responsible for the
attempted coup was dispatched in short

order by Nobunaga's leading general, the aforementioned diplomat
Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi, who later became known as the Napoleon of Japan,
was not of _samurai _blood and had in fact begun his military career as
Nobunaga's sandal holder. He was soon providing the warlord with astute
military advice, and it was only a matter of time until he was a
trusted lieutenant. He was the first (and last) shogun of peasant
stock, and his sudden rise to power caused aristocratic eyebrows to be
raised all across Japan. Physically unimposing, he was one of the
seminal figures in world history, widely acknowledged to have been the
best military strategist in the sixteenth-century world, and he
completed the process of unification. The anecdotes surrounding his
life are now cherished legends in Japan. For example, a favorite
military stratagem was to bring a recalcitrant _daimyo_ to the very
brink of ruin and then fall back, offering an incredibly generous
peace. However unwise such a tactic might be in the West, it had the
effect in Japan of converting a desperate enemy into an indebted

With the country at peace, foreign trade flourishing, and a rigorous
system of taxation in force, Hideyoshi found himself with an excess of
time and money. His response was to launch the Momoyama age of Japanese
art. With more power than any ruler since Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, he was
in a position to direct taste, if not to dictate it. This time there
were few Zen monks in attendance to advise him on expenditures
(Hideyoshi continued to keep the Buddhists under close guard, a
practice as pleasing to the Jesuits as his harem was displeasing), and
his flamboyant taste had full reign. Momoyama art became, in many ways,
the antithesis of Zen aesthetics. Hideyoshi ordered huge screens to be
covered in gold leaf and decorated with explicit still-lifes painted in
vibrant primary colors. Yet he was no stranger to Zen ideals; he kept a
famous tea-ceremony aesthete as adviser and lavished huge sums on the
special ceramics required for this ritual. In many ways, the Zen tea
ceremony and tea ceramics became for Hideyoshi what Zen gardens,
painting, and the No were for the Ashikaga. His patronage not only
inspired a flourishing of ceramic art; the tea ceremony now became the
vehicle through which Zen canons of taste and aesthetics were
transmitted to the common man. The patronage of the Ashikaga had
furthered Zen art among the _samurai _and the aristocracy; Hideyoshi's
patronage opened it to the people at large.

Ironically, the Zen arts profited from Hideyoshi's military blunders as
well as from his patronage. At one point in his career he decided to
invade China, but his armies, predictably, never got past Korea. The
enterprise was unworthy of his military genius, and puzzled historians
have speculated that it may actually have been merely a diversion for
his unemployed _samurai_, intended to remove them temporarily to
foreign soil. The most significant booty brought back from this
disastrous venture (now sometimes known as the "pottery campaign") was
a group of Korean potters, whose rugged folk ceramics added new
dimensions to the equipment of the tea ceremony.

Having maneuvered the shogunate away from Nobunaga's heirs, Hideyoshi
became increasingly nervous about succession as his health began to
fail, fearing that his heirs might be similarly deprived of their
birthright. The problem was particularly acute, since his only son,
Hideyori, was five years old and scarcely able to defend the family
interests. In 1598, as the end approached, Hideyoshi formed a council
of _daimyo_ headed by Tokugawa Ieyasu to rule until his son came of
age, and on his deathbed he forced them to swear they would hand over
the shogunate when the time came. Needless to say, nothing of the sort

Tokugawa Ieyasu was no stranger to the brutal politics of the age,
having once ordered his own wife's execution when Nobunaga suspected
her of treason, and he spent the first five years after Hideyoshi's
death consolidating his power and destroying rival _daimyo_. When
Hideyoshi's son came of age, Ieyasu was ready to move. Hideyori was
living in the family citadel at Osaka defended by an army of
disenfranchised _samurai _and disaffected Christians, but Ieyasu held
the power. In the ensuing bloodbath Hideyoshi's line was erased from
the earth, and the Christians' faulty political judgment caused their
faith eventually to be forbidden to all Japanese under threat of death.
Christianity continued to be practiced on a surreptitious basis,
however, as the Christians found shelter in, of all places, the Zen

With the passing of Hideyoshi's line, the Tokugawa family became the
only power in Japan, a land at last unified and with an imposed peace.
Viewing foreign influences as a source of domestic unrest, the Tokugawa
moved to bring down a curtain of isolationism around their shores:
Christian Europeans were expelled and Japanese were forbidden to travel
abroad. Ieyasu established a new capital at Edo (now Tokyo) and
required the local _daimyo_ to spend a large amount of time and money
in attendance. Thus he craftily legitimatised his own position while
simultaneously weakening that of the _daimyo_--a technique used with
equal effect almost a century later by Louis XIV, when he moved his
court from Paris to Versailles to contain the French aristocracy.

Content with the status quo, members of the Tokugawa family felt it
could best be preserved by extreme conservatism, so they sent forth a
volley of decrees formalizing all social relationships. Time was
brought to a stop, permitting the Tokugawa to rule unhindered until the
middle of the nineteenth century, when the country was again opened to
foreign trade under the guns of American warships.

        During the Tokugawa regime another Chinese "religion" assumed
the place in the hearts of the shoguns that Buddhism had enjoyed in
centuries past. This was Confucianism, more a philosophy than a
religion, which in its original form had taught a respect for learning,
the ready acceptance of a structured hierarchy, and unquestioning
obedience to authority (that of both elders and superiors). The
Tokugawa perverted Confucianism to establish a caste system among their
subjects, separating them into the _samurai_ class, the peasant class,
and the merchant and artisan classes--the order given here denoting
their supposed status. However, as the Japanese social system began to
evolve, the idea backfired, causing great difficulties for the
government. The reasons for this are interesting, for they bear
directly upon the eventual role of Zen culture in Japanese life.

For centuries, Japan's major source of income had been agriculture. The
_samurai_ were local landholders who employed peasants to grow their
rice and who were beholden to a local _daimyo_ for protection. Money
played no large part in the economy, since most daily needs could be
obtained by barter. But the sudden wealth brought into being by the
European traders had nothing to do with the amount of rice a _samurai's
_peasants could produce; it accrued instead to the merchants in port
cities. Furthermore, the accommodations required to keep the _daimyo
_and their families in the capital city of Edo called for artisans and
merchants in great number. Thus the Tokugawa government had mistakenly
decreed the agricultural _samurai_ and peasants the backbone of the
economy at the very moment in history when Japan was finally developing
an urban, currency-based culture. Predictably, the urban merchants, who
were at the bottom of the Confucianist social system, soon had their
supposed social betters, the _samurai_, completely in hock.

The Tokugawa struggled hard to keep the townspeople, now the
controllers of the economy, in their place. Merchants were forbidden to
build elaborate houses or wear elaborate clothes, and they were
expected to defer to the penurious _samurai _in all things. Japan had
never before had a bourgeoisie--the traditional divisions were
aristocracy, warriors, and peasants-- and consequently popular taste had
never really been reflected in the arts. Much to the dismay of the
Tokugawa (and to the detriment of classical Zen culture), this was
changing. While the aristocrats and warrior families in Kyoto preserved
the older arts of Zen, in the bourgeois city of Edo there were new
popular art forms like the Kabuki theater and the woodblock print, both
eons removed from the No and the monochrome landscape. Classical Zen
culture was largely confined to aristocratic Kyoto, while in boisterous
Edo the townspeople turned to explicit, exciting arts full of color and

In spite of this democratic turn of events, the Zen aesthetics of Kyoto
continued to be felt, largely through the tea ceremony, which had been
officially encouraged in the Momoyama age of Hideyoshi. Later in the
Tokugawa era the poetic form of Haiku developed, and it too was highly
influenced by the Zen idea of suggestiveness. Domestic architecture
also maintained the ideals of Zen, as did Ikebana, or flower arranging,
and the Japanese cuisine, which employed Zen ceramics. Thus Zen
aesthetics seeped into middle-class culture in many forms, tempering
taste and providing rigid rules for much of what are today thought of
as the traditional arts and crafts of the Japanese.

Traditional Buddhism did not fare well during the Momoyama and Tokugawa
ages: the militaristic Buddhist strongholds were either put to rout or
destroyed entirely during the Momoyama, and Confucianism had
considerably more influence under the Tokugawa than did Buddhism. The
great upsurge of Buddhism with its fiery teachers and believing shoguns
was over, as the faith settled into empty ritual and a decidedly
secondary station in a basically secular state. The only Buddhist sect
demonstrating any vigor at all was Zen.

The brief flourishing of Zen during the Tokugawa era was actually a
revival, for the faith had become static and uninspired during the
years of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi. The formalized practice of Zen at the
end of the seventeenth century was described by a visiting Jesuit

_The solitary philosophers of the Zenshu sect, who dwell in their
retreats in the wilderness, [do not] philosophize with the help of
books and treatises written by illustrious masters and philosophers as
do the members of the other sects of the Indian gymnosophists. Instead
they give themselves up to contemplating the things of nature,
despising and abandoning worldly things; they mortify their passions by
certain enigmatic and figurative meditations and considerations [koan]
which guide them on their way at the beginning. . . . [s]o the vocation
of these philosophers is not to contend or dispute with another with
arguments, but they leave everything to the contemplation of each one
so that by himself he may attain the goal by using these principles,
and thus they do not teach disciples.1


The good Father was describing a Zen faith that had become a set piece,
devoid of controversy but also devoid of life.

The man who brought Zen out of its slumber and restored its vigor was
the mystic Hakuin (1685-1768), who revived the _koan _school of Rinzai
and produced the most famous _koan_ of all times: "You know the sound
of two hands clapping; what is the sound of one hand clapping?" Hakuin
gave a new, mystical dimension to the Rinzai school of Zen, even as
Hui-neng created nonintellectual Chinese Ch'an Buddhism out of the
founding ideas of Bodhidharma. Hakuin was also a poet, a painter, and
the author of many commentaries on the _sutras_. Yet even when he
enjoyed national fame, he never lost his modesty or his desire for

Hakuin lived the greater part of his life in the small rural village of
his birth. A sensitive, impressionable child, he was early tormented by
an irrational fear of the fires of the Buddhist hell as dwelt upon by
the priests of his mother's sect, the Nichiren. For relief he turned to
the Lotus Sutra, but nothing he read seemed to ease his mind. Finally
he became a wandering Zen monk, searching from temple to temple for a
master who could give him enlightenment. He studied under various
famous teachers and gradually achieved higher and higher levels of
awareness. At the age of thirty-two he returned to his home village and
assumed control of the ramshackle local Zen temple, which he eventually
made the center of Rinzai Zen in Japan. Word of his spiritual intensity
spread and soon novices were flocking to him. His humility and humanity
were a shining light in the spiritual dark age of the Tokugawa, and he
breathed life and understanding back into Zen.

Despite Hakuin, official Zen never regained its influence in Japan.
Someday perhaps the modern-day Western interest in Zen will give it new
life somewhere outside Japan, but this life will almost certainly be
largely secular. Indeed, the influence of Zen in the Momoyama and
Tokugawa ages was already more pronounced in the secular world than in
the spiritual. The bourgeois arts of these later years were notably
less profound than those of the Ashikaga, but the spirit of Zen spread
to become infused into the very essence of Japanese life, making the
everyday business of living an expression of popular Zen culture.


The Tea Ceremony_

Chazen ichimi _(Zen and tea are one.)
Traditional Japanese expression

_The "dewy path" to teahouse


THE TEA CEREMONY combines all the faces of Zen--art, tranquility,
aesthetics. It is in a sense the essence of Zen culture. Yet this Zen
ritual has been explained to the West in so many volumes of wordy gush
that almost any description, including the above, deserves to be met
with skepticism. There has to be more to the tea ceremony than meets
the eye--and there is. But before unraveling the unseen threads of this
Zen fabric, let us pause for a moment to consider the beverage itself.

        The drinking of tea seems almost to have been the world's
second oldest profession. One legend claims that tea was discovered in
the year 2737 B.C., when leaves from a tea bush

accidentally dropped into the campfire cauldron of a Chinese emperor-
aesthete. Early Chinese texts are sometimes vague about the identity of
medicinal plants, but it is clear that by the time of Confucius (around
500 B.C.) tea was a well-known drink. During the Tang dynasty (618-907),
tea leaves were treated with smoke and compressed into a semimoist
cake, slices of which would subsequently be boiled to produce a
beverage--a method that was perpetuated for many centuries in Russia.
The Chinese spiced this boiled tea with salt, a holdover from even
earlier times when a variety of unexpected condiments were added,
including orange peel, ginger, and onions.

The refined courtiers of the Sung dynasty (960-1279) apparently found
brick tea out of keeping with their delicate tastes, for they replaced
it with a drink in which finely ground tea leaves were blended with
boiling water directly in the cup. Whipped with a bamboo whisk, this
mixture superficially resembled shaving lather in texture, although the
color could be a fine jade green if fresh leaves were used. (This green
powdered tea was the drink one day to become enshrined in the Zen tea
ceremony.) The Chinese chronicle of tea ends with the Ming dynasty
(1368-1644), which saw the rise of the familiar steeping process, now
the commonly accepted practice worldwide. Our ignorance of the earlier
methods of tea preparation may be attributed to the West's discovery of
China after the older methods had been discarded.

Unlike its misty origins in China, the use of tea in Japan is well
authenticated. In the year 792 the Japanese emperor surprised the court
by holding a large tea party at which Buddhist monks and other notables
were invited to sample a curious beverage discovered by his emissaries
to the T'ang court. Tea drinking soon became a fashionable pastime,
occupying a position comparable to taking coffee in eighteenth-century
Europe, but tea remained an expensive import and little thought was
given to cultivation in Japan. This changed early in the ninth century
when tea drinking came to be associated with the new Buddhist sects of
Tendai and Shingon. Under the supervision of the court, tea growing was
begun near Kyoto, where the emperor blessed the bushes with a special
_sutra_ in the spring and autumn. Tea remained an aristocratic habit
for several centuries thereafter and did not become really popular
until the late twelfth century, when the famous Zen teacher Eisai
"reintroduced" the beverage upon his return from China. Eisai also
brought back new seeds for planting, the progeny of which are still

Chinese Ch'an monks had long been devoted to tea. In fact, a famous but
apocryphal legend attributes the tea bush to Bodhidharma, relating that
during his nine years of meditation outside Shao-lin monastery he found
himself nodding and in anger tore off his eyelids and flung them to the
ground, whereupon tea plants sprang forth. There was a reason for the
legend. Tea had long been used to forestall drowsiness during long
periods of meditation. (A cup of modern steeped tea contains an average
three-quarters of a grain of caffeine, about half the amount in a cup
of coffee.) The drinking of tea became ritualized in Ch'an monasteries,
where the monks would congregate before an image of Bodhidharma and
take a sacrament of tea from a single shared bowl in his memory. This
ritual was gradually adopted by Japanese Zen monasteries, providing the
forerunner of the solemn moment of shared tea which became the basis of
the tea ceremony.

The Japanese aristocracy and the warrior class also took up tea, and
borrowing a custom from the Sung court, gave tea-tasting parties,
similar to modern wine-tasting affairs. From the time of Ashikaga
Takauji to Ashikaga Yoshimasa, these parties were an accompaniment to
many of the courtly evenings spent admiring Sung ceramics and
discussing Sung art theories. Although Zen monks played a prominent
role in these aesthetic gatherings, the drinking of tea in monasteries
seems to have been a separate activity. Thus the ceremonial drinking of
tea developed in two parallel schools: the aristocracy used it in
refined entertainments while the Zen monks drank tea as a pious
celebration of their faith.

These two schools were eventually merged into the Zen-

inspired gathering known simply as the tea ceremony, _cha-no-yu_. But
first there was the period when each influenced the other. Zen
aesthetic theory gradually crept into the aristocratic tea parties, as
taste turned away from the polished Sung ceramic cups toward ordinary
pottery. This was the beginning of the tradition of deliberate
understatement later to be so important in the tea ceremony. Zen ideals
took over the warrior tea parties. During his reign, Yoshimasa was
persuaded by a famous Zen monk-aesthetician to construct a small room
for drinking tea monastery-style. The mood in this room was all Zen,
from the calligraphic scroll hanging in the tokonoma art alcove to the
ceremonial flower arrangements and the single cup shared in a sober
ritual. After this, those who would serve tea had first to study the
tea rituals of the Zen monastery. Furthermore, warriors came to believe
that the Zen tea ritual would help their fighting discipline.

By the sixteenth century the discipline and tranquility of the ceremony
had become fixed, but the full development of _cha-no-yu _as a vehicle
for preserving Zen aesthetic theory was yet to come. Gradually, one by
one, the ornate aspects of the earlier Sung tea parties were purged.
The idea took hold that tea should be drunk not in a room partitioned
off from the rest of the house, but in a special thatch-roofed hut
constructed specifically for the purpose, giving tea drinking an air of
conspicuous poverty. The elaborate vessels and interior appointments
favored in the fifteenth century were supplanted in the sixteenth by
rugged, folk-style pottery and an interior decor as restrained as a
monastery. By stressing an artificial poverty, the ceremony became a
living embodiment of Zen with its distaste for materialism and the
world of getting and spending.

It remained for a sixteenth-century Zen teacher to bring all the
aesthetic ideas in the tea ceremony together in a rigid system. He was
Sen no Rikyu (1521-1591), who began as the tea instructor of Nobunaga
and continued to play the same role for Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi was
devoted to the tea ceremony, and under his patronage Rikyu formalized
the classic rules under which _cha-no-yu _is practiced today.

The most famous anecdote from Rikyu's life is the incident remembered
as the "tea party of the morning glory." As the son of a merchant in a
port city, Rikyu developed a taste for the new and exotic. At one time
he began the cultivation of imported European morning glories, a novel
flower to the Japanese, which he sometimes used for the floral display
accompanying the tea ceremony. Hideyoshi, learning of these new
flowers, informed Rikyu that he wished to take morning tea with him in
order to see the blossoms at their finest. On the selected date,
Hideyoshi arrived to find that all the flowers in the garden had been
plucked; not a single petal was to be seen. Understandably out of
temper, he proceeded to the tea hut--there to discover a single morning
glory, still wet with the dews of dawn, standing in the _tokonoma
_alcove, a perfect illustration of the Zen precept of sufficiency in

Tea ceremonies today are held in special backyard gardens, equipped for
the purpose with a waiting shelter at the entrance and a tiny teahouse
at the far end. When one arrives at the appointed time, one joins the
two or three other guests in the garden shed for a waiting period
designed to encourage a relaxed state of mind and the requisite Zen
tranquility. The tea garden, known as the _roji_, or "dewy path,"
differs from conventional Japanese temple gardens in that it is merely
a passageway between the waiting shelter and the teahouse. Since the
feeling is meant to be that of a mountain path, there are no ponds or
elaborate stone arrangements. The only natural rocks in evidence are
the stepping stones themselves, but along the path are a carved stone
in the shape of a water basin and a bamboo dipper, so that one can
rinse one's mouth before taking tea, and a stone lantern to provide
illumination for evening gatherings. The unpretentious stones of the
walkway, set deep in natural mossy beds, divide the garden into two
parts, winding through it like a curving, natural path. Dotted about
the garden are carefully pruned pine trees, azalea bushes clipped into
huge globes, or perhaps a towering cryptomeria whose arching branches
protect guests against the afternoon sun. Although the garden floor is
swept clean, it may still have a vagrant leaf or pine needle strewn
here and there. As one waits for the host's appearance, the garden
slowly begins to impose a kind of magic, drawing one away from the
outside world.

        When all the guests have arrived, they sound a wooden gong, and
the host silently appears to beckon them to the tea room. Each guest in
turn stops at the water basin for a sip. At closer range, the teahouse
turns out to be a rustic thatch-roofed hut with gray plaster walls and
an asymmetrical supporting framework of hand-hewn woods. The floor is
pitched above the ground as in the traditional house, but instead of a
doorway there is a small square hole through which one must climb on
his knees--a psychological design feature intended to ensure that all
worldly dignity is left outside. Only the humble can enter here, for
each must kneel in the sight of the others present.

The interior of the tea room may feel cramped at first. Although the
room is virtually bare, there seems little space left after the other
guests have knelt about the central hearth. The room is in the _sukiya
_style favored by Rikyu, with the walls a patchwork of dull plaster,
raw wood, a few _shoji _rice-paper windows, and a small _tokonoma_ art
alcove. The only decoration is a single object on the _tokonoma_ dais
and the hanging scroll against the back wall. This impression of simple
rusticity is deliberately deceptive, however, for the tea room is
actually fashioned from the finest available woods and costs
considerably more per unit area than the host's home. It is ironic that
the sense of poverty and anti-materialism pervading the tea room can be
achieved only at enormous expense, yet this deceit is one of the
outstanding creations of Zen culture. The room and its psychological
impact have been eloquently analyzed by the Zen scholar D. T. Suzuki.


As I look around, in spite of its obvious simplicity the room betrays
every mark of thoughtful designing: the windows are irregularly
inserted; the ceiling is not of one pattern; the materials used, simple
and un-ornamental . . . the floor has a small square opening where hot
water is boiling in an artistically-shaped iron kettle.

The papered _shoji_ covering the windows admit only soft light,
shutting out direct sunshine. . . . As I sit here quietly before the
fireplace, I become conscious of the burning of incense. The odor is
singularly nerve soothing. . . . Thus composed in mind, I hear a soft
breeze passing through the needle leaves of the pine tree; the sound
mingles with the trickling of water from a bamboo pipe into the stone


The tea ceremony is intended to engage all the senses, soothing each in
turn. As described by Suzuki, the organs of sight, hearing, and smell
are all embraced even before the ceremony begins. The purpose, of
course, is to create a feeling of harmony and tranquility conducive to
the reverential spirit of the Zen sacrament. The surroundings massage
your mind and adjust your attitude. This point is particularly stressed
by Suzuki.

_Where [tranquility] is lacking, the art will lose its significance
altogether. . . . The massing of rocks, the trickling of water, the
thatched hut, the old pine trees sheltering it, the moss-covered stone
lantern, the sizzling of the kettle water, and the light softly
filtering through the paper screens--all these are meant uniformly to
create a meditative frame of mind.2


If a multicourse ceremony is in store, a light meal of _hors d'oeuvres
_and sake is served first. If the dinner hour is near, it may in fact
be a substantial repast, all of which is eaten from lacquer or
porcelain bowls set on a tray on the floor. After the food is consumed,
the guests file out of the teahouse and wait for the host to announce
the beginning of the actual tea ceremony. When they return, the
ambience of the tea room has been subtly changed: the hanging scroll
has vanished from the _tokonoma _to be replaced by a simple vase
containing one or two partially opened buds; and a cheerful charcoal
fire, seasoned with pine needles and a touch of incense, glows from the
sunken hearth in the center of the room there. Water is boiling in a
kettle, emitting a sound that suggests wind in a pine forest, a subtle
aural effect caused by small bits of iron attached to the bottom of the

Beside the seated host are the implements of the ceremony: a lacquer or
ceramic tea caddy with the powdered green tea

(_koicha_), a jar of cold water for replenishing the kettle, a bamboo
dipper, a new bamboo whisk, a receptacle for waste water, a linen
napkin for the bowl, and, finally, the tea bowl itself, best described
as a Zen loving cup or chalice. All the utensils have been selected for
their special aesthetic qualities, but the bowl is always the
unchallenged _piece de resistance_ and may well be an heirloom from the
hand of a seventeenth-century potter. Each guest is also provided with
tiny sweet cakes, to salve his mouth against the bitter tea.

With everything at hand, the host begins to prepare the whipped green
tea. It is a seated dance, an orchestrated ritual, as deliberate,
paced, and formal as the elevation of the host in a Catholic Mass. All
the gestures have been practiced for years, until they fit together in
a fluid motion. First the bowl is rinsed with hot water from the kettle
and wiped with a napkin. Next the bamboo scoop is used to transport the
powdered _koicha _from the caddy into the bowl, after which boiling
water is added from the bamboo dipper. The host then proceeds, with
measured motions, to blend the tea with the bamboo whisk, gradually
transforming the dry powder and boiling water into a jade blend as
exquisitely beautiful as it is harshly bitter.

The guest of honor has the first taste. Taking the bowl, he salutes the
host and then samples the preparation, complimenting the host on its
quality. After two more precise sips, he wipes the lip with a napkin he
has brought for that purpose, rotates the bowl, and passes it to the
next guest, who repeats the ritual. The last to drink must empty the
bowl. Curiously enough, only the host is denied a taste of his
handiwork. After the formal drinking of _koicha_, the bowl is rinsed
and a second batch of tea is made--this time a thinner variety known as
_usucha_. Although it is also whipped Sung-style, it is considerably
lighter in consistency and taste.

After the second cup of tea, the formal part of the ceremony is
completed, and the guests are at liberty to relax, enjoy sweets, and
discuss Zen aesthetics. The focus of conversation is usually the tea
bowl, which is passed around for all to admire in detail. Comments on
the flower arrangement are also in order, as is a bit of poetry
appropriate to the season. What is not discussed--indeed, what no one
wants to discuss--is the world outside the garden gate. Each guest is at
one with himself, his place, and the natural setting. Values have been
subtly guided into perspective, spirits purified, appreciation of
beauty rewarded; for a fleeting moment the material world of dualities
has become as insubstantial as a dream.

The tea ceremony is the great parable of Zen culture, which teaches by
example that the material world is a tThef depriving us of our most
valuable possessions--naturalness, simplicity, self-knowledge. But it is
also much more; its underlying aesthetic principles are the foundation
of latter-day Zen culture. It is a perfect blending of the three faces
of Zen. First there are the physical art forms themselves: the tea
ceremony deeply influenced architectural tastes, bringing into being
the informal _sukiya_ style to replace the rigid _shoin _formulas of
the _samurai _house; the art of flower arrangement, or Ikebana, owes
much to the floral arrangements required for the ceremony; painting and
calligraphy were influenced by the understated decorative requirements
of the _tokonoma_ hanging scroll; lacquer ware developed in directions
designed to complement the artistic principles of the ceremony
utensils; and, finally, the growth of Japanese ceramic art from the
fifteenth century onward was largely due to the particular aesthetic
and practical needs of the tea ceremony.

The second face of Zen, tranquility in a troubled world, found its
finest expression in _cha-no-yu_, which demonstrates as no sermon ever
could the Zen approach to life.

The third face of Zen is that of aesthetics. By becoming a vehicle for
the transmission of Zen aesthetic principles, _cha-no-yu _has preserved
Zen culture for all times. It has given the people at large a standard
of taste, guaranteeing that certain basic ideals of beauty will always
be preserved against the ravages of mechanical civilization. And it is
in this connection that we must examine the special features of the tea
ceremony introduced by Hideyoshi's tea master, Sen no Rikyu. To the
ancient Zen ideas of _yugen _and _sabi _he brought the new concept of

_Yugen_, the realization of profundity through open-ended suggestion,
found its finest expression in No poetry. _Sabi _grew out of the Heian
admiration for lovely things on the verge of extinction. By the period
this curious attitude was extended to things already old, and so
entered the idea of _sabi_, a term denoting objects agreeably mellowed
with age. _Sabi_ also brought melancholy overtones of loneliness, of
age left behind by time. New objects are assertive and striving for
attention; old, worn objects have the quiet, peaceful air that exudes
tranquility, dignity, and character. Although there is no word in a
Western language precisely equivalent to _sabi_, the ideal is well
understood. For example, we say that the sunburned face of a fisherman
has more character than that of a beardless youth. But to the Japanese
_sabi_ is first and foremost the essence of beauty, whether in a
weathered house or temple, the frayed golden threads of fabric binding
a Zen scroll, a withered bough placed in the _tokonoma_ alcove, or an
ancient kettle rusty with time. The ideal of _sabi_, which became part
of the Zen aesthetic canon of beauty, was perfectly at home in the tea
ceremony, where even the utensils were deliberately chosen for their
weathered look.

_Sabi_, however, seemed an incomplete ideal to Sen no Rikyu. The fact
that rich objects are old does not make them less rich. _Sabi_ can
still encompass snobbery. As tea master for both Nobunaga and
Hideyoshi, Rikyu was so pained by their ostentation that he eventually
revolutionized the tea ceremony and created a new aesthetic standard:
_wabi_, a deliberate restraint, which is exemplified in his tea party
of the single morning glory. _Wabi_, now a cornerstone of Zen aesthetic
theory, is well described in a poem by Rikyu, which includes the lines:

_How much does a person lack himself,

Who feels the need to have so many things.


In a sense, _wabi _is the glorification of artificial poverty,
artificial because there must be the element of forced restraint and in
genuine poverty there is nothing to restrain. The _wabi _tea ceremony
permits no hint of wealth to be in evidence; those who enter the tea
garden must leave their worldly status at the gate. Similarly, the
_sukiya_-style teahouse must look like a rustic hut--not made out of
something new, for that would destroy _sabi_, but not out of expensive
antique woods, either. This ideal extends even to the floral
arrangement, one or at most two buds; the clothes one wears, simple not
dressy; the pots and cups, plain and undecorated.

_Wabi _purged the tea ceremony of all its lingering aristocratic
qualities, bringing into being _cha-no-yu _as it is practiced today.
Today many Japanese, even those who practice neither tea drinking nor
Zen, know and appreciate the ideals preserved in the ceremony. In
recent years the concept of _wabi _has become the rallying point for
those who regret the intrusions of the modern West into traditional
Japanese culture, and _cha-no-yu  _is valued as never before as a
lesson in life's true values.


Zen Ceramic Art

_  Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought

   As doth eternity.

_   John Keats, _Ode on a Grecian Urn

Shino tea bowl

Raku tea bowl

_ALTHOUGH JAPAN had been a nation of potters almost from prehistoric
times, it was only after the rise of Zen influence and a popular
interest in the tea ceremony that ceramics was raised from craft to
high art. The great age of Japanese ceramics occurred several hundred
years after the heroic periods of Chinese ceramic art in the T'ang and
Sung dynasties, but, as in other cases, the Japanese eventually equaled
and in some ways surpassed their mainland teachers.

        The Stone Age Jomon tribes in Japan created some of the richest
figurine art of any of the world's prehistoric peoples. These Jomon
figurines, fired at low temperatures and rarely over six or eight
inches in height, are a classic puzzle to anthropologists and art
historians, for they sometimes seem Polynesian, sometimes pre-
Columbian, and sometimes pure abstraction in the modern sense of the
term. Indeed, certain Jomon figurines could pass as works of Picasso or
Miro. At times the features of the body were rendered recognizably, but
usually they were totally stylized and integrated into the figure as
part of some larger interest in material and pure form. It was a noble
beginning for what would be a permanent Japanese interest in the look
and feel of natural clay.

When the Jomon were displaced around the third century B.C. by the
Yayoi, their beautiful figurine art disappeared, and for several
centuries Japan produced mainly pedestrian crocks and drinking vessels.
The few figurines created retained little of the sophisticated Jomon
abstraction. Around the turn of the fourth century A.D., however, Yayoi
potters found their metier, and began the famous _haniwa _figurines,
hollow-eyed statuettes in soft brown clay which were used to decorate
aristocratic tombs, and simple but elegant vases and water pots in low-
fired brown clay, which often were dyed with cinnabar and which give
evidence of being thrown on some form of primitive wheel.

This domestic ware was in such demand that a class of professional
potters came into being--inevitably leading to a gradual falling off of
the individualistic character of the pots, as craftsmen began to mass-
produce what had previously been a personal art form. The Korean
Buddhist culture which reached Japan in the fifth and sixth centuries
brought the Japanese new techniques for high-firing their stoneware
pots, introducing a process whereby ashes from the kiln were allowed to
adhere to the surface of a piece to produce a natural glaze. These new
high-temperature pots had a hard surface texture and an ashen- gray
color, while the existing native wares of low-fired porous clays
retained their natural brown hues.

Typically the average Japanese preferred the natural-colored, soft clay
vessels, and so the two types of pottery continued to be produced side
by side for several hundred years, with the aristocracy choosing the
hard-surfaced mainland-style gray works

and the common people continuing to use the simpler, underrated brown
vessels, which were often fashioned by hand. The importance of this
instinctive Japanese reaction for the later acceptance of Zen-inspired
ceramic art cannot be over-stressed. Not only did the Japanese love of
natural clay make them reject glazes for centuries after they had
learned the necessary techniques, they also seem to have had little
spontaneous interest in decorating their pots or using high-firing or
mechanized techniques for their production, perhaps because the
technology came between man and object, distancing the potter too far
from his handiwork. Japanese potters cherished their regional
individuality, and they continued to express their personal
sensibilities in their work, so there were a multiplicity of rural
kilns and a wide variety of styles.

The passion for Chinese culture during the Nara period of the eighth
century led to a brief fling with Tang Chinese-style three-color glazed
wares among the imitative Japanese aristocracy; but these seem to have
been too much at odds with native instincts, for they were soon
forgotten. After the government moved to Kyoto and launched the Heian
era, both the indigenous pottery techniques--the low-fired, brown,
porous pots for the common people and the high-fired, gray, polished
bowls for the aristocracy--continued to thrive side by side. However,
technical advances in the high-firing kilns brought about subtle
changes in the mock-glazes of the aristocratic wares. It was discovered
that if they were fired in an atmosphere where there was abundant
oxygen, the fused particles of fueled ash on the surface would turn
amber, whereas if oxygen was excluded from the kiln, the surface ash
would fuse to a pastel green. Thus by varying the baking process, Heian
potters could produce a variety of light colors, creating a pottery
considerably more delicate than had been possible before. Aside from
this refined technique for firing, however, the Japanese steadfastly
refused to change their traditional methods of making pots.

For this reason, Japanese ceramics were deliberately kept at a
technically primitive stage until the early part of the thirteenth
century while the Chinese were making considerable advances in the art.
During the years from the ninth to the thirteenth century, while the
Japanese isolated themselves from the mainland, the Sung Chinese were
learning of new glazes far more subtle and refined than those employed
during the T'ang. In the early years of the thirteenth century, when
Japanese monks journeyed to China to study the new faith of Zen, they
were dazzled by the sophisticated new Chinese wares they encountered.
Through the offices of Zen a second revolution in Japanese ceramics

The instrument for this second revolution (according to tradition) was
the priest Dogen, founder of Japanese Soto Zen, who on one of his trips
to China was accompanied by a Japanese potter known as Toshiro. Toshiro
stayed in China for six years, studying the Sung techniques of glazing,
and on his return he opened a kiln at Seto, where he began copying Sung
glazed wares. Although he has been called the father of modem Japanese
ceramics, his attempts to duplicate the highly praised Sung products
were not entirely successful. Furthermore, the wares he did produce,
decorative and thick-glazed, found no acceptance except among the
aristocracy and priesthood, both of whom favored Seto wares for the new
pastime of drinking Chinese tea. But while the Zen aesthetes and tea
drinkers amused themselves with Seto's fake Sung celadons, the
commoners continued to use unglazed stoneware.

All this changed dramatically around the middle of the sixteenth
century with the rise of an urban middle class and the sudden
popularity of the Zen tea ceremony among this new bourgeoisie. Zen,
which had brought Chinese glazes to Japan in the thirteenth century,
sparked the emergence of a brilliant era of glazed ceramic art in the
sixteenth. No longer content with primitive stoneware or reproductions
of Chinese vessels, the potters of Japan finally developed native
styles at once uniquely Japanese and as sophisticated as any the world
has seen. It was another triumph for Zen culture. Rural kilns with long
traditions of stoneware water vessels converted to the production of
tea-ceremony wares, and throughout the land the search was on for
colored glazes. The craze reached such heights that the shogun generals
Nobunaga and Hideyoshi rewarded their successful military commanders
not with decorations but with some particularly coveted tea-ceremony

Although ceramic tea caddies and water jars were required for the
ceremony, the real emphasis was on the drinking bowl, for this was the
piece that was handled and admired at close range. A proper bowl, in
addition to being beautiful, had to be large enough and deep enough to
allow sufficient tea for three or four drinkers to be whisked; it had
no handle and consequently had to be of a light, porous, nonconducting
clay with a thick, rough glaze to act as a further insulator and to
permit safe handling between drinkers; the rim had to be thick and
tilted slightly inward, to provide the participants with a pleasant
sensation while drinking and to minimize dripping. In other words,
these bowls were as functionally specialized in their own way as a
brandy snifter or a champagne glass of today.

A number of styles of tea bowl developed during the sixteenth century,
reflecting the artistic visions of various regional potters and the
different clays available. What these bowls had in common, beyond their
essential functional characteristics, was an adherence to the
specialized dictates of Zen aesthetic theory. Equally important, they
were a tribute to the historic Japanese reverence for natural clay.
Even though they were glazed, portions of the underlying clay texture
were often allowed to show through, and the overall impression was that
the glaze was used to emphasize the texture of the underlying clay, not
disguise it. The colors of the glazes were natural and organic, not
hard and artificial.

The social unrest preceding the rise of Nobunaga caused a number of
potters to leave the Seto area, site of the fake Sung production, and
resettle in the province of Mino, where three basic styles of tea bowl
eventually came to prominence. First there was the Chinese-style tea
vessel, which had been the mainstay of the older Seto kilns. Yellow
glazes, once the monopoly of Seto, were also used at Mino, but
different clays, combined with advancing technical competence and a new
willingness to experiment, produced a new "Seto" ware that was a rich
yellow and considerably more Japanese than Chinese. Second there was a
new, thoroughly Zen-style bowl developed by the Mino potters. It was
broader-based than the Chinese style, with virtually straight sides,
and it was covered with a thick, creamy off-white glaze. Warm and
endearing in appearance, with a flowing sensuous texture inviting to
the touch, it became known as Shino.

Some say Shino bowls were named after a celebrated master of the tea
ceremony, while others maintain the term was taken from the Japanese
word for white, _shiro_. Whatever the case, this was the first glazed
ware of truly native origins; and it marked the beginning of a new
Japanese attitude toward pottery. No longer inhibited by reverence for
Chinese prototypes, the makers of Shino let their spontaneity run wild.
The new white glaze was deliberately applied in a haphazard manner,
often covering only part of the bowl or being allowed to drip and run.
Sometimes part of the glaze was wiped off after it had been applied,
leaving thin spots where the brown under-clay could show through after
the firing. Or bubbles, bums, and soot were allowed to remain in the
glaze as it was fired. Sometimes the white glaze was bathed in a darker
coating in which incisions were made to allow the white to show
through. At other times, sketchy designs, seemingly thrown down with a
half-dry brush, were scribbled on the white bowls so that they appeared
to be covered with Zen graffiti. Throughout all these innovations, the
potters seemed to want to produce works as rough, coarse, and
unsophisticated as possible. Before long they had a gray glaze as well,
and finally they produced a shiny black glaze whose precise formulation
remains one of the unsolved mysteries of Momoyama art.

The next color to enter the Mino repertory, after yellow, white, gray,
and black, was a stunning green. This was the third style of Mino tea
bowl, and it was invented by a disciple of Rikyu whose name, Oribe, has
been given to an incredible variety of wares--tea bowls, tea caddies,
water jars, incense burners, and a host of dishes for serving food.
Sometimes the wares were solid green, but Oribe also had a habit of
splashing the green over one section of a piece, or allowing it to run
into one corner of a plate and freeze there in a limpid puddle. The
portions of Oribe wares not covered with the splash of green were dull
shades, ranging from gray to reddish brown, and on this background
artists began to paint decorative designs- flowers, geometrical
figures, even small sketches or still-lifes--something new and
revolutionary for Japanese ceramics, but the forerunner of the
profusion of decorative wares that appeared after the Momoyama. Shino
had broken the bonds of the centuries of unglazed stoneware and proper
copies of Chinese pots by introducing a native style of glazing and a
new aesthetic freedom; Oribe led the way into a new world of anything-
goes pottery, with half-glazes, painted decorative motifs, and
experimentation in new, hitherto unknown shapes and types of vessels.

While the native Japanese potters at Mino were expanding their craft,
another important development with far-reaching consequences for the
Zen arts was taking place in the far south of the Japanese archipelago
near the Korean peninsula. The ceramic arts of Korea were quite
advanced at the beginning of the sixteenth century, with high-fired
glazed wares as heavy and sturdy as the peasant stock from which they
sprang. But the pots were made by building up coils of clay and beating
them into a solid walled vessel rather than throwing them on a wheel.
This combination of high and low seems to have appealed to the Japanese
clans living near the Korean mainland, for they brought a number of
Korean potters to the southern city of Karatsu and started an industry.

The staple product of the Korean craftsman was a crude medium-sized
bowl with sloping sides, used in their homeland for individual servings
of rice. The primitive quality of these bowls perfectly suited the
growing inverse snobbery of the tea ceremony, and soon Japanese
aesthetes were drinking tea and admiring the Zen beauty in the Korean
rice bowl. While the Mino potters were deliberately making the Sung tea
bowl rougher and rougher (that is, adding _wabi_), those in Karatsu
found themselves with a foreign bowl ready-made for tea.

When Hideyoshi invaded Korea during the last decade of the sixteenth
century, he and his generals were careful to kidnap as many Korean
potters as possible, whom they settled over a large part of Japan. No
longer restricted to a small area in the south, the Koreans injected a
vigorous transfusion of peasant taste into all of Japanese ceramic art,
extinguishing the last remnants of the refined Sung ideals. The
Momoyama tea masters were given a new but still foreign standard of
rustic chic perfectly in accord with _wabi_ tea.

Not surprisingly, it was Sen no Rikyu who synthesized the new native
freedom and the fresh influx of mainland technology to create the
undisputed glory of Japanese ceramics--the famous _raku_. Unquestionably
Japan's most original contribution to the history of ceramics, _raku
_is produced in a manner entirely different from earlier techniques,
and it is impossible to speak of _raku _without speaking of Zen. As
might be expected, _raku_ was invented in the Zen center of Kyoto, a
city with no previous history of ceramic production, and it came into
being when Rikyu happened to take a fancy to the roof tiles being
produced by a Korean workman named Chojiro. Rikyu hit upon the notion
that the texture and feel of these tiles would be perfect for _wabi_-
style tea, and he encouraged Chojiro in the making of a few tea bowls
with the materials and firing techniques used for tiles.

The bowls Chojiro made were neither thrown on a wheel nor built up from
coils, but molded and carved like sculpture.

A mixture of clays was first blended to gain the desired consistency of
lightness and plasticity, after which a spatula and knife were used to
shape a rough-sided, textured bowl whose sense of process was flaunted
rather than obscured--an overt tactile quality perhaps first seen in the
West in the rough-hewn sculptures of Rodin. These bowls were fired in a
most unconventional manner: rather than being placed cold in a wood-
burning kiln and gradually heated, baked, and cooled over a period of
days, they, like the tiles, were thrust directly into a torrid charcoal
kiln for a blistering thermal shock, which gave them an instant look of
the ravaged face of ancient _sabi_. Raku wares were first made in black
with an iron-like glaze that is almost like frozen lava, but the later
repertory included glazes that were partly or wholly red or off-white.
Unlike the Shino and Oribe bowls, _raku _pieces were not decorated with
designs or spots of color; they were _wabi _and _sabi _with
unpretentious, weathered grace. The last term you think of when seeing
_raku _is ornate.

Rikyu found _raku_ bowls perfect for the tea ceremony; they were
austere, powerful, seemingly wrenched from melted rock. In shape they
were broad-based with gently rounded, one might almost say organically
rounded, sides leading to an undulating lip, wrapping in slightly over
the tea, thereby holding the heat and preventing drips. Not only were
they light and porous, allowing for minimal heat conduction and
comfortable handling, their center of gravity was so low they were
almost impossible to tip over, permitting easy whisking of the powdered
tea as they rested on the _tatami_-matted floor of the tea room. (It
should be noted that special bowls for summer usage de-emphasized
certain of these characteristics: they were thinner-walled and
shallower, since the object in hot months was to dissipate heat rather
than conserve it.) But the most appealing qualities of the _raku _were
its sculptural sense of natural plastic form and its soft, bubbly,
almost liquid glaze, which virtually invites one to hold it in his
lips. Also, the colors of the glazes just happen to contrast
beautifully with the pale sea-green of the powdered tea.

This was the end of the search for the perfect Zen tea bowl, and
Hideyoshi was so pleased with Chojiro's handiwork that he gave the
potter's family a seal bearing the word that would give the form its
name: _raku_, meaning pleasure or comfort. Chojiro's descendants became
the _raku _dynasty, as generation after generation they set the
standards for others to follow.

Hideyoshi's act of official recognition meant that Japanese potters
were no longer merely craftsmen, but fully accredited artists. In later
years, Japanese ceramics became distinguished in many areas--from the
traditional wares produced at a multiplicity of local kilns to a vast
new nationwide porcelain industry producing decorative works for both
export and home consumption. Tea-ceremony vessels were created in great
profusion as well, but, unfortunately, genuine art cannot be mass-
produced. By the eighteenth century, the great age of Zen ceramic art
was over, never to be recovered. Today the early wares of the Zen
Momoyama artists command their weight in gold, perhaps platinum. This
is the great irony of the _wabi _tea vessels, if not of all Zen

Tea bowls, the major expression of Zen art, seem at once both primitive
and strikingly modern. To begin to understand this contradiction we
must go back to our own nineteenth century in the West, when tastes ran
to decoration for its own sake and the rule of perfect, symmetrical,
polished form was the aesthetic ideal. Into this smug, serene sea of
aesthetic sureties, which in some ways reached back to the ancient
Greeks, the English critic John Ruskin threw a boulder when he wrote:

_Never demand an exact finish for its own sake, but only for some
practical or noble end. . . . [t]he demand for perfection is always a
sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art. . . . Imperfection is in
some sort essential to all we know of life. It is the sign of life in a
mortal body. . . . To banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to
check exertion, to paralyze vitality. All things are literally better,
lovelier, and more beloved for the imperfections which have been
divinely appointed.1


       Ruskin was rediscovering a large piece of Zen aesthetic theory
while laying the groundwork for many of our modern ideals of beauty.

To see the similarity, let us examine for a moment a few of the finer
points of Zen aesthetic theory as exemplified in the classic tea bowls.
In form the bowls are frequently asymmetrical and imperfect; the glaze
seems to be a species of moss still in the process of spreading over
portions of the sides it somehow never managed to reach, and it is
uneven, marred by cracks, lumps, scratches, and foreign contaminants.
If imperfection is the goal, these bowls extend well beyond Ruskin's
original standards. But not only are they imperfect, they also seem old
and weathered, with the natural patina of a dried-up riverbed. They
show absolutely no evidence that any conscious attempt was made to
create a work of art; they appear to be completely functional.

It is all a deception. Master potters spend literally decades
perfecting the Zen art of the controlled haphazard. One of the first
principles they honor is _wabi_, which deplores nonfunctional
decorative objects, polished surfaces, artificiality in shape or color,
and anything unnatural to the materials used. Works of art without
_wabi_ may have superficial external beauty, but they forfeit inner
warmth. Bowls out of shape, with cracks, blobs, and ashes in the glaze,
invite us to partake of the process of creation through their asymmetry
and imperfection. They also lead us past the surface by virtue of its
being deliberately marred.

Making a bowl with _wabi _is considerably more difficult than

making a smooth, symmetrical, perfectly glazed piece. The creation of
contrived "accidents," on which much of the illusion of artlessness
depends, is particularly difficult. Everywhere there are scars,
contaminants, spotty glaze--all as deliberate as the decoration on a
Dresden plate; connoisseurship consists in admiring how the artist
managed to make it seem so natural and unavoidable.

The same skill goes to make a piece look old, the essential quality of
_sabi_. By suggesting long years of use, the bowls acquire humility and
richness. There is no need to "wear the new off" in order to give them
character; they are already mellow and unpretentious. The potter's
genius has gone to create the sense of wear, a quality considerably
more difficult to realize than an aura of newness.

The potter wants the Zen connoisseur to understand what he has done: to
see the clay, to feel and admire its texture, to appreciate the reasons
for the type and color of the glaze. 'The pieces are carefully
contrived to draw attention to both their original elements and the
process by which these elements were blended. For example, a bowl whose
glaze only partially covers its clay provides a link with the natural
world from which it came. Its texture springs out, like that of a piece
of natural driftwood. At the same time, the bald clay, the streaks of
glaze, the hand-formed sculpture, allow one to recognize the materials
and the process of formation. When the potter keeps no secrets, one
enters into the exhilaration of his moment of creation. Once again,
this is a deliberate aesthetic device, reminding one that the potter is
an individual artist, not a faceless craftsman. The look and feel of
Zen ceramics make them seem forerunners of the modern craft-pottery
movement, but few modern potters are blessed with the rich legacy of
Zen aesthetic ideals that made these ceramics possible. The secret lies
deep in ancient Zen culture, which taught the Momoyama masters how the
difficult could be made to seem effortless.


Zen and Haiku

_Music, when soft voices die,

Vibrates in the memory--

_Percy Bysshe Shelley

HAIKU IS REGARDED by many as the supreme achievement of Zen culture. The
supposedly wordless doctrine of Zen has been accompanied throughout its
history by volumes of _koan _riddles, _sutras_, and commentaries, but
until Haiku was invented it had never enjoyed its own poetic form, nor
might it ever have if the rise of popular Zen culture had not happily
coincided with a particularly receptive stage in the evolution of
traditional Japanese poetry--an accident seized upon by a great lyric
poet of the early Edo period to create an exciting new Zen form. Haiku
today is a worldwide cult, with California poets striving to capture in
English the spareness and fleeting images that seem so effortless in
the Japanese of the early Zen masters.

On first acquaintance Japanese seems an unlikely language for poetry.
It is a syllabic tongue with each syllable ending in a vowel or the
nasal n; consequently there are only five true rhymes in the entire
language. Italian poets overcame a somewhat similar handicap, but their
language is stressed, which Japanese is not. With no usable rhymes and
no stress, how can the music of poetry be created? Over the centuries,
the Japanese solved this problem by replacing meter with a system of
fixed syllables--either five or seven--for each line. (This means that
some lines of Japanese poetry may have only one word, but the system
seems to work.) In place of rhyme, Japanese poets learned to
orchestrate the pitch of individual vowels within a single line to give
a sense of music. This device was illustrated by the American poet
Kenneth Rexroth using a poem from the classical era. (The vowels are
pronounced as in Italian.)

_Fu-ta-ri yu-ke-do

Yu-ki su-gi ga-ta-ki

A-ki ya-ma wo

I-ka-de ka ki-mi ga

Hi-to-ri ko-ge na-mu


In his analysis of this particular poem, Rexroth has pointed out that
the first and last lines contain all five vowels in the language,
whereas the middle lines contain various combinations and repetitions,
which produce a pronounced musical effect.1 The ability to create such
music without rhyme, one of the finer achievements of Japanese poetry,
is far more difficult than might at first be imagined and leads
naturally to assonance, or the close repetition of vowel sounds, and
alliteration, the repetition of similar consonant sounds. Some of the
vowels have psychological overtones, at least to the sensitive Japanese
ear: u is soft, a is sharp and resonant, o connotes vagueness tinged
with profundity.2 Various consonants also convey an emotional sense in a
similar manner.

Another clever device of the early Japanese versifiers was the use of
words with double meanings. One example of this is the so-called pivot
word, which occurs approximately halfway through a poem such as the
above and serves both to complete the sense of the first part of the
poem with one meaning and to begin a new sense and direction with its
second meaning. This can at times produce a childish effect, and it
does not always elevate the overall dignity of the verse. Another use
of double meaning is far more demanding. Since the Japanese kana script
is entirely phonetic and allows for no distinction in spelling between
homonyms, words which sound alike but have different meanings, it is
possible to carry two or more ideas through a poem. (A somewhat labored
example in English might be, "My tonights hold thee more," "My two
knights hold the moor." If these were written alike and pronounced
alike, then the poem could mean either or both.) The first meaning may
be a concrete example of a lover pining for his love, and the second a
metaphor. Ideally, the two meanings support each other, producing a
resonance said to be truly remarkable.

The early Japanese poets overcame the limitations of the Japanese
language both by attuning their ears to the music of the words and by
capitalizing on the large incidence of homonyms. They settled the
matter of meter, as noted, by prescribing the number of syllables per
line, with the principal form being five lines with syllable counts of
5,7,5,7, and 7. This thirty-one-syllable poem, known as the _waka_,
became the Japanese "sonnet" and by far the most popular poetic form
during the Heian era. Almost all a poet can do in five lines, however,
is to record a single emotion or observation. The medium governed the
message, causing Japanese poets early on to explore their hearts more
than their minds. The _waka_ became a cry of passion; a gentle
confirmation of love; a lament for the brevity of blossoms, colored
leaves, the seasons, life itself. A sampling of _waka _from the early
classical era shows the aesthetic sense of the seasons and lyric charm
of these verses.

_Tsuki ya aranu

_      Can it be that the moon has changed?

_Haru ya mukashi no

_      Can it be that the spring

_Haru naranu

_       Is not the spring of old times?

_Waga mi hitotsu wa

_       Is it my body alone

_Moto no mi nishite

_       That is just the same?3

Judged on its concentrated power alone, for this is virtually all an
English reader can evaluate, this poem is a masterpiece. Its content
can be condensed into five lines because much of its impact lies in its
suggestiveness. It is, however, closed-ended, with no philosophical
implications other than a wry look at human perceptions. Haiku added
new dimensions to Japanese poetry.

The early aristocratic era gave Japanese poetry its form, the five-line
_waka_, and its subject matter, nature and the emotions. Later the
familiar Japanese idea that life is but a fleeting moment and all
things must blossom and fade was added. One critic has noted that as
this idea took hold, poems gradually changed from praise of the plum
blossom, which lasts for weeks, to praise of the cherry blossom, which
fades in a matter of days.

_Hisakata no

        _On a day in spring

_Hikari nodokeki

        _When the light throughout the sky

_Haru no hi ni

        _Warms with tranquility.

_Shizugokoro naku

        _Why is it with unsettled heart

_Hana no chiru ran

        _That the cherry flowers fall?4

Japanese poetry of the pre-Zen period has been handed to us primarily
in a few famous collections. The first great anthology of Japanese
poetry is the Manyoshu, a volume of verses from the middle of the
eighth century. A glance through the Manyoshu shows that the earliest
poets did not confine themselves to five-line verses, but indulged in
longer verses on heroic subjects, known as _choka_. The tone, as Donald
Keene has observed, is often more masculine than feminine, that is,
more vigorous than refined. As sensibilities softened in the early part
of the Heian era and native verse became the prerogative of women,
while men struggled with the more "important" language of China, the
feminine tone prevailed to such an extent that male writers posed as
women when using the native script. The next great collection of verse,
the Kokinshu, published in the tenth century, was virtually all five-
line _waka _concerned with seasons, birds, flowers, and fading love,
and embracing the aesthetic ideals of _aware_, _miyabi_, and _yugen_.

As the aristocratic culture gradually lost control in the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries, a new verse form, derived from the _waka_, came
into being: _renga_. This form consisted of a string of verses in the
repeated sequence of 5,7,5 and 7,7 syllables per line--in reality a
related series of _waka _but with the difference that no two
consecutive two-or three-line verse sequences could be composed by the
same individual. At first this new form seemed to offer hope of freeing
poets from the increasingly confining range of subject matter
prescribed for the _waka_. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. Before
long the _renga_ was saddled with a set of rules covering which verse
should mention what season; at what point the moon, cherry blossoms,
and the like should be noted; and so forth. Little creativity was
possible under such restrictions. Versifying became, in fact, a party
game much in favor with provincial _samurai_ and peasants alike in
times. While the remaining Kyoto aristocrats tried to keep their _renga
_in the spirit of the classical _waka_, with allusions to Chinese poems
and delicate melancholy, the provincials threw _renga _parties whose
only aesthetic concern was adherence to the rules of the game. During
the Ashikaga age, _renga_ and sake parties were the most popular forms
of entertainment, but _renga's _only genuine contribution to Japanese
poetry was the use of the vernacular by provincial poets, which finally
broke the stranglehold of Heian feminine aesthetics.

By the beginning of the Momoyama era, linked verse had

run its course and the time was ripe for a new form. The new form was
Haiku, which was nothing more than the first three lines of a renga.
The _waka_ had been aristocratic, and the best _renga _provincial, but
the Haiku was the creation of the new merchant class. (To be rigorously
correct, the form was at first called _haikai_, after the first verse
of the _renga_, which was called the _hokku_. The term "Haiku" actually
came into use in the nineteenth century.) Although the Haiku was a
response to the demands of the merchant class, its composers almost
immediately split into two opposing groups, superficially similar in
outlook to the older classical and provincial schools. One group
established a fixed set of rules specifying a more or less artificial
language, while the other turned to epigrams in the speech of the
people. The form was on the way to becoming yet another party game when
a disenchanted follower of the second school broke away and created a
personal revolution in Japanese verse. This was the man now considered
Japan's finest poet, who finally brought Zen to Japanese poetry: the
famous Haiku master Basho (1644-1694).

Basho was born a _samurai_ in an age when it was little more than an
empty title, retained by decree of the Edo (Tokyo) government. He was
fortunate to be in the service of a prosperous _daimyo_ who transmitted
his interest in Haiku to Basho at an early age. This idyllic life ended
abruptly when Basho was twenty-two: the lord died, and he was left to
shift for himself. His first response was to enter a monastery, but
after a time went to Kyoto to study Haiku. By the time he was thirty he
had moved on to Edo to teach and write. At this point he was merely an
adequate versifier, but his technical competence attracted many to what
became the Basho "school," as well as making him a welcome guest at
_renga _gatherings. His poems in the Haiku style seem to have relied
heavily on striking similes or metaphors:

Red pepper pods!

Add wings to them,

and they are dragonflies!5

This verse is certainly "open-ended" insofar as it creates a
reverberation of images in the mind, and, what is more, the effect is
achieved by the comparison of two concrete images. There is no comment;
the images are simply thrown out to give the mind a starting point. But
the overall impact remains merely decorative art. It reflects the
concept of _aware_, or a pleasing recognition of beauty, rather than
_yugen_, the extension of awareness into a region beyond words.

When he was about thirty-five, Basho created a Haiku that began to
touch the deeper regions of the mind. This is the famous_

Kare-eda ni

_       On a withered branch

_karasu-no tomari-keri

       _a crow has settled--


       _autumn nightfall.6

As a simple juxtaposition of images the poem is striking enough, but it
also evokes a comparison of the images, each of which enriches the
other. The mind is struck as with a hammer, bringing the senses up
short and releasing a flood of associations. Its only shortcoming is
that the scene is static; it is a painting, not a happening of the sort
that can sometimes trigger the sudden sense of Zen enlightenment.

Perhaps Basho realized that his art had not yet drunk deeply enough at
the well of Zen, for a few years after this poem was written he became
a serious Zen student and began to travel around Japan soaking up
images. His travel diaries of the last years are a kind of Haiku
"poetics," in which he extends the idea of _sabi_ to include the aura
of loneliness that can surround common objects. Zen detachment entered
his verses; all personal emotion was drained away, leaving images
objective and devoid of any commentary, even implied.

More important, the Zen idea of transience appeared. Not the transience
of falling cherry blossoms but the fleeting instant of Zen
enlightenment. Whereas the antilogic _koan _anecdotes were intended to
lead up to this moment, Basho's Haiku were the moment of enlightenment
itself, as in his best-known poem:

_Furu-ike ya

       _An ancient pond

_kawazu tobi-komu

       _A frog jumps in


       _The sound of water.

These deceptively simple lines capture an intersection of the timeless
and the ephemeral. The poem is said to have described an actual
occurrence, an evening broken by a splash. The poet immediately spoke
the last two lines of the poem, the ephemeral portion, and much time
was then devoted to creating the remaining static and timeless part.
This was as it should be, for the inspiration of a Haiku must be
genuine and suggest its own lines at the moment it occurs. Zen eschews
deliberation and rational analysis; nothing must come between object
and perception at the critical moment.

With this poem Basho invented a new form of Zen literary art, and Haiku
was never the same afterward. To write this kind of poem, the artist
must completely disengage--if only for an instant--all his interpretive
faculties. His mind becomes one with the world around him, allowing his
craft to operate instinctively in recording the image he perceives. For
a moment he is privy to the inexpressible truth of Zen--that the
transient is merely part of the eternal--and this instantaneous
perception moves directly from his senses to his innermost
understanding, without having to travel through his interpretive
faculties. Earlier Zen writings in both Japan and China had described
this process, but none had captured the phenomenon itself. By catching
the momentary at the very instant of its collision with the eternal,
Basho could produce a high-speed snapshot of the trigger mechanism of
Zen enlightenment. In a modern metaphor, the Haiku became a Zen
hologram, in which all the information necessary to re-create a large
three-dimensional phenomenon was coded into a minuscule key. Any
interpretation of the phenomenon would be redundant to a Zen adept,
since the philosophical significance would re-create itself
spontaneously from the critical images recorded in the poem. Thus a
perfect Haiku is not about the moment of Zen enlightenment; it is that
moment frozen in time and ready to be released in the listener's mind.

Haiku is the most dehumanized of all poetry. Instead of the artist's
sensations and feelings, we get simply the names of things. By Western
standards they are hardly poems at all, merely a rather abbreviated
list. As the critic-poet Kenneth Yasuda has pointed out, a Haiku poet
does not give us meaning, he gives us objects that have meaning; he
does not describe, he presents.7 And unlike the poetry of the No, Haiku
seems a form strangely devoid of symbolism. The tone seems matter-of-
fact, even when touching upon the most potentially emotional of
subjects. Take, for example, Basho's poem composed at the grave of one
of his beloved pupils.

_Tsuka mo ugoke

        _Grave mound, shake too!

_waga naku koe wa

        _My wailing voice--


        _the autumn wind.8

         No betrayal of emotion here, simply a comparison of his grief-
ridden voice, a transient thing, with the eternal autumn wind. It is a
Zen moment of recognition, devoid of emotion or self-pity, and yet
somehow our sympathies spring alive, touching us in a way that the
early classical poems on the passage of time never could.

Love in Haiku is directed toward nature as much as toward man or woman.
Part of the reason may be the stylistic requirement that every Haiku
tell the reader the season. This is done by the so-called season word,
which can either be an outright naming of the season (such as the
"autumn" wind above) or some mention of a season-dependent natural
phenomenon, such as a blossom, a colored leaf (green or brown), a
summer bird or insect, snow, and so on. The tone is always loving,
never accusatory (a tribute to the nature reverence of ancient Japan),
and it can be either light or solemn. Chirps of insects, songs of
birds, scents of blossoms, usually serve as the transient element in a
Haiku, whereas water, wind, sunshine, and the season itself are the
eternal elements.

_Ume-ga-ka ni

        _With the scent of plums

_notto hi-no deru

        _on the mountain road--suddenly,

_yama-ji kana

  _      sunrise comes!9

This is nature poetry at its finest, full of all the detached reverence
and affection of Zen. It is also impassive and accepting: nature is
there to be enjoyed and to teach the lessons of Zen. Basho's Haiku
discover an instant of heightened awareness and pass it on unaltered
and without comment. The poem is as uncolored with emotion as is the
world it so dispassionately describes. It is up to the reader to know
the proper response.

It hardly needs to be said that Basho's poems must be interpreted on
several levels: not only do they describe a moment in the life of the
world, they are also symbols or metaphors for deeper truths, which
cannot be stated explicitly. Underneath a vivid image of a physical
phenomenon is a Zen code pointing toward the nonphysical. Not only was
Basho Japan's finest lyric poet, he was also among the finest
interpreters of Zen.

Basho left a large following. The Haiku was established as Japan's
foremost poetic form, and to touch upon every Haiku poet would require
an encylopedia. However, three other Haiku masters were outstanding.
The first is Buson (1715-1783), also a well-known painter, whose blithe
if somewhat mannered style reflected the gradual dissolution of severe
Zen ideals in favor of the lighter touch preferred by the prosperous
merchant class.

Buson was also master of the classical double entendre so beloved by
the aristocratic poets of the classical era. The first example given
here is a subtle reference to the theme of transience, set in the
context of an exchange of love poems, while the second is a somewhat
ribald jest about the one-night stand.

_Hen-ka naki

        _No poem you send

_ao-nyobo yo

         _in answer--Oh, young lady!

_kure-no haru

         _Springtime nears its end.10

_Mijika yo ya

        _The short night is through:

_kemushi-no ue ni

        _on the hairy caterpillar,


        _little beads of dew.11

Buson could also be serious and moving when he tried, as with the
following, one of his most admired works.

_Mi-ni-shimu ya

         _The piercing chill I feel:

_bo-sai-no kushi

        _my dead wife's comb, in our bedroom,

_neya ni fumu

        _under my heel . . .12

Buson clearly had less Zen about him than Basho, but his verses suited
the temper of his age, and he strongly influenced both students and
contemporaries, although not the next great Haiku master, Issa (1762-
1826), who was a romantic provincial through and through, immune to the
fancy phrasing of the sophisticated Buson school.

Issa is the sentimental favorite in the canons of Japanese Haiku. He
used simple, even colloquial language, and he brought heartfelt love to
all things he touched, great and small. Although he was not immersed in
the heavier aspects of Zen, his lighthearted approach to life was well
in accord with the latter clays of the Zen revival. His Haiku style
seems the literary equivalent of the comic Zen drawings of Hakuin
(1685--1768) or Sengai (1751-1837). There is also a Zen quality to his
rejection of the literary conventions of the time. Yet Issa was not
consciously a rebel; rather, he was a simple, sincere man who wrote
sincerely of simple things. His approach to nature was as honest in its
own way as Basho's, but Issa was happy to let his own personality and
response shine through, while Basho deliberately circumvented his own

Orphaned at an early age and seeing to the grave all the children born
during his lifetime (as well as two of his three wives), Issa seems to
have known little but hardship. Much of his life was spent as an
itinerant poet-priest, an occupation that allowed him to learn the life
of the people while also keeping him close to the earth. A compendium
of his life's experiences and a fine sampling of his Haiku were
recorded in his famous book The Year of My Life, which seems to have
been his answer to Basho's travel diaries. However, his humanity was
far distant from Basho's lonely sabi. For condensed effect, compare the
following with Wordsworth's "Solitary Reaper."

_Yabu-kage ya

         _In the thicket's shade,

_tatta hitori-no

        _and all alone, she's singing--


        _the rice-planting maid.13

Perhaps his most touching poem, which shames into oblivion all the
"transient dew" posturing of a thousand years of classical Japanese
verse, is the famous Haiku written on the death of one of his children.

_Tsuyu-no-yo wa

        _The world of dew

_tsuyu-no-yo nagara

         _Is the world of dew

_sari nagara

        _And yet . . . And yet . . .14

Issa's rustic, personal voice was not a style to be copied, even if the
city poets had wished to do so, and Haiku seems to have fallen into the
hands of formula versifiers during the mid- nineteenth century. In the
waning years of the century, the last of the four great Haiku masters
rose to prominence: Shiki (1867-1902), whose life of constantly failing
health was as adversity-plagued as Issa's, but who actively took up the
fight against the insincere parlor versifiers then ruling Haiku. No
wandering poet-priest, Shiki was a newspaperman, critic, and editor of
various Haiku "little magazines." The Zen influence that ruled Basho's
later poetry is missing in Shiki, but the objective imagery is there--
only in a tough, modern guise. Shiki's verse is an interesting example
of how similar in external appearance the godless austerity of Zen is
to the existential atheism of our own century. (This superficial
similarity is undoubtedly the reason so much of Zen art seems "modern"
to us today--it is at odds with both classical and romantic ideals.)
Thus a completely secular poet like Shiki could revolutionize Haiku as
a form of art-for-art's-sake without having to acknowledge openly his
debt to Zen.

_Hira-hira to

        _A single butterfly

_Kaze ni nigarete

        _Fluttering and drifting

_Cho hitotsu

        _In the wind.15

With the poems of Shiki, the influence of Zen had so permeated Haiku
that it was taken for granted. Much the same had occurred with all the
Zen arts; as the dynamic aspects of the faith faded away, all that was
left were the art forms and aesthetic ideals of Zen culture. The rules
of the ancient Zen masters were there as a theme for the modern arts,
but mainly as a theme on which there could be variations. Zen culture
as an entity was slowly dissolving, becoming in modern times merely a
part of a larger cultural heritage.


Private Zen: Flowers and Food

   _European food--

   Every wretched plate

   Is round.

_   Traditional Japanese poem

THE SPREAD OF ZEN culture from the mansions of the _samurai _to the houses
of the bourgeoisie meant ultimately that Zen aesthetics would touch
even the most routine features of daily life. Nowhere, perhaps, is this
more noticeable than in Japanese cuisine and flower arranging. As we
have seen, the tea ceremony was the great preserver of higher Zen
ideals of art, but this ceremony, for all its pretensions to refined
poverty, is essentially the province of the prosperous. It requires
space for a garden, a special--and frequently expensive--house, and
utensils whose properly weathered look can be obtained only at a price.
Even a simple Zen garden is hardly available to a modern Japanese
living in a cinderblock apartment building.

Everyone, however, can practice the classical art of arranging flowers
in a manner reflecting the precepts of Zen. A flower arrangement is to
a large garden what a Haiku is to an epic poem--a symbolic, abbreviated
form whose condensed suggestiveness can encapsulate the larger world.
Similarly, the Zen ideals of _wabi_, or deliberate understatement, and
_sabi_, the patina of time, can be captured almost as well in the
display of food--in both its artistic arrangement on a plate and the
tasteful ceramics employed--as in the arts and ceramics of the tea
ceremony. Thus a properly conceived serving of seasonal and subtly
flavored foods accompanied by a Zen-inspired flower arrangement can be
an evervday version of the tea ceremony and its garden, embodying the
same aesthetic principles in a surrogate form just as demanding of Zen
taste and sensibility.

It will be recalled that Zen itself is said to have originated when the
Buddha silently turned a blossom in his hand before a gathering on
Vulture Peak. The lotus blossom was one of the foremost symbols of
classical Buddhism for many centuries; indeed the earliest Japanese
flower arrangements may have been merely a lotus floating in a water-
filled vessel set before a Buddhist altar. To the ancient Buddhists,
the flower was a symbol of nature, a momentary explosion of beauty and
fragrance embodying all the mysteries of life's cycle of birth and
death. The early Japanese, who saw in nature the expression of life's
spirit, naturally found the flower a congenial symbol for an abstract
philosophy like Buddhism. In the years preceding Zen's arrival in
Japan, a parallel but essentially secular taste for flowers permeated
the aristocratic court civilization of the Heian, where lovers attached
sprays of blossoms to letters and eulogized the plum and cherry as
symbols of life's transient happiness. Indeed, it is hardly an
exaggeration to describe blossoms as the foremost symbol of Japan's
great age of love poetry.

Exactly when the Japanese began the practice of arranging

flowers in pots for decorative purposes has never been satisfactorily
determined. Perhaps not surprisingly, the first well- known exponent of
floral art seems to have been the famous Zen aesthete Ashikaga
Yoshimasa (1435-1490), builder of the Silver Pavilion. However,
Yoshimasa merely popularized an art that was considerably more ancient.
Ikebana, or flower arranging, had for some time been transmitted as a
kind of secret cult by a line of priests who had called themselves
Ikenobo. Just what role Zen and Zen art theory played in this priestly
art is questionable, for early styles were florid and decorative. At
first glance, it may seem strange that the flower arrangements of the
Ikenobo priests should have captured the interest of Yoshimasa and his
circle of Zen aesthetes during the high age of Zen culture, since the
Ikebana of this period, far from showing the spareness characteristic
of Zen garden arts, was an exuberant symbol of the world at large,
rather like a complex mandala diagram of some esoteric sect wherein all
components of the universe are represented in a structured spatial

This early style of formal flower arranging, now known as Rikka, was
later codified into seven specific elements, each symbolizing some
aspect of nature--the sun, the shade, and so forth. There were three
main branches in an arrangement and four supporting branches, each with
a special name and a special aesthetic-symbolic function. As with most
art forms preceding the modern age, the distinction between religious
symbolism and purely aesthetic principles was not well defined, and
artists often preferred to use philosophical explanations as a means of
transmitting those rules of form they instinctively recognized to be
most satisfying. Not surprisingly, given the Zen ideals of the age,
Rikka-style flower arrangements were asymmetrical and intended to
suggest naturalness as far as possible. Although complex, they were by
no means artificial, seeming instead a happy accident of nature. As
with Zen gardens, great artifice was used to give the impression of

Since the elaborate Rikka style was supported by an equally

elaborate theory and required total discipline, flower arranging
acquired many of the qualities of a high art. Certainly the arrangement
of flowers in the West never approached anything like the formality and
rules of technique surrounding Japanese floral displays, and for this
reason we sometimes have difficulty in accepting the idea that it can
be considered a genuine art form. But then we have never seriously
considered the flower a primary religious symbol--a role that, to the
Eastern mind, automatically makes it a candidate for artistic
expression. The religion of Zen, with no particular god to deify,
turned to flowers and gardens as symbols of the spirit of life.

The influence of Zen on the Rikka arrangement was more implicit than
direct, and a wholly Zen flower style had to await the coming of the
famous tea-ceremony master, Sen no Rikyu. Rikyu predictably found the
Rikka style entirely too lavish for understated _wabi _aesthetics and
introduced a new style known as Nageire, which was informal and
spontaneous in appearance. Since it was for display at the tea
ceremony, it was called _chabana_, or tea flowers. Instead of an
elaborate seven-point design, the teahouse Nageire-style consisted of
one or two blossoms stuck in a pot without any hint of artificiality.
The Nagiere was not, of course, an undisciplined art--it was merely
intended to seem so. Great care was taken to position the bud and its
few surrounding sprigs into a perfect artistic composition that would
seem natural and spontaneous. The _chabana _version of the Nageire
style is the ultimate Zen statement in living materials. Pared down
from the Rikka style, it became a powerful, direct expression of Zen
ideals. The difference has been well expressed by Shozo Sato:

_Rikka arrangements grew ultimately from a philosophic attempt to
conceive of an organized universe, whereas Nageire arrangements
represent an antiphilosophic attempt to achieve immediate oneness with
the universe. The Rikka arrangement is an appropriate offering to be
placed before one of the many icons of traditional Buddhism, but the
Nageire arrangement is a direct link between man and his natural
surroundings. One style is conceptual and idealistic; the other,
instinctive and naturalistic. The difference is similar to that between
the arduous philosophic study associated with traditional Buddhism and
the direct enlightenment of Zen Buddhism. _(_The Art of Arranging
Flowers_. New York: Abrams, 1965). _


Although the Nageire is still the preferred style for the teahouse, it
is a bit too austere, not to mention demanding, for the average
Japanese home. The rising middle class of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries sought a compromise between the Rikka and Nageire,
and finally developed a simplified Rikka style known as Seika, which
made use of only the three main stems of the full Rikka arrangement.

Today various styles flourish, together with experimental modern
schools which permit rocks, driftwood, and other natural materials in
their compositions. Yet throughout all the schools--and they number in
the thousands--the idea remains that flowers are a shorthand
representation of man's connection with nature. Zen ideals are never
far distant, even in the most abstract modern compositions.

If the Japanese attitude toward flowers differs from that of the West,
their approach to dining differs even more. The almost universal
Western attitude toward Japanese cuisine was voiced many centuries ago
by the European visitor Bernardo do Avila Giron, who declared, "I will
not praise Japanese food for it is not good, albeit it is pleasing to
the eye, but instead I will describe the clean and peculiar way in
which it is served."2 Beauty counts as heavily as taste at a formal
table, and to say Japanese food is "served" is like calling the members
of a string quartet fiddlers. The Japanese devote more artistic
resources to the rites of food than any other people on earth. Entire
magazines are devoted to supplying housewives with the latest culinary
creations: not new recipes but new ways to display dishes created
according to well-known formulas. A new condiment is not sought so much
as a new color, and a new sauce is of less interest than a new saucer.
Indeed, a fine restaurant may prize its ceramics almost as much as its

Yet for all its beauty, the food seems to be oddly deficient in
pronounced flavors. This characteristic a Japanese will be the first to
admit, but with pride rather than apology. Strong flavors are to a
modern Japanese what bold colors were to the Heian aesthetes--unrefined,
obvious gratifications for those lacking in cultivated discernment. A
connoisseur is one who can distinguish the subtle difference in taste
among various species of raw mushrooms or different fermentations of
bean curd. A cultivated Japanese can tell you not only what species of
raw fish he is tasting, but the number of hours it has been away from
the sea. A conscientious Japanese chef would no more think of serving a
vegetable not scrupulously fresh than he would drown it in a heavy
sauce. Furthermore, he would most prefer to serve it entirely raw,
thereby preserving intact all its subtle natural flavor and texture.

Japanese cuisine, which is a water-based art as compared to the oil-
based cooking of China or the butter-based dishes of France, is now
known and appreciated worldwide. Dining in a Japanese restaurant in the
far-flung corners of the globe can be as formal as a fine Continental
meal or as expedient as a grilled-chicken-and-noodle emporium. However,
whether formal or casual, it will lack the air of solicitude that a
really discerning Japanese host can bring to a specially planned
banquet. Since dining at his own home would do no honor to you, the
guest, chances are he will entertain you at an inn or restaurant where
he knows the chef, but he will still plan the meal, working out all the
finer details with the cook. There will be few surprises on the menu,
for the food is governed by the season. Only the freshest vegetables--
preferably those ripening to their finest that week--and the primest sea
fare will be permitted.

Upon entering the dining room you will know you have been selected as
the guest of honor when you are requested to sit with your back to the
art alcove, or tokonoma, a practice dating from rowdier days of the
ambush when this represented the one location in a paper-walled room
sure to be backed by a solid wall. After seating formalities are
resolved, the host will call for tea. If the season is spring, the
variety selected may be _shincha_, a dainty green brew steeped from the
freshly plucked early leaves of the Japanese tea bush. When you realize
that even your beverage has been brought fresh from the fields, you
begin to understand the subtleties of seasonal tastes in store. Indeed,
in late spring and summer the table will present delicacies only hours
from the soil.

First to arrive may be a tray crowded with ceramic saucers, no two
alike in shape or glaze, each offering a condiment or plant of the
season. Slices of dark, pickled ginger, the traditional astringent, may
be arranged on a diminutive round plate of blue and white porcelain,
which stands adjacent to a rough-textured, gray square bowl heaped with
slivers of fresh cucumber, its brilliant green contrasting with the
splash of vellow from a bouquet of its own blossoms sprinkled across
one corner of the dish. These may be joined by tender bamboo shoots
from the hillside. (Slowly you begin to notice that the color and
texture of each dish has been chosen to contrast and complement those
of its contents.) Added to this fanciful course may be a pale brown
dish of lotus-root slivers, each garnished with a mound of green
horseradish. Next at hand might well be a pale yellow saucer holding
sheets of dried seaweed alongside a thin slice of the porous white
Japanese turnip, sliced so thin as to be transparent. If the season is
fall instead of spring, there could be a thin rectangular dish with a
crinkled black glaze containing a single maple leaf, on which might be
displayed thinly sliced raw mushrooms skewered with pine needles and
set in a display of gourd strands.

Next may come a cold omelet, whose fluffy strata of egg have been
wrapped like a cinnamon roll around layers of dark seaweed. The
omelet's exterior will have been glazed to an almost ceramic polish and
garnished with a white radish sauce, light and piquant. After the
omelet may come fish, raw sashimi in a plethora of varieties from
freshwater carp to sea bream to the (sometimes lethal) fugu. The
subtleties in taste and texture between the many species available are
to the Japanese what fine wines are to the Western connoisseur. Yet the
chef's real genius has gone into the careful cutting and display of the
fish. The red back meat of the tuna must be cut into thick slices
because of its tenderness, but the fatty pink meat from the belly can
be cut into thin strips. The size of the slices governs how they are
displayed. The display and garnishing of the sashimi is an important
testing ground for the chef's artistic originality. After all, the fish
are raw, and beyond making sure that they are fresh and of high
quality, there is little to be done about the flavor. Therefore the
chef must become an artist if the sashimi are to be memorable.

The banquet may continue with soup, often created from fish stock and
fermented soybean paste called miso. The soup arrives in closed lacquer
bowls, on the lids of which will be embellished a design of the season,
perhaps a bamboo shoot or a chrysanthemum blossom. Beneath this lid is
a tranquil sea of semitransparent marine broth, tinted amber and
seasoned with delicate green scallion rings and cubes of bland white
soybean curd. The bottom of the bowl may shelter a family of thumbnail-
sized baby clams, still nestled in their open shells. The soup hints of
the field and the sea, but in delicate nuances, like an ink painting
executed in a few suggestive strokes.

The parade of tiny dishes continues until the host's imagination
falters or your appetite is conquered. Green beans, asparagus, lotus
root, carrots, tree leaves, legumes . . . the varieties of plants will
seem virtually endless. Each taste and texture will be slightly
different, each color subtly orchestrated. Yet it all seems perfectly
natural, as though the world of mountain and sea had somehow presented
itself at your table to be sampled. You become acutely aware of the
natural taste of the plants ripening in the fields outside at that very
moment. But to enjoy this cuisine you must sharpen your senses; no
flavor is allowed to be dominant, no spice overwhelming. You must reach
out with your sensibilities and attune yourself to the world around

The haute cuisine of Japan is known as _kaiseki_, the name of the
special meal served with the Zen tea ceremony. _Kaiseki _is the great
preserver of cuisine aesthetics in Japan. The tea ceremony, the supreme
transmitter of Zen culture, also happens to be the preserver of Japan's
finest ideals in the realm of food. The governing principle of
_kaiseki_ is that the foods served should be natural, even as an
unpainted traditional house reveals its fresh woods. Whereas
artificiality would draw a diner's spirit away from the real world,
naturalness brings him closer to it. The colors, of both the foods and
the ceramics, are meant to suggest nature. The servings are simple,
never elaborate or contrived, and the foods chosen must never be
obviously expensive. A host is expected to display his skill and
imagination in combining delicate flavors, not his wealth or
extravagance in being able to buy the most expensive items he can find.
Again it is the Zen idea of _wabi_, a deliberate turning away from the

But to speak of Zen dining in terms of flavor is to miss a good part of
the pleasure. The display of glazed ceramic dishes on a Japanese table
is carefully orchestrated by color and shape to form a unified,
naturalistic, asymmetrical aesthetic whole. The sensitive Japanese
regards the Western weakness for marshaled arrays of matched china as a
demonstration of limited artistic vision. All the concepts of beauty
developed in the tea ceremony have been transmitted to the Japanese
formal dining experience, and a dimension has been added: in a formal
meal the ceramics are decorated with foods; the various foods are
positioned, down to the last bean, with care almost worthy of the
stones in a Zen garden, and the color and texture of each is attuned to
the color and texture of its dish. Thus dining becomes a display of art
and design that tests the aesthetic discernment of both host and guest.

Perhaps in no other land is the serving of food so manifestly both a
form of art and an expression of philosophy. But it seems less
incredible if viewed merely as the last convolution of Zen culture.
From monks to modern housewives, Zen culture has touched every aspect
of Japanese life. There are, of course, other voices and other rooms in
the complex world of Japanese cultural history, but when you think of
the finest moments in Japanese civilization, more often than not you
find yourself thinking of Zen.


The Lessons of Zen Culture

_It is not surprising if the religious need, the believing mind, and
the philosophical speculations of the educated European are attracted
to the symbols of the East, just as once before the heart and mind of
men of antiquity were gripped by Christian ideas.


Carl Gustav Jung_, Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious


EVERY MAJOR ZEN cultural form is designed to operate on the mind in some
manipulative, non-Western fashion. If we look carefully, we find that
not one of the Zen forms has a real counterpart in Western culture. Zen
archery and swordsmanship seem almost a species of hypnotism. Zen
gardens are a bag of tricks and specifically designed to deceive one's
perception. Zen painting is a product of the nonrational counter mind;
although it requires training at least as rigorous as any that a
Western academy could supply, at the critical moment the training is
forgotten and the work becomes wholly spontaneous. No drama uses clever
devices of suggestion to push the mind into areas of understanding too
profound for words, while the open-ended Haiku is a spark igniting an
explosion of imagery and nonrational perception in the listener's mind.
The traditional Japanese house is a psychological chamber from floor to
ceiling. Zen ceramics by subtle deceptions destroy our impulses to
categorize, forcing us to experience directly materials, process, and
form. The tea ceremony is still another exercise in deliberately
altering one's state of mind, this time under the guise of a simple
social occasion. It seems almost as if the Zen arts were intended to be
an object lesson to us on the limitations of the senses in defining
reality. Just as the _koan_ taunt the logical mind, the Zen arts, by
toying with perception, remind us that there is a reality not subject
to the five senses. In Eastern philosophy, although "seeing" involves
the senses, it must ultimately transcend them.

Zen culture has been devised over the centuries to bring us in touch
with a portion of ourselves we in the West scarcely know--our
nonrational, nonverbal side. Whereas Ch'an masters of a thousand years
ago were devising mind exercises to short-circuit and defeat the
limiting characteristics of the rational side of the mind, the idea of
the counter mind has only recently found experimental validation--and
hence intellectual respectability--in the rationalist West. (As one
example of many, recent experiments at Harvard University found that
"questions demanding . . . verbal . . . processes result in the
greatest left [brain] hemispherical activation . . . [while] emotional
questions elicit the greatest right hemispheric activation."1)
Apparently not only did the Ch'an masters intuitively realize the
existence of the nonverbal half of the mind during the T'ang era (618-
907), but they, and later the Japanese, used it to create a spectrum of
art and cultural forms which exploits, strengthens, and sharpens these
same nonverbal faculties.

Zen cultural forms are the perfect physical proof of the strength of
the counter mind. Even those using language (the No and Haiku) rely
more on suggestion than on words. Indeed, the very language of Japan
was recently described by a Japanese scholar in terms that make it
sound almost like an intuitive,

counter-mind phenomenon: "English is a language intended strictly for
communication. Japanese is primarily interested in feeling out the
other person's mood, in order to work out one's own course of action
based on one's impression."2 This difference in approach to language, in
which it is seen as a virtual barrier to communicating what is really
significant (one's subjective response), appears to be a side effect of
Zen culture. As a Japanese critic recently observed,

_A corollary to the Japanese attitude toward language might be called
the "aesthetics of silence"---making a virtue of reticence and a
vulgarity of verbalization or open expression of one's inner thoughts.
This attitude can be traced to the Zen Buddhist idea that man is
capable of arriving at the highest level of contemplative being only
when he makes no attempt at verbalizations and discounts oral
expression as the height of superficiality.3


Finally, Zen cultural forms use the nonverbal, nonrational powers of
the mind to produce in the perceiver a complete sense of identification
with the object. If a Zen art work is truly successful, the perceiver
has no sense of "I" and "it." If reflection or analysis is required,
the work is of no more use than a joke whose punch line needs
explanation. One's mind must immediately experience something beyond
the work. Even as the eye cannot see itself without a mirror, so it is
with the mind. The inducing of introspection turns out to be a
deliberate function of Zen art--the forcing of the mind past the surface
form of an art work and into a direct experience of a greater truth.

The Zen arts are, we realize at last, completely internalized. They
depend as much on the perception of the viewer or participants as they
do on any of their own inherent qualities. For this reason they can be
sparing and restrained. (They also happen to be perfectly suited to a
land that, over the centuries, has been as physically impoverished as
Japan.) By using small- scale, suggestive arts that depend to a large
extent on the special perception of the audience for their impact, Zen
artists were able to provide immense satisfaction with only a minor
investment of resources. It is rather like the relation of radio to
television drama. Given an audience with a good imagination, a radio
dramatist or a Zen artist can achieve the intended effect through
suggestion. This is what Sir George Sansom had in mind when he remarked
upon the

_important part played by aesthetic feeling in the enrichment of
Japanese life. Among Japanese of all classes, an instinctive awareness
of beauty seems to compensate for a standard of well-being which to
Western judgement seems poor and bleak. Their habit of finding pleasure
in common things, their quick appreciation of form and color, their
feelings for simple elegance, are gifts which may well be envied by us
who depend so much for our happiness upon quantity of possessions and
complexity of apparatus. Such happy conditions, in which frugality is
not the enemy of satisfaction, are perhaps the most distinctive
features in the cultural history of Japan.4


Zen culture, working with the already highly developed vocabulary and
capacity for perception developed in the Heian era, unlocked powerful
new techniques that have made Japanese culture a special case in the
annals of world civilization. Perhaps the best case in point is the
stone garden at Ryoan-ji, which is a triumph of pure suggestiveness. It
is clearly a symbol--but a symbol of what? It is clearly an invitation
to open one's perception--but open it to what? The work gives no hint.
With Ryoan-ji Zen artists finally perfected the device of
suggestiveness to the point where it could stand on its own. The garden
seems almost to be a natural object, like a sunset or a piece of
driftwood. The impact of a traditional Zen room is similar. It simply
amplifies whatever powers of understanding the viewer already
possesses. Of itself it is a void.

By relying so strongly on perception, the Japanese have created a
strikingly original way of using and experiencing art. Western critics
for several hundred years have argued about the function of art, the
responsibilities of the audience vis-à-vis a work of art, the varying
types of perception, and so on, but they have never dealt with the
peculiar phenomenon of Zen art, where the work can be merely a device
to start the mind going. How do you write a critical analysis of a work
of art that only takes shape after it gets inside your head? It is
interesting to watch critic after critic struggling with Ryoan-ji,
trying to explain its power, only to collapse at last in defeat.5
Similarly, the most effective Haiku are those about which the least can
be said. Ryoan-ji takes your breath away when you first see it; like a
good Haiku it slams you against a moment of direct experience. Yet when
you try to analyze it, you find there is nothing significant to say.
Ryoan-ji may not even be a work of art by our Western definition; it
may be some sort of mind device for which we have no word. Similarly,
Haiku's relation to Western poetry may be limited to typography. The
arts of the West--painting, poetry, drama, literature, sculpture--are all
enhanced by critical analysis. When we speak of Milton, we really speak
of Milton as seen through many layers of critical explanation and
interpretation. The Zen arts have inspired no such body of critical
analysis, perhaps because they do not have many of those qualities we
normally think of as aesthetic. Does Ryoan-ji have beauty in any
conventional sense? It merely exists. It is, if anything, anti-art.

If we in the West wish to borrow from the complex world of Zen culture,
we must first begin to train and intensify our powers of perception. In
this regard, one is tempted to speculate that the Japanese must have
learned to turn these powers down as well as up. How else can one
explain the Japanese ability to ignore so much of the blight of modern
civilization while maintaining a national fetish for such purely
aesthetic phenomena as cherry blossoms? As Donald Richie observed,
"Japan is the most modern of all countries perhaps because, having a
full and secure past, it can afford to live in the instantaneous
present."0 Alongside all the aesthetic indignities of the twentieth
century, the ancient sense of taste appears to have survived
undiminished. A concern for beauty is still very much a part of
everyday life in Japan. Whereas the appreciation of art is usually the
pursuit of a privileged few in Western countries, in Japan the
aesthetic quality of everyday objects is commonly acknowledged to be
fully as important as their function. It is not uncommon to discover a
rustic day laborer arranging flowers, practicing the tea ceremony, or
fashioning a garden in his spare time. The peasant may be as sure a
judge of tea bowls as the prince. Even the match boxes from the
sleaziest bars are minor works of art, as are bundles and packages from
even the most modern commercial establishments. A sense of beauty is
not considered unmanly; indeed, it is regarded as essential to the good
life, harking all the way back to the virile _samurai_.

         Zen culture's primary lesson is that we should start trying to
experience art and the world around us rather than analyzing

them. When we do this, we find that everything suddenly comes alive. If
we can take this power of direct perception, sharpened by the devices
of Zen art, back to everyday activities, we will find a beauty in
common objects that we previously ignored. Flowers--indeed individual
petals--become objects of the most intense loveliness. When we see the
world with a Zen-honed awareness, our sense of the beauty in objects
supplants our desire to possess them. If we allow the ancient creators
of Zen culture to touch our lives, we open wider the doors of

                                             *       *       *



1.	"The Diary of Murasaki Shikibu," from Diaries of Court Ladies of Old
Japan, trans. Omori, Annie Shepley, and Kochi Doi (Tokyo, 1935; reprint
ed., New York, AMS Press), p. 147.

2.	The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, trans. Ivan Morris (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1967), p. 40.

3.	Ibid., p. 214.

4.	"The Diary of Murasaki Shikibu," p. 74.

5.	The Kokin Waka-shu, trans. H. H. Honda (Tokyo: Hoku-seido Press,
1970), p. 35.

6.	See Wm. Theodore de Bary, ed., Sources of Japanese Tradition, vol. 1
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1958).

7.	Earl Miner, An Introduction to Japanese Court Poetry (Stanford,
Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1968), p. 9.


1.	Essays in Zen Buddhism: First Series, trans. D. T. Suzuki (London:
Grove Press, 1949), p- 181.

2.	Translated in A Buddhist Bible, ed. Dwight Goddard (Boston: Beacon
Press, 1970), p. 315.

3.	Ibid., p. 323.

4.	Chuang Tzu, Basic Writings, trans. Burton Watson (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1964), p. 94.

5.	The Sutra of Hui Neng, trans. A. F. Price and Wong Mou- Lam
(Berkeley: Shambala, 1969) p. 1 5.

6.	Ibid., p. 18.

7.	The Diamond Sutra, trans. A. F. Price and Wong Mou-Lam (Berkeley:
Sliambala, 1969), p. 37.

8.	de Bary, Sources of Japanese Tradition, 1: 236.

9.	George Sansom, A History of Japan to 1334 (Stanford, Calif.:
Stanford University Press, 1958), p. 429.

10.  Dogen Zenji, Selling Water by the River, trans. Jiyu Kennett (New
York: Pantheon, 1972), p. 115.


1. D. T. Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton
University Press, 1959), p. 146.


1. de Bary, Sources of Japanese Tradition, 1: 255.


1. David H. Engel, Japanese Gardens for Today (Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle,


1.	Seiroku Noma, Artistry in Ink (New York: Crown, 1957), p. 3.

2.	Two Twelfth-Century Texts on Chinese Painting, trans. R. J. Maeda
(Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Papers in Chinese Studies, No. 8,
1970), p. 17.

3.	Osvald Siren, The Chinese on the Art of Painting (New York:
Schocken, 1963), p. 97.

4.	Ernest F. Fenollosa, Epochs of Chinese and Japanese Art (New York:
Dover, 1963), 2: 11. (Reprint.)


x. Lafcadio Hearn, Gleanings in Buddha-Fields (Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle,
1971), p. 1. (Reprint.)

2. For a fuller discussion of early Japanese architecture, see Arthur
Drexler, The Architecture of Japan (New York: Arno Press, 1955)

3.	An excellent discussion of _shibui _may be found in Anthony West's
essay, "What Japan Has That We May Profitably Borrow," House Beautiful,
August 1960.

4.	Ralph Adams Cram, Impressions of Japanese Architecture (New York:
Dover, 1966) p. 127. (Reprint.)

5.	Heinrich Engel, The Japanese House (Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle, 1964) pp.


1.	R. H. Blyth, Eastern Culture (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949), 1: 146.

2.	de Bary, Sources of Japanese Tradition, 1: 278.

3.	Charles K. Tuttle, The Noh Drama (Nippon: Giakujutsu Shinkokai,
1955), p. 130.


1. Joao Rodrigues, This Island of Japan, trans. Michael Cooper (Tokyo:
Kodansha, 1973), pp. 272-273.


1.	Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture, p. 299.

2.	Ibid., p. 305.


1.	Ruskin, John, The Stones of Venice, Volume II (1853), from
Selected Prose of Ruskin, Matthew Hodgart, ed. (New York: New American
Library, 1970), pp. 119 and 124.


1.	See Kenneth Rexroth, One Hundred Poems from the Japanese (New York:
New Directions, 1964).

2.	See Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite, eds., 'I'he Penguin Book of
Japanese Verse (Baltimore: Penguin, 1964).

3.	Ibid., p. 71.

4.	Miner, An Introduction to Japanese Court Poetry, p. 91.

5.	Harold G. Henderson, An Introduction to Haiku (Garden City, N.Y.:
Doubleday Anchor, 1958), p. 18.

6.	Ibid., p. 18.

7.	See Kenneth Yasuda, The Japanese Haiku (Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle, 1957).

8.	Henderson, An Introduction to Haiku, p. 39.

9.	Ibid., p. 49.

10.	Ibid., p. 94.

11.	Ibid., p. 108.

12.	Ibid., p. 113.

13.	Ibid., p. 146.

14.	Issa, The Year of My Life, trans. Nobuyuki Yuasa (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1960), p. 104.

15.	R. H. Blyth, A History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964),

2: 82.


1.	Sato, Shozo. The Art of Arranging Flowers. New York: Abrams,
3.	Quoted in Michael Cooper, ed., They Came to Japan (University of
California Press, 1965), p. 194.

1.	Gary E. Schwartz, Richard J. Davidson, and Foster Maer, "Right
Hemisphere Lateralization for Emotion in the Human Brain: Interactions
with Cognition," Science, October 17, 1975, p. 287.

2.	Frank Gibney, "The Japanese and Their Language," Encounter, March
1975, p. 35.

3.	Masao Kunihiro, "Indigenous Barriers to Communication," The Wheel
Extended, Spring 1974, p. 13.

4.	George Sansom, Japan: A Short Cultural History, rev. ed. (New York:
Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1962).

5.	The best analysis to date is Eliot Deutsch, "An Invitation to
Contemplation," Studies in Comparative Aesthetics, Monographs of the
Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, No. 2, University of
Hawaii Press, 1975.

6.	Donald Richie, The Inland Sea (New York: Weatherhill, 1971), p. 60.



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Hisamatsu, Shin'ichi. Zen and the Fine Arts. Palo Alto, Calif.:
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Janeira, Armando Martins. Japanese and Western Literature. Rutland,
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	. The Arts of Japan, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle, 1957.

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Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958.

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lkebana. New York: International Book Society, 1966. Sato, Shozo. The
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Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle, 1960.

Steinberg, Rafael. The Cooking of Japan. New York: Time, 1969.

Tsuji, Kaichi. Kaiseki: Zen Tastes in Japanese Cooking. Tokyo:
Kadonsha, 1972.

Ueda, Makoto. Literary and Art Theories in Japan. Cleveland: Press of
Case Western Reserve University, 1967.


Hoff, Frank, and Flindt, Willi, trans. The Life Structure of the Noh.
Racine, Wisconsin: Concerned Theatre Japan, 1973.

Keene, Donald. No, The Classical Theatre of Japan. Palo Alto, Calif.:
Kodansha, 1966.

Keene, Donald, ed. Twenty Plays of the No Theatre. New York: Columbia
University Press, 1970.

Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkokai (Japanese Classics Translation Committee).
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3, 1960.

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Tuttle, 1960.

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Ze-ami. Kadensho. Kvoto: Sumiva-Shinobe, 1968.


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Bowie, Henry P. On the Laws of Japanese Painting. New York: Dover, 1952

Fenollosa, Ernest F. Epochs of Chinese and Japanese Art. 2 vols. New
York: Dover, 1963 (reprint).

Fontein, Jan, and Hickman, Money L. Zen Painting and Calligraphy.
Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1970.

Lee, Sherman E. Chinese Landscape Painting. New York: Harper & Row,

	. A History of Far Eastern Art. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:

Prentice-Hall, 1964.

	. Japanese Decorative Style. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.

	. Tea Taste in Japanese Art. New York: Asia House, 1963.

	. "Zen in Art: Art in Zen." Cleveland Museum of Art Bulletin 59
(1972): 238-259.

Maeda, Robert J., trans. Two Twelfth-Century Texts on Chinese Painting.
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Papers in Chinese Studies, No. 8,

Matsushita, Takaaki. Ink Painting. New York: Weatherhill/Shi- bundo,

Morrison, Arthur. The Painters of Japan. New York: Stokes, 1911.

Nakata, Yujiro. The Art of Japanese Calligraphy. New York: Weatherhill,

Noma, Seiroku. Artistry in Ink. New York: Crown, 1957.

Siren, Osvald. The Chinese on the Art of Painting. New York: Schocken,

Shimizu, Yoshiaki, and Wheelwright, Carolyn, eds. Japanese Ink
Paintings from American Museums: The Muromachi Period. Princeton, N.J.:
Princeton University Press, 1976.

Sugahara, Hisao. Japanese Ink Painting and Calligraphy. Brooklyn, N.Y.:
Brooklyn Museum, 1967.

Sze, Mai-Mai. The Way of Chinese Painting. New York: Random House,

Tanaka, Ichimatsu. Japanese Ink Painting: Shubun to Sesshu. New York:
Weatherhill, 1972.


Basho, Matsuo. Monkey's Raincoat. New York: Grossman, 1973.

Blyth, R. H. Senryu: Japanese Satirical Verses. Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949.

	. Haiku, vol. 1: Eastern Culture-, vol. 2: Spring; vol. 3:

Summer-Autumn; Vol. 4: Autumn-Winter. Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952.

	. A History of Haiku. 2 vols. Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1963-1964.

Bownas, Geoffrey, and Thwaite, Anthony, eds. The Penguin Book of
Japanese Verse. Baltimore: Penguin, 1964.

de Bary, Win. Theodore, ed. The Manyoshu. New York: Columbia University
Press, 1965.

Giroux, Joan. The Haiku Form. Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle, 1974.

Henderson, Harold G. An Introduction to Haiku. Garden City, N.Y.:
Doubleday Anchor, 1958.

Honda, II. H. The Kokin Waka-Shu. Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1970.

Isaacson, Harold J., trans. Peonies Kana: Haiku by the Upasaka Shiki.
New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1972.

Issa. The Year of My Life. 2nd ed. Translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972.

Janeira, Armando Martins. Japanese and Western Literature. Rutland,
Vt.: Tuttle, 1970.

Keene, Donald. Japanese Literature. New York: Grove Press, 1955.

	, ed. Anthology of Japanese Literature. New York: Grove

Press, 1955.

Miner, Earl. An Introduction to Japanese Court Poetry. Stanford,
Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1968.

Rexroth, Kenneth. One Hundred Poems from the Japanese. New York: New
Directions, 1964.

Ueda, Makoto. Literary and Art Theories in Japan. Cleveland: Press of
Western Reserve University, 1967.

	. Matsuo Basho. New York: Twayne, 1970.

Yasuda, Kenneth. A Pepper-Pod. New York: Knopf, 1947.

	. The Japanese Haiku. Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle, 1957.

Yuasa, Nobuyuki, trans. Basho: The Narrow Road to the Deep North and
Other Travel Sketches. Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1966.


_amado_: sliding, removable panels around exterior of traditional

_Amida_: widely worshiped figure in Buddhist pantheon and central
figure of adoration in Jodo and Jodo Shin Buddhism.

_Ashikaga_: dynasty of shoguns (1333-1573) whose patronage inspired
great classic age of Zen culture.

_atman_: Hindu concept of the "soul" or a personal element in the
larger god-head.

_aware_: aesthetic concept which arose in Heian era, originally meaning
a pleasant emotion evoked unexpectedly but later evolving to include

Basho (1644-1694): foremost Haiku poet of Japan.

Bodhidharma: Indian monk who appeared in China around 520 and laid the
basis for the Ch'an sect of Buddhism, becoming the First Patriarch of

Brahman: supreme god-head of Brahmanism.

Brahman: priest caste of Brahmanism.

_bugaku_: ancient court dances in Japan, imported from Asia.

Buddha: historic figure from sixth century B.C. in northeast Asia whose
teachings became the basis for Buddhism.

_chabana_: spare and elegant flower arrangement prepared to accompany
the tea ceremony.

Ch'an: belief system founded by Bodhidharma in the sixth century in
China, combining elements of Indian Buddhism and Chinese Taoism and
known in Japan as Zen.

Ch'ang-an: T'ang Chinese capital which was the model for the

original Japanese capital at Nara.

_cha-no-yu_: Japanese tea ceremony, which became the vehicle for the
preservation of Zen aesthetic theory.

_chigai-dana_: decorative shelf system in traditional Japanese houses
which was borrowed from storage cabinets in Ch'an monasteries.i

_chinzo_: realistic polychromatic character studes of Zen masters.
Chojiro (1515-1592): first great _raku _potter and founder of _raku

_choka_: early Japanese poetry form, longer than Haiku.

Chuang Tzu: traditionally a fourth century B.C. Taoist.

_daimyo_: feudal governor of a domain, who often retained a force of

Daisen-in: temple which is the site of a famous Zen stone garden

in Kyoto.

Daitoku-ji: major Zen monastery in Kyoto, site of Daisin-in temple.
_dharma_: term denoting the universal order of the universe. _dhyana_:
Sanskrit term for meditation, corrupted to "Ch'an" in

Chinese and "Zen" in Japanese.

Dogen (1200-1253): priest who introduced Soto sect of Zen to

Japan, founding a temple in 1236.

Eisai (1141-121 5): founder of Rinzai sect of Zen in Japan (1191).
_en_: Heian aesthetic term meaning charming, sprightly.

_engawa_: outer walkway around traditional Japanese house, between
amado and shoji.

_eta_: formerly outcast class in Japan because of association with

meat and hides industry.

_fusuma_: sliding partitions in the traditional Japanese house.
Gautama: original name of the Buddha.

_genkan_: portico in the traditional house where shoes are removed.

Ginkaku-ji: "Silver Pavilion" built by Yoshimasa in 1482.

Godaigo: ill-fated emperor who reigned from 1318 to 1339 and

attempted to restore genuine imperial rule.

Gozan: five most important Zen monasteries, or "Five Mountains," which
in Kyoto were Tenryu-ji, Shokoku-ji, Tofuku-ji, Kennin-ji, and Manju-

_haboku_: "broken ink" style of monochrome painting.

_haikai_: Early name for poetic form now known as Haiku.

_Haiku_: verse form consisting of seventeen syllables.

Hakuin (1685-1768): Zen teacher of Tokugawa period who revived Rinzai

_haniwa_: clay sculpture of the pre-Buddhist period.

_harakiri_: ritual suicide, more politely known as seppuku.

Heian: Period of indigenous aristocratic culture.

_hibachi_: small brazier heater in the traditional Japanese house.

Hideyori (1593-1615): son of Hideyoshi, committed suicide when defeated
by Tokugawa Ievasu.

Hideyoshi (1536-1598): general who assumed control of Japan after Oda
Nobunaga was murdered and who inspired Momoyama age of Japanese art.

Hinayana: more traditional form of Japanese Buddhism, which is
practiced in Southeast Asia.

_hinoki_: Japanese cypress.

Hojo: regents who dominated the Kamakura period of Japanese history

_hokku_: first three lines of a renga, or linked verse, which later
came to be written alone as a Haiku.

Honen (1133-1212): founder of the Jodo or Pure Land sect


Hosokawa: clan which served as advisers and regents for the Ashikaga.

Hsia Kuei (active ca. 1180-1230): Southern Sung Chinese painter whose
stvle strongly influenced later Zen artists in Japan.

Hui-k'o (487-593): Second Patriarch of Chinese Ch'an, said to have cut
off his arm to attract Bodhidharma's notice.

Hui-neng (638-713): Sixth Patriarch of Ch'an and founder of the
Southern school of Ch'an which was transmitted to Japan.

Hung-jen (605-675): Fifth Patriarch of Ch'an and teacher of Hui-neng.

Ievasu (1542-1616): founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, which ruled
Japan from 1615 to 1868.

Ikebana: Japanese flower arranging.

Jodo: sect of Japanese Buddhism based on chant praising Amida Buddha
which was founded in 1175.

Jodo Shin: rival sect of Japanese Buddhism also based on chant praising
Amida which was founded in 1224.

Jomon: prehistoric culture in Japan.

Josetsu (active 1400-1413): leading artist in Japanese Sung revival.

_kaiseki_: special cuisine associated with the tea ceremony. Kamakura:
effective capital of Japan during period of warrior

domination (1185-1333). kami: Shinto spirits inhabiting the natural

Kamikaze: "Divine Wind" that sank the Mongol fleet attacking

Japan in 1281.

_kamoi_: crossbeams in the traditional Japanese house.

Kano: family of painters dominating much of Japanese painting since the
sixteenth century, replacing Zen artists as the official stylists.

_kare sansui_: stone gardens in "dry landscape" style.

Kinkaku-ji: "Golden Pavilion" built by Yoshimitsu in 1394.

_koan_: illogical conundrums used in Rinzai Zen to induce

_koicha_: powdered green tea used in the tea ceremony.

Kokinshu: anthology of Japanese poems from the year 905.

Kukai (774-835): introduced Shingon Buddhism to Japan in 808. Kyogen:
farces performed as part of a program of No plays. Kyoto: capital city
of Japan from 794 to seventeenth century and

site of classic Zen culture.

Lankavatara: _sutra _believed by Bodhidharma to best express Ch'an

Lin-chi (d. 866): leading figure of the "sudden enlightenment" school
of Ch'an, whose teachings were much of the basis of Japanese Rinzai

Mahayana: Buddhism which spread to China and Japan. _mandala_: esoteric
diagrams purportedly containing the key to cosmological truths.

Manyoshu: early anthology of Japanese poetry (780).

Ma Yuan (active ca. 1190-1224): Chinese Southern Sung painter

whose works strongly influenced Japanese Zen artists.

Minamoto: warrior family of the Heian and Kamakura eras. Mincho (1351-
1431): Japanese priest and one of the first Japanese artists to
successfully adopt and revive Chinese styles of paintings.

_miso_: fermented soybean paste used in Japanese cooking. _miyabi_:
Heian aesthetic term signifying subtleties only a connoisseur could

Momoyama: period of Japanese history from 1 537 to 1615. mondo: Zen
question-and-answer session in which a novice must

respond immediately and without reflection to questions posed by a Zen

Mu-ch'i (ca. 1210-ca. 1280): Chinese Ch'an painter whose works

strongly affected Japanese Zen artists.

mudra: sacred hand signs.

Muso Soseki (1275-1351): Zen scholar and adviser to Ashikaga Takauji,
who is traditionally thought to be the designer of several early Zen
landscape gardens in Kvoto.

Nageire: style of Ikebana.

_nageshi_: decorative element in the ceiling of a traditional Japanese

Nara: site of the first capital of Japan, which was consecrated in

710 and abandoned by the court in 784.

_nembutsu_: chant to Amida Buddha used by Jodo and Jodo Shin sects.

Nichiren (1222-1282): founder of Buddhist sect based on Lotus Sutra.

Nichiren Shoshu: name of the sect founded by Nichiren.

No: theatrical form reflecting Zen ideals, which came to prominence
during the Ashikaga era.

Nobunaga (1534-1582): military ruler who began the movement to unify

Oribe: style of Japanese Zen-influenced ceramics.

pi-kuan: "wall-gazing" meditation practiced and extolled by

Raku: style of ceramics invented by Chojiro.

_ramma_: open latticework in the traditional Japanese house.

Renga: "linked verse" form of Japanese poetry, in which different

participants must contribute alternate stanzas.

Rikka: an early style of formal flower arranging.

Rinzai: Japanese sect of Zen stressing sudden enlightenment and use of

_roji_: "dewy path" leading through the Japanese tea garden. Ryoan-ji:
temple in Kyoto with a famous kare sansui flat garden. _Sabi_:
aesthetic tenn signifying the dignity of old age.

Saicho (767-822): introduced Tendai Buddhism into Japan (806).

Saiho-ji: temple in Kyoto and site of early Zen landscape garden.
Sakyamuni: the Buddha, "sage of the Sakyas."

_samurai_: Japanese warriors, who were the first converts to Zen.
Sanskrit: original language of much Buddhist literature.

_sarugaku_: theatrical form which was forerunner of the No. _sashimi_:
raw fish.

_satori_: Zen term for enlightenment.

Sen no Rikyu (1521-1591): proponent of wabi aesthetics who

strongly influenced the evolution of the tea ceremony.

_seppuku_: ritual suicide.

Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506): greatest Japanese Zen painter.

Seto: site of  Japanese pottery production.

Shao-lin: Chinese monastery where Bodhidharma reportedly first

went to meditate.

Shen-hsiu (606-706): traditionally said to have been rival of Hui- neng
at monastery of Fifth Patriarch and later much favored by Chinese
ruling circles.

_shibui_: important tenn for later Zen aesthetics which means
understated, simple good taste. shin: type of ink-painting technique.

_shincha_: type of tea.

_shinden_: Heian architectural stvle borrowed from China.

Shingon: esoteric sect of Buddhism introduced into Japan by

Kukai in 808.

Shino: style of Japanese Zen-inspired ceramics.

Shinran (1173-1262): founder of the Jodo Shin sect in Japan (1224).

Shinto: original Japanese belief svstem, which preceded Buddhism.

_shite_: leading character of a No drama.

_shoin_: name of the writing desk in Ch'an monasteries, which gave

its name to the classic style of the Zen-inspired Japanese house.
_shoji_: Rice-paper-covered latticework used as windows in the
traditional Japanese house.

Shubun (fl. 1414-d. ca. 1463): painter-monk at Shokoku-ji in Kyoto.

Siddharta: the Buddha, so: technique of Japanese ink painting. So'ami
(1472-1525): Japanese ink painter and garden artist. Sotan (1414-1481):
Zen painter at Shokoku-ji, none of whose

works are definitely known to survive.

Soto: Japanese Zen sect emphasizing "gradual" enlightenment through

sukiya: later style of Japanese architecture which evolved from the

sumi: Japanese black ink.

_sutra_: works supposedly reporting discourses of the Buddha or his

Taira: warrior clan instrumental in ousting Heian aristocracy and

ending Heian era.

Takauji (1305-1358): founder of the Ashikaga shogunate.

Taoism: native Chinese belief system which influenced Ch'an philosophy.

Tatami: woven straw mats used for carpeting in the traditional Japanese

Tendai: sect of Chinese Buddhism introduced into Japan by Saicho (806).

Tenryu-ji: important Zen temple in Kyoto and site of early Zen-

stvle landscape garden.

toko-bashira: decorative, unpainted tree trunk used in traditional

house as part of art alcove.

tokonoma: special art alcove in the Japanese house, which was

originally derived from the shrine in Chinese monasteries.

Tomi-ko: wife of Ashikaga Yoshimasa.

Toshiro: thirteenth-century potter who visited China and brought

back important Chinese ceramics technology.

_usucha_: a thin tea served as part of the tea ceremony. wabi:
aesthetic term meaning a sense of deliberate poverty and naturalness.

_waka_: thirty-one-syllable Japanese verse popularized in the Heian

_waki_: supporting actor in the No drama.

Yayoi: pre-Buddhist culture in Japan.

Yoshimasa (1435-1490): Ashikaga shogun and staunch patron of Zen arts.

Yoshimitsu (1358-1408): Ashikaga shogun whose patronage

sparked the classic era of Zen culture.

_yugen_: most important term in Zen aesthetic vocabulary, meaning

among other things that which is mysterious or profound.

_zazen_: meditation, a mainstay of the Soto sect of Japanese Zen.
_zenkiga_: style of Zen painting.



Zen Culture

The Zen Experience


The Moghul


Wall Street _Samurai_

     (The _Samurai_ Strategy)

Project Daedalus

Project Cyclops

Life Blood


All free as e-books at


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