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Wisdom within Words An Annotated Translation of Dogen's Chinese-Style Poetry


Wisdom within Words An Annotated Translation of Dogen's Chinese-Style Poetry

  • ISBN 13:


  • ISBN 10:


  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 09/06/2022
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Wisdom within Words is the first complete bilingual edition and annotated translation of the poetry collection entitled Kuchugen, which features 150 Chinese-style verses (kanshi) written by Dogen Zenji (1200-1253), founder of the Soto Zen sect in early medieval Japan, and compiled in the eighteenth century by Menzan Zuiho. These poems are essential in highlighting several key aspects of Dogen's manner of thinking and process of writing creatively while transmitting the Chan/Zen tradition from China to Japan in the first half of the thirteenth century. Dogen learned the Chinese style of writing poetry--featuring four rhyming lines with seven characters each--when he travelled to the mainland in the 1220s. It was there that he first composed 50 verses, the only texts available from this career stage. He continued to write Sinitic poetry throughout his career at both Koshoji temple in Kyoto and Eiheiji temple in the remote mountains.

Dogen's poems had various aims, including reflecting on meditation during periods of reclusion, commenting on cryptic koan cases, eulogizing deceased patriarchs, celebrating festivals and seasonal occasions, welcoming new administrative appointees at the temple, remarking on the life of the Buddha and other aspects of attaining enlightenment, and highlighting various teachings or instructions. Although Dogen's poetry has often been overlooked by the sectarian tradition, these writings have played valuable roles in the development of East Asian Buddhist contemplative life.

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