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Huike Offering His Arm to Bodhidharma, Sesshū Tōyō (1496).

Zen is the Japanese name for the form of East Asian Buddhism that is known as Chan in China, Seon in Korea, and Thien in Vietnam.

This form of Buddhism orginated in China (as Chan) during the 6th century, and was later transmitted to Korea, Japan and Vietnam.

Since this form of Buddhism was popularized in the West by Japanese teachers, it came to be known as "Zen" in the West. Hence, since Westerners are familiar with this term, Western scholars commonly use the term "Zen" to refer to Chan/Zen within China, Korea and/or Vietnam.

For example, scholars sometimes refer to "Chinese Zen", "Korean Zen" or "Vietnamese Zen". These are just different names for Chinese Chan, Korean Seon, or Vietnamese Thien, respectively.

All of the Chan/Zen traditions trace their origins back to the Chinese Chan school, and all recoginize a lineage of teachers that includes Bodhidharma, who is credited with establishing the tradition in China, and Huineng (the Sixth Patriarch), whose teachings are recorded in the seminal treatise, The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. Separate branches of this lineage were established in Korea and Japan, after Chan/Zen became established in those countries.

Generally speaking, Chan/Zen emphasizes direct insight into the nature of reality that is developed primarily through combining the practice of sitting meditation with a direct mind-to-mind transmission from master to disciple.

See also:

Further reading

Modern works
  • D.T. Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, First Series (1927), Second Series (1933), Third Series (1934)
  • R. H. Blyth, Zen and Zen Classics, 5 volumes (1960–1970; reprints of works from 1942 into the 1960s)
  • Alan Watts, The Way of Zen (1957)
  • Lu K'uan Yu (Charles Luk), Ch'an and Zen Teachings, 3 vols (1960, 1971, 1974), The Transmission of the Mind: Outside the Teaching (1974)
  • Paul Reps & Nyogen Senzaki, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (1957)
  • Philip Kapleau, The Three Pillars of Zen (1966)
  • Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1970)
  • Katsuki Sekida, Zen Training: Methods & Philosophy (1975)
Classic historiography
  • Dumoulin, Heinrich (2005), Zen Buddhism: A History. Volume 1: India and China. World Wisdom Books.ISBN 978-0-941532-89-1
  • Dumoulin, Heinrich (2005), Zen Buddhism: A History. Volume 2: Japan. World Wisdom Books.ISBN 978-0-941532-90-7
Critical historiography


Formation of Chán in Tang & Song China

  • Mcrae, John (2003), Seeing through Zen. Encounter, Transformation, and Genealogy in Chinese Chan Buddhism. The University Press Group Ltd .ISBN 978-0-520-23798-8
  • Welter, Albert (2000), Mahakasyapa's smile. Silent Transmission and the Kung-an (Koan) Tradition. In: Steven Heine and Dale S. Wright (eds)(2000): "The Koan. Texts and Contexts in Zen Buddhism, Oxford: Oxford University Press 
  • Schlütter, Morten (2008), How Zen became Zen. The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, ISBN 978-0-8248-3508-8 


Modern times

  • Victoria, Brian Daizen (2006), Zen at war (Second ed.), Lanham e.a.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 
  • Sharf, Robert H. (1995a), Whose Zen? Zen Nationalism Revisited (PDF) 

Orientalism and East-West interchange

Contemporary practice
  • Borup, Jørn (2008), Japanese Rinzai Zen Buddhism: Myōshinji, a Living Religion, Brill 
  • Hori, Victor Sogen (1994), "Teaching and Learning in the Zen Rinzai Monastery" (PDF), Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol (1): 5–35 
  • Buswell, Robert E. (1993a), The Zen Monastic Experience: Buddhist Practice in Contemporary Korea, Princeton University Press 

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