on 20 July 2011
This is probably the most significant work of translation concerning Chinese Ch'an Buddhism, since the work of Charles Luk (1898-1978). The premise of this book is simple; the form of Buddhism commonly known today as 'Zen' is in fact the Japanese version of a far older tradition. This book examines the Chinese origins of Zen, (called 'Ch'an' in China), through the presentation of Chinese Ch'an Buddhist texts. These texts, by and large, have been translated into English before, but generally speaking, these earlier renditions are either long out of print, difficult to acquire, or contain only partially translated texts.
The paperback (2000) edition contains 518 numbered pages and as well as a Foreword (by Rob Anderson), a Preface, a Technical Note an Introduction and an Appendix, is separated into 3 parts which record 25 generations of Ch'an masters (the first 6 generations of which are considered 'Patriarchs'), from the Indian Bodhidharma - who first brought Ch'an Buddhism to China, to master Wumen of the later Song Dynasty (960-1279).
Part 1) The Legendary Period (480-755) - Ch'an Master Generations 1 - 7.
Part 2) The Classical Period (755-950) - Ch'an Master Generations 8 - 15.
Part 3) The Literary Period (950-1260) - Ch'an Master Generations 16 - 25.
The core text used for this translation is the 'Wudeng Huiyan' (Compendium of Five Lamps) compiled by Ch'an master Dachuan Lingyin Puji (1179-1253), of Lingyin Monastery, Hangzhou, China. The collection begins Bodhidharma (died around 530CE), and ends with Ch'an master Wumen Huikai (1183-1260), famous in his own right for the collection of 48 'gong-an' (Japanese 'koan') he compiled in 1229 entitled the 'Wumenguan', or 'No Barrier Gate'. The Appendix contains the poem entitked 'Faith in the Mind', a Ch'an text attributed to the third Ch'an Patriarch Jianzhi Sengcan (d. 606CE). Interestingly, this poem does not appear in the 'Wudeng Huiyan' - instead, the author translates this text into English from the Chinese original entitled 'Chan Zong Bao Dian'. Finally, included at the back of the book is a lineage chart showing 179 important Ch'an masters, the five main schools of Ch'an, and other Ch'an schools and branches. This is an excellent book that can be easily read by the general reader, or used by the committed Ch'an/Zen Buddhist. It shows clearly the Chinese roots of Japanese Zen Buddhism, and therefore accomplishes the task expressed in its title.
on 8 February 2013
I am amazed by this book, I have read in excess of thirty Zen books in the last five years and like you pratcice Zazen daily. If you haven't read this get it, its a monster book, a good two inches thick It starts way back in the mists of Chinese Zen with Bodhidharma and from there you are transported through the whole linage of Zen. This book is a true wonder of Zen and I can't recommend it highly enough. Andy Ferguson I take my hat of to you, I have never met you but I have the greatest admiration for any man that can gather so much under one cover, must have taken him years..If your an aspiring Zen monk...buy this and discover the masters are truly alive and well!
on 22 February 2012
I bought this book on the recommendation of the leader of our Chan meditation group in Cardiff, Eddy Street. It's been very interesting. Many of the stories are quite similar but there are some truely great stories. There is a nice pull out chart and no analysis of the stories really. While it's a bit pricy, there is so much material that I think I will be reading in for years.