Top positive review
18 people found this helpful
And I still don't understand Zen
on 18 October 2011
This is a very comprehensive book. Moans first about the Kindle version, on opening it starts at 5% so you have to page back otherwise you miss some of the time lines, the other dislike is there are random hyphens in some of the words which is quite distracting. Apart from that the Kindle version is good with some helpful illustrations. There is also a very comprehensive reference section and glossary which could have been improved with hyperlinks rather than having to bookmark and switch back and forwards.
I headed this as "and I still don't understand Zen" which is fair comment as I started with no real knowledge of Zen other than passing references in books I have read and the word seems to have slipped into the English language with no real meaning attached.
This book does attempt to explain it but all it does is to show that a book is not adequate to explain it, however the book does comprehensively cover much of Japanese history and culture and explains much about Japanese culture as much as Zen.
The book is divided into a number of sections and although I read it all the way through it would also be useful as a reference to various facets these are:-
Part 1: The beginnings: Prehistory to 1333; Which includes such diverse subjects as "Zen Culture and the Counter Mind" and "Zen Archery and Swordsmanship"
Part 11: The Age of high Culture: Ashikaga (1333-1573); Which includes much about Gardens, Architecture and the No theatre.
Part 111: The Rise of Popular Zen Culture: 1573 to the Present; Which includes the tea ceremony, ceramic art, poetry and flowers and food.
These are followed by large sections on References, Bibliography and a Glossary.
In summary a well researched fascinating book that gives glimpses of Zen and indeed Japanese culture and goes someway to explain the reasons behind them. The failure if any is that it sets an impossible task for a single book. Well worth a read or keeping for a reference if you have any interest in the subject. I know it will help my understanding when I next go to the British Museum when I will look at Japanese ceramics from a different viewpoint.