Ryokan: Zen Monk-Poet of Japan
Ryokan (1758-1831), a Buddhist monk in the Zen sect, was a major figure in Tokugawa poetry. Though a Zen master, he never headed a temple but chose to live alone in simple huts and to support himself by begging. His poems are mainly a record of his daily activities--of chores, lonely snowbound winters, begging expeditions to town, meetings with friends, romps with the village children. At the same time they show us how rich a spiritual and intellectual life a man could enjoy in the midst of poverty.
Ryokan's unusual personality and outlook are evident in this volume. His Japanese poems (waka) were influenced by the poets of the eighth-century Man'yoshu anthology. Eighty-three representative works are presented here. He also wrote Chinese poems (Kanshi), some doctrinal in nature and many inspired by Han-shan, a Buddhist recluse and Master of Cold Mountain. Forty-three of these are included in the collection.
To enrich the text, the original Japanese poems are provided in romanized form. Also included are an explanation of the Buddhist practice of begging for food, and an introduction by Burton Watson.
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Poems in Japanese
Poems in Chinese
Statement on Begging for Food
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