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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsHi. In week 1, we introduced the week’s content from the Ryōsoku-in temple, part of the Kenninji temple complex in Kyoto, and in Week 2 we began our journey from the Ashikaga Gakkō in Ashikaga City, Tochigi prefecture. For Week 3, we are at the Keio Institute of Oriental Classics (Shidō Bunko) on Keio University’s Mita campus. The Ryōsoku-in and the Ashikaga Gakkō are among the few libraries that have been uninterruptedly collective and preserving Chinese books since the medieval period. In the modern period, many similar institutions have had to let go of their collections, or have ceased to exist altogether, and their content has scattered. Some items are now being looked after by new owners, but many have been lost.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 secondsThe Keio Institute of Oriental Classics acquires Chinese-language works when they become available on the antique book market. Here I have prepared items that were once housed in medieval Zen temples. The theme of Week 3 adn 4 is how these books and other similar ones from the Edo period were received, and the research activity and practices that flourished around them. The term ‘works in Chinese’ (kanseki) encompasses a wide range of texts in a variety of genres. However, since I am a literature specialist, our focus will be literary works, particularly poetry collections.

Welcome to Week 3

The theme of Week 3 is how works in Chinese (kanseki in Japanese) were read and studied in the Edo period, and the research activity and practices that flourished around them. Watch Prof. Horikawa show some of these works.

The PDF version of the course handout for Week 3 is available in the DOWNLOADS section below.

Some words and names that may be unfamiliar to learners are listed in the glossary for each week. For Week 3, it’s located in the last step of this week. The PDF version is also available.

Scholarship and Cultural of Tatchu―Case from “Ryōsoku-in, Kenninji Temple”―

Kenninji Temple

Kenninji temple is Kyoto’s oldest Zen Buddhist temple, and one of the Kyoto Gozan temples. The temple was founded by Eisai with the support of the 2nd shogun of the Kamakura Bakufu, Minamoto no Yoriie.

While Shokoku-ji Temple had strong connection with the Muromachi shogunate and played an important role in politics, Kenninji temple made a great contribution to scholarship and the arts, and produced many outstanding poets as well as scholars. From some point, Zen Buddhist temple—its individual and unique characteristics—started to be called “–zura” (zura = tsura] and indicates “face”) in Kyoto, and Shokoku-ji Temple was acknowledged as “Shomyo zura”. “Shomyo” is about the special song that Zen monks sing at ceremonies, and precisely grasped the perspective of (functioning as) Shogunate’s Bodaiji—conducting many funerals and memorial service. On the other hand, Kenninji temple was acknowledged as “Gakumon zura,” literally “Scholarship face (always studying)”—which is also a cynical remark to be said.


Ryōsoku-in was founded by Ryūzan Tokuken (1284-1358) who was born in the Chiba clan, a warrior family (which is now Chiba prefecture). He moved to Kamakura to practice Buddhism, then went to China and spent 45 years there studying whilst became a chief priest at Zen Buddhism temple. After he returned to Japan, he became a chief priest at Kenninji temple, Nanzen-ji Temple, as well as Tenryu-ji temple. Although many accomplishments were made, at Kenninji temple, he gave academic instructions to Gido Shushin and Zekkai Chushin—who later became the major writers of Gozan Bungaku (literally, Five Mountain Literature), and further this became the starting point of traditional scholarship of Kenninji temple. Ryūzan Tokuken himself have died at Kenninji temple.

After his death, his two disciples became the chief priest and each of them founded a Tatchu after their retirement. One is Ichian Ichirin who founded Reigen-in Temple, and the another is Mutoh Irin who founded Chisoku-in Temple. And formally, both considered Ryūsan Tokuken as the patriarch.

In Reigen-in Temple, there were many disciples from Tō clan (so-called Tō-shi)—a branch line of the Chiba clan family where Ryūsan came from—located in Mino (which is now Gifu prefecture). To name a few; Kōsei Ryūha—one of the most important people when in comes to the history of scholarship and literature of Kenninji temple—, Kyūen Ryūchin—appointed as the envoy to China in the middle of 15th century—, and Botetsu Ryūhan—mentor of Ikkyu Sojun during his boyhood—who were all active.

On the other hand, in Chisoku-in Temple, there were many descendants of Rin Jōin who came from China along with Ryūsan (when he returned to Japan). Rin Jōin’s family managed a manju (steamed buns) shop in Nara prefecture, and the descendants still run the shop as a long-established Japanese confectionery shop called ‘Shiose Sohonke’. Also, Mutoh’s disciple: Bunrin Juiku is from Rin’s family (so-called Rin-shi) as well, and he built a new Tatchu after retiring the chief priest at Kenninji temple—which is known as Ryōsoku-in.

In 1552, Tenbun 21, when most parts of Kenninji Temple was burned down in a fire, Chisoku-in Temple was merged into Ryōsoku-in. In addition, Reigen-in Temple suffered from financial difficulties, and it was kept under the control of Ryōsoku-in. Yet, in this way, Ryōsoku-in succeeded in their studies and literature, and became the most important Tatchu at Kenninji Temple.

What I feel from researching the collections at Ryōsoku-in

At the Keio Institute of Oriental Classics, where I belong, we conduct research (regularly every year) on the collections housed in Ryōsoku-in. Whenever I visit there, I highly respect the works of successive chief priests where they have spared no effort in adding a collection. From the 16th through 19th centuries, the descent of the chief priests has obtained and copied the books/manuscripts, and finally established the rich collection of rare and precious books—which I always get impressed.

For example, there are some books (records) about kanshi (Chinese poetry) party which was held inside the Tatchu. The chief priest and the ascetic monks were reading/studying kanshi together. Also, some books were written/kept like a database—e.g., collected and combined specific articles from many different books—where all works in the past can be commemorated.

These books were handed down from the chief priest (who first made) to an another, had been revised and supplemented. In some case, they worked for three generations and continuously made additions.

Making an assumption through examining the brushstrokes—is also important to understand the date and/or background of establishment.

Keywords introduced in this step

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Sino-Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books

Keio University