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UW Washi Kai Spring Lecture “Zen Master Zekkai: The Life of a Medieval Japanese Monk”
March 3, 2020 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pmFree
A Lecture by Paul S. Atkins
Professor of Japanese and Department Chair, Department of Asian Languages and Literature
Not all Japanese literature is written in Japanese! After the introduction of the Chinese writing system to Japan over 1500 years ago, classical Chinese was frequently used until the modern era for official documents, letters, and literary works.
Among the best Japanese poets to compose in Chinese was the Zen monk Zekkai Chūshin (1336-1405). Born and educated in Japan, he lived in China for eight years at the beginning of the Ming dynasty. Before leaving China, Zekkai exchanged Chinese poems with the emperor and, after returning to Japan, was appointed abbot of prestigious temples in Kyoto and then head of all Zen monks in the country. He aided the shogun Yoshimitsu during the restoration of official relations with China in 1401.
In this lecture, Professor Atkins will present an overview of Zekkai’s fascinating life and introduce some of his best poems, focusing on the themes of landscape, friendship, and history. Zekkai’s subtlety, warmth, and deep immersion in a foreign culture expand our understanding of Zen poetry and classical Japanese literature.