Zen and art – online resources


s Zen Art for Meditation - an Ashoka online course

This course offers you an opportunity to encounter 18 classical Chinese and Japanese ink paintings and, by reflecting on them, to experience certain insights into human nature and the universe. Each picture is accompanied by a brief commentary focused on a Zen tenet and illuminated by haiku poems. You can view the pictures and read the accompanying commentary and haikus. Or you are invited to use these offerings as a meditation instrument.


The Appreciation of Zen Art, John Stevens

Sengai's Zen paintings

A-Z Photo Dictionary of Japanese Buddhism

Zenga, Gitter-Yelen Art Study Center

Zen Buddhism And Its Relationship to Elements of Eastern And Western Arts, Fredric Lieberman

Zen Painting – a brief introduction

About Zen Painting

What is Zen Calligraphy?, V&A museum

Evolution of the Buddha Image

Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art, Huntington Archive of Buddhist and Related Art
Nature of the Beast: Animals in Japanese Paintings and Prints, Pacific Asia Museum
Visions of Enlightenment: Understanding the Art of Buddhism, Pacific Asia Museum
Awakenings: Zen Figure Painting in Medieval Japan, Japan Society, NY
Zen and the Art of Calligraphy, Omori Sogen and Terayama Katsujo - Google books excerpts
Meditations on the Japanese Garden
x The Art of Zen: Paintings and Calligraphy by Japanese Monks, Stephen Addiss - Google books excerpts

Mokuan Reien


One of the first Japanese artists to work in the Chinese monochromatic ink style. Originally a priest in a Japanese temple, Mokuan went to China about 1333, and, while making a pilgrimage to major temples, did paintings of flowers, birds, and human figures in the manner of Mu-ch’i Fu-ch’ang, the great Ch’an (Zen) painter of 13th-century China. Mokuan was honoured both in China, where he was called the reincarnation of Mu-ch’i, and in Japan, where his paintings were collected by the shoguns.

The Four Sleepers

About Mokuan Reien

Mokuan –Japanese Arts



Shubun was arguably Japan's first genuinely great landscape painter, in the early 15th Century. He was certainly seen as a huge influence and had many followers, but he was really a channel for very specific influences from China. Shubun is credited in Japan, along with Sesshu, as the greatest and most influential painter of the Muromachi period. The cultural roots in the Muromachi art lay in China's Southern Song dynasty, with Zen as a primary principle in art. Shubun is believed to have perfected the Japanese monochrome Zen painting.

The Art of Shubun – a film on YourTube

Shobun –Japanese Arts

Sesshu Toyo 1420-1506


Sesshu is arguably Japan's most revered painter, a legendary figure. A Rinzai Zen priest, he was stationed at the big central Sokoku-ji temple in Kyoto, the greatest centre of Zen art - Josetsu had been there, and Shubun still was. He worked under Shubun, and studied Chinese works - almost all of his work looked entirely Chinese throughout his career; indeed, his landscapes generally resembled Chinese terrain and not Japanese. When he visited China soon after his time at the Sokoku-ji, he was himself treated as a great artist.

Sesshu –Japanese Arts

Sesshu – Wikipedia

Fugai Ekun 1568-1654


Japanese Zen monk, painter and calligrapher. After only a few years as a priest at a Soto Zen temple,he gave up his position to live in mountainside caves, which earned him the nickname Ana Fugai ('Cave Fugai'). While living in the Kamisoga Mountains, Fugai is said to have made ink paintings of Daruma, which he would hang at the entrance to his cave, so that farmers could leave rice for the monk and take the paintings home. After some years Fugai moved to a small hut in the village of Manazuru, south of Odawara, where he continued his ink painting and calligraphy. Besides Daruma, he also depicted the wandering monk Hotei and occasionally brushed self-portraits and landscapes in ink on paper.

Fugai –Japanese Arts

Fugai – Zen Painings

Hakuin Ekaku 1685-1768


Hakuin Ekaku possessed an unusual ability to convey the meaning of Zen to large numbers of people from all classes and religions. Though he chose to work at a small temple in the countryside, he was frequently invited to lecture, and his writings were published, eventually bringing him fame. His writings could be rough, humorous, or sometimes even shocking, intended to rouse his followers from their complacency into a deeper contemplation of religion and spiritual life. His copious writings continue to maintain pivotal importance within the Rinzai Zen sect. His work, both as spiritual leader and as painter, had a profound effect on all subsequent Zen study and Zen painting.

Hakuin Ekaku's Zen paintings

Hakuin –Japanese Arts

Hakuin – Zen Paintings

The Interest in Hakuin’s Art

Some Hakuin drawings

Gibon Sengai 1750-1837


Sengai was a Japanese Rinzai monk known for his controversial teachings and writings, as well as for his lighthearted sumi-e paintings. After spending half of his life in Nagata near Yokohama, he secluded himself in Shōfukuji (located in Fukuoka), the first Zen Temple in Japan, where he spent the rest of his life. Stephen Addiss ranks himas a true master of brushwork.

Sengai –Japanese Arts

Sengai paintings

x Sengai: The Zen of Ink and Paper, D.T. Suzuki

Sengai images

Nantembo Toju 1839-1925


Nantembo is one of the greatest Zen masters of the 20th century. Born into a samurai family, Nantembo stayed true to his family tradition by being a bold, dynamic man of forceful character and awesome determination. antembo had such a strong respect for the truth of the Zen tradition that he could not bear false Zen masters. He was very blunt and forthright in stating his opinions. Nantembo had tremendous energy and brushed Zen art daily as an integral part of his practice.

Nantembo –Japanese Arts

Nantembo – Zen Paintings

Natembo paintings


Zen poetry - online resources



s The Ashoka course The Story of Zen has two lessons on poetry in the history of Zen
x Zen Poems of China & Japan, Lucien Stryk & Takashi Ikemoto (eds) s

x Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter, Lucien Stryk & Takashi Ikemoto (eds) s

xA Drifting Boat: Chinese Zen Poetry, Jerome P. Seaton & Dennis Maloney (eds)  s s
Chan Poetry web site

Zen and Zen Classics – Volume One: From the Upanishads to Huineng, R.H. Blyth

Zen and the Art of Haiku, Ken Jones

Chuang Tzu - a vafriety of translations
Tao Te Ching - a variety of translations

Zen poems - an online collection | collection II | collection III | collection IV

A Blade of Grass: Japanese Poetry and Aesthetics in Dogen Zen, Steven Heine
Awesome Nightfall: The Life, Times and Poetry of Saigyo, William LaFleur
Zen and Haiku

Sengsan's Hsin-Hsin Ming

Richard B. Clarke translation

R.H. Blyth translation

Han Shan


Han Shan: Cold Mounain Hermit

The Autobiography and Maxims of Master Han Shan, translated by Upasaka Richard Cheung

Brief biography and selected poems

Poems translated by Gary Snyder


Han Shan Isn’t Dead, He’s Just Turned into the Mountain: Some Notes on Translation, Tony Barnstone

Five Poems, translated by Red Pine and Burton Watson


Selected poems from Wild Ways: Zen Poems of Ikkyu, translated by John Stevens

Love Letters Sent by the Wind: The poetry of Ikkyu, translated and introduced by John Stevens

Brief biography and selected poems from Wild Ways: Zen Poems of Ikkyu, translated by John Stevens

Ikkyu's Zen Poetry

Poems and Haiku


Selected poems from Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryokan, translations by John Stevens

Selected poems from Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryokan, translations by John Stevens

Brief biography and selected poems

Gogö-an: Ryokan's Hermit Hut

The Zen Fool Ryokan, Misao Kodama &Hikosaku Yanagishima s

Ryokan: Zen Poet-Monk of Japan, Burton Watson s

Great Fool: Zen Master Ryokan, Ryuichi Abe & Peter Haskel s


A Zen Wave: Basho's Haiku and Zen, Robert Aitken s
The essential teachings on Basho and Zen

Basho's Life, Makoto Ueda

Matsuo Basho, Makoto Ueda s

The Essential Basho, translated by Sam Hamill – Review

Basho's Haiku, translated by David Landis Barnhill s