Yuanwu Keqin

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Yuanwu Keqin
School Ch'an
Nationality Chinese
Born 1063
Died 1135
Senior posting
Title Ch'an monk
Successor Dahui Zonggao

Yuanwu Keqin (Chinese: 圜悟克勤; Wade–Giles: Yuan-wu K'e-ch'in; Pinyin: Yuánwù Kèqín; Japanese: Engo Kokugon) (1063–1135) was a Chinese Chán Buddhist monk who compiled the Blue Cliff Record (Wade–Giles: Pi-yen Lu; Japanese: Hekiganroku).[1]


Yuanwu Keqin was born into the Lo family of P'eng-chou, Szechuan, in 1063. His family was well-educated in Confucianism, a sign of acquaintance with the Chinese civil service.[2] Nevertheless, Yuanwu Keqin choose a Buddhist career and entered Miao-chi monastery. He ended his formal studies under Wu-tsu Fa-yen (10247-1104) when he was in his forties.[2]

Yuanwu Keqin was closely involved in the literati circles.[3]

Blue Cliff Record[edit]

Main article: Blue Cliff Record

Yuanwu Keqin belonged to the Linji school. He was the teacher of Dahui Zonggao, who introduced the Hua Tou practice.[4]

Starting from the year 1112 on, Yuan-wu started to lecture on the Pai-tse sung-ku ("One Hundred Old Cases and Verses [to the Cases]"),[5] compiled by Xuedou Zhongxian (Wade–Giles: Hsueh-tou Chung-hsien; Japanese: Setcho Juken) (980–1052). These lectures resulted in the Pi-yen lu, the "Blue Cliff Record".[6][1]

The Blue Cliff Record gives clear instructions about the correct approach to Ch'an kung-an. Yuan-wu went as far as to annotate the poems line by line,[7] to make clear the correct reading of Hsueh-tou's appended verses,[6] which are complex, because of the rich use of symbolism, and the allusions to Chinese secular literature and to Ch'an history.[7]

According to the Chán-tradition, the Blue Cliff Record gained such a popularity, that Dahui Zonggao burned all the copies he could lay hands on, and the wooden printing blocks.[4]


  1. ^ a b Cleary 1994.
  2. ^ a b Hsieh 1994, p. 73.
  3. ^ Hsieh 1994, p. 74.
  4. ^ a b Schlütter 2008.
  5. ^ Hsieh 1994, p. 72.
  6. ^ a b Hsieh 1994, p. 76.
  7. ^ a b Hsieh 1994, p. 77.


  • Cleary, J. C.; Cleary, Thomas (1994), Zen Letters: Teachings of Yuanwu, Shambhala Publications 
  • Hsieh, Ding-Hwa Evely (1994), "Yuan-wu K'o-ch'in's (1063-1135) Teaching of Ch'an Kung-an Practice: A Transition from the Literary Study of Ch'an Kung-an to the Practical K'an-hua Ch'an", Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. Volume 17, Number 1, Summer 1994 
  • Schlütter, Morten (2008), How Zen became Zen. The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, ISBN 978-0-8248-3508-8 

Further reading[edit]

  • Cleary, Thomas & Cleary, J.C. (1977) The Blue Cliff Record, Shambhala Publications, ISBN 978-0-87773-622-6
  • Cleary, Thomas (2000) Secrets of the Blue Cliff Record: Zen comments by Hakuin and Tenkei, Shambhala ISBN 1-57062-738-X

External links[edit]