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Historical Biographies
Name:Muso Soseki (Muso Kokushi) (1275-1351) 
URL  
CountryJAPAN 
Added to JGarden1/1/1996 
Last Updated12/31/2002 
DescriptionMuso Kokushi (also called Soseki) was perhaps the most influential early garden designer in Japan, but his contributions to Japanese culture were not limited to gardens. He was born in Ise and later moved with his father to Koshu (what is now Yamanashi-ken) in 1278. He began studying Buddhism at the age of 6. In 1294, he left Koshu for Kyoto, landing at Kenninji where he studies the Zen sect with Muin Zenshi. Soseki later served as the advisor to shoguns and emperors. After serving in Kamakura (where the shoguns were based at the time), he was called to Kyoto where he became the abbot of the monastery at Nanzenji. He became a key advisor to the first Ashikaga shogun, Ashikaga Takauji (1305-58). Takauji had occupied Kyoto in 1333, causing the Emperor to flee south and establish the Southern Court. Other members of the Imperial family remained in Kyoto though, and collaborating with Takauji, established the Northern Court and named him as the new shogun. The conflict caused a great deal of blookshed, but Takauji also patronized the Zen sect. Through his and Soseki's influence, Zen became the dominant Buddhist sect during the ensuing Ashikaga shogunate. Takauji and Soseki had a Zen temple built in each of the 66 provinces. Takauji's patronage also resulted in the temples and gardens at Tenryuji and Saihoji. Soseki was also responsible for re-opening trade between Japana dn China, teaching an astonishing number of students and writing an enormous corpus of poetry and other Zen works.

His work with gardens is well known, but, unfortunately, while several translations exist on his contributions to Rinzai Zen Buddhism -- Dream Conversations, 1996, translated by Thomas Cleary, is a good example -- little has been written on his garden work in English. The only exception is a series of articles by Norris Brock Johnson on the gardens at Tenryuji and Zuisenji.

A short list of his garden work includes:

Saih˘ji (c. 1339)
Tenryuji (c. 1343)
Rinsenji
Zuisenji
Eihoji
Enkaku-ji
Erin-ji
Jochi-ji
Tonanzenin

 







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