Cultures & Traditions


Zen is a form of Japanese Buddhism transmitted to Japan in the 13th century from China, where it is called Ch'an. It was taken from India to China in the 6th century CE by the monk Bodhidharma (Japanese: Daruma), who is considered the first patriarch of Ch'an. In China Ch'an became a formalized school influenced by Taoism, resulting in less importance placed on traditional doctrine and more on a realization of Buddha's nature, which can be found in one's consciousness.

Zen Buddhism follows the doctrine of traditional Buddhism but emphasizes the importance of meditation and lived experience. Followers of Zen Buddhism are encouraged to seek their existing internal wisdom during lengthy periods of meditation and reflection on koans, or paradoxes. It teaches that one is already an enlightened being and only has to awaken to this realization to achieve full enlightenment.

Zen has significantly impacted the arts and culture of Japan, from architecture, painting, gardens, and ceramics to the aesthetic concepts of wabi and sabi .

Drawn from

  • 'The Arts of Asian at the Dallas Museum of Art' Teaching Packet, 1997.

  • Hugo Munsterberg, Zen and Oriental Art (Rutland, Vermont & Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1965), 13-21.

  • Penelope Mason, History of Japanese Art (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1993), 174-210.