Muso Soseki

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One of the gardens at Engaku-ji, designed by Musô Soseki, and designated a Place of Scenic Beauty (meishô)
  • Born: 1275
  • Died: 1351
  • Japanese: 夢窓疎石 (Musou Soseki)

Musô Soseki was a Zen priest known for having founded a number of temples in Kamakura, and as a designer of temple gardens. He was named kokushi ("national teacher") by seven emperors, and has been described as "probably the most famous monk of his time."[1]

When he was first offered the position of abbot of a Zen monastery in Kamakura by the Hôjô clan, he initially refused, instead accepting an offer from Emperor Go-Daigo to become the abbot of a temple in Kyoto, in 1325. He resigned the following year, however, traveling to Kamakura and taking up a position as an abbot at that time. As head of Jôchiji, he founded Zuisen-in, now known as Zuisen-ji. After becoming the head of Engakuji, in conjunction with the 1333 fall of Kamakura, he returned to Kyoto, founding Saihô-ji, Shôkoku-ji[2], and other temples in the Kyoto area, designing the gardens at Zuisenji and Saihôji as well.

Following Go-Daigo's fall and the establishment of the Ashikaga shogunate in 1336, Soseki then gained the patronage of Ashikaga Takauji, who in 1339 had him establish Tenryû-ji in Go-Daigo's memory.


  • "Musô Soseki." Accessed 16 December 2009.
  • William de Bary, Sources of Japanese Tradition, vol 1, Columbia University Press (2001), 310.
  1. de Bary, 310.
  2. Mason, Penelope. History of Japanese Art. Second Edition. Upper Saddle River NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. p224.