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  • Born: 1141
  • Died: 1215
  • Japanese: 栄西 (Eisai)

Eisai, also known as Yôsai, was the founder of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism in Japan.

Eisai traveled to Song Dynasty China twice, in 1168 and 1187.[1] Upon his return in 1191, he introduced the Rinzai (C: Linji) school of Zen (C: Chan) to Japan, along with powdered tea. The religious practices he introduced included, prominently, the consideration of kôan, riddles meant to help one achieve personal, individual, enlightenment through contemplation of paradoxes and mysteries.

After a time in Kamakura, Eisai moved to Kyoto, where he found his heterodox ideas less welcome. He thus accommodated a number of Tendai and Shingon practices, incorporating them into his practice of Zen.


  • Conrad Schirokauer, David Lurie, and Suzanne Gay, A Brief History of Japanese Civilization, Wadsworth Cengage (2013), 81.
  1. Robert Morrell, "Zeami's Kasuga Ryûjin (Dragon God of Kasuga), or Myôe Shônin," Early Kamakura Buddhism: A Minority Report, Asian Humanities Press (1987), 103.