Daito Kokushi

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A work of calligraphy by Daitô Kokushi, hanging at Kôtô-in, a sub-temple of Daitoku-ji
  • Born: 1282
  • Died: 1337
  • Other Names: 宗峰妙超 (Shuuhou Myouchou)
  • Japanese: 大燈国師 (Daitou kokushi)

Daitô Kokushi, also known as Myôhô Shûchô, was a Zen master and the founder of Daitoku-ji, one of the more prominent Buddhist temples in Kyoto. A number of his works of calligraphy, or other objects associated with him, have been designated National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties.

One story tells that as Myôhô began to gain reputation and attention as a great Zen master, he sought to escape such attention and regain a position of anonymity and humility by hiding amongst the beggars who lived under Kyoto's Gojô Bridge. Agents of Emperor Hanazono went to the bridge, however, to seek him out; after presenting all the beggars with a kôan-like riddle and receiving a particularly kôan-like answer from one of them, they knew they had found the great Zen master. The story is likely apocryphal, but is representative of the kinds of legends that grow up around such highly revered Zen masters.

Myôhô went on to become a personal tutor to the emperor, being granted the title Kokushi (national teacher). With the backing of Emperor Hanazono, he then established the temple Daitoku-ji in 1315.


  • "Shunsô Shôjû, The Japanese Zen Master Daitô Kokushi," gallery label, LACMA.[1]