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  • Born: 1202
  • Died: 1280
  • Japanese: 円爾弁円 (Enni Ben'en)

Enni Ben'en was a Japanese Rinzai Zen monk known for his journeys in China. He is regarded as possibly the first to introduce Song Dynasty Neo-Confucianism into Japan.

He left for China in 1235 and remained there roughly six years, studying at the Wanshou-si in Hangzhou, the chief of China's so-called "Five Mountains" of Chan temples. After returning to Japan in 1241, he became the first abbot of Jôten-ji, a temple newly established in Hakata at that time by the patronage of the local Chinese merchant community, including Xie Guoming, with whom Enni had lived for some time.[1] Enni also brought back from China a number of Song Dynasty books of Neo-Confucian teachings back with him; according to sources associated with the Satsunan school of Confucianism, this marked the first introduction of such materials into Japan, though other accounts differ. The following year, Enni and Xie organized to send some one thousand logs (valued at 30,000 貫 guan) to Hangzhou to help rebuild the Wanshou-si, which had been damaged in a fire.[1]

At some point after returning from China, Enni wrote in his diary that he was visited by Tenjin (a kami of scholarship) in a dream, and that Tenjin expressed a wish to study Zen. Enni replied that the god should go to China, to study with the same master who Enni himself studied under, and Tenjin did so, magically flying or walking across the sea.[2]

In 1245, Enni left Hakata for Kyoto, where he became the founding abbot of Tôfuku-ji.


  • Takatsu Takashi, “Ming Jianyang Prints and the Spread of the Teachings of Zhu Xi to Japan and the Ryukyu Kingdom in the Seventeenth Century,” in Angela Schottenhammer (ed.), The East Asian Mediterranean: Maritime Crossroads of Culture, Harrassowitz Verlag, 2008. 254.
  1. 1.0 1.1 Richard von Glahn, "The Ningbo-Hakata Merchant Network and the Reorientation of East Asian Maritime Trade, 1150-1350," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 74:2 (2014), 275.
  2. Gallery labels, "Tenjin Crossing the Ocean to China," Konoe Nobutada, Metropolitan Museum.[1]