Zen-Boy Ikkyū

Melissa Anne-Marie Curley

in Little Buddhas

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199860265
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979929 | DOI:

Series: AAR Religion, Culture, and History

Zen-Boy Ikkyū

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The fifteenth-century priest Ikkyū Sōjun is a major figure in the history of Japanese Zen, but he is better known to generations of Japanese children as the little monk at the center of countless picture books and cartoons, including Tōei’s internationally successful series Ikkyū-san. This chapter considers how the gap between the historical Ikkyū Sōjun and the contemporary Ikkyū-san is mediated by Tokugawa-period folktales about the adventures of Ikkyū, and explores how the Tokugawa materials are rewritten in order to serve a particularly modern understanding of childhood as a realm free of conflict and antagonism. It argues that the historical man and the child saint exist in an ambiguous relationship with one another, with the success of the image of the child relying on an audience that has only a vague memory of the man.

Keywords: Ikkyū; Zen; Muromachi; Tokugawa; antinomianism; romanticism

Chapter.  10622 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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