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Ikkyu Sōjun

Ikkyu Sōjun (1394–1481). Zen master of the Rinzai school in Japan. He experienced sudden enlightenment in 1418. He called himself ‘the son of the wandering cloud’, and although in later life he was appointed by the emperor abbot of Daitoku-ji, he constantly and strongly rejected the decadent forms of Zen which he found around him. He expressed this critique in a highly unconventional lifestyle, and in his ‘Mad Cloud’ poetry, collected in Kyōun-shu (Germ. tr., Suichi and Thom, 1979). The many tales of his mocking style have made him one of the most popular figures in Japan—the holy madman, who frequented inns and brothels, and who danced down the street waving a skull. He was also noted for his dramatic calligraphy.

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