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Five Houses of Zen (Shambhala Dragon Editions) Paperback – April 15, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

One of the foremost contemporary translators of classical Buddhist and Taoist literature, Cleary has made another valuable body of work available to Western readers with this collection of writings and teachings of some of the great Zen masters of China from the ninth and tenth centuries. The five houses of Zen that arose at that time were not actually separate schools or branches but instead represented distinctive styles of teaching carried out by certain Chinese Zen masters and perpetuated by their students. Cleary's introduction provides useful historical information on the development of Zen in China during the T'ang Dynasty (619-906). His translations shine with clarity and express the insights of these great teachers with beauty and understanding. Highly recommended for academic libraries with collections on Buddhist philosophy.?Elizabeth Salt, Otterbein Coll. Lib., Westerville, Ohio
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

One of the foremost contemporary translators of classical Buddhist and Taoist literature, Cleary has made another valuable body of work available to Western readers with this collection of writings and teachings of some of the great Zen masters of China from the ninth and tenth centuries. The five houses of Zen that arose at that time were not actually separate schools or branches but instead represented distinctive styles of teaching carried out by certain Chinese Zen masters and perpetuated by their students. Cleary's introduction provides useful historical information on the development of Zen in China during the T'ang Dynasty (619-906). His translations shine with clarity and express the insights of these great teachers with beauty and understanding.—Elizabeth Salt, Library Journal.
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Product Details

  • Series: Shambhala Dragon Editions
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; 1st edition (April 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570622922
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570622922
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,580,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Thomas Cleary is the preeminent translator of classic Eastern texts, including The Essential Tao, The Essential Confucius, The Secret of the Golden Flower, and the bestselling The Art of War.

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Michael P. McGarry on August 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
The masters of the Five Houses of Zen did for Zen Buddhism roughly what the Church Fathers did for Christianity (recall that without these latter figures, there would be no Christian Bible!) Yes, the Five Houses, in the second half of the T'ang Dynasty (619-906), came almost half a millennium after Bodhidharma (470 - 543(?)), legendary founder of Zen. But the Five Houses represent a high point of Zen, having reached a critical mass of realized masters, and the writings of his period form the basis and touchstone of anything that later called itself Zen. Indeed, this period is universally recognized as a kind of "golden age" of Zen. Thomas Cleary's selections from the masters of the Five Houses give the general English reader direct access to the essential words of this foundational period of Zen. (This is yet another installment in Cleary's project of making all the essential ancient Zen writings available in brilliant English translations; I consider his ongoing work a priceless spiritual offering to the modern age.) This book is full of selections from the masters who (better known by their Japanese names) populate the great classical koan collections, the *Gateless Gate* and the *Blue Cliff Record*: Pai-Chang (J: Hyakujo), Lin-chi (J: Rinzai), Tung-shan (J: Tozan), Hsueh-feng (J: Seppo), and Yun-men (J: Ummon). Two of the houses, the House of Lin-chi and the House of Tung-shan, were the progenitors of what came to be called, respectively, the Rinzai Zen and Soto Zen traditions. This book is indispensable for making sense of how the important figures of this fecund period fit together. I highly recommend this book to beginners in Zen as well as to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the tradition and history of Zen.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "giovanni77" on October 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
It's without doubt, to mr Cleary's credit for his wonderful translation, this book represents a great collection of literature in English about the Five establishments that are seen as the foundation of Zen Buddhism in China. Great texts like The Secret of the Mind Elixir, the Five Ranks (of Absolute and Relative) and masters like Lin-Chi and Huang-Po make up this book - displaying the history and development of Zen.
Although I do not recommend this book for the beginner in Zen Buddhism, certainly a valuable asset to add to your collection.
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By tyson on August 24, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a history buff as well as a zen buff, so this was a fun book for me. The writing of the "characters" was crisp and clean. The history provided was to the point, but I felt that I got a lot out of each chapter.

Very good overview of the Golden Age of zen.
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By Black_Saga on October 18, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Love the part where a Master belittles a mountain yogi's attainment of rainbow-body.
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