Blue Cliff Record

The Blue Cliff Record (Chinese: 碧巖錄; pinyin: Bìyán Lù; Japanese: 碧巌録; rōmaji: Hekiganroku; Korean: 벽암록; romaja: Byeokamrok; Vietnamese: Bích nham lục) is a collection of Chan Buddhist kōans originally compiled in Song China in 1125, during the reign of Emperor Huizong, and then expanded into its present form by Chan master Yuanwu Keqin (1063–1135; Japanese pronunciation: Engo).[1]

The book includes Yuanwu's annotations and commentary on 100 Verses on Old Cases (頌古百則), a compilation of 100 kōans collected by Xuedou Chongxian (980–1052; 雪竇重顯, Setcho).[1] Xuedou selected 82 of these from The Jingde Record of the Transmission of the Lamp, with the remainder selected from the Yunmen Guanglu (雲門廣録, Extensive Record of Yunmen Wenyan, 864–949).

Later developmentsEdit

Yuanwu's successor, Dahui Zonggao (1089–1163), wrote many letters to lay students teaching the practice of concentrating on koans during meditation, but Dahui did not explain and analyze koans. Oral tradition holds that Dahui noticed students engaged in too much intellectual discourse on koans, and then burned the wooden blocks used to print the Blue Cliff Record to "rescue disciples from delusion".[2]

The text was reconstituted only in the early 14th century by a layman, Zhang Mingyuan (張明遠, Chō Mei-en).[2][3] One of Zhang's sons became ill during this time, and others believed that it was an omen meaning that Zhang should not have re-released the book. However, an elder named Feng Zizhen (馮子振) comforted Zhang and encouraged him for his work.[4]

Dogen and JapanEdit

Another key legend regards Dōgen (1200–1253), who brought the Caodong school of Chan to Japan as the Sōtō sect of Zen. After an extended visit to China for the purpose of studying Chan, on the night before his planned return to Japan, Dogen came across the Blue Cliff Record for the first time, and stayed up all night making a handwritten copy of the book. Given the size of the book, this story is most likely apocryphal; but Dogen is still credited with introducing the collection to Japan,[5] where it had a wide circulation.[6]

Literary qualitiesEdit

The Blue Cliff Record was a subtle and literary text, with wide-ranging philosophical implications, as opposed for example to the more straightforward nature of The Gateless Barrier.[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b K. Sekida, Two Zen Classics (1977) p. 18-20
  2. ^ a b Heine, Steven (2016). Chan Rhetoric of Uncertainty in the Blue Cliff Record. Oxford University Press. p. 286. ISBN 978-0-19-939777-8.
  3. ^ K. Sekida, Two Zen Classics (1977) p. 19
  4. ^ 藍, 吉富. "大慧宗杲焚燒《碧巖錄》事件的歷史評述" (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2016-07-01. 張明遠聞說之後,詢之於海粟老人馮子振。馮氏除了安慰他之外,並以佛教口吻讚美他印書這一善行。
  5. ^ H. Tanabe, Philosophy as Metanoetics (1986) p. 126
  6. ^ M. Y Zeami, On the Art of the N_ Drama (1984) p. 121
  7. ^ Z. Shibayama, The Gateless Barrier (2000) p. xv

Further readingEdit

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