Caodong school

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Caodong school (Chinese: 曹洞宗; pinyin: Cáodòng zōng; Wade–Giles: Ts'ao-tung-tsung) is a Chinese Chan Buddhist sect and one of the Five Houses of Chán.


The key figure in the Caodong school was founder Dongshan Liangjie (807-869, Jpn. Tozan Ryokai). Some attribute the name "Cáodòng" as a union of "Dongshan" and "Caoshan", the latter from one of Dongshan's Dharma-heirs, Caoshan Benji;[web 1] (840-901, Ts'ao-shan Pen-chi, Jpn. Sōzan Honjaku). However, the "Cao" much more likely came from Cáoxī (曹溪), the "mountain-name" of Huineng, the Sixth Ancestor of Chan, as Caoshan was of little importance unlike his contemporary and fellow Dharma-heir, Yunju Daoying.[citation needed] The school emphasised sitting meditation, and later "silent illumination" techniques.


The Caodong school was founded by Dongshan Liangjie and his Dharma-heir Caoshan Benji. Dongshan traced back his lineage to Shitou Xiqian (700-790), a contemporary of Mazu Daoyi (709–788). Sayings to the effect that Shitou and Mazu were the two great masters of their day date from decades after their respective deaths. Shítóu's retrospective prominence owes much to the importance of Dongshan Liangjie.[1] Shítóu does not appear to have been influential or famous during his lifetime:

He was a little-known teacher who led a reclusive life and had relatively few disciples. For decades after Shitou's death, his lineage remained an obscure provincial tradition.[2]

In the 11th century the Caodong-school nearly extinguished.[3] Dayang Jingxuan (942-1027), the last descendant of the Caodong-lineage passed on his dharma-transmission via Fushan Fayuan, a teacher from the Linji school, to Fayuan's student Touzi Yiqing (1032-1083),[4] who was born five years after Jingxuan's death.

During the Northern Song (960-1127) the Caodong was not successful in the social elite. The Linji school and Yunmen school dominated Chán.[3] It was Touzi Yiqing's student Furong Daokai (1043-1118) who was a successful monastic, and revived the Caodong school.[5]

His dharma "grandson" Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091-1157) became very successful among elite literati in the Southern Song (1127-1279), when the Imperial Court decreased their influence on society, and Chán schools became dependent on elite literati for support. This success drew opposition of Dahui Zonggao, who promoted the Hua Tou method of koan-study as an accessible means for Chán-practice, and attacked the silent illumination of Hongzhi.[6]

In 1227 Dōgen Zenji, a former Tendai student, studied Caodong Buddhism under Tiantong Rujing, and returned to Japan to establish the Sōtō sect.[7] His lineage incorporates not only the dharma-transmission via Fushan Fayuan, but also Linji dharma-transmissions via Eisai and his student Myozen, a teacher of Dogen, and the Linji dharma-transmission of Dahui Zonggao via the Nōnin school.[8]

Lineage chartEdit

via Shitou the Caodong traces back its origins to Huineng.

Six Patriarchs
Huineng (638-713)
(WG: Hui-neng. Jpn: Enō)
Qingyuan Xingsi (660-740)
(WG: TCh'ing yüan Hsing-ssu. Jpn: Seigen Gyōshi)
Shitou Xiqian (700-790)
(WG: Shih-t'ou Hsi-ch'ien. Jpn: Sekitō Kisen)
Yaoshan Weiyan (ca.745-828)
(Yao-shan Wei-yen, Jpn. Yakusan Igen)
Yunyan Tansheng (780-841)
(Yün-yen T'an-shen, Jpn. Ungan Donjō)
Linji lineage
Linji school
0 Dongshan Liangjie (807-869)
Tung-shan liang-chieh, Jpn. Tōzan Ryōkai)
Linji Yixuan[9]
1 Caoshan Benji (840-901)
(Ts'ao-shan Pen-chi, Jpn. Sōzan Honjaku)
Yunju Daoying (d.902)
(Yün-chü Tao-ying, Jpn. Ungo Dōyō)
Xinghua Cunjiang[10]
2 Tongan Daopi (Daopi[11]) Nanyuan Huiyong[12]
3 Tongan Guanzhi (Tongan[11]) Fengxue Yanzhao[13]
4 Liangshan Yuanguan Shoushan Xingnian[14]
5 Dayang Jingxuan (942-1027)[4] (Dayang)[11] Shexian Guixing[15]
Fushan Fayuan (Rinzai-master) [8])
6 Touzi Yiqing (1032-1083)[3] (Touzi)[11]
7 Furong Daokai (1043-1118) (Daokai)[11]
8 Danxia Zichun (1064-1117) (Danxia)[11]
9 Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091-1157)[16] Zhenxie Qingliao (Wukong[11])
10 Tiantong Zongjue (Zongjue[11])
11 Xuedou Zhijian (Zhijian[11])
12 Tiantong Rujing (Rujing[11])
13 Dōgen

Soto school

See alsoEdit


Written referencesEdit

  1. ^ Poceski 2007, p. 97–98.
  2. ^ Poceski 2007.
  3. ^ a b c Schlütter 2008, p. 79.
  4. ^ a b Schlütter 2008, p. 80.
  5. ^ Schlütter 2008, p. 79-81.
  6. ^ Schlütter 2008.
  7. ^ 道元和日本曹洞宗 (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2014-02-14.
  8. ^ a b Bodiford 1991, p. 428.
  9. ^ Ferguson 2009, p. 223.
  10. ^ Ferguson 2009, p. 273.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Cleary 1990, p. [page needed].
  12. ^ Ferguson 2009, p. 313.
  13. ^ Ferguson 2009, p. 335.
  14. ^ Ferguson 2009, p. 359.
  15. ^ Ferguson 2009, p. 386.
  16. ^ Ferguson 2011, p. 454.

Web referencesEdit

  1. ^ "Origin of Caodong School" (in Chinese). June 3, 2009. Retrieved August 9, 2012.


  • Bodiford, William M. (Winter 1991). "Dharma Transmission in Soto Zen: Manzan Dohaku's Reform Movement". Monumenta Nipponica. Sophia University. 46 (4): 423–451. doi:10.2307/2385187. ISSN 0027-0741. JSTOR 2385187.
  • Ferguson, Andy (2011), Zen's Chinese Heritage. The Masters and their Teachings, Wisdom publications
  • Poceski, Mario (2007), Ordinary Mind as the Way: the Hongzhou School and the Growth of Chan Buddhism, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-531996-5
  • Schlütter, Morten (2008), How Zen became Zen. The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, ISBN 978-0-8248-3508-8

External linksEdit