Letter from Lan-chi Tao-lung to En'ni of Tofuku

  • Ken'nin'ji temple, Kamakura
  • Kamakura period
  • 13c
  • Hanging scroll, ink on paper
  • H-32.7 W-42.9
Catalogue Entry

Kamakura period, 13th century (dated April 9th, 1262)
Hanging scroll, ink on paper
Height, 32.7cm; width, 42.9cm

Daikaku Zenji Rankei Doryu (1213-78) was born in the Fu-jiang Xi-shu region of China. He was a disciple of Wuming Huixing (Mumyo Esho) of the Songyuan (Shogen-Sugaku) sect and came to Japan in 1246 (Kangen 4) at the age of 34. He took up temporary residence at Engakuji in Hakata and the Raigo'in of Sen'nyuji, Kyoto, and in 1248 (Hoji 2), he traveled to Kamakura. At the request of Hojo Tokiyori (1237-1263), Rankei participated in the planning of the opening of Kenchoji and this became the founder of this temple.

This letter is addressed to Shoichi Kokushi En'ni (1202-80) founder of Tofukuji. The 1249 (Kencho 1) entry in the Shoichi Kokushi nempu chronology of En'ni's life notes that En'ni was engaged in a massive personal correspondence with Rankei, and including this letter, there are four extant letters from Rankei to En'ni (one letter is a draft version). The contents of this letter note that, while the 15th day of the 4th month, the date of the beginning of the summer period of monastic seclusion, was fast approaching, Rankei had not yet been to the abbot's chamber of Tofukuji to have an audience with En'ni. Rankei notes that this is not due to personal negligence, but rather that some circumstances prevented his visit. He noted that he was neglecting his friends because he had been asked to perform his visit and a simple meal at Ken'ninji three days before on the 11th day of the 4th month.

While head priest at Tofukuji, En'ni was ordered by the Kamakura shogunate to rebuild Ken'ninji, which had been destroyed by fire, and he became the 10th head priest of Ken'ninji. Rankei then followed En'ni as the 11th head priest of Ken'ninji. According to the Daikaku Zenji goroku, Rankei invited Wu'an P'u-ning (Gottan Funei 1197-1276) to come to Kenchoji in 1260 (Bun'o 1), and then Rankei traveled to Kyoto and became the head priest of Ken'ninji in 1262 (Kocho 2). This letter of the 9th day of the 4th month is thus dated to this 1262. There is also an extant letter that was sent by Rankei to Jakutotsu Koben of Sangenji, Ogi, Hizen in the intercalary 7th month of 1262, and this Koben letter further proves that Rankei entered Ken'ninji that year. Rankei took Ken'ninji, a temple that had previously been strongly esoteric Buddhist in nature, and reformed it as a purely Zen temple in the Song dynasty style. The second character in the name Ken'ninji is said to have been changed to avoid the disrespectful use of one of the characters used in the name of the reigning emperor. Rankei was adept at the calligraphy style of Zhang Jizhi of the Southern Song dynasty. MK