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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 5.2 (2022): 265–276;

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Charles S. Prebish and On-cho Ng, eds. The Theory and Practice of Zen Buddhism: A Festschrift in Honor of Steven Heine. Chinese Culture vol. 6: Globality, Connectivity, and Modernity. Singapore: Springer, 2022. Hbk. $99.97

George A. Keyworth
University of Saskatchewan, Canada

This festschrift volume is broken into two sections, ‘Zen Roots’ and ‘Zen Branches’, and includes chapters by fifteen of Steven Heine’s many peers and would-be students who share his deep and abiding interest in all things related to the academic study and practice of Zen Buddhism. In the ‘Introduction: A Valedictory and an Inaugural’ (1–15), the editors of this volume, Charles S. Prebish and On-cho Ng, ‘affectionately and tellingly’ dub Steven Heine the ‘Godfather of Zen’ with reference to his more than three dozen monographs and edited volumes and more than a hundred journal articles on the topic of East Asian Buddhism or Zen (1). Although I imagine that Professor Heine would likely prefer to award that moniker to one of his own teachers, perhaps Ishii Shūdō 石井修道 of Komazawa University, it is difficult to argue with Prebish and Ng when they say that ‘his godfatherhood of the field of Zen/Chan studies, as it were, could not have been attained had he not been arguably the most productive scholar of his generation’ (3). And more specifically, I can think of no one writing in English who has devoted more time and energy to the writings of both Dōgen 道元 (1200–1253) and the Blue Cliff Record (Ch. Biyan lu, Jp. Hekiganroku 碧巖録), as well as to the genre of kōan 公案 (Ch. gong’an) literature in Chinese and Japanese. Their somewhat playfully written introduction to the volume addresses how Steven Heine wrote books about other subjects related to Zen, including Barginin’ for Salvation: Bob Dylan, A Zen Master? (5), and my own favorite in his oeuvre, Sacred High City, Sacred Low City (6). As a festschrift volume, however, it includes chapters not by Heine, but instead by scholars who have been influenced by Heine’s work in myriad ways who take up some of the themes that have interested the English-language reading public for decades and academics and their students about Zen and particularly Japanese culture. There can be no question that a festschrift volume dedicated to Steven Heine ought to focus primarily on the Japanese—thereby Zen—side of research topics about East Asian Buddhism. But given that Heine has also written extensively about what can be called Chinese Chan literature, it seems like an omission to this reviewer that only four of the fifteen chapters address the Chinese, rather than the Japanese, side of Zen studies, and none mention how Heine is nearly alone among western scholars of Zen or East Asian Buddhism who has written rather extensively about premodern Japanese language (e.g., Shōbōgenzō 正法眼藏; Treasury of the True Dharma Eye), instead of Chinese language (kanbun 漢文) Zen literature. Setting this oversight aside, the fifteen chapters address topics that ought to be of interest to most undergraduate students who take classes about Zen Buddhism or encounters with the reception of so-called Asian culture in North American popular culture during the late twentieth century.


About the Author: George A. Keyworth received his Ph.D. in Chinese Buddhist Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2011, he joined the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada as an Assistant Professor of Buddhist Studies and East Asian Religions. After receiving tenure in 2017, he transferred to the Department of History, where he has been teaching courses in the areas of premodern Chinese and Japanese history, Asian Studies, the history of religion in East Asia, and comparative manuscript studies. Keyworth has published on topics ranging from Northern Song dynasty (960–1127) Chinese Chan Buddhism and the figure of Juefan Huihong 覺範惠洪 (1071–1128); Japanese pilgrims to Song China (e.g., Jōjin 成尋[1011–1081]); apocryphal Chinese Buddhist scriptures and the particular case of the Shoulengyan jing 首楞嚴經 (*Śūraṃgamasūtra, T no. 945) using Chinese and Khotanese Sanskrit sources from Dunhuang; esoteric Buddhism in Tang (618–907) and Song China; Zen Buddhism in Edo (1603–1868) Japan and the figures of Xinyue Xingchou 心越興儔 (Shin’etsu Kōchū, 1639–1696) and Kakumon Kantetsu 覚門貫徹 (d. 1730); and old Japanese manuscript Buddhist canons (issaikyō 一切経), especially from Nanatsudera 七寺 the Matsuo shrine 松尾社 canon kept at Myōrenji. He is currently working on two books, tentatively titled: Zen and the Literary Arts and Copying for the Kami: A Study and Catalog of the Matsuo Shrine Buddhist Canon. He has received grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada to support his research projects.


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