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Monday, September 18, 2006

Monk Accused of Monkey Business

The Zen Buddhist monk Ryokan is supposed to have remained celibate throughout his life. But after studying a Yamamoto family tree from 1866, Nobuaki Tomizawa suspects that Ryokan knew exactly what he was giving up when he entered the monastery.

Tomizawa noticed that Ryokan's name, written as "Ryokan Zenshi" (Zen master Ryokan), was preceded by a woman's name, Shakuni Myokan. Written above her name were two kanji characters instructing that their names be read in reverse order.

"Whoever made this family tree wrote Ryokan's and his wife's names in the wrong order. Instead of rewriting them, the person just wrote down those two characters," said Tomizawa, 64.

Since her name lacked a kanji that was always used in a posthumous Buddhist name of a Yamamoto woman, she probably divorced Ryokan before he became a monk. [Link]

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