Books December 2010 / January 2011

Zen and Japanese Culture

Daisetz T. Suzuki

“It is impossible to speak of Japanese culture apart from Buddhism, for in every phase of its development we recognise the presence of Buddhist feeling in one way or another”.

So opens a chapter of Suzuki’s treatise on Zen and how it has influenced Japan. The work was first published in 1936; this is a revised edition with a new introduction and some minor changes.

Regarded as one of the most important works of the last century on the subject, Suzuki’s writing — all the more impressive for having been originally written in English — is easy to read and engaging. However, his nationalistic portrayal of Japan as a uniquely complex and essentially superior culture has attracted criticism and, apparently, has been toned down from earlier editions.