The Record of Linji
520pp. October 2008
The Record of Linji
Editor: Kirchner, Thomas Yuho; Translator: Sasaki, Ruth Fuller;
The Linji lu (Record of Linji) has been an essential text of Chinese and Japanese Zen Buddhism for nearly a thousand years. A compilation of sermons, statements, and acts attributed to the great Chinese Zen master Linji Yixuan (d. 866), it serves as both an authoritative statement of Zen’s basic standpoint and a central source of material for Zen koan practice. Scholars study the text for its importance in understanding both Zen thought and East Asian Mahayana doctrine, while Zen practitioners cherish it for its unusual simplicity, directness, and ability to inspire.

One of the earliest attempts to translate this important work into English was by Sasaki Shigetsu (1882–1945), a pioneer Zen master in the U.S. and the founder of the First Zen Institute of America. At the time of his death, he entrusted the project to his wife, Ruth Fuller Sasaki, who in 1949 moved to Japan and there founded a branch of the First Zen Institute at Daitoku-ji. Mrs. Sasaki, determined to produce a definitive translation, assembled a team of talented young scholars, both Japanese and Western, who in the following years retranslated the text in accordance with modern research on Tang-dynasty colloquial Chinese. As they worked on the translation, they compiled hundreds of detailed notes explaining every technical term, vernacular expression, and literary reference. One of the team, Yanagida Seizan (later Japan’s preeminent Zen historian), produced a lengthy introduction that outlined the emergence of Chinese Zen, presented a biography of Linji, and traced the textual development of the Linji lu. The sudden death of Mrs. Sasaki in 1967 brought the nearly completed project to a halt. An abbreviated version of the book was published in 1975, but neither this nor any other English translations that subsequently appeared contain the type of detailed historical, linguistic, and doctrinal annotation that was central to Mrs. Sasaki’s plan.

The materials assembled by Mrs. Sasaki and her team are finally available in the present edition of the Record of Linji. Chinese readings have been changed to Pinyin and the translation itself has been revised in line with subsequent research by Iriya Yoshitaka and Yanagida Seizan, the scholars who advised Mrs. Sasaki. The notes, nearly six hundred in all, are almost entirely based on primary sources and thus retain their value despite the nearly forty years since their preparation. They provide a rich context for Linji’s teachings, supplying a wealth of information on Tang colloquial expressions, Buddhist thought, and Zen history, much of which is unavailable anywhere else in English. This revised edition of the Record of Linji is certain to be of great value to Buddhist scholars, Zen practitioners, and readers interested in Asian Buddhism.

Nanzan Library of Asian Religion and Culture Series
Published in association with the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, Nanzan University
“This book will become the standard translation of the Linji lu and will be frequently consulted for years to come.” —Journal of Chinese Religion (37, 2009)

"Splendid. . . . It would be difficult to make this magisterial work of scholarship any more user friendly, and no doubt it will serve as a vade mecum for future generations of students and scholars of the Chan tradition." —Eastern Buddhist (41:1, 2010)

"Buy [this] book. Better yet, buy and read and study [it], immersing yourself into a totally remarkable religious and linguistic universe. As you do so, and as you read any of the modern works on Zen so deeply indebted to the legacy of this remarkable project, give thanks and transfer any merit deriving from your study to the memory of Sasaki, Iriya, Yampolsky, and Yanagida Gassho." —H-Buddhism (August 2009)

"A masterpiece of scholarship not only on Linji Chan, but also on Chinese Buddhist language and history—the annotations, which constitute almost two-thirds of the book, explain in astonishing detail the meanings, references, and grammar of each line of text. The edition preserves the excellent historical introduction, and includes a lengthy glossary, index, and table of names." —Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly (spring 2009)

"This new edition will be the translation of choice for Western Zen communities, college courses, and all who want to know that the translation they are reading is faithful to the original. Professional scholars of Buddhism will revel in the sheer wealth of information packed into footnotes and bibliographical notes. Unique among translations of Buddhist texts, the footnotes to the Kirchner edition contain numerous explanations of grammatical constructions. Translators of classical Chinese will immediately recognize the Kirchner edition constitutes a small handbook of classical and colloquial Chinese grammar. It sets a new standard in scholarly translation of Buddhist primary texts." —Victor Sogen Hori, McGill University

"In the late 1950s, when I was a student in Chinese studies in Kyoto, I worked with Mrs. Sasaki on her translation of The Record of Linji. Every time we went over it, we hoped it was at last in publishable form. But ‘Needs more work!’ was always her dour comment, and back it would go into her files. In 1961 Mrs. Sasaki and I parted company, and not long afterward she died. In 1975 a version of the translation came out, but without the elaborate annotation she had envisioned. Now, thanks to the efforts of the meticulous and indefatigable Mr. Kirchner and his supporters, we have a new version of that earlier translation. With Mrs. Sasaki’s old notes put into finished form, along with the ones she never got around to writing, here is this important Zen classic with all the annotation one could desire, in what will doubtless be the definitive edition for many years to come." —Burton Watson

Editor: Kirchner, Thomas Yuho; Translator: Sasaki, Ruth Fuller;
Ruth Fuller Sasaki (1892-1967) combined an early interest in Theravada Buddhism and Indian languages with the practice of yoga and Zen. After moving to Kyoto in 1949 she devoted herself to helping Westerners interested in Zen and producing a highly regarded series of books, including Zen Dust (1966), The Recorded Sayings of Layman P’ang (1971), and The Record of Lin-chi (1975). Thomas Yuho Kirchner is associate researcher at the International Research Institute for Zen Buddhism at Hanazono University in Kyoto. He spent ten years in Japanese Rinzai Zen monasteries before taking positions at the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture and Hanazono University.
Read the editor’s prologue (PDF).
Foreword, by Yamada Mumon

Preface to the 1975 Edition, by Furuta Kazuhiro

Editor’s Prologue


The Record of Linji, translated by Ruth Fuller Sasaki
Critical Examinations
Record of Pilgrimages
Preface to the Recorded Sayings of Chan Master Linji Huizhao of Zhenzhou

Historical Introduction and Commentary
Historical Introduction to The Record of Linji, by Yanagida Seizan
Commentary, by Ruth Fuller Sasaki

Chinese Text
The Linji lu in Chinese


List of Personal Names

Cumulative Index