Osen Keisan (横川景三)

Osen Keisan (1429 - December 25, 1493) was a Zen monk (Rinzai sect) in the middle to late Muromachi period. He was a representative figure in Gozan Bungaku (literature written by the Zen monks of five high-ranking Zen temples in Kyoto). He was a close aid of the eighth shogun, Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA of Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), as the adviser for foreign affairs and literature. Osen was his dogo (a monk's pseudonym), and Keisan was his hoi (a personal name used by a monk). Other than the above, he also called himself Kinka, Shoho, Hoan or Mannen Sonso.

Teisen (becoming a monk) and evacuation to Omi Province
He was born in Harima Province in 1429. At four years of age, he entered service for Eiso, a monk of Shokoku-ji Temple Jotoku-in in Kyoto, as a young bonze. On the occasion of a memorial service for the thirty-third anniversary of the death of Eiso's master, Donchu Doho, which was held in March 1441, he became a monk (teihatsu-seni (literally, taking the tonsure and dyeing vestments)) at the age of 13, at Higashiyama Yogen-in Temple, by worshipping Doho's Chinzo (a portrait of a Zen monk) and forming the relationship of master and disciple. He was given the hoi of 'Keisan' ('san' means 'three' in Japanese), since he became a monk when he was 13 years old, in March (san-gatsu in Japanese) and on the occasion of the thirty-third anniversary. He studied hard under the guidance of Ryuen Honju, Zuikei Shuho and Shunkei Koso.

When the Onin War erupted, he evacuated to Omi Province along with his friend Togen Zuisen and resided at Shikiroan of Eigen-ji Temple (Higashi-Omi City) while being embraced by Sanezumi OGURA, a local ruling family. He returned to Kyoto in 1472. He was given Shohoken, an affiliated temple of Shokoku-ji Temple founded by Kanrei (shogunal deputy) Katsumoto HOSOKAWA, and resided there. In February 1478, he became the chief priest of Toji-in Temple, and in March of the same year he succeeded to the teachings of Donchu. He became the chief priest of Shokoku-ji Temple in 1478 (and served that post during two subsequent periods). In 1484, he was transferred and made the chief priest of Soju-in Temple (the founder's pagoda), a temple in which Muso Soseki, the founder of Shokoku-ji Temple, was enshrined.

As a member of Yoshimasa's salon
Although he was appointed in November 1487 to a position as the chief priest of Nanzen-ji Temple and was given a Buddhist monk's stole of gold brocade by the former shogun Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA, ultimately he didn't join Nanzen-ji Temple. However, he was so close to Yoshimasa that he was often invited to Jisho-ji Temple, which was then under construction, and his opinion was sought on various issues.

It is believed that the names "Togudo" (東求堂) and "Dojinsai" (同仁斎), being those of well-known buildings at Jisho-ji Temple, were selected by Yoshimasa from the candidates listed by Osen (authority: Rokusodan-gyo Sutra 'Tohojin (literally, people residing in the east land) who sought to be reborn in saiho (literally, the west land) through reciting the name of Buddha' (東方人、仏を念じて西方に生まれんことを求む) and Kan Yu, 'A saint loves people equally without discrimination' (聖人、一視同仁), respectively. In addition, Osen wrote characters on the tablet of Shinku-do, the lower layer of Kannon-do. He also attached compliments to 'Kanbakuzu,' a painting by the artist Masanobu KANO (the founder of the Kano school) in his early days, who also served for Yoshimasa.

As explained above, Osen was an important member of Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA's salon, which supported Higashiyama culture.

Last years
Although he was mentioned in May 1490 as the chief priest of Shokoku-ji Temple Rokuon-in, he resolutely declined. He was eventually inaugurated in December 1492 as the chief priest cum sorokushi (a managing priest at a Zen temple) of Rokuon-in because he was asked to do so repeatedly, but a half-year later he resigned. In his last years, he trained many disciples while traveling between Omi and Kyoto, and died between December 1493 and January 1494 at Shohoken. Died at the age of 65.

He wrote "Hoan Shu," "Hoan Zekku," "Hoan Kyoka Shu," "Shoho Toyu Shu" and "Hyakunin Isshu," in addition to his diary, "Shohoken Nichiroku." He had many disciples and was a great figure, along with Banri Shukyu, who lived in the same era (the middle to late Gozan Bungaku) and whose origin can be traced back to Gido Shushin and Zuikei Shuho.

Some say the Chinese character '大' (dai) included in 大文字焼 (Daimonji-yaki) (Mt. Nyoigatake), bonfires of Gozan (five high-ranking Zen temples in Kyoto), which color the late-summer sky of Kyoto, originated from his handwriting.

[Original Japanese]