Caodong Family Tree







  Bodhidharma (AD-535)

  Dazu Huike (AD487-593)

  Jianzhi Sengcan (AD526-606)

  Dayi Daoxin (AD580-651)

T'ANG DYNASTY (618-907)









  Daman Hongren(AD602-675)

  Dajian Huineng(AD638-713)

  Qingyuan Xingsi(660AD-740)

  Shtu Xīqiān(AD700-790)

  Yaoshan Weiyan751-834

  Yunyan Tanshen (784-841)


  Caoshan Benji840901)

SUNG DYNASTY (960-1279)



道元 寶慶元年-日本

  Hongzhi Zhengjue10911157

  Tiāntng Rjng(1163-1228)

  Dōgen Zenji(1200-1253)

Caodong (Sōtō Zen):

Caoshan together with his master Dongshan, goes down in history as co-creating the Caodong School of Chan (the name is literally a combination of the "mountain names" of both).


 Codng (曹洞宗: Co dng zōng) is a Chinese Zen Buddhist sect founded by Dongshan Liangjie and his Dharma-heirs in the 9th century. Some attribute the name "Codng" as a union of "Dongshan" and "Caoshan" from one of his Dharma-heirs, Caoshan Benji; however, the "Cao" much more likely came from Coxī (曹溪), the "mountain-name" of Huineng, the Sixth Ancestor of Chan, as Caoshan was of little importance unlike his contemporary and fellow Dharma-heir, Yunju Daoying. The sect emphasised sitting meditation, and later "silent illumination" techniques.

Bodhidharma  菩提達磨祖師(西天廿八祖,東土初祖) AD-535

Bodhidharma, founder of Zen in China.

Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk from southern India who lived during the early 5th century and is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Zen to China.

Very little contemporary biographical information on Bodhidharma is extant, and subsequent accounts became layered with legend, but most accounts agree that he was from the southern region of India, born as a prince to a royal family. Bodhidharma left his kingdom after becoming a Buddhist monk and traveled through Southeast Asia into Southern China and subsequently relocated northwards.

Bodhidharma as the 28th Patriarch of Buddhism in an uninterrupted line that extends all the way back to the Buddha himself.

Bodhidharma: " Outwardly cease all involvements, inwardly have no coughing or sighing in the mind --with your mind like a wall you can enter the Way."

Dazu Huike 慧可大祖禪師 (西天廿九祖.東土二祖)AD487-593

Huike also name Sengke(Chinese:僧可),  is considered the Second Patriarch of Chinese Chan or Zen  and the twenty-ninth since Shakyamuni  Buddha.

At age of forty, Huike met Bodhidharma at Shaolin Monastery. According to legend, when they first met, Bodhidharma  refused to teach him, then Huike stood in the snow outside Bodhidharma's cave all night until snow reached his kneels.

In the morning Bodhidharma asked him what does he look for? Huike replied that he hope Bodhidharma  can compassionately teach him the way to "open the gate of the elixir, to liberate all setient beings". Bodhidharma  rejected  and said, "All buddhas' uncomparable wonderful dharma , must be attained through aeons of diligent practice,  experience countless of  difficulties and  endure all the hardship. How can you hope for this profound and exquisite dharma  with little virtue, little wisdom, a shallow heart and an arrogant mind? It would be just a waste of effort."

After listening to this, to prove his resolve, Huike  cut off his left arm and presented it to Bodhidharma as a token of his sincerity. It's said that,  only then Bodhidharma accepted him as diciple.

One day Huike told Bodhidharma, "My mind is not calm, please help me to pacify it."

Bodhidharma replied,"Bring me your mind, and I  will pacify for you."

After quit a while, Huike answered, "I have sought for my mind, but cannot find it."

Then Bodhidharma replied, "I have pacified your mind."

Huike studied with  Bodhidharma for six years, learned the essence of the dharma. Before leaving China, Bodhidharma passed on the symbolic rope and bowl of dharma succession, and also a copy of Lankavatara Sutra to Huike.

Later , at about AD534, Huike went to Yedu(鄴都, now in Hebei) to expound dharma. But his dharma was contradict to the teaching  of other influential Buddhist masters there, because of this Huike faced a lot of trouble when preaching dharma, including  encountered assassination.

It's said that Huike lived to the age of one hundred seven. His dharma successor was Sengcan(僧璨).

Jianzhi Sengcan 僧璨鑑智禪師 (西天卅祖,東土三祖)AD526-606


Sng-ts'an. The third patriarch in the lineage of the Chinese Zen Sect.

After Seng-ts'an received transmission, Buddhism was persecuted in China and he spent fifteen years wandering and hiding in the mountains. In the year 582 he met Tao-hsin, who was to become his pupil and thereupon the Fourth Patriach, and in this way the transmission of Zen continued. He died in 606.  The Hsin-hsin-ming (Shinjimmei) was written by him.


Jianzhi Sengcan : Faith in Mind


Dayi Daoxin 道信大醫禪師 (西天卅一祖,東土四祖)AD580-651

Fourth Patriarch Daoxin (580-651) was born the year before China was reunified after 350 years of turbulence. He is the first in the Chan (Chinese Zen) lineage to have settled stably at the same monastery (on Twin Peaks Mountain) for thirty years, and built a large following of disciples. The new dynasties, Sui and Tang, were both sympathetic to the free practice of religions; Emperor Tang Taizong invited the Master to the royal court four times (which he refused). The next 260 years may be considered the golden age of Buddhism as all the ten major traditions of Chinese Buddhism, including Chan, developed.

To set up a monastic system for such large Sangha, Master Daoxin is credited for bringing precepts, other schools of teaching such as Lankavatara Sutra, and the chanting of Heart Sutra into the daily practice of Zen monks.


Daman Hongren 弘忍大滿禪師 (西天卅二祖,東土五祖)AD602-675

Hungren was a boy of seven at the time, out begging with his mother. Tao-hsin recognized his capacity for truth and asked the mother to allow her son to become his disciple.

Huineng, in his Platform Sutra, tells of how he came to visit the monastery at Huangmei, where Hung-jen, having succeeded his teacher Tao-hsin, resided with over 700 followers. He described how Hung-jen secretly arranged to meet him one night and how that meeting led to his enlightenment.

Dajian Huineng 六祖慧能大師-()(西天卅三祖,東土六祖)(AD638-713)

One of the most important Masters in the history of Zen was Hui-neng, an uneducated layman who did not become a monk until many years after he was given transmission to become the Sixth Patriarch. Hui-neng's teachings have been so admired that they have been entitled the Platform, although strictly speaking a sutra is supposed to represent the words of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni.

Dajian HuinengSutras -The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch


Qingyuan Xingsi  青原行思禪師 (660AD-740)

Qingyuan went to study with the Zen master Huineng and asked, " what work is to be done so as not to fall into stages?" The Zen master inquired, "What have you done?" Qingyuan said, "I do not even practice the holy truths." The Zen master said, "What stage do you fall into?" Quingyuan said, "If I do not even practice the holy truths, what stages are there?" The Zen master recognized his profound capacity.

Shitou Xīqiān   石頭希遷禪師-(石頭) (AD700-790)

Shitou Hsi-chien was born in Guandong Province in southern China. When he was twelve years old he became a disciple of the Sixth Patriach, Hui-neng. Upon Hui-neng's death two years later, Shitou practiced on his own for fifteen years and then studied with Ching-yuan, one of Hui-neng's main successors. He then established his practice in a hut on a rocky ledge (hence his name Shitou, literally "Rock") in Hunan.

Shtu Xīqiān: collections of zen readings - Harmony of Difference and Equality

Yaoshan Weiyan   药山惟俨 751834

He first called on Shitou, then went to Mazu, with whom he became enlightened. Yaoshan left Mazu and went back to Shitou.

One day as Yaoshan was sitting, Shitou asked him, "What are you doing here?" Yaoshan said, " I am not doing anything at all." Shitou said, "Then you're sitting idly." Yaoshan said, "If I were sitting idly, that would be doing something." Shitou said, "You said you're not doing --- what aren't you doing?" Yaoshan said, "Even the sages don't know."


Yunyan Tanshen   雲巖曇晟   (784 - 841)

It is said Yunyan spent over 20 years with Baizhang, but finally attained enlightenment with Yaoshan.

Dongshan 洞山良价(807 - 869

Dongshan was a disciple of Yun-yen, who in turn was a disciple of Yo-shan. Yo-shan was first a disciple of Shih-t'ou and later of Ma-tsu, who were said to "divide the world between them," and who worked in cooperation.

After his profession as a monk in his early twenties, Tung-shan made the traditional round of masters. He first visited Nan-ch'uan, then Kuei-shan. At the latter's recommendation, he went to Yun-yen. John Wu, in The Golden Age of Zen, tells how when Tung-shan was getting ready to journey on, he asked Yun-yen a final question: "After you have completed this life, what shall I say if anyone asks, 'Can you still recall your master's true face?'" Yun-yen remained silent for a long while and then replied, "Just this one is."

While on his journey, Tung-shan continued to muse on the master's words. Then one day as he was crossing a stream he saw his reflection in the water and on the spot was thoroughly awakened to the meaning, which he expressed in this gatha:

Do not seek him anywhere else!
Or he will run away from you!
Now that I go on all alone,
I meet him everywhere.
He is even now what I am.
I am even now not what he is.
Only by understanding this way can there be a true union with the Self-So.

Wu says that the term he translated as Self-So is the Chinese for the Sanskrit Bhutatathata, which corresponds to the Eternal Tao, the Hindu Brahman, and the Old Testament I am That I Am. This is a remarkable distinction, as Wu comments, unlike that of the lesser "unitive" experience of Cosmic Consciousness. While HE is I, I am not HE. God is more myself than myself. This is the distinction between the Atman and the Brahman, between the True Man of Tao and the Eternal Tao.


Caoshan    曹山本寂-() 840901

Together with his master Dongshan, Caoshan goes down in history as co-creating the Caodong School of Chan (the name is literally a combination of the "mountain names" of both).  He came from the area of modern Quanzhou, Fujian.  Named his temple location Mt. Cao in the Fuzhou district after Huineng's temple in Guangdong.  Started another temple at Mt. Heyu, and named that one Caoshan too.

Hongzhi Zhengjue  宏智正觉10911157

Hongzhi Zhengjue became well known in Chan circles for collecting 100 Zen stories, and adding his own poetic verses to each. Later, a Chan master named Wansong Xingxiu added extensive commentaries to that book, which came to be known as The Book of Serenity, published in the late Song Dynasty of China. Wansong refers in this book to Hongzhi as "Tiantong", another name that he used.

Hongzhi Zhengjue: collections of zen readings - Guidepost of Silent Illumination, The Needle of Zazen.

Tiāntng Rjng    天童如净禅师11631228

Tiāntng Rjng (天童如淨) was a Caodong Buddhist monk living in Jingde Temple(景德寺) on Tiāntng Mountain (天童山) in Yinzhou District, Ningbo. He taught and gave dharma transmission to Sōtō Zen founder Dōgen as well as early Sōtō monk Jakuen (寂円 Jyun).


His teacher was Xuedou Zhijian (雪竇智鑑, 1105-1192), who was the sixteenth-generation dharma descendant of Huineng.


He is traditionally the originator of the terms shikantaza.

Dōgen Zenji  道元-(日本)  (12001253)

Dogen Zenji, the founder of Soto Zen School as well as of Daihonzan Eiheiji, was born on January 2, 1200 CE. This was during the Kamakura Period of Japanese history, the year following the death of Minamoto Yoritomo. It is said that his father was Koga Michichika, a government minister, and that his mother was Ishi, the daughter of Fujiwara Motofusa. Presumably, young Dogen Zenji lived in comfort. However, at the age of thirteen, he climbed Mt. Hiei, and the next year he shaved his head and became a monk. It is said that he became a monk because he felt the impermanence of the world on his mothers death when he was eight years old.


Dogen studied with Zen master Rujing.

Dogen Zenji: Fukan Zazengi (collections of zen readings)



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Last modified: 08/15/14