Issan Ichinei (一山一寧)

Issan Ichinei (1247 - November 28, 1317) was a priest who came to Japan from Yuan (Yuan Dynasty). He was also called Nei Issan.

Brief Personal History
He came from Linhai Prefecture, Taizhou (present day Linhai City, Taizhou District, Zhejiang). His family name was Ko. Becoming a priest at a tender age, he learnt the principle of the Ritsushu sect and that of the Tendaishu sect. Then he learnt the principles of the Rinzaishu sect, performed Buddhist practice on Mt. Tendo and at Joji-ji Temple, and assumed the principles of Gangyoku Gyoya at Aikuo-ji Temple. After that, he made Kankei Iitsu continue Zen mediation practice, and visited various places.

After failing in the two Mongol attempts to invade Japan, Kublai Khan, the founder of Yuan, sent a mission to Japan to make Japan its tributary nation through negotiations, although still watching for a chance to invade Japan again.

In Japan at that time, Rinzai Zen flourished and Zen priests were respected. Therefore, Gukei, who was the chief priest at Kannon-ji Temple in Fudarakusen (Potalaka), was selected as emissary.

His first attempt to come to Japan in 1282 failed due to bad weather. In his second attempt in 1284, he managed to arrive at Tsushima, but the mission ended there because Osetsuo, the chief officer of the mission, was killed in a disturbance caused by sailors who refused to go to Japan.

In 1294, Terumu, who succeeded the founder of Yuan, also tried to make Japan a tributary nation and ordered Gukei to become emissary for a third time. However, having become too old for the mission, Gukei recommended the role to Issan Ichinei, who had succeeded to the chief priest post at Kannon-ji Temple. Seiso awarded Ichinei the Daishi-go title of Myojikosai-daishi, and ordered him to become the national emissary to urge Japan to pay tribute to Yuan.

In 1299, he came to Japan together with Seikan Shidon, in addition to his disciples. Having stayed in Japan for eight years from 1271, Seikan Shidon had close relations with many Zen-principle followers in Kamakura.

After arriving at Dazaifu, Ichinei presented the sovereign's message from Seiso of Yuan to regent Sadatoski HOJO. However, fearing a new invasion by Yuan troops, the Kamakura bakufu confined Ichinei in Shuzen-ji Temple in Izu, doubting the true motives of Ichinei's mission.

The Kamakura bakufu then killed all emissaries from Yuan to Japan who were in Japan at the time. However, Ichinei was not killed, possibly because he was a high-ranking priest with a Daishi-go title and was accompanied by Shidon who had stayed in Japan.

Ichinei was devoted to daily Zen practice at Shuzen-ji Temple, and there were people who requested that he be pardoned. Therefore, before long, Sadatoki released him from confinement, and he was moved to a thatched hut near Kamakura.

After being released from confinement, Ichinei's reputation improved, and as well as many priests, many secular people visited Ichinei's thatched hut almost every day. After observing the situation, Sadatoki at last lost his feelings of suspicion. He then restored Kencho-ji Temple in 1293, which had been in a run-down state due to a fire, and invited Ichinei to be the chief priest of the temple, also becoming a believer of the principles of Ichinei's sect.

After assuming the role of chief priest at Enkaku-ji Temple and again at Jochi-ji Temple, he moved to Kyoto following Emperor Gouda's request and became the third chief priest of Nanzen-ji Temple.

In addition, he became the kaisan (the founder of a temple as the first chief priest) of Kiichi-ji Temple (located in Matsuzaki Town, Kamo County, Shizuoka Prefecture), that of Jiun-ji Temple (located in Shimosuwa Town, Suwa County, Nagano Prefecture) and that of Taisei-ji Temple (located in Shinshu-Nakano), and made efforts to make orthodox Rinzai Zen prosperous.

Being outstanding in scholarship and personality, he was respected by many people of various social levels. Many of his followers, including Sesson Yubai, became major writers and artists of Gozan Bungaku (literally, Five Mountain Literature). He was also known as an excellent calligrapher, and many pieces of his calligraphy are designated as important cultural properties.

He brought to Japan new commentaries about Chu Hsi-related documents and is said to be the founder of Shushigaku (Neo-Confucianism) in Japan.

In November or December of 1317, he died at Nanzen-ji Temple. He was awarded the shigo (posthumous name) of Issan Kokushi by Emperor Hanazono. "Issan Kokushi Goroku", a collection of his sayings, also remains.