The Literature of the Five Mountains (五山文学)

Gozan Bungaku (the Literature of the Five Mountains) was literature in Chinese developed in Zen temples from the late Kamakura period to the Muromachi period. Gozan Bungaku was, literally, the center of Gozan culture. Literature occupied a very important place in the Zen temples of the Northern Song and Yuan dynasties, and once the Zen style was introduced to Japan by monks who had been to the Song and Yuan, there was a collective rise in literary aspirations.

Accordingly, and in addition to the necessity of drafting the shogunate's diplomatic documents, it was considered important to compose hogo (Zen instructional literature) and Chinese poems written in shirokubun (a style of alternating four- and six-character lines), whereby the Literature of the Five Mountains flourished in Kamakura Gozan and Kyoto Gozan (the five great Zen temples of Kamakura and Kyoto).

Starting with Zen instructional literature, it covered such fields as poetry and prose, diaries, discourse, etc. The representative miscellanies of prose and poetry include "Kugeshu (Sky Flowers Collection)," by Gido Shushin, "Shokenko," by Zekkai Chushin, etc. Wood-block printing also emerged as literature in Chinese became popular. Particularly in the late fourteenth century, Shunoku Myoha and others actively expanded the activity of printing at Unkyo-an in Tenryu-ji Temple and at Rinsen-ji Temple in Kyoto. These wood-block printings are called "gozanban." Most of them were the reprinted editions of the Song or Yuan printings that had been introduced into Japan; many of them depict the past, and they are of great value as materials in studying woodblock printing.