Chan (禅, Sanskrit dhyana, Japanese: zen) is a major school of Chinese Buddhism.

The Chinese Chan school's own historical accounts indicate that the school was founded with the arrival of a somewhat legendary Indian monk named Bodhidharma, ostensibly the twenty-eighth patriarch in a lineage that extended all the way back to Śākyamuni (Sakyamuni).

Bodhidharma is recorded as having come to China to teach a "separate transmission outside of the texts" which "did not rely upon textuality." His special new form of religion was then transmitted to through a series of Chinese patriarchs, the most famous of whom was the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng. It is more likely however, in terms of history, that Chan began to develop gradually in different regions of China as a grass-roots movement which was reacting to what was perceived as an imbalance in Chinese Buddhism towards the blind pursuit of textual scholarship with a concomitant neglect of the original essence of Buddhist practice--meditation and the cultivation of the right view. After the time of Huineng, Chinese Chan began to branch off into numerous different schools, each with their own special emphasis, but all of which kept the same basic focus on meditational practice, personal instruction and grounded personal experience. During the late Tang and the Song periods, the tradition truly flowered, as a wide number of eminent teachers, such as Mazu, Baijang, Yunmen and Linji developed specialized teaching methods, which would become characteristic in each of the "five houses" of mature Chinese Chan. Later on, the teaching styles and words of these classical masters were recorded in such important Chan texts as the Biyan lu; (Blue Cliff Record) and the Wumen guan; (Gateless Barrier) which would be studied by later generations of students down to the present. Chan continued to be influential, along with Pure Land as a Buddhist religious force in China, although some energy was lost with the revival of Confucianism from the Song onward. Chan was mostly eliminated in China in the modern era with the appearance of the Peoples Republic, but still continues to hold a significant following in Taiwan.

See also: Buddhism in China

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