top of page
Remembering Abbess Mugai Nyodai. (1223-1298)
Remembering Abbess Mugai Nyodai. (1223-1298)

Thu, Nov 23


Location is TBD

Remembering Abbess Mugai Nyodai. (1223-1298)

First female Zen master in the world.

Registration is closed
See other events

Time & Location

Nov 23, 2023, 6:00 AM – 11:59 PM

Location is TBD

About the event

23rd November is also the day we remember Abbess Mugai Nyodai. (1223-1298)

First female Zen master in the world.

She was a disciple and spiritual heir of the Chinese Rinzai Zen monk Wu-hsüeh Tsu-yüan (known in Japan as Mugaku Sogen [Bukkō Kokushi], 1226–1286); the founding Abbess of Keiaiji Convent, the head temple-complex of the Five Mountain Rinzai Zen Convent Association; and the spiritual matriarch of many of the remaining imperial convents today.

The discovery of the magnificent life-size thirteenth-century chinso portrait sculpture of Abbess Mugai Nyodai was one of the initial revelatory events that drew scholarly attention to the 'ignored' female side of Buddhist institutional history and, more broadly, to the role of women in Japanese religious history. In many ways, therefore, she has been the Institute's 'patron saint'.

This statue, the only thirteenth-century portrait statue of a female Zen master extant, has been declared an "Important Cultural Treasure" by the Japanese government.

She was born Adachi Chiyono, (where the family name/surname is placed 1st).

Chiyono went as a bride to the Kanazawa family, one of the retainers of the Hojo, but after the early death of her husband, she entered the Buddhist life.

Although laywomen were not commonly admitted to monasteries at the time, dharma custom assured that any woman who sought Buddhist teachings would receive them.

*See the picture of the woman with the bucket for her enlightenment poem.

Nyodai is known to have been active in the education of the children of Kamakura period samurai families.

Among calligraphy works by women, Nyodai's calligraphy was prized second only to Taira-no-Masako, a matriarch of the Kamakura shogunate.

In 1298, Nyodai died on the 8th day of the 11th month at the age of 76.

1998 her 700th Anniversary Memorial Service



Share this event

bottom of page