The essays in this volume attempt to place the Chan and Zen tradition in their ritual and cultural contexts, looking at various aspects heretofore largely (and unduly) ignored. In particular, they show the extent to which these traditions, despite their claim to uniqueness, were indebted to larger trends in East Asian Buddhism, such as the cults of icons, relics and the monastic robe.
The book emphasises the importance of ritual for a proper understanding of this allegedly anti-ritualistic form of Buddhism. In doing so, it deconstructs the Chan/Zen 'rhetoric of immediacy' and its ideological underpinnings.
'It offers a probing, detailed and ultimately surprisingly revealing account of an important era of religious thought made all the more interesting by the variety of forms of accommodation to novelty reflected therein.' - Social Anthropology