CITY GUIDE >Culture and Events
The monk's tale
By Brendan Worrell (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-06-03 09:31

The monk's tale

Japanese ambassadorial delegations sailing to China during the Tang Dynasty.

For more than 25 years Virginia Stibbs Anami has been following the trail of a Japanese monk who traveled to China during the Tang Dynasty (AD618-907). Her story, like the monk's, is a fascinating tale of passion and perseverance.

Anami, who lectures on Ancient Chinese at Tokyo's Temple University, has recently been back on the mainland to pursue her two passions; promoting her latest book, Following the Tracks of Ennin's 9th c. Journey and helping at an orphanage in rural Shanxi.

Anami says the monk's tale is a model of friendship between neighbors and resonates with people today.

"He became a kind of symbol of China-Japan relations," she says, "because he was one of the first Japanese who lived in China and was given a lot of help by Chinese people during his nine years here."

The wife of the former Japanese Ambassador to China, Koreshige Anami was born an American but has since become a naturalized Japanese citizen.

Anami has sought to foster links within the region, both through her connections in diplomatic circles and her extensive travels and studies.

Her past teaching of history, geography and social studies immersed her in the intricacies of the centuries-old relationships between the three cultures of China, Korea and Japan. The life of Jikaku Daishi, or Monk Ennin, who traveled to China in the year AD838, links these three like few other figures in history.

"It's a wonderful story about people helping each other," Anami enthuses. "Many Korean monks lived in the coastal towns of China at that time and they actually helped Ennin to get a boat to go home - so all three countries were involved in that."

Ennin was part of the last ambassadorial delegation sent from Japan to Tang China and ended up staying for nine years. As far back as AD607, the Imperial Court of Japan sponsored these missions sending officials, monks, scholars and artisans to learn the advanced culture of China.

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