Searching for one's true self: a critical appraisal of Jūgyūzu and its translations


The Jūgyūzu, or Ten Ox-herding Pictures, were drawn in China between the 12th and the 13th centuries by Guoan Xiyuan. Each picture is accompanied by a short prose comment and a poem by Guoan himself and his disciple Ciyuan. The whole set illustrates the main concepts of Zen Buddhism, and each picture represents a stage of the journey towards Enlightenment. The Jūgyūzu achieved the greatest popularity in Japan, where it is still considered a masterpiece of Zen Buddhism.
After a brief introduction on the subject, the first part of this article analyses the ten pictures, also featuring a new translation (based on the Japanese version by Ueda and Yanagida). The second part of the article focuses on the analysis of the English and Italian translations which are available today, showing how the popularity of certain books does not always entail better quality and/or adherence to the original.


Jūgyūzu; China; Japan; Zen Buddhism; translation;

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