William Scott Wilson
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About William Scott Wilson
William Scott Wilson is the foremost translator into English of traditional Japanese texts on samurai culture. His bestselling books include The Book of Five Rings, The Unfettered Mind, and The Lone Samurai, a biography of the legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi.
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Titles By William Scott Wilson
Amid this devastation, three men dream of uniting the nation. At one extreme is the charismatic but brutal Nobunaga, whose ruthless ambition crushes all before him. At the opposite pole is the cold, deliberate Ieyasu, wise in counsel, brave in battle, mature beyond his years. But the keystone of this triumvirate is the most memorable of all, Hideyoshi, who rises from the menial post of sandal bearer to become Taiko--absolute ruler of Japan in the Emperor's name.
When Nobunaga emerges from obscurity by destroying an army ten times the size of his own, he allies himself with Ieyasu, whose province is weak, but whose canniness and loyalty make him invaluable. Yet it is the scrawny, monkey-faced Hideyoshi--brash, impulsive, and utterly fearless--who becomes the unlikely savior of this ravaged land. Born the son of a farmer, he takes on the world with nothing but his bare hands and his wits, turning doubters into loyal servants, rivals into faithful friends, and enemies into allies. In all this he uses a piercing insight into human nature that unlocks castle gates, opens men's minds, and captures women's hearts. For Hideyoshi's passions are not limited to war and intrigue-his faithful wife, Nene, holds his love dear, even when she must share it; the chaste Oyu, sister of Hideyoshi's chief strategist, falls prey to his desires; and the seductive Chacha, whom he rescues from the fiery destruction of her father's castle, tempts his weakness.
As recounted by Eiji Yoshikawa, author of the international best-seller Musashi, Taiko tells many stories: of the fury of Nobunaga and the fatal arrogance of the black-toothed Yoshimoto; of the pathetic downfall of the House of Takeda; how the scorned Mitsuhide betrayed his master; how once impregnable ramparts fell as their defenders died gloriously. Most of all, though, Taiko is the story of how one man transformed a nation through the force of his will and the depth of his humanity. Filled with scenes of pageantry and violence, acts of treachery and self-sacrifice, tenderness and savagery, Taiko combines the panoramic spectacle of a Kurosawa epic with a vivid evocation of feudal Japan.
Written by the seventeenth-century Zen master Takuan Soho (1573–1645), The Unfettered Mind is a book of advice on swordsmanship and the cultivation of right mind and intention. It was written as a guide for the samurai Yagyu Munenori, who was a great swordsman and rival to the legendary Miyamoto Musashi.
Takuan was a giant in the history of Zen; he was also a gardener, calligrapher, poet, author, adviser to samurai and shoguns, and a pivotal figure in Zen painting. He was known for his brilliance and acerbic wit. In these succinct and pointed essays, Takuan is concerned primarily with understanding and refining the mind—both generally and when faced with conflict. The Unfettered Mind was a major influence on the classic manifestos on swordsmanship that came after it, including Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings and Yagyu Munenori's Life-Giving Sword.
Zen monk Santoka Taneda (1882-1940) is one of Japan's most beloved modern poets, famous for his "free-verse" haiku, the dominant style today. This book tells the fascinating story of his life, liberally sprinkled with more than 300 of his poems and extracts from his essays and journals--compiled by his best friend and biographer Sumita Oyama and elegantly translated by William Scott Wilson.
Santoka was a literary prodigy, but a notoriously disorganized human being. By his own admission, he was incapable of doing anything other than wandering the countryside and writing verses. Although Santoka married and had a son, he devoted his life to poetry, studying Zen, drinking sake and wandering the length and breadth of the Japanese islands on foot, as a mendicant monk.
The poet's life alternated between long periods of solitary retreat and restless travel, influenced by his tragic childhood. When not on the road, he lived in simple grass huts supported by friends and family. Santoka was a lively conversationalist who was often found so drunk he could only make it home with the help of a friendly neighbor or passerby. But above all, throughout his life, he wrote constantly; poetry and essays flowed from him effortlessly.
Santoka's eccentric style of haiku is highly regarded in Japan today for being truly modern and free from formal constraints. His journals and essays are equally thought-provoking--the musings of an unkempt but supremely self-conscious mind on everything from writing to cooking rice and his failure to live a more orderly life.
This translation and its introduction are by best-selling author William Scott Wilson, whose other works include The Book of Five Rings and The Lone Samurai. Wilson provides sensitive renditions of the haiku illustrating Santoka's life as well as an extensive introduction to the influences on Santoka's work, from contemporary haiku poets and his Buddhist teachers.
Alongside the book, readers have access to a two-hour online audio recording of 331 of Santoka Taneda's haiku, read in Japanese by a native speaker, and in English.
The legendary seventeenth-century swordsman Yagyu Munenori was the sword instructor and military and political adviser to two shoguns—and a great rival to Miyamoto Musashi. Despite his martial ability and his political power, Munenori’s life was spent immersed in Zen teachings. These teachings formed the framework for his deeply spiritual approach to sword fighting. Munenori saw in the practice of the sword a way to transform the student into a total human being.
The Life-Giving Sword is Munenori’s manifesto on his approach. His central themes are the “life-giving sword”—the idea of controlling one’s opponent by spiritual readiness to fight rather than by actual fighting—and “No Sword,” which is the idea that the mind must be free of everything, even the sword itself, in order to get to the place of complete mastery. Munenori’s ideas are applicable not only to martial arts but to business and human relations as well.
Living and dying with bravery and honor is at the heart of Hagakure, a series of texts written by an eighteenth-century samurai, Yamamoto Tsunetomo. It is a window into the samurai mind, illuminating the concept of bushido—the Way of the Warrior—which dictated how samurai were expected to behave, conduct themselves, live, and die. While Hagakure was for many years a secret text known only to the warrior vassals of the Nabeshima clan to which the author belonged, it later came to be recognized as a classic exposition of samurai thought.
The original Hagakure consists of over 1,300 short texts that Tsunetomo dictated to a younger samurai over a seven-year period. William Scott Wilson has selected and translated here three hundred of the most representative of those texts to create an accessible distillation of this guide for samurai. No other translator has so thoroughly and eruditely rendered this text into English.
For this edition, Wilson has added a new introduction that casts Hagakure in a different light than ever before. Tsunetomo refers to bushido as “the Way of death,” a description that has held a morbid fascination for readers over the years. But in Tsunetomo’s time, bushido was a nuanced concept that related heavily to the Zen concept of muga, the “death” of the ego. Wilson’s revised introduction gives the historical and philosophical background for that more metaphorical reading of Hagakure, and through this lens, the classic takes on a fresh and nuanced appeal.
The Demon’s Sermon on the Martial Arts is a classic collection of martial arts tales, written by the eighteenth-century samurai Issai Chozanshi. Featuring demons, insects, birds, cats, and numerous other creatures, the stories here may seem whimsical, but they contain essential teachings that offer insight into the fundamental principles of the martial arts. This graphic novel version based on Chozanshi’s text brings these tales alive in a captivating and immediately accessible way.
Infused with Chozanshi’s deep understanding of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shinto, the tales elucidate the nature of conflict, the importance of following one’s own nature, yin and yang, the cultivation and transformation of ch’i (life energy), and the attainment of mushin (no-mind). Ultimately, the reader learns in a visually exciting way that the path of the sword is a path of self-knowledge and leads to an understanding of life itself.
The Kisoji, which runs through the Kiso Valley in the Japanese Alps, has been in use since at least 701 C.E. In the seventeenth century, it was the route that the daimyo (warlords) used for their biennial trips—along with their samurai and porters—to the new capital of Edo (now Tokyo). The natural beauty of the route is renowned—and famously inspired the landscapes of Hiroshige, as well as the work of many other artists and writers.
William Scott Wilson, esteemed translator of samurai philosophy, has walked the road several times and is a delightful and expert guide to this popular tourist destination; he shares its rich history and lore, literary and artistic significance, cuisine and architecture, as well as his own experiences.
Upholding the samurai code both on and off the battlefield is one of the essential tenets of bushidō, the Way of the Warrior—and Budōshoshinshu is a definitive treatise on living in accordance with the samurai code. When it comes to books on samurai philosophy, the Edo-period classic Hagakure is iconic to contemporary readers, but Budōshoshinshu, which was written during same period, was equally influential at the time. Many scholars consider Hagakure, which was influenced by Zen, to be the most radical and romantic of samurai texts, while Budōshoshinshu is more measured and practical, owing to its heavy Confucian influence. Taken in tandem, they provide a range of insights on the role of the individual within the samurai order—both addressing the warrior’s role in times of peace and emphasizing the importance of living selflessly.
Written by Daidoji Yūzan, a Confucian scholar who descended from a long line of prominent warriors, Budōshoshinshu comprises 56 pithy instructive essays for young samurai on how to live morally, with professional integrity and a higher purpose, and to carry on the true chivalrous tradition of bushidō. Budōshoshinshu is imbued with classic Confucian philosophy, centered on living one’s life with sincerity and loyalty.
Born in 1584, Miyamoto Musashi was the legendary samurai known throughout the world as a master swordsman, spiritual seeker, and author of the classic book on strategy, The Book of Five Rings. Over 350 years after his death, Musashi and his legacy still fascinate readers worldwide, inspiring artists, authors, and filmmakers.
In The Lone Samurai, respected translator and expert on samurai culture William Scott Wilson presents both a vivid account of a fascinating period in feudal Japan and a portrait of the courageous, iconoclastic samurai who wrestled with philosophical and spiritual ideas that are as relevant today as they were in his time. For Musashi, the way of the martial arts was about mastery of the mind rather than simply technical prowess—and it is this path to mastery that is the core teaching in his Book of Five Rings. This special volume includes supplemental material on Musashi’s legacy as a martial arts icon, his impact on literature and film, and the influence of his Book of Five Rings.
Traditionally in China and Japan, drinking a cup of tea was an opportunity for contemplation, meditation, and an elevation of mind and spirit. Here, renowned translator William Scott Wilson distills what is singular and precious about this traditional tea culture, and he explores the fascinating connection between Zen and tea drinking. He unpacks the most common phrases from Zen and Chinese philosophy—usually found in Asia printed on hanging scrolls in tea rooms, restaurant alcoves, family rooms, and martial arts dojos—that have traditionally served as points of contemplation to encourage the appropriate atmosphere for drinking tea or silent meditation.
Part history, part philosophy, part inspirational guide, The One Taste of Truth will connect you to the distinctive pleasure of sipping tea and allowing it to transport your mind and thoughts. This beautifully written book will appeal to tea lovers and anyone interested in tea culture, Chinese philosophy, and Zen.
The work is divided into two books. The first generally deals with the art of living in society and the second is concerned with man's solitude and contemplations of nature. These themes repeatedly spill over into each other, creating multiple levels of meaning.