Der lange Weg des Zen-Buddhismus nach Deutschland : vom 16. Jahrhundert bis Rudolf Otto

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


At the beginning of the 21st Century, Zen Buddhism is no longer an unknown religion in the West. Zen-meditation enjoys great popularity, the books regarding the subject are among the bestsellers and the auditoriums are crowed if the topic concerns the bringing home of Zen Buddhism to a Western audience. At the same time Zen Buddhism today is by no means merely the religion of Zen Buddhists, but practices and teachings of Zen Buddhism are being integrated into a Christian context or find themselves incorporated in the practice of religious groups that can be counted to the New Age movement. The reception of the East Asian religion, as well as the related adaptation to Western ideas and conditions of life are however of an older date. It began already during the 16th Century with the first letters from the Jesuit missionaries in China and Japan that reported about the strange religion of Fo. The reports of the Jesuit missionaries were translated in Europe, censored and then circulated with help of various ways, such as letter collections, the Jesuit theater or the scholastic literature. Since those days the Zen-Buddhist religion in Europe has most of all been an idea, a world of imagination, exposed to social, economical, theological and power political calculi. The information of the Jesuit missionaries from China and Japan, as well as the in-creasingly popular travel literature not only triggered the enthusiasm for China during the Age of Enlightenment, but were the basis for the entire reception of Buddhism during the 17th and 18th Century. These sources of infor-mation, formed the understanding of Zen-Buddhism of people like Athanasius Kircher, G.W. Leibniz, Immanuel Kant or the French deist Francois Marie de Marsy. Only in the beginning of the 19th century the first Buddhist writings were translated and thus made available to a wider public. In particular during the 19th Century the reception of Zen Buddhism was exposed to the continuously changing influence of power political interests and diverging theological arguments. Among other things two occurrences were of particular importance for the reception of Zen-Buddhism in Germany; the Meiji-restoration in Japan (1868) and the attempts of various theologians, philosophers and psychologists to lead back "religion" to a universal essence, which is not accessible to rational reason. The Zen interpretations of both D.T. Suzuki and Rudolf Otto were decisively determined by these political and intellectual alterations of the 19th century.


  • Jürgen Offermanns
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History of Religions


  • J.-B. Du Halde, F. Caron, F.M. de Marsy, I. Kant, G.W. Leibniz, A. Kircher, Counter-Reformation, Reformation, Age of Enlightenment, travel literature, Jesuit theater, Germany, Europe, China, Japan, Jesuits, New Age, Christianity, West, Zen, Buddhism, sodo, Non-Christian religions, Världsreligioner (ej kristendom), History of the Christian church, Kristna kyrkans historia, German language and literatur, Tyska (språk och litteratur)
Original languageGerman
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2002 May 10
  • Almqvist & Wiksell International
Print ISBNs91-22-01953-7
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2002-05-10 Time: 10:15 Place: Carolinasalen, Kungshuset External reviewer(s) Name: Braarvig, Jens Title: Prof Dr. Affiliation: [unknown] ---