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The Old Tea Seller

Life and Zen Poetry in 18th Century Kyoto

List Price: $14.95

June 15, 2010 | Paperback | 5 x 8, 240 Pages | ISBN 9781582434827
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“[A] delightful and exquisite volume... Norman Waddell has done a marvelous job pulling all of this material together.” —Spirituality and Practice

Baisao was an influential and unconventional figure in a culturally rich time period in Kyoto. A poet and Buddhist priest, he left the constrictions of temple life behind and at the age of forty-nine traveled to Kyoto, where he began to make his living by selling tea on the streets and at scenic places around the city. Yet Baisao dispensed much more than tea—though he would never purport to be a Zen master, his clientele, which consisted of influential artists, poets, and thinkers, considered a trip to his shop as having religious importance. His large bamboo wicker baskets provided Baisao and his current customers with an occasion for conversation and poetry, as well as exceptional tea.

The poems, memoirs, and letters collected here trace his spiritual and physical journey over a long life. This book includes virtually all of his writings translated for the first time into English, together with the first biography of Baisao to appear in any language. It is bound to establish Baisao’s place alongside other Zen-inspired poets such as Basho and Ryokan.

About Baisao

BAISAO was born in 1675 and died in Kyoto in 1763. He was, by the time of his death, one of the most revered and accomplished poets of his time.

NORMAN WADDELL lives in Kyoto, Japan. His others translations include work by Dogen, Bankei, Hakuin, D.T. Suzuki, and many others.


“Norman Waddell has brought us an important Japanese Zen poet who has been too long neglected. The biography is detailed and informative but Waddell has gone further and has translated all of Baisao’s published verse (including some taken from holograph manuscript) and prose, as well as many of Baisao’s letters and verse… This book will stand as the definitive work on Baisao for many years.” —The Zen Site

“[A] delightful and exquisite volume… Norman Waddell has done a marvelous job pulling all of this material together.” —Spirituality and Practice

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