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.