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School of East Asian Buddhism that emphasizes the practice of meditation. The Zen school, known as the Chan school in China, derives its name from the Sanskrit word for meditation (dyana). It arose in China out of the encounter between Buddhism and indigenous Taoist thought and was held in high regard for several centuries after having survived the persecution of Buddhism there in 845. Zen blossomed again after being brought to Japan, where it underwent further development during the Kamakura period (1185-1333). The two major sects of Japanese Zen are the Soto sect and the Rinzai sect. Thought they vary in teaching and methods, both schools assign a central role to meditation as the foundation of their spiritual practice. There are more than 21,000 Zen temples in Japan. Mainly because of the writings of D. T. Suzuki, the 20th century witnessed the spread of Zen to many countries in the West. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)

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