A Zen Life in Nature: Muso Soseki in His Gardens by Keir Davidson. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2007, 298 pp. with 28 illustrations, $28.00 (paper)

Muso Soseki (1275-1351), one of the most prominent Zen masters of the Muromachi Period, was also twice abbot of Nanzenji. He is also remembered as a landscape architect, in 1339 having created the garden at Kyoto's Saihoji, also known as Kokedera, or the "Moss Temple."

It is upon this garden that Keir Davidson, himself author of several books on "Zen" gardening, chooses to hang his narrative of Soseki's life and career. Saihoji appears in the final chapters of this account and is seen as a culmination, not only the summation of a distinguished career but as the final expression of the influences that so shaped Soseki's life.

Following the scholarly work on the Zen master already published by Tamamura Takeji, Kawase Kazuma, and Yanagida Seizan, Davidson here synthesizes a life of Soseki that speculates upon the various influences on the man and his work. Among these are the tales of the older Zen masters (such as Ryo Zassu), the mountain landscapes among which Soseki grew up, and the mystic ideal of some perfect spiritual destination. To this end Davidson posits a life that contains this argument.