This paper offers a new interpretation of the origin of kirigami in the Sōtō school. The paper proposes that kirigami were the products of a process of esoterization in the context of intra- and intersectarian strife. The paper suggests that this process can be traced to speculation on the Yijing. The paper first considers the oldest existent kirigami document, the Ichimonzen no kirigami 一文銭之切紙. This text offers an interpretation of the symbolic meaning of a Chinese coin in terms of both the Yijing and the Five Positions (goi 五位). The same connection between the Yijing, the Five Positions and coins is apparent in the works of Ketsudō Nōshō 傑堂能勝(1355–1427) and his disciple Nan’ei Kenshū 南英謙宗(1387– 1460). Nōshō used the coin in order to explain the transformations of the tri- and hexagrams associated with the Five Positions. However, Nōshō’s work differs from the Ichimonzen no kirigami in that the metaphor of the coin is nowhere associated with secrecy and transmission. It was in Kenshū’s later work that there appeared an association between the teaching of the Five Positions and a "secret transmission" (miden 密伝). Initially, Kenshū used this notion to criticize Rinzai masters’ interpretations of the Five Positions but he eventually came to wield it as a weapon against rival factions of the Sōtō school. This development occured in the context increasing strive between Sōtō lineages in the 15th century. Kenshū never reveals the nature of this secret transmission. Yet a close reading of the Jūri jōhen ketsu 重離畳変訣suggests that it is closely related to the teachings on coins inherited from Nōshō. Consequently, the metaphor of the coin appears to have undergone a process of esoterization in Kenshū. Tthis process coincides with the transmission of the Ichimonzen no kirigami. As both Nōshō and Kenshū as well as the author of the kirigami belonged to the Gasan 峨山faction, the paper concludes that it was here that secret transmissions first formed and that one part came to be formalized as kirigami documents
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