Scholars have investigated Gasan’s role in the so-called ‘popularization’ of the medieval Sōtō school. What is noticed less often is Gasan’s doctrinal role in the shaping of medieval Sōtō Zen. This article sheds light on the particular importance given by Gasan to the transmission of the Five Ranks through an analysis of the San’unkaigetsu and the two Muromachi variants. The three texts share some common features in the analysis of the Five Ranks, which are at the center of the transmission process in Gasan’s group. I suggest that the rediscovery of the Five Ranks attempts to legitimate Gasan and his group of disciples. San’unkaigetsu achieves this through three different layers: the textual layer, the cosmogonic layer and the secrecy layer which endow Gasan’s group with the legitimacy of past tradition. My analysis collocates Gasan and San’unkaigetsu in the complex scenario of the medieval Sōtō school, providing a nuanced understanding of the influential role of Gasan.
Sōtō School. Gasan Jōseki. Five Ranks. Kirigami.