This article was revised and updated on October 7, 2018
While Genjo Koan is one of key writings in Japanese Zen Buddhism, this article is not focused on its philosophical or religious aspects but on the challenges of translating old texts. Genjo Koan, written by Eihei Dogen, is notoriously difficult to translate. Japanese, like all languages, has changed a lot since the 13th century, and Dogen often intertwines Chinese characters and quotations.
Even more crucially, when sentences in the original language can be interpreted in several ways, and the translator doesn’t know which one was meant, he can accidentally eliminate it because the translation usually cannot preserve the same range of meanings.