Religious Leader. Also known by his posthumous honorific name, Kobo-Daishi, he was a Japanese priest, scholar, and artist, and founder of the "Shingon" or "True Word" sect of Buddhism. After departing from classical Chinese studies at a university, he left to become a wandering ascetic who eventually made a commitment to Buddhism. From 804 to 806 he served as a member of a Japanese embassy to T'ang China, where he studied the Buddhist Tantra. He returned to Japan with many scriptures and art objects and was honored by the emperor. In 816 he founded the Kongobuji monastery on Mt. Koya, near Kyoto. He became famous as a calligrapher and is said to have invented the hiragana syllabary which, in combination with Chinese characters, Japanese is written. Mt. Koya is still a center of pilgrimage, and there is a folk belief that Kukai is not dead but in deep meditation and will one day rise again.
Bio by: Warrick L. Barrett