Good News in History September 15

1,255 years ago, the Buddhist monk Saichō was born. The Japan into which this man was born was quite different from the iconic period of the shogunate and the samurai, but his contributions to his own civilization were to steer it firmly on that course. Saichō is credited with the foundation of the Tendai Lotus School of Buddhism, which became the most dominant Buddhist school in the country throughout much of the feudal era. READ all the things he brought back from China… (767)

Saichō was already a fully ordained monk when he established Enryaku-ji temple upon Mount Hiei, which at its height was a complex of 3,000 buildings, and which today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 804 he paid a visit to the one of the great Chinese imperial dynasties, the Tang, at the request of the Japanese Emperor who was interested in learning more about Tiantai Buddhism.

Saichō and his party to travel to Tiantai Mountain where was introduced to the seventh Patriarch of Tiantai. Saichō spent the next several months copying various Buddhist works with the intention of bringing them back to Japan with him. He is also credited with bringing the tea plant back from China during that trip.

On his return he founded the Tendai Lotus School.

MORE Good News on this Day:

Commemorated as Independence Day (from Spain) for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and celebrated with marches by schoolchildren (1821)
The Royal Air Force inflicted heavy losses on the Luftwaffe as the tide turned in the Battle of Britain during World War II (1940)
Ron Shelton, the American film screenwriter/director and former minor league baseball player, who made his directorial debut in Bull Durham, was born (1945)
The first edition of USA Today—the first American newspaper to present content in colorful, simple, easy-to-read stories, and sold in all 50 states (1982)
U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze signed a treaty to establish centers to reduce the risk of nuclear war (1987)
IRA-allied Sinn Fein entered Northern Ireland’s peace talks for the first time (1997)
The name Google.com first appeared on the internet, as founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin registered the crazy term as their new company’s domain name while they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University (1998)

Happy 76th the Birthday to Oliver Stone, the Oscar-winning New York film director, producer, and screenwriter.

He won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay as writer of Midnight Express in 1978, and wrote the gangster film Scarface in 1983. He then achieved prominence as writer and director of the war drama Platoon, which won him Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture. It was the first of a film trilogy based on the Vietnam War, in which Stone served as an infantry soldier. He continued the series with Born on the Fourth of July—for which Stone won his second Best Director Oscar.

2016 Photo by Gage Skidmore, CC license 

Stone’s other works include the financial drama Wall Street, the Jim Morrison biopic The Doors (1991), the satirical black comedy crime film Natural Born Killers, and a trilogy of films on American Presidents: JFK, Nixon, and W.

Many of Stone’s films focus on controversial political conspiracies and issues, including Snowden in 2016—and he spent two years interviewing Vladimir Putin for a 4-part Showtime documentary, The Putin Interviews.

Recently his memoir Chasing the Light was published about his being wounded in war and his filmmaking years, including the harrowing demon of cocaine addiction, the failure of his first feature, and his risky on-the-ground research of Miami drug cartels for Scarface. WATCH a recent interview… (1946)

Also, Happy 76th Birthday to Tommy Lee Jones. Born in Midland, Texas, he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as a U.S. Marshal in The Fugitive.

He is perhaps best loved for his role as “Agent K” in the Men In Black franchise. He attended Harvard University, and wrote his senior thesis on the role of Catholicism in the works of Flannery O’ Connor. (1946)

(left) Agatha Christie plaque, CC license by Violetriga; (right) as a girl

132 years ago today, Agatha Christie was born—and she was born to write mysteries! Best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections that earned her the nickname, ‘The Queen of Crime’, the British author and playwright went on to become the best selling novelist of all time. She wove such masterworks as Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None, and The Mousetrap—the world’s longest-running play. WATCH a video about her life… (1890-1979)

And, 768 years ago today, the Venice merchant and writer Marco Polo was born. He became the first European to chronicle his travels through Asia—and his exotic details about life along the Silk Road inspired a new wave of explorers. His Book of the Marvels of the World, also known as The Travels of Marco Polo (c. 1300), gave Europeans their first comprehensive look at the mysterious culture and inner workings of the Eastern world, including the wealth and great size of China and its capital Peking. It also described cities in India, Japan and other Asian countries.

Marco journeyed for 24 years with his father and uncle, who had earlier travelled through Asia and met the emperor Kublai Khan. Upon his return back home, he became a wealthy merchant and raised a family. His detailed recollections influenced mapmakers before he died in 1324 and was buried in the church of San Lorenzo in Venice. WATCH a biography… (1254)

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