Shōkoku-ji, the Zen temple where Sesshū studied painting under Shūbun
Sesshu liked painting since his childhood. Priest Shiibun of the Shokokuji Temple was his first master. Shiibun and Josetsu were influenced by Korean painting, which in turn was influenced by the Chinese.
Sesshu directly studied Chinese painting in that country, under Li Tsai and Chang Yu-sheng, noted masters of the time. He also saw works by Ma Yuan and Hsia Kuei and was inspired by the sceneries in China.
He became an acolyte at the Hofukuji Temple in his native province when a boy. He went to Kyoto and lived at the He went to Kyoto and lived at the Shokokuji and Tofukuji temples. He was well known among Kyoto priests for his artistic talent. At the age of 42, he went to Suo Province (Yamaguchi Prefecture) and lived at Unkokuan Hermitage in Yamaguchi.
When the Onin War broke out, he went to China (Ming Dynasty) to avoid the hostilities. He landed at Ningpo and proceeded to Peking via Shantung Province. He became well known in China for his paintings. After staying in China two years, he returned to Japan (1470).
Around 1476 he lived at Tenkai Zugaro, a house he built for the purpose of painting in Bungo Province (Oita Prefecture) and later went back to Yamaguchi. He then went to Iwami Province (Shimane Prefecture) and died at Daikian, a hermitage near Masuda.