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Home > Children's Books > Zen and the Ten Oxherding Pictures

cover of Zen and Ten

Available Now

at your local bookseller or your favorite online book retailer.

Zen and the Ten Oxherding Pictures
Written and illustrated by Demi
Subject(s): Age(s) / Grade Level

Juvenile Fiction / Religious / Buddhist

Ages 4 and up / Kindergarten
– Grade 3

Format: Size / page count:


10" × 10" / 32 pages

ISBN: Date available:


Available now




In this beloved Zen Buddhist allegory, a boy is searching for his missing ox, which is meant to represent his true self. Once he finds it, he struggles to tame and train it. So, the journey and actions of the young ox herder can illustrate the process of a person’s journey toward enlightenment. On another level, it shows us how to focus on and then overcome stubborn challenges that we encounter in daily life.


Although some terms in the story such as “ego” will be beyond the understanding of younger children, parents and teachers could find simpler, more age-appropriate terms to apply to the metaphor of the search for the ox. For example, many young children will be able to understand “selfishness,” and should be able to see that because the boy can rid himself of any selfishness and anger, he can find the ox more easily and that it will be more willing to accompany him home.


This allegorical story may remind us of the morality plays of earlier European literature. Buddhists, too, have for many centuries known that simple stories can help children — and adults — see human shortcomings more easily by featuring them in a story. As adults we are able to engage in soul-searching, but most of us got a headstart on this when we were children through Bible stories, fables, or, as in this case, allegorical tales.


Award-winning author Demi presents the story of the herd boy and his ox with all the simplicity and beauty of the traditional Zen Buddhist representations. An appendix provides further details on the history and meaning of the oxherding pictures and on the special branch of Buddhism called Zen, which flourished in China, Korea, and Japan, and was later introduced to the West in the early 20th century.

Demi is the author and illustrator of over 130 bestselling children’s books, including The Fantastic Adventures of Krishna, Shiva, Mahavira, Gifts of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Talking to God. Her titles have sold over half a million copies. The Empty Pot was selected by former First Lady Barbara Bush in 1990 as one of the books to be read on the ABC Radio Network Program Mrs. Bush’s Story Time, sponsored by the Children’s Literacy Initiative. Demi’s book Gandhi was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and received an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award.

Major exhibitions of Demi’s artwork have been held in numerous museums in the U.S., including the Time/Life Gallery in New York, the Botolph Galleries in Boston and Cambridge, and the Los Angeles County Museum. Demi won a Fulbright Scholarship to India, and in addition she represented the U.S. at the First International Children’s Book Conference in Beijing, China, in 1992.

Demi lives with her husband in Yarrow Point, Washington State.

a page from the book “Zen and the Ten Oxherding Pictures”
, written and illustrated by Demi

A sample of a page spread from the book Zen and the Ten Oxherding Pictures,
written and illustrated by Demi

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