Zen began in China, where it was called Chan. Legends define its beginnings, including many stories of the first six patriarchs. Historical information about these individuals is limited.
The development of Chan Buddhism was influenced by evolving Mahayana Buddhist philosophy and new Mahayana scriptures. Chinese Taoism was also a strong influence.
The legendary founders of Chan (in Japanese, Zen) are the Indian monk Bodhidharma, the "wall-gazing brahmin," and Huineng, an illiterate Chinese peasant from the far south.
The foremost Chan/Zen scripture is the Platform Sutra, which relates the story of the sixth patriarch, Huineng. Several Mahayana Buddhist sutras are also central, and gongan (koan) are a form unique to Chan/Zen.
Western accounts of Chan/Zen are often quite romanticized. These accounts were shaped by Japanese who, in response to increased contact with the West, were creating a new national identity.