Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism, translated from the Chinese word 禅 Chán to Japanese. This word is in turn derived from the Sanskrit dhyāna, which means "meditation".
Zen emphasizes experiential prajñā, particularly as realized in the form of meditation, in the attainment of enlightenment. As such, it de-emphasizes theoretical knowledge in favor of direct, experiential realization through meditation and dharma practice.
The establishment of Zen is traditionally credited to be in China, the Shaolin Temple, by the South Indian Pallava prince-turned-monk Bodhidharma, who came to China to teach a "special transmission outside scriptures" which "did not stand upon words". The emergence of Zen as a distinct school of Buddhism was first documented in China in the 7th century AD. It is thought to have developed as an amalgam of various currents in Mahāyāna Buddhist thought—among them the Yogācāra and Mādhyamaka philosophies and the Prajñāpāramitā literature—and of local traditions in China, particularly Taoism and Huáyán Buddhism. From China Zen subsequently spread south to Vietnam, and east to Korea and Japan.