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Celebrating the Legacy of Yinyuan Longqi (Ingen Ryuki) and the Art of Ōbaku

Celebrating the Legacy of Yinyuan Longqi (Ingen Ryuki) and the Art of Ōbaku

Ingen’s Disciples

From the moment they arrived in Japan, the Chinese monks who would eventually establish an Ōbaku community there were regarded as living embodiments of southern Chinese literati culture. Their portraits and works of calligraphy partook of this charisma and were highly esteemed. Many became abbots of Manpukuji: Mokuan, Sokuhi, and Dokutan were direct dharma heirs of Ingen; Kōsen was in the next generation. Dokuryū became a monk but never received the dharma; he served as scribe and physician and was widely renowned for his mastery of the arts of calligraphy and seal carving.

In ritual contexts, Ōbaku Zen abbots are regarded as living Buddhas around whom revolves the spiritual life of the monastery. Their portraits and works of calligraphy—often brushed in large powerful strokes to adorn gateways, or in smaller, intimate formats for private interior spaces—adorn the temple inside and out. This exuberant display creates the sense throughout the monastery even today of the enduring presence of the leading monks of the Ōbaku community.

In traditional Zen abbot portraiture, it is often the abbot being portrayed who is asked by the disciple commissioning the portrait to add an inscription, or eulogy, honoring the person being depicted. In the case of sitters inscribing their own portraits, we use the term “self-eulogy.” Eulogies often make light of the portrait-making process, at times mocking the attempt to capture the likeness of a real person as futile, as Buddhist metaphysical truths are evoked.

Four-Line Poem in Cursive Script

Four-Line Poem in Cursive Script

Four-Line Poem in Cursive Script, 17th century Duli Xingyi 獨立性易 (Jp. Dokuryū Shōeki, 1596-1672) Japan, Edo period (1615-1868) Hanging scroll, ink on paper 23.5 x 25 cm; 105.6 x 35.2 cm (mounted) Collection of Stuart Katz With just one call of the rooster, Startled...

Portrait of Duli Xingyi 獨立性易 (Jp. Dokuryū Shōeki)

Portrait of Duli Xingyi 獨立性易 (Jp. Dokuryū Shōeki)

Portrait of Duli Xingyi 獨立性易 (Jp. Dokuryū Shōeki, 1596-1672) Kita Genki 喜多元規 (active c. 1663-1709) Self-eulogy dated 1671 Japan, Edo period (1615-1868) Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper 111.4 x 50.1 cm; 211.8 x 63.8 cm (mounted) The Cleveland Museum of Art, Mr....

A Sash of Clouds

A Sash of Clouds

A Sash of Clouds, after 1678 Gaoquan Xingdun 高泉性潡 (Jp. Kōsen Shōton, 1633-1695) Japan, Edo period (1615-1868) Hanging scroll, ink on paper 167.8 x 38 cm Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., Purchase—funds provided by the Friends of...

Calligraphy of Five-Character Zen Phrases in Semicursive Script

Calligraphy of Five-Character Zen Phrases in Semicursive Script

Calligraphy of Five-Character Zen Phrases in Semicursive Script, c. 1678-1692 Gaoquan Xingdun 高泉性潡 (Jp. Kōsen Shōton, 1633-1695) Japan, Edo Period, 1615-1868 Hanging scrolls, ink on paper Each scroll, 219.7 x 49.5 cm (mounted) Saint Louis Art Museum, Funds given by...

Chinese Poem to Celebrate a Senior Monk’s Sixtieth Birthday

Chinese Poem to Celebrate a Senior Monk’s Sixtieth Birthday

Chinese Poem to Celebrate a Senior Monk’s Sixtieth Birthday, late 17th-early 18th century Duzhan Xingying 獨湛性瑩 (Jp. Dokutan Shōkei, 1628-1706) Japan, Edo period (1615-1868) Hanging scroll, ink on paper 128.5 × 40.7 cm; 222 x 55.2 cm (mounted) The Metropolitan Museum...

An Accomplished Spirit

An Accomplished Spirit

An Accomplished Spirit, mid-17th century Jifei Ruyi 即非如一 (Jp. Sokuhi Nyoitsu, 1616-1671) Japan, Edo period (1615–1868) Hanging scroll, ink on paper 131.5 x 36.8 cm; 215.9 x 38.5 cm (mounted) Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Museum purchase: Friends of the...

Portrait of Jifei Ruyi 即非如一 (Jp. Sokuhi Nyoitsu)

Portrait of Jifei Ruyi 即非如一 (Jp. Sokuhi Nyoitsu)

Portrait of Jifei Ruyi 即非如一 (Jp. Sokuhi Nyoitsu, 1616-1671) Kita Genki 喜多元規 (active c. 1663-1709) Self-eulogy, 1666 Japan, Edo period (1615–1868) Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk 109.5 x 44 cm; 201.3 x 56.5 cm (mounted) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Harry...

First Patriarch, Great Master Bodhidharma

First Patriarch, Great Master Bodhidharma

First Patriarch, Great Master Bodhidharma, mid-17th century Muan Xingtao 木菴性瑫 (Jp. Mokuan Shōtō, 1611-1684) Japan, Edo period (1615-1868) Hanging scroll, ink on paper 139.7 x 29.2 cm Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with funds donated by Andrea M. Baldeck,...

Portrait of Muan Xingtao 木菴性瑫 (Jp. Mokuan Shōtō)

Portrait of Muan Xingtao 木菴性瑫 (Jp. Mokuan Shōtō)

Portrait of Muan Xingtao 木菴性瑫 (Jp. Mokuan Shōtō, 1611-1684) Kita Genki 喜多元規 (active c. 1663-1709) Self-eulogy, 1674 Japan, Edo period (1615-1868) Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk 109.5 × 41.9 cm; 202.2 x 59.4 cm (mounted) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of...