Iron Flute (Tetteki)

Detail of a pattern
Image 1 of 2

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At A Glance

  • Period

    late 16th-early 17th century
  • Geography

  • Material

    Hanging scroll; ink on paper
  • Dimension

    H x W (image): 30.6 x 90.6 cm (12 1/16 x 35 11/16 in)
  • Accession Number



Object Details

  • Artist

    Kogetsu Sogan (1574-1643)
  • Description

    The two-character standard script calligraphy reads: "Tetteki (Chinese: t'ieh-ti)" or "Iron Flute," which presumably alludes to the magical iron flute said to have been given to a certain Sun Shou-yung, a blind fortune-teller recorded to have been active in the Pao-ch'ing era (1225-1227) of the Southern Sung period (see Sung Shih, Chapter 462). Iron Flute in Chinese references is fraught with Taoist overtones.
    Three-and-one-half lines of small character calligraphy in kanbun may be read:
    Isshu kono koe mugen no kokoro,
    Kikuni taeru ari, kikuni taezara ari.
    The Chinese reading would be:
    Yu-k'an-t'ing, yu-pu-k'an-t'ing.
    The English rendering may be:
    A kind of sounds which has infinate resonance;
    It is audible (and yet) inaudible.
    Five attached documents accompany the painting. See "Signatures and Inscriptions" for more information.
  • Inscriptions

    1. (Y. Shimizu, May 1982, ^j^) The calligraphy is signed "Kogetsu-so sho" or "Written by the Old Man Kogetsu."
    Two seals follow: one tripod, on which are two characters in small seal script reading "Setsu kyaku" or "Broken Legs;" the second seal, circular and relief, reads "To zen" or "Eastward Advance," which usually refers to Buddhism's eastward advance.
    The signature as well as the seals identify the calligrapher as Kogetsu Sogan (1574-1643), a Daitoku-ji monk as well as a renowned tea-aesthete and calligrapher of the early Edo period.
  • Collection

    Freer Gallery of Art Collection
  • Exhibition History

    Spreading the Word (May 18 to November 12, 2018)
    Cornucopia: Ceramics of Southern Japan (December 19, 2009 to January 9, 2011)
    Japanese Art in the Age of Koetsu (June 6, 1998 to February 15, 1999)
    From Concept to Context: Approaches to Asian and Islamic Calligraphy (July 28, 1986 to February 6, 1987)
    Japanese Calligraphy (December 21, 1984 to November 7, 1985)
  • Origin

  • Credit Line

    Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
  • Type

  • Restrictions and Rights

    Usage Conditions Apply

    There are restrictions for re-using this media. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

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