Chinese phrase

A single column of five widely spaced Chinese characters written with vigorous brush strokes [in cursive characters] gives a phrase that carries a number of meanings. It may be literally rendered, “The tip of the stick opens the true [or orthodox] eye.” The stick may be understood to refer to the stick used by Zen (C: Chan) masters in training their disciples.

Maker(s)
Artist: Mokuan Shoto (1611-1684)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 17th century
School
Obaku
Medium
Ink on paper
Dimensions
H x W (image): 138.4 × 29 cm (54 1/2 × 11 7/16 in)
Geography
Japan
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1980.195
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Calligraphy
Type

Hanging scroll

Keywords
Buddhism, cursive script, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, WWII-era provenance, Zen Buddhism
Provenance
Provenance research underway.
Description

A single column of five widely spaced Chinese characters written with vigorous brush strokes [in cursive characters] gives a phrase that carries a number of meanings. It may be literally rendered, "The tip of the stick opens the true [or orthodox] eye." The stick may be understood to refer to the stick used by Zen (C: Chan) masters in training their disciples.

Inscription(s)

1. (Excerpted from catalogue entry, From Concept to Context: Approaches to Asian and Islamic Calligraphy, 1986, no. 33) In the single line of cursive script along the lefthand edge of the scroll, the calligrapher identifies himself as "The thiry-third generation after Rinzai [C: Linji], Obaku Mokuan [C: Huangbo Muan]." The signature is followed by two seals. The upper intaglio seal reads, "Shaku-kai to in [Seal of the Ordained Monk (Shoto)]." The lower seal carved in relief reads, "Mokuan shi." In the upper right corner is another seal, reading, "Hogai gakushi."

Published References
  • Fu Shen, Glenn D. Lowry, Ann Yonemura, Thomas Lawton. From Concept to Context: Approaches to Asian and Islamic Calligraphy. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 33, p. 98.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

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

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.