Iron Flute (Tetteki)

Artist: Kogetsu Sogan (1574-1643)
Historical period(s)
Momoyama or Edo period, late 16th-early 17th century
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
H x W (image): 30.6 x 90.6 cm (12 1/16 x 35 11/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

Daoism, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, Momoyama period (1573 - 1615), standard script, WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable

Two Chinese characters that read (from right to left) "iron flute" allude to a Chinese story of a magical iron flute given to the blind fortune-teller Shun Shouyrung, who lived in the early thirteenth century. Following to the left, the smaller characters read, "A kind of sound that has infinite resonance--audible yet inaudible." The style and mounting of this scroll suggest that it was intended to hang in the display alcove (tokonoma) of a tea room.

The calligrapher Kogetsu Sogan was an abbot of the Zen Buddhist temple Daitokuji, which was a great cultural center in Kyoto. Supported by powerful and wealthy patrons, Daitokuji possessed an outstanding collection of Chinese and Japanese painting and calligraphy, and also was a renowned center for the practice of the tea ceremony. Many of the Daitokuji abbots, like Sogan, were distinguished calligraphers specializing in Chinese writing styles. The son of a tea master in Sakai, Sogan became a priest of the Daitokuji at age fifteen and rose to become the 156th abbot in 1610. From his influential position in the Zen Buddhist clergy, he came into increasing contact with elite cultural patrons, including Emperor Go-Mizunoo (1596-1680; reigned 1611-29) and the shoguns Tokugawa Hidetada (1579-1632) and Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604-1651). Sogan's avid interest in the arts was recorded in notebooks where he entered details of paintings and calligraphy he had seen. His final act before he died was to write the character katsu, meaning thirst, four times.

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. 32, pp. 94-97.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 190-191.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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