Iron Flute (Tetteki)

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:

I-chung-shih-sheng-wu-hsien-i,

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.

Maker(s)
Artist: Kogetsu Sogan (1574-1643)
Historical period(s)
Momoyama or Edo period, late 16th-early 17th century
Medium
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Dimensions
H x W (image): 30.6 x 90.6 cm (12 1/16 x 35 11/16 in)
Geography
Japan
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1981.12
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Calligraphy
Type

Hanging scroll

Keywords
Daoism, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, Momoyama period (1573 - 1615), standard script, WWII-era provenance
Provenance
Provenance research underway.
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:

I-chung-shih-sheng-wu-hsien-i,

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.

Inscription(s)

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.

Five attached documents accompany the painting. One is a certificate signed "Ryo'en" and stamped "Kinzan." Ryo'en was a member of the Kohitsu family, specialists in authenticating calligraphy. The certificate is dated in accordance with the second month, 1746. Ryo'en died in 1774 (see Wakan shoga kohitsu kanteika impu reprinted in Tekagami, Nihon no bijutsu, no. 84, Shibundo). The second and third documents, one long and the other short, are brief biographical accounts of Kogetsu, the calligrapher. The long version, signed Keika-an (unidentified) is dated in accordance with 1966, while the shorter version, undated, is signed Hantoshi, undoubtedly a pseudonym, who cannot be identified. The fourth and fifth documents give the Japanese kanbun reading of the small calligraphy (see Description).

Label

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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