Mokuan Shōtō, Sei ('Essence'), a calligraphic hanging scroll

Edo period, mid-17th century AD

Zen Calligraphy

This forceful calligraphic writing of a Zen maxim is by the monk Mokuan Shōtō (Chinese: Muan Xingtao) (1611-84). It serves as a focus to meditation on its many layers of meaning. The five-character inscription on the left - 'Flowers open and heaven reveals its essence' - amplifies the meaning of the single large character 'sei' ('essence') on the right. Mokuan was second abbot of the Zen temple Mampuku-ji at Uji near Kyoto, founded by monks of the Chinese ōbaku (Chinese: Huangbo) sect fleeing the persecution of conquering Ching armies. They introduced to Japan the forceful, elegant calligraphic styles of late Ming literati, such as the scholar-painter Dong Qichang (1555-1636).

The signature reads 'ōbaku Mokuan sho' ('Written by Mokuan of the ōbaku sect') and the seals read ‘Hōgai gakushi' ('Scholar-Gentleman Retired from the World'), 'Shakkai Tō in' and 'Mokuan shi'.

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Mokuan Shōtō, Sei ('Essence'), a calligraphic hanging scroll

Calligraphy on paper


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Height: 278.000 mm
Width: 523.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA JP ADD1110

not found on MERLIN


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