Hanging scroll with five large calligraphic kanji characters. The lower right contains further text and orangish read seals. The background brocade on which it is mounted is green and gold and has a floral design. Two strips of other material lie across the top and bottom of the white material on which teh calligraphy is painted. These strips also have a floral design and a light gold/yellow background.
In traditional China, calligraphy was regarded as the highest of the arts because it was held to be the truest reflection of one’s character. For Chinese Chán and Japanese Zen monks, who were immersed in Chinese literati culture, calligraphy could thus be a form of self-portraiture.
The verse here, piously attributed to Bodhidharma, is the second of a two-line poem and seems to predict the future flourishing of the five lineages of Zen: “One bud opens into five petals, and naturally ripens into fruit.”
The calligrapher of this scroll, Ôbaku Tetsugen, was among the first generation of Japanese converts to the Ôbaku sect of Zen; he was a disciple of Muan Xingtao (known in Japan as Mokuan).
The large character for snow in block script is juxtaposed with lines of smaller characters in running script. The large character is drawn with unhurried, thick, even strokes in dense, unbroken black ink with blunt contours, while the smaller characters are brushed rapidly, with strokes of varying thickness, a pronounced diagonal tilt, and sharp edges.
Muan Xingtao (known in Japan as Mokuan) was a native of Fujian, China. He took his monastic vows at Wanfusi Monastery at the age of eighteen and in 1655 followed his mentor to Japan, where he helped to found several monasteries. Muan became the second abbot of Manpukuji in Uji, the great Ôbaku Zen sect’s monastery on the southern outskirts of Kyoto.
The calligraphy reads, “Snow: the fragrance of the plum blossoms in snow catches my nose.”
Standing gilt bronze Shakyamuni Buddha with glass inlay. One hand is raised in the form of the "fear not" mudra. Stands on a pedestal in ornamented dress and crown.
Shakyamuni Buddha in intricate costume standing on a lotus pedestal. Such elaborate decoration has come to characterize Thai Buddhist imagery of the 19th and 20th centuries. Hands form the reassuring "fear not" mudra.
This print is one of a series by the artist that evokes, in a highly abstract manner, famous Buddhist sculptures of Nara, the capital of Japan in the 8th century. The subject here is the slender, 8-armed figure of Ashura (in Sanskrit, Asura), dated to 734 and in the collection of Kôfukuji Temple in Nara. Ashura is a deity derived from Hindu beliefs, representing a class of powerful beings who were often in competition with the 'devas' or gods. In Buddhism, these spirits are adopted as protectors of the faith. The Ashura are not Buddhas, despite the title given the print by the artist.