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Daido Bunka enso

12 July, 2010 (05:00) | japan, modern, paintings | By: xensen

daido bunka enso

This unusual enso based on the character for heart/mind was made by Daido Bunka in the first half of the eighteenth century.

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The Character for ”Heart/Mind” as an Ens?, 18th century, by Daido Bunka (Japan, 1680-1752). Hanging scroll, ink on paper, image 11 3/16 x 21 in. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Edwin Janss, M.84.211.1.

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Photo Wednesday: Omikuji

26 August, 2009 (06:00) | japan | By: xensen

This image of two women viewing omikuji, or rolled-up fortunes, comes from kalandrakas’ photostream. Kalandrakas writes:

Omikuji are random fortunes written on strips of paper at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan.

The omikuji predicts the person’s chances of his or her hopes coming true, of finding a good match, or generally matters of health, fortune, life, etc. When the prediction is bad, it is a custom to fold up the strip of paper and attach it to a pine tree in the temple grounds. A purported reason for this custom is a pun on the word for pine tree (? matsu) and the verb ‘to wait’ (?? matsu), the idea being that the bad luck will wait by the tree rather than attach itself to the bearer. In the event of the fortune being good, the bearer should keep it. Though nowadays, this custom seems more of a children’s amusement, omikuji are available at most shrines, and remain one of the traditional activities related to shrine-going . . .

The spirit of stones

17 August, 2009 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, japan | By: xensen

Stones in Japan are used for bridges, water containers, lanterns, and many other purposes. They are especially used as steps on paths.

In an echo of Japan’s animistic native beliefs, stones are chosen for the spirit they emanate. They form a link between people and the earth. Stones that are scored or pitted or covered with moss evoke the spirit of wabi-sabi — of harmonious simplicity and impermanence (more on this in a subsequent post).

This image of petal-covered stepping stone as Shokokuji, a Rinzai Zen temple in Kyoto, comes from EYLC’s photostream.

Samurai samba

21 May, 2009 (05:00) | contemporary, japan, literature/performance/film/music | By: xensen

San Francisco Zen Center tour of Asian Art Museum

9 January, 2009 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, japan | By: xensen

logo of san francisco zen center featuring an enso by founder suzuki roshi

Folks in the San Francisco area on February 26, March 26, or April 23 this year have an opportunity to tour the Asian Art Museum with members of the San Francisco Zen Center. Each group is limited to 15 people. Cost is $20, which includes $15 for dinner in the Asian’s private dining area, which is usually restricted mainly to high-level donors. Sign-up is by e-mail to events [at] sfzc [dot] org, specifying a date.

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Kazuaki Tanahashi, part 2

18 August, 2008 (05:00) | japan | By: xensen

Morihei Ueshiba

14 August, 2008 (05:00) | 20th c, japan | By: xensen

Kazuaki Tanahashi

11 August, 2008 (05:00) | japan | By: xensen

Eyes and dolls

5 June, 2008 (05:05) | 20th c, japan, paintings | By: xensen

Japanese cloisonné

7 April, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, japan, modern | By: xensen

japanese cloisonne vase

Cloisonné is a technique of decorative enameling. Sections of the object to be enameled are defined with wires and areas of color are laid down. The term comes from the French word cloisonner, to partition. Examples of Chinese cloisonné date as far back as the 1200s, I think; perhaps it originated in West Asia and spread along the Silk Road.

The development of cloisonné as a major art form in Japan is traditionally attributed to a daimyo artist named Kaji Tsunekichi of Nagoya in Owari Province (modern Aichi Prefecture), who deconstructed a Chinese example to analyze the technique. In part to satisfy Western demand after the opening of Japan, schools of cloisonné artists were producing large numbers of very fine examples by the end of the century. The period from 1880 to 1910 is sometimes called the golden age of Japanese cloisonné.

Shown is a lidded copper-body cloisonné enamel vase with a dragon motif from the collection of the V&A. Probably from Nagoya, it is dated to 1880-1890 (museum no. M.205-1917).

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Joge-e

1 April, 2008 (05:00) | japan, prints/photographs | By: xensen

The Zen of kibble

24 March, 2008 (05:00) | japan | By: xensen

Torei Enji enso

19 March, 2008 (05:00) | japan, modern, paintings | By: xensen

enso, or zen circle, by torei enji

Here’s another enso, or Zen circle, by Torei Enji (1721-1792). Compare this to the Torei enso posted 12 March. Here his brush is more unevenly inked, creating a range of grays, with the darkest areas either on the inside or outside of the line. As the brush approaches the top of the circle its pressure is lightened, then reapplied for the swooping downward motion. For this enso Torei adds a dot in the center.

The calligraphy is translated by Stephen Addis as “The images presents itself, nothing more.” This work, from the Gitter-Yelen Collection, appeared in an exhibition at the Asian Art Museum.

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Hakuin enso and Daruma

18 March, 2008 (05:00) | japan, modern, paintings | By: xensen

hakuin enso

Here’s a delightful enso by the Rinzai Zen master Hakuin Ekaku Zenji (1686-1769). Unassuming and unaffected yet not at all reticent, it displays an exceptionally even and steady hand, with only a hint of the beginning and end at bottom left.

As a bonus, here’s a Hakuin Daruma, which reveals some of the same qualities.

hakuin daruma

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Torei Enji enso

12 March, 2008 (05:00) | japan, modern, paintings | By: xensen

zen circle by torei enji (1721-1792)

This enso is by Torei Enji (1721-1792), who excelled at the Zen circle. Torei began this one by pressing his brush down hard at the lower left and swiftly continuing around the circle while lifting the brush.

The calligraphy says “In heaven and on the earth, I alone am worthy of honor,” lines attributed at birth to the historical Buddha.

Yoko Woodson, curator of Japanese art at the Asian Art Museum, thinks that the curious smudgy echo of the enso at the lower left represents a shell.

Kanjuro Shibata enso

11 March, 2008 (05:00) | 20th c, japan, paintings | By: xensen

kanjuro shibata xx enso

Form is void and void is form.
– The Heart Sutra

Let’s have a look at some Zen circles, or ensos. A symbol of wholeness and cyclic return — and some would say of enlightenment — this simple figure seems ideally suited to brush and ink, and it can be surprisingly expressive. Every good enso has some individual quality that sets it apart from others.

This enso, by Kanjuro Shibata XX, who served as the bowmaker to the Emperor of Japan from 1959 until 1994, has a twist — literally. Kanjuro Shibata puts a sort of lock on the join in his circle, perhaps much as an archer locks in on his target.

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Nakahara Nantenbo Daruma

28 February, 2008 (05:00) | 20th c, japan, paintings | By: xensen

nakahara nantenbo daruma zen painting, 1912

Seven Junipers continues Daruma week with this bold image by Nakahara Nantenbo (1839-1925), which is more than five feet tall. The work was painted ni 1912. The thin lines outlining Bodhidharma’s face (which lacks a nose) contrast with the broad arc that suggests his robe in the most minimalist manner possible, as well as with the rough, energetic calligraphy. The arc of the robe is drawn with such force that it has splashed ink over Bodhidharma’s left ear, from which an earring hangs.

Nantenbo, the artist’s priest name — he was abbot of the Zen monastery of Myoshinji in Kyoto — derives from bo (staff) and nanten (a kind of tree), alluding to the staff with which he struck practitioners whose attention faltered.

The epigraph reads “A flower opens five petals and bears fruit — all in its nature.”

The work is in the collection of the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.

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Soga Shokaku Daruma

27 February, 2008 (05:00) | japan, modern, paintings | By: xensen

daruma image by soga shohaku

Keeping on our Daruma theme, here is a standing version by the Kyoto painter Soga Shohaku (1730-1781). While Shohaku sometimes produced paintings of the greatest care and precision, he also worked in a freer style, as in this example.  Bodhidharma’s body is quickly outlined in broad strokes. His face, which turns back to the viewer, brings the painting alive through a few masterfully rendered strokes that produce a typically enigmatic expression.

Shohaku’s sprawling inscription informs us that the work was painted in a drunken state, and no doubt this contributed to the painting’ spontaneous quality. The attitude is consistent with a Zen value of freedom from restraint, which is seen in many eighteenth-century works from Kyoto. The painting is about four feet tall, and it was probably painted with a large straw brush.

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