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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.

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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