Calligraphy in One Line


Calligraphy in One Line

calligraphy / Edo

By Ingen Ryuki (1616-1673)

Edo period, 17th century

Ink on paper


This calligraphy was written by Ingen Ryuki, a Zen priest from Ming dynasty China. It reads 'Jishin Shin Sanbo.' 'Sanbo' means 'Three Treasures.' It refers to the Buddha, to the sutras expounded by the Buddha, and to the priests who spread these teachings. As such, the calligraphy probably means something like 'you are also a Buddha who possesses the Three Treasures.'
The characters in the bottom left read 'By Obaku Ingen.' 'Ingen' is the calligrapher's name, but what does 'Obaku' refer to?
Though Ingen Ryuki was born in China's Fujian province, he fled to Japan to escape the turbulence that accompanied the transition from the Ming to the Qing dynasty. Zen Buddhism prioritizes experience through zazen meditation. Ingen belonged to the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism. By Ingen's time though, several centuries had already passed since Rinzai Buddhism had first arrived in Japan from China. During this time, the Chinese and Japanese schools had both developed along their own distinct paths. Ingen was a practitioner of contemporary Chinese Rinzai Buddhism. This appeared quite novel and exotic to the Japanese at that time. As such, it led to a resurgence of Zen Buddhism throughout Japan. After arriving in Japan, Ingen established Manpuku-ji temple on Mount Obaku, Kyoto, as a place to propagate his teachings. His role as head priest there explains why he signed his name 'Obaku Ingen.'

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