Title: Hoshin kakuryo mu ichibutsu (The Entire Dharma Body Has Not One Thing)
Date: late 17th or early 18th century
Hanging scroll: ink on paper
Dimensions: 43 1/8 × 9 5/8 in. (109.6 × 24.4 cm)
Acquired through the George and Mary Rockwell Fund
In the seventeenth century, Chinese monks from Fujian province established the Obaku sect of Zen Buddhism in Japan, and their Japanese pupils spread its teachings widely. An extraordinary woman who played a role in the flourishing of Obaku Zen was Ryonen Genso, whose parents came from aristocratic families in Kyoto. She learned Japanese-style court calligraphy at a young age, and after ten years of marriage and raising children, she joined a nunnery, determined to study along with men at a temple.
Rejected because her beauty was deemed to be a potential distraction for the monks, she deliberately burned her face with a hot iron. This act gained her acceptance into the Daikyu-an temple, and she eventually renovated another temple outside Edo, expanding it and renaming it Taiun-ji, which became an important center of Obaku teaching. Her calligraphy in this scroll combines the boldness and “flying white” that characterizes Zen calligraphy, with the fluidity and elegance of Japanese court writing. The phrase here presents the first part of a Chinese text, which translates as:
The completely enlightened Dharma body has not one thing
The original source of self-nature is the true Buddha
(“Highlights from the Collection: 45 Years at the Johnson," curated by Stephanie Wiles and presented at the Johnson Museum January 27–July 22, 2018)
NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.