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calligraphy

Obaku Dokuryu (Japanese, 1596-1672)


Because of his profound understanding, Zhao Zhou could use the word “mu.”

The word mu 無 (nothing) refers to the fundamental Buddhist teaching that “all is nothingness.” Zen practitioners seek to realize this experientially rather than conceptually. Questions, or koan, posed by a master play a vital role in the process.

The calligraphy here refers to the first of the koan compiled in China by Wumen Huikai (1183–1260) in a collection called the Gateless Gate. A monk asked the Zen master Zhao Zhou (8th century) if a dog possesses Buddha-nature. Zhao Zhou answered, “Mu.”

Purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1986.

Object Information

artist
Obaku Dokuryu (Japanese, 1596-1672)
period
Edo
creation date
1596-1672
materials
ink on paper
dimensions
50 7/16 x 11 1/8 in.
mark descriptions
Signed: Obaku Dokuryu
Rectangular relief seal, upper right corner
Square intaglio seal, below signature
Square relief seal, below signature
accession number
1986.37
credit line
Roger G. Wolcott Fund
copyright
Public Domain
collection
Asian Art
colors