Buddhist Name and Praise by Kokan Shiren

  • Late Kamakura period
  • 14c
  • Hanging scroll, ink on paper
  • H-74.1 W-57.8
Catalogue Entry

Late Kamakura period, 14th century
Hanging scroll, ink on paper
Height, 74.1cm; width, 57.8cm

This hanging scroll states the dogo name Zuigan and a praise statement for that name. This name Zuigan was bestowed upon Zuigan Dongen, later the 34th head of Tofukuji, by the 15th head priest of Tofukuji Kokan Shiren (1278-1346). At the time of this scroll, it was a standard practice to inscribe the dogo name and its praise on 2 separate pieces of paper, but in the Muromachi and later periods, frequently they were written one above the other on a single sheet of paper, as seen in this example. This calligraphy can thus be considered an important example of the earliest period in which these two inscriptions would have been written on the same piece of paper.

Let us consider the praise statement:
"Just as it seems that it might be cloudy, in fact it isn't. Just as it seems that it might be foggy, it isn't. Mountain vapors dissolved by the bright sun envelop the face of the mountain. A giant boulder in the midst of these mountains wrapped in bright weather is entwined with vines and creepers, completely covered with moss.

After one of Shaka's (S⇔akyamuni) 10 great disciples, Subhuti, the first to understand "ku", sat in full lotus position upon that crag, the flower petals scattered around the entire area were all from the udumbara tree. The udumbara tree only blooms once in 3,000 years and is thus an extremely rare plant. It is said that Konrin Myoo appears when its flowers bloom."

Here Kokan states that he thought that the udumbara flowered around Zuigan seated in meditation, and thus he named him Zuigan. The first 2 lines of this statement praise Zuigan, while the second 2 lines praise Dongen. This name praise is recorded in the 5th volume of Kokan's anthology (Saihokushu).

Both Kokan and Zuigan were originally disciples of the founder of Tofukuji, En'ni, and the lineage of these disciples can be listed as follows:

Tofuku En'ni-- Tozan Tansho--Kokan Shiren (Sanshomon sect)
Sanso E'un--Zuigan Dongen (Shogaku sect)

Kokan studied the scholarly arts with Yishan Yining, a Chinese monk in Japan, and is known as the learned priest who wrote a great number of works, such as Japan's 1st biographical history of monks, Genko Shakusho (30 volumes), Japan's 1st rhymed verse Jubun-in-ryaku (5 volumes), Kokan Osho Juzenshiroku (3 volumes), and the 18-volume work Butsugo Shinron. He studied calligraphy from Huang Shangu. While resident in Tofukuji's sub-temple, Kaizo'in, he was known as the Kaizo master. He also held the position of 15th generation head of Nanzenji. In 1342 (Kokoku 3), the emperor Gomurakami of the Southern Court bestowed upon him the name of Hongaku Kokushi. MK