禅尺八 真理研究 ホームページ

The Zen Shakuhachi Truth Research Web Pages

Introduction & Critical Guide to the Study of Early Ascetic Shakuhachi History & Ideology in Particular

Torsten Olafsson • 無穴笛オーラフソン トーステンデンマーク • Denmark



About this Research Project

Realizations & Conclusions

Highlighted Pictures

Highlighted Quotations

Texts, Quotations & Illustrations
A Chronological Overview:

 •  India
 •  China
 •  Japan
 •  The West

To be - or not to be:
     a "Zen Buddhist Priest"?

Errors, Misconceptions & Loose Ends

The Source Collections

The Written Sources

1470?: The Kyōgen Play Rakuami

1505: Kōrin's Shakuhachi Essay

1512: The Taigenshō Music Treatise

The Komosō & Fuke-komosō Sources

1614: The Keichō kemmon-shū

1628: The Kaidō Honsoku Evidence

1628: The Kaidō Honsoku Thesis

1640s?: The Hotoke-gotoba Evidence

1646: Isshi Bunshu's Letter
     to the Komusō Sandō Mugetsu

1646 ... The Hottō Kokushi Legend

The Early Komusō Texts

The Kyōto/Kansai Sources

The Edo/Kantō/Tōkyō Sources

1664: Shichiku shoshinshū

1677: The Empō 5, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Ordinance

1678: The Empō 5, 12th Month
     Komusō-ha Oboe Memorandum

1687: The Jōkyō 4, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Ordinance

1694: Engetsu's Honsoku deshi ...

1703 & 1705: The Myōan-ji
     c/o Kōkoku-ji Interrelationship

1732: The Shakuhachi denrai-ki

1735: Myōan-ji's Kyorei-zan engi ...

1740?: Keichō no okitegaki -
     Existing Reprint Versions

1795: Kyotaku denki kokujikai

1816: Miyaji Ikkan's Shakuhachi hikki

1823: Hisamatsu Fūyō's Hitori mondō

1848: Bakufu Government Decree
     re-administrating the "Fuke Sect"

1871: Bakufu Government Decree
     bans & dissolves the "Fuke Sect"

1890 ... The Legacy of Higuchi Taizan

1930s: Uramoto Setchō Credo

1970s: Myōan Taizan-ha Thought & Credos

Honkyoku Music History
     Ascetic Shakuhachi Titles

Miyagawa Nyozan's Honkyoku 'Ajikan'

Myōan Taizan-ha Notation



Profile / Bio / CV

Contact Info

The Hottō Kokushi / Shinchi Kakushin Legend

The renowned, former Shingon monk and later Zen abbot Shinchi Kakushin who lived from 1207 to 1298 did not transmit any Chinese "Zen Shakuhachi" tradition to Japan when he repatriated in 1254 from four years of studying Zen Buddhism in China.
Nowhere in the numerous preserved writings by Kakushin himself - nor anywhere else in contemporary sources - do we encounter any proof whatsoever of such beliefs.

It was only as late as after the very dramatic Christian uprising, the Shimabara Rebellion, near Nagasaki in 1637-38 and the following introduction in 1640 of strict shūmon aratame population registration by the government and the Buddhist temples that the miyogiri-playing mendicant masterless samurai so far known as komosō ("mat monks") realized an urgent necessity to reorganize and establish themselves as komusō, "monks of non-dualilty and no-one-ness".

We know well from the 1628 document Kaidō honsoku that the komosō did not at all recognize any "history", no lineages, no ancient founders nor transmitters of their tradition. They only admired the Chinese monk Fuke as some sort of an idol, a source of spiritual inspiration, so to speak.

However now, during the early 1640s, members of a partly new generation (!) of that "mat monk's" fraternity appear to have consulted and inquired with the prominent Buddhist clergy regarding what to do, seriously, in order to create a new image for themselves, a much more respectable identity and more secure survival possibilities, in the capacity as devoted Buddhist practitioners and - first of all: Not at all suspecion-causing, secret Christian converts and thus potential traitors to the new Tokugawa régime!



The oldest surviving textual evidence of the creation of a "Kakushin Legend", a name for a new "sect", namely Komu shizen, 虚無自然, and the appellation komusō was composed by a very close disciple and friend of the famous Takuan Sōhō (1573-1645).

That prominent student's name is Isshi Bunshu; he lived from 1608 to 1645 (or 1646).

In Isshi's letter, composed in pure kambun style, we read as follows,

"In China there was Fuke; [as for] my [own] country itself, how possibly could Hottō Kokushi accomplish as the originator of the congregation?
When Kokushi was in China, one after the other four K(y)omu persons joined him and, succesfully, came [with Kokushi] to this country.
Later, the paths [lit.: "branch veins"] of these honorary men separated into four, respectively [thus totalling 16], and - travelling in all directions - wherever they came they brought relief to the Buddhist community."

Here is a digitalization of the original Japanese wording, written in pure kambun literary style:

支那有普化、我朝自, 法燈國師會裡得始祖如何、

     Translation by Torsten Olafsson.

c. 1650?:

KAIDŌ HONSOKU document of 1628
A sentence is added at the top (of a copy?) of that document

In 1938, Hottō Kokushi's temple Kōkoku-ji in Yura, Wakayama Pref. south of Kyōto published a complete reprint collection of the temple's preserved documents in a book entitledShūhō Yokō, "Lingering Light over the Eagle Peak".
In that book, on page 72 in Part 2, where the headline of the Kaidō honsoku is reprinted, the editor, Mori Hikotarō, added this note of comment: i-hitsu, 異筆, "different brush/style of writing" right next to this, the very first sentence in the reprinted text:

"When Hottō Kokushi returned to his native country, he was accompanied by four Buddhist laymen: Kuo Tsuo. Li Cheng, Tseng Shu & Pao P'u [in Japanese: Kokusa(ku), Risei, Sōjo and Hōfu]."


Here, "written differently" can only mean that that very sentence about Hottō Kokushi and his legendary four Chinese disciples must have been added to the document scroll considerably later than 1628, and - furthermore - at a time when the four disciples had also been given actual personal names.

1938 evidence

Scanning of the above mentioned source collection page

     Translation by Torsten Olafsson.




"The komusō shakuhachi is named 'shakuhachi' because its length has been cut to the measure of 1 foot and 8 inches.
Its origin is certainly unknown.
Although it is being said that Hottō of Yura [Shinchi Kakushin] was the founder [of the komusō], that I do not ascertain. - - - "

     Translation by Torsten Olafsson.


Kyotaku denki by Ton'o (?)


"Gakushin [i.e.: Kakushin, alias Hottō Kokushi] studied the art of the kyotaku. As the days passed, he went to the heart of Zen philosophy and attained proficiency in the kyotaku;
finally he took leave of San [Kakushin's alleged kyotaku teacher Chōsan] (to return to Japan).
Gakushin left Hsü-Chow for Ming-Chow, where he unmoored his ship.
It was in the second year of the Sung Dynasty that he returned to Japan, where it was the sixth year of Kenchō, in the the reign of Emperor Gofukakasu."


"Thereafter, Gakushin confined himself in a mountain temple at Kōyasan, sometimes visiting the capital (Kyoto).
Years passed, and he founded a Buddhist temple named Saihōji in the province of Kishū [present-day Kōkoku-ji in Wakayama Pref.],
where he established his permanent abode.

- - -


"Among his numerous students, there was one called Kichiku. The more earnest he became in his devotion to Zen Buddhism, the more ardent was his admiration for his master.
Gakushin also took a more kindly interest in him than in other students.
One day Gakushin told Kichiku:"

以在宋之時伝 得虚鐸音今尚能調之、

"'When I was (studying) in the country of Sung, I was instructed in the kyotaku and I perform on it well even today.
I would like to initiate you in this flute in the hope that, as my successor, you will pass this art on to posterity.'
Kichiku, dancing for joy and expressing his gratitude, received instruction in this music and attained proficiency in the instrument. He took delight in playing it everyday untiringly."


"There were four more students - - Kokusaku, Risei, Hōfu and Sōjo - - who also learned this flute well. They were known to the world under the (collective) title Shikoji ("Four Devoted Men")."
- - -

     Quoted from the 'Kyotaku denki', trsl. by Tsuge Gen'ichi, 1977.
     Printed in Asian Music, Vol. VIII, 2. New York, 1977.


Kyorei-zan engi narabi-ni sankyorei-fu ben by Kandō Ichiyū

- - -
Par. 2:
幽柄鷲峰 谷、尋常弄尺八為遊戯三味、

"The founder of the Kōkoku (Temple), Hottō Kokushi, travelled to Sung (China), and on the day of his return (to Japan), four Buddhist laymen of Chinese descent, Kokusaku, Sōjo, Risei and Hōfu, accompanied him to our country.

They were all highly cultured Chinese and with Fuke as their role model [lit. ancestor] and the shakuhachi as implement of the Buddhist Law [hōki], confining [or, secluding] themselves in the valley beneath the Eagle Peak [the mountain where Kōkoku-ji is located], they used to take pleasure in playing the shakuhachi as a way of practicing meditation [sammai].
Today, the site of their old common dwelling place [kyūseki] is called 'The Valley of Fuke'."

Par. 4:

"Kyochiku had [or, favoured] a speculative Buddhist verse,
which says,

'When one has cut off Dualism,
the essence of the shakuhassun
transcends Past and Present.
That one sound blowing forth
of the True Reality of the Non-born
exceeds the deepest of friendships,
beyond limit.'"

Par. 5:

"Once Kyochiku stayed in Uji in Jōshū [mod. Kyōto Prefecture] he called himself 'Rōan the Hermit'.
By the end of his life he erected a five-levelled monument
[a 'gorintō' grave pagoda?] in the vicinity of Uji.
People call it 'The Grave of Fuke'."

Par. 6:

"As for Kyochiku's successor Myōfu, when he lived in the East of the capital [Kyōto Higashiyama], he established [lit.: build] the Empty Spirit Mountain Myōan Temple, and so the School [Jap.: ichi-ryū] of Fuke has been preserved till today." - - -

     Translation by Torsten Olafsson.


Kyotaku denki kokujikai edited by Yamamoto Morihide

The original text of the Kyotaku denki document is eventually published, in Kyōto.


Miyaji Ikkan no Shakuhachi hikki



"It says in a book, that during the reign of Emperor Go-Fukakusa, on the 2nd day of the 8th month in the 6th year of the Kenchō Period [1254], onboard the same ship as Hottō Kokushi there were four Buddhist laymen who came to this country.
The Buddhist laymen Hōfu and Sōjo were men from the Chin Province.
Buddhist layman Kokusa was a man from the Sai Province.
Buddhist layman Risei was a man from the Yū Province.

It also says [in the book] that when the four Buddhist laymen had come to this country they settled to live in the Kōke Hermitage of the Kōkoku Temple, and then they founded [?] our sect.
The four Buddhist laymen each had four disciples. A total of 16 disciples.
They established the True Teaching [of my/our sect]. Therefore they divided [and organized the sect] into 16 branch sects.
Seven factions have been continued, nine factions have become extinct."


古十六派ト云ハ - "The old 16 factions were called:

靳詮 改今ノ金先派 - Kinzen, changed to the pres. Kinsen-ha
宋和 今ノ根笹派 - Sōwa - the present Nezasa-ha
火下 今ノ活惣派 - Kaka - the present Kassō-ha
寄竹 - Yoritake/Kichiku
梅土 - Umeji
小菊 - Kogiku
夏潭 今ノ不智派 - Katan - the present Fuchi-ha

The above 7 branch sects are continued/are still in existence.

養沢 - Yōtaku
義文 大櫻トモ - Gibun - also called Dai-ō [?]
司祖 - Tsukasaso/Shiso
短尺 多門トモ - Tanjaku - also called Tamon
野木 - Noki/Nogi
芝隣 酒林トモ - Shirin - also called Sakabayashi
陰巴 - Indomoe/Inpa
雄南 野ノ派トモ - Yūnan - also called No no ha
児派 - Chigo

The above 9 branch sects are extinct/discontinued."

     Translation by Torsten Olafsson.


Edmond Papinot & Terence Barrow: A Geographical Dictionary of Japan (translated from the French by Terence Barrow)

"Fuke-shū, 普化宗.

A branch of the Zen sect, founded by the Chinese bonze Fuke-Zenji.
In 1248, the bonze Kakushin went to China, where the famous Busshō-Zenji of the Gokoku-ji temple taught him the doctrines of the sect.
There was a certain Chōyū in the temple who was very skilful in playing the flute (shakuhachi) and from him Kakushin received lessons.
After his return to Japan (1254), he went through the country preaching and playing the flute.
His successors Kichiku and Komu did likewise, and the name of the latter, Komu-sō has become the generic name by which travelling bonzes of the sect were designated.
Under the Tokugawa, many samurai without masters enrolled in the Fuke-shū sect, dressed in the traditional costume and wore large hats so as to hide their faces.
They went through the country begging and playing the flute.
To avoid justice or the supervision of the shogunate, it became customary to become a Komusō;
but disorders having ensued, Ieyasu published a regulation to fix their privileges and their obligations.
The sect has seventy-three temples, all depending on Ichigetsu-ji at Koganei (Shimōsa).
It was interdicted at the Restoration."

     Translated from the French by Terence Barrow, first published in 1910.

To be continued ...

To the front page To the top

Japanese maple leaves