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The "Zen Shakuhachi" Reality Research Web Pages

Introduction & Critical Guide to the Study of Early Ascetic Shakuhachi History, Ideology & Practices 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

The Amazing Fuke Zenji / Fuke Shakuhachi /
     Fuke-shū History Fabrication Scam

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

Highlighted Illustrations

Wikipedia: Inaccuracies & Misunderstandings
     regarding Komusō, Fuke-shū, Suizen etc.

Miscell. Errors, Misconceptions & Loose Ends

1549 ... The Catholic Christian Century
     and the Temple Patron Household System

Fuke Zenji, Komosō, the Catholic Invasion,
     Rōnin Samurai, Komusō and Kyōto Myōan-ji
     - a Factual & Unbiased Chronology

Ascetic Shakuhachi Ideology
     and the Realization of The Non-Dual
     - Highlighted Quotations

Chronology of Ascetic Shakuhachi
     Ideology-related Terms, Concepts & Names

Texts, Quotations & Illustrations
     A Chronological Panorama:

 •  India

 •  China

 •  Japan

 •  The West

The Source Collections

The Written Sources

Research Cases of Special Significance and Interest:

c. 1470?: The Kyōgen Play Rakuami

1494 & 1501: Two Unique Muromachi Period
     Poetry Contest Picture Scrolls

1505: Kōrin's Shakuhachi Essay

1512: The Taigenshō Music Treatise

The Komosō & Fuke-komosō Sources

1614: The Keichō kenmon-shū Story Book

1628: The Kaidō Honsoku Document

1628: The Kaidō Honsoku Thesis

The Early Komusō-related Texts
     - from c. 1640 to c. 1752

1640s?: The Butsu-gen Komusō Document

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

1646 ... The Hottō Kokushi/Kakushin Legend

The Kyōto/Kansai Sources

1664: The Shichiku shoshinshū Music Treatise

1680s?: The Kyotaku Denki Tale:
     Shinchi Kakushin, Kichiku & Kyōto Myōan-ji

The Edo/Kantō/Tōkyō Sources

1677: The Enpō 5, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Komusō Set of Rules

1678: The Enpō 5, 12th Month Komusō-ha Oboe
     Bakufu Memorandum of January 11th, 1678

1687: The Jōkyō 4, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Komusō Set of Rules

c. 1685-1690: The Yōshū fu-shi
     & Jinrin kinmō zu-i Myōan-ji Evidence

1694: Myōan-ji Founder Engetsu Ryōgen's
     23 Rules for his Komusō Disciples

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

1722: The Kyōhō 7, 6th Month,
     Reihō-ji Komusō Memorandum

1730: The Kyōhō 15, 7th Month, Ichigetsu-ji
     & Reihō-ji Komusō Memorandum

1732: The Shakuhachi denrai-ki
     and Early Honkyoku History

1735: Kyōto Myōan-ji Temple Chief Admin
     Kandō Ichiyū's Essay about Sankyorei-fu,
     the "Three Non-Dual ("Empty")
     Spirit Music Pieces"

1751: The Keichō no okitegaki Fabrication
     The Many Existing Different Versions

1752: Myōan-ji Restorer Engetsu Ryōgen's
     23 Fixed Rules for the Komusō

1795: The Kyotaku denki kokujikai Source Book

1795 & 1816: Two Original Komusō
     "Fuke Temple" Lists

1812 - A Literary Curiosity: "Two Komusō"
     - a Shakuhachi-inspired Story Book

1816: Miyaji Ikkan's Shakuhachi hikki Book

1823: Hisamatsu Fūyō: Hitori mondō a.o.

1830: The Kiyū shōran Encyclopedia

1848: The Fuke Monk Affair Government

1871: The Abolition of the Komusō Fraternity
     and of the Practice of Religious Begging

1950: The Myōan Temple of the True Fuke Sect
     Inauguration at Tōfuku Temple in Kyōto

Noteworthy Early Post-Edo Period
     Source Examples - Commented Links:

1871 (1843-44): The Komusō zakki
     Source Collection

1890-1895 & 1930-1932: The Tokugawa kinrei-kō
     Prohibition Law Source Collection

1892: Suzuki Jisuke a.k.a. Higuchi Taizan's
     Shakuhachi shian Study Book

1894-1912: The Gunsho ruijū Source Collection

1896-1914 & 1967-1971: The Koji ruien
     Source Collection

1902: Mikami Sanji's Critical Essay
     About "Fuke Sect"-related Matters

1915: The Shakuhachi dokushū annai
     Self-study Book

1918 & 1975: Kurihara Kōta's Investigations
     Into Shakuhachi History

1936-39 & 1979: The Legacy of Pioneer
     Shakuhachi Historian Nakatsuka Chikuzen

1899 till today: Translations of Source Texts
     in Western Shakuhachi-related Publications
     including the Internet/WWW



Profile / Bio / CV

Contact Info


- Breath, Vital Vapour, Life Energy


Jap.: "IN-YŌ"


By Isshi Bunshu, 1608-1646

Shang Period stone-chime

Shang Period stone-chime
with carved tiger design
Date: c. 1100 BCE

Warring States Period bronze bell

Bronze bell, height 62 cm
Warring States Period
480-222 BCE

Striking the bells

Striking the bells
Detail of a rubbing
of a tomb stone-relief
3rd century BCE

Eastern Han P. cosmological bronze mirror

Reverse side of a bronze mirror
with cosmological symbols
Eastern Han Period
25-221 CE

Set of Chinese pitch-pipes

Set of 12 pitch-pipes - lü-lü
Western Han Period
206 BCE - 8 CE
Date: c. 180 BCE

Western Han Period orchestra

Musicians and jugglers
entertaining court officials
Pottery tomb figures
Western Han Period
206 BCE - 8 CE

'Ch'in' zither player

"Ch'in" zither player
(source unknown)


CHINA 1 • 6000 BCE to 500 CE

2600 BCE - 800 CE
China 1
6000 BCE - 500 CE
China 2
500 CE ...
Japan 1
600 - 1233
Japan 2
1233 - 1477
Japan 3
1477 - 1560
Japan 4
1560 - 1614
Japan 5
1614 - 1664
Japan 6
1664 - 1767
Japan 7
1767 - 1883
Japan 8
1883 ...
The West
1298 ...

A list of references is included at page bottom.
A complete bibliography can be found on this separate webpage: "Literature".


Ancient bone flutes excavated at Jiahu, China

Ancient bone flutes excavated at Jiahu, Henan Province,
Central China, in 1986

Read more about these remarkable old musical instruments here:
Brookhaven National Laboratory: Bone Flute Found in China Article in Nature Magazine 1999 Gudi (instrument)
Icobase: Flutes Aerophones

Listen to sound samples here:
Brookhaven National Laboratory: Wav file 1 (4.2 MB)
Erik the Flute Maker




/ - CH'I / QI - 2nd tone - (Japanese: KI)

Breath; Air; Vital Vapour; Steam; Energy; Essence; Spirit; Mind; Soul; Intention; Heart ...

"In breathing one must proceed as follows:
One holds the breath and it is collected together.
If it is collected it expands.
When it expands it goes down.
When it goes down it becomes quiet.
When is becomes quiet it will solidify.
When it becomes solidifed it will begin to sprout.
After it has sprouted it will grow.
As it grows it will be pulled back again (to the upper regions).
When it has been pulled back it will reach the crown of the head.
Above, it will press against the crown of the head. Below it will press downwards.
Whoever follows this will live; whoever acts contrary to it will die."

     "Chinese inscription on twelve pieces of jade, which may have
     formed part of the knob of a staff. Date: certainly Chou, may be
     as early as the middle of the -6th century."
     Trsl. by Joseph Needham, 1962.

5th century BCE:



"There are the six ch'i of Heaven.
Their incorporation produces the five flavours;
their blossoming makes the five colours;
they proclaim themselves in the five notes."

     Quoted from the Tso Chuan, 5th century BCE
     Trsl. by Joseph Needham, 1962.

433 BCE

Set of 65 'bian-zhong' (bronze bells) from the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng

Set of 65 'bian-zhong' (bronze bells) from the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng in Suizhou, Hubei, China, dated 433 BCE

c. 400 BCE:


Colour's five hues from the eyes their sight will take;
Music's five notes the ears as deaf can make;
The flavours five deprive the mouth of taste.

     Lao Tzu in Tao Te Ching, c. 400 BCE
     Trsl. by James Legge, 1961. Link:

c. 300 BCE:


"Now there are five things which produce (in men) the loss of their (proper) nature.
The first is (their fondness for) the five colours, which disorder the eye, and take from it its (proper) clearness of vision;
the second is (their fondness for) the five notes (of music), which disorder the ear and take from it its (proper) power of hearing;
the third is (their fondness for) the five odeurs which penetrate the nostrils, and produce a feeling of distress all over the forehead;
the fourth is (their fondness for) for the five flavours, which deaden the mouth, and pervert its sense of taste;
the fifth is their preferences and dislikes, which unsettle the mind, and cause the nature to go flying about.
These five things are all injurious to the life ... "

     Chuang Tzu, c. 369-286 BCE, in the Chuang Tzu, c. 300 BCE
     Trsl. by James Legge, 1961. Link:

a. 300 BCE:


Fishing-stakes are employed to catch fish;
but when the fish are got, the men forget the stakes.

Snares are employed to catch hares, but when the hares are got,
men forget the snares.

Words are employed to convey ideas;
but when the ideas are apprehended, men forget the words.

Fain would I talk with such a man who has forgot the words!

     Chuang Tzu, c. 369-286 BCE, in the Chuang Tzu, c. 300 BCE
     Trsl. by James Legge, 1961.

"A basket-trap is for catching fish,
but when one has got the fish,
one need think no more about the basket.

A foot-trap is for catching hares;
but when one has got the hare,
one need think no more about the trap.

Words are for holding ideas,
but when one has got the idea,
one need no longer think about the words.

If only I could find someone who has stopped thinking about words and could have him with me to talk to!"

     Chuang Tzu, c. 369-286 BCE, in the Chuang Tzu, Ch. 26, c. 300 BCE
     Trsl. by Fung Yu-lan, 1948, 1968.

"The fish trap exists because of the fish; once you've gotten the fish, you can forget the trap.

The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit; once you've gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare.

Words exist because of meaning; once you've gotten the meaning, you can forget the words.

Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can have a word with him?"

     Chuang Tzu, c. 369-286 BCE, in the Chuang Tzu, Ch. 26, c. 300 BCE
     Trsl. by Burton Watson. Link:

"If Earth pipes, it is with all its apertures. If Man pipes, it is with the collected bamboos."
- - -
"Even the most skillful zither player, if he strikes the shang note he destroys the chio note, if he vibrates the kung note he neglects the chih note. It is better not to strike them at all; then the five notes are complete in themselves."

     Chuang Tzu, c. 369-286 BCE, in the Chuang Tzu, c. 300 BCE
     Trsl. by Joseph Needham, 1962.

" Anciently, Huang Ti ordered Ling Lun to make pitch-pipes. So Ling Lun, passing through Ta-Hsia towards the west, travelled to the northern slopes of the Juan-yü mountains, and there in the valley of Hsieh-ch'i found bamboos with stems of which the hollow (part) and the thickness (of the walls) were uniform.

Cutting one between the the nodes to a length of 3:9 in., he blew it, and took its fundamental note [kung] to be that of the Huang-chung tube. Blowing again, he said, 'This is good enough', and proceeded to make all the twelve pipes [t'ung].

Then at the foot of the Juan-yü mountain, he listened to the singing of the male and female phoenix and divided the pitch-pipes accordingly (into two groups), the male notes making six and the female also six. In order to bring them together, the Huang-chung fundamental harmonised them.

Indeed the Huang-chung fundamental [kung] is capable of generating the entire (series).

Therefore it is said that the Huang-chung fundamental is the source and root of the male and female pitch-pipes [lü-lü].

(Upon his return) Ling Lun, together with Jung Chiang, was ordered by Huang Ti to cast twelve bells in order to harmonise the five notes, so that splendid music might be made. - - - "

     Quoted from the Lü Shih Ch'un Ch'iu, 239 BCE, by Lü-pu-wei, n.d.
     Trsl. by Joseph Needham, 1962.
     (Joseph Needham comments: "This is of great interest as showing that
     all the other musical instruments were to be tuned in accordance with
     the pitch of the five notes emitted by the unaltering standard bells.")

Nine Chinese bronze bells

Nine bronze bells tuned in scale
Height from 28,0 to 16,6 cm
First quarter of the 5th century BCE


"Try tuning musical instruments such as the ch'in or the se. The kung note or the shang note struck upon one lute will be answered by the kung or the shang notes from other stringed instruments. They sound by themselves. This is nothing miraculous, but the Five Notes being in relation; they are what they are according to the numbers (whereby the world is constructed)."

     Tung Chung-shu, 2nd century BCE Trsl. by Joseph Needham, 1962.

Chinese 'se' zither

Chinese 'se' zither used in the ritual music of Ancient China
Excavated at Ma-wang-tui, Eastern Hunan Province
Date: c. 180 BCE (Western Han Period).

"When the human world is well governed and the people are at peace, when the will (of the ruler) is equable and his character correct, then the transforming (influences) of Heaven and Earth operate in a perfect manner, and among the ten thousand things only the finest are produced.
But when the human world is in disorder and the people become perverse, or when the will (of the ruler) is depraved and his character rebellious, then (their) ch'i opposes the transforming (influences) of Heaven and Earth, harming the ch'i (of Yin and Yang) and so generating calamities and disasters."

     Tung Chung-shu, 2nd century BCE, in the Ch'un Ch'iu Fan Lu.
     Trsl. by Joseph Needham, 1962.


" --- When numbers assume form, they realise themselves in musical sound."

     Ssu-ma Ch'ien, 145-86 BCE, in the Shi Chi, compiled 109-91 BCE
     Trsl. by Joseph Needham, 1962.


Ceramic figurine of a 'xiao' vertical flute player

Ceramic figurine of a musician playing a 'xiao' ('hsiao') vertical flute, from the Pengshan Tomb of Sichuan, China
Eastern Han Dynasty, 25-220 CE Nanjing Museum, China


"In determining the pitch of bells in antiquity they levelled off their notes by ear. After that when they could go no further they availed themselves of numbers and thereby made their measurements correct.
If the figures of the measurements are correct the notes will also be correct."

     Ts'ai Yung, 133-192 CE,  commenting on the Yüeh Ling.
     Trsl. by Joseph Needham, 1962.


" (The opening bars of a lute melody are) strong like lofty mountains, or again they resemble heaving waves: broad and generous, majestic and imposing.
Then the tones become more irregular, halting as if in sorrow, and dragging on like rustling garments.
Then again the melody expands, tones rise as bubbling waves, they open up like blossoming flowers.
Having understood the style of the melody, one must observe the rhythm, correctly reproducing the various transitions in tempo, but keeping the right measure. One must shun specious effects, and concentrate on one's play, abiding by the rules, playing on quietly.
Then the tones shall be imposing and expressive, they spread out, vastly expansive. Distinctly and clearly they end, and finally the coda in 'floating tones' echoes faintly the main motif of the melody."

     Quoted from the Ch'in-fu, 'Poetical Essay on the Lute', by the
     Confucian scholar-gentleman Hsi K'ang, 223-263 CE
     Trsl. by R.H. van Gulik, 1941, 1969.

Chinese 'ch'in' zither

Chinese 'ch'in' zither
A treasure of the Hōryū-ji, Nara, Japan. T'ang Period


"The ch'i associated with wind being correct, the ch'i for each of the twelve months (causes) a sympathetic reaction [ying] (in the pitch-pipes); the pitch-pipes (related serially to the months) never go astray in their serial order."

     Ch'en Tsan, 4th century CE, commenting on the Ch'ien Han Shu.
     Trsl. by Joseph Needham, 1962.


"The symbol serves to express an idea,
and it is to be discarded once the idea has been understood.
Words serve to explain thought,
and ought to be silenced once the thoughts have been absorbed.
-  -  -
It is only those who can grasp the fish
and discard the fishing net
that are qualified to seek the truth."

     Tao-sheng, d. 434 CE Trsl. by Fung Yu-lan, 1948, 1968.
     T.O. comment: Tao-sheng studied Buddhism with Kumarajiva,
     344-413, but was also strongly influenced by Taoism. The above
     statement of his refers to a saying in the Chuang Tzu, see above.

T'ang Dynasty, 7th-10th century CE:

"Above every enemy in battle there exists a vapour-colour [ch'i-se].
If the ch'i is strong, the sound (note) is strong. If the note is strong, his host is unyielding.
The pitch-pipe is (the instrument) by which one canalizes (or communicates with) ch'i, and thus may foreknow good or evil fortune."

     Ssu-ma Chen, T'ang Dynasty, 618-906, CE, commenting on the
     Ping Shu, 'Book of War', now lost. Trsl. by Joseph Needham, 1962.

Link to the next page: China 2 • CE 500 ...
Link to the previous page: India
Link to page with more pictures: Picture Gallery

List of references:

Schuyler van R. Cammann: 'Types of Symbols in Chinese Art'.
     In: The American Anthropologist, 'Studies in Chinese Thought',
     Vol. 55, No. 55, Part 2, 1953.
Edmund Capon and William MacQuitty: Princes of Jade.
     Cardinal/Sphere Book, London, 1973.
Cheng Te-k'un: 'Yin-Yang Wu-hsing and Han Art'.
     In: Harvard Journal of Asian Studies 20, 1-2, 1957.
Fung Yu-lan: A Short History of Chinese Philosophy.
     The Free Press, New York & Collier-MacMillan Limited,
     London, 1948, 1968.
R.H. van Gulik: Hsi K'ang and his Poetical Essay on the Lute.
     Sophia University, Tokyo, and The Charles E. Tuttle Company,
     Rutland, Tokyo, 1941, 1969.
K'ao Ku (Chinese periodical of archaeology) 1974, Vol. 1.
     K'ao Ku Publishing Co., Beijing, February 1974.
James Legge: The Texts of Taoism.
     Reprinted from Sacred Books of the East, vols. 39 and 40,
     Oxford, 1891. Julian Press, New York, 1961.
Joseph Needham: Science and Civilisation in China, Vol. 4.
     Physics and Physical Technology: Sound (Acoustics).
     Cambridge At the University Press, Cambridge, 1962.
Michael Sullivan: The Arts of China. Cardinal/Sphere Books,
     London, 1967, 1973.
William Watson: China. William Watson, London, 1961.
William Watson: The Genius of China. Catalogue printed for the
     exhibition of archaeological finds of the People's Republic of
     China at the Royal Academy, London, Sept. 29, 1973, to Jan. 23, 1974.
     Times Newspapers Ltd., London, 1973.
Wen Wu (Chinese periodical of ancient matters). Special issue
     about the excavations at Ma-wang-tui, Ch'ang-sha, Hunan.
     Wen Wu Publishing Co., Beijing, July 1972.

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