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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 Panorama:

 •  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 kenmon-shū

1628: The Kaidō Honsoku Evidence

1628: The Kaidō Honsoku Thesis

1640s?: The Butsu-gen 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 Enpō 5, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Ordinance

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

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

1694: Engetsu's Honsoku deshi ...

c. 1700?: The Kyotaku Denki myth

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

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

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

1732: The Shakuhachi denrai-ki
     and early 'honkyoku' history

1735: Myōan-ji's Kyorei-zan engi ...

1751: Keichō no okitegaki -
     Existing Reprint Versions

1752: Myōan Temple Restorer Engetsu Ryōgen's
     23 Fixed Rules for the House

1770: The Kurozawa Kinko Honkyoku Collection

1795: Kyotaku denki kokujikai

1816: Miyaji Ikkan's Shakuhachi hikki

1823: Hisamatsu Fūyō's Hitori mondō



Profile / Bio / CV

Contact Info

HSIN - Mind

Mind (Jap.: 'Shin')
By Gesshū, Japan, 1618

Kū - Shūnyatā

- Non-Substantiality
By Isshi Bunshu, 1608-1646

Hui-neng Destroying the Sutra

Hui-neng Destroying the Sutra
By Liang-k'ai, 13th century


The Non-Dual (Jap.: 'Mu')
By Isshi Bunshu, 1608-1646

Hui-neng Cutting Bamboo

Hui-neng Cutting Bamboo
By Liang-k'ai, 13th century

HSÜ - Emptiness

Emptiness (Jap.: 'Kyo')
By Isshi Bunshu (?), 1608-1646

Various meanings of "Hsü": False, untrue, unreal;
Hollow, empty;
Vacant, insubstantial,
Figurative, abstract.

Myōan poem by P'u'k'o

P'u-k'o Ch'an-shi's poem on 'Myōan' - The Duality of the Obvious and the Obscure
By Tanikita Muchiku, 1875-1957


In Sanskrit: "Dhyana"
In Japanese: "Zen"

Female court musician

Female court musician
Pottery tomb figurine
T'ang Period, 618-906

Female court musician

Female court musician
Pottery tomb figurine
T'ang Period, 618-906

Female court musician

Female court musician
Pottery tomb figurine
T'ang Period, 618-906

P'i-p'a/biwa plectrum guard

P'i-p'a/biwa plectrum guard
Preserved in the Shōsōin
Imperial Treasury, Nara, Japan
T'ang Period, 618-906

P'i-p'a/biwa plectrum guard, detail

P'i-p'a/biwa plectrum guard, detail
Preserved in the Shōsōin
Imperial Treasury, Nara, Japan
T'ang Period, 618-906

Chun zither

'Chun' zither
Chu Tsai-yü's tuning device
In the 'Lü Hsüeh Hsin Shuo'


Rule, standard (Jap.: 'Ritsu')
By Isshi Bunshu, 1608-1646


CHINA 2 • 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".



信心銘 - HSIN-SHIN-MING / Xin-xin-ming - Jap.: SHINJIN-MEI

Attributed to the 3rd Chinese Chan (Zen) patriarch Chien-chih Seng-ts'an, died 606

SELECTED QUOTATIONS, translated by R.H. BLYTH (1960)

" - - - ."


"Duality arises from Unity,
But do not be attached to this Unity.
When the mind is one, and nothing happens,
Everything in the world is unblameable."

" - - - ."



"Illusion produces rest and motion;
Illumination destroys liking and disliking.
All these pairs of opposites
Are created by our own folly.

Dreams, delusions, flowers of air,
Why are we so anxious to have them in our grasp?
Profit and loss, right and wrong,
Away with them once for all!"

" - - - ."


"No description by analogy is possible
Of this state where all relations have ceased.
When we stop movement, there is no-movement
When we stop resting, there is no-rest.
When both cease to be,
How can the Unity subsist?"

" - - - ."



"In the World of Reality,
There is no self, no other-than-self.
Should you desire immediate correspondence (with this Reality)
All that can be said is "No Duality!"

When there is no duality, all things are one,
There is nothing that is not included.
The Enlightened of all times and places
Have entered into this Truth."

" - - - ."



"One thing is all things;
All things are one thing.
If this is so for you,
There is no need to worry about perfect knowledge.

The believing mind is not dual;
What is dual is not the believing mind.
Beyond all language,
For it there is no past, no present, no future."

     Quotations from the Hsin-hsin-ming, "Inscribed on the Believing Mind",
     by Seng-ts'an [Jap.: Sōsan], died in 606.
     Trsl. by R.H. Blyth Vol. 1, 1960.

SELECTED QUOTATIONS, translated by D.T. SUZUKI (1970, 1973)

" - - - ."


"The two exist because of the one,
But hold not even to this one;
When the one mind is not disturbed,
The ten thousand things offer no offence."

" - - - ."



"Ignorance begets the dualism of rest and unrest,
The enlightened have no likes and dislikes:
All forms of dualism
Are ignorantly contrived by the mind itself.

They are like unto visions and flowers in the air:
Why should we trouble ourselves to take hold of them?
Gain and loss, right and wrong -
Away with them once for all!"

" - - - ."


"Forget the wherefore of things,
And we attain to a state beyond analogy:
Movement stopped is no movement,
And rest set in motion is no rest.
When dualism does no more obtain,
Even oneness itself remains not as such."

" - - - ."



"In the higher realm of True Suchness
There is neither 'other' nor 'self' :
When a direct identification is asked for,
We can only say, 'Not two'.

In being not two all is the same,
All that is is comprehended in it;
The wise in the ten quarters,
They all enter into this absolute faith."

" - - - ."



"One in all,
All in one -
If only this is realized;
No more worry about your not being perfect!

The believing mind is not divided,
And undivided is the believing mind -
This is where words fail,
For it is not of the past, future, or present."

     Quotations from the Hsin-hsin-ming, "Inscribed on the Believing Mind",
     by Seng-ts'an [Jap.: Sōsan], died in 606.
     Trsl. by D.T. Suzuki, 1970, 1973, Vol. I, pp. 197-201.

Around AD 520 - no later than AD 527

Bodhidharma pictured by Hakuin Ekaku, 18th century

Bodhidharma pictured by Hakuin Ekaku, 18th century

Bodhidharma (470-543, in Japanese: Daruma, the 28th Buddhist patriarch after Sakyamuni Buddha himself) arrives and begins to teach Dhyana, "meditative Buddhism", in China around the year of 520.

This saying, this very central "Ch'an/Zen credo", is dated in the 12th century,
however attributed to Bodhidharma, 6th century:


Jiào wài biézhuàn,

"Teaching Beyond Specific Transmission."


bù lì wénzì,

"Not Based (on) Scripture (nor) Word."


zhí zhǐ rénxīn,

"Direct Point (at) Mankind's Nature."


jiàn xìng chéng fó.

"See (one's) Nature, Become (a) Buddha."

     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2017.

Yhe character 'Mu' by Hakuin Ekaku, 18th century

The character 'Mu' by Hakuin Ekaku, 18th century

527 AD:

This anecdote about Bodhidharma was recorded in the Blue Cliff Record, dated 1125, Case 1:

教外別傳 舉梁武帝問達摩大師:

Jǔ liáng wǔdì wèn dámó dàshī,
'Rúhé shì shèng dì dì yī yì?'

Emperor Wu of the Liang (Kingdom) asked Master Bodhidharma,
"What is The Noblest Truth (of Buddhism)?"


Mó yún: 'Kuò rán wú shèng.'

Bodhidharma replied, "Wide open, that is to say: No Noblest Truth!"


Dì yuē: 'Duì zhèn zhě shuí?'

The Emperor asked, "Facing me, who is that person?"


Mó yún: 'Bù shí.'

Bodhidharma replied, "(I do) Not know."


Dì bù qì, dámó suí dù jiāng zhì wèi.

The Emperor did not understand.
Daruma crossed the river and entered the Kingdom iof Wei.

     Source: Chineswe Text Project,      Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2017.



Liang-k'ai: Hui-neng Cutting Bamboo

"The 6th Patriarch Cutting Bamboo"
by Liang-k'ai, late 12th-early to 13th century:

- - -

- - -


"There are five pairs concerning external objects that are insentient, namely,
heaven and earth, sun and moon, light [myō/mei, ] and darkness [an, ], passive element (yin) and positive element (yang), water and fire."
- - -
"Darkness does not become darkness by itself;
it is dark because there is brightness.
Darkness is manifested by brightness, and brightness is revealed by darkness. One is the cause of the other."

     Quotations from Ch. 46 in the Platform Sutra, Chin.:
     'Fa-pao-T'an Ching', by the 6th Ch'an patriarch Hui-neng,
     638-713. Trsl. by Wing-tsit Chan, 1963, pp. 125 & 127.

The 6th Patriarch's Platform Sutra - Dunhuang edition, page 1

The 6th Patriarch's Platform Sutra - Tun-huang edition, page 1
Original work established in c. 780.
One of two Tun-huang Caves versions dated c. 830-860

"All things are unreal.
We should not regard what we see as real.
If we view them as real,
Such a view is entirely false.
If one is to discover reality himself,
He must be free from falsehood and his mind will then be reality itself.
If one's own mind is not free from falsehood,
There will be no reality and where can one find it?
Sentient beings know to be active.
Insentient beings are the same as inactivity [immovability].
If you cultivate the practice of inactivity,
You will be as inactive as insentient objects.
If you want to see true inactivity,
You must be inactive in your activity.
Inactivity is nothing but inactivity.
Therefore there are no Buddha seeds in insentient objects. - - - "
(Chapter 48.)

     Hui-neng (Jap.: Enō), 638-713,  in the Platform Scripture (Chin.:
     'Fa-pao-t'an-ching'). Trsl. by Wing-tsit Chan, 1963.

8th century - the SANDŌKAI:

闇合上中言 明明清濁句

(8) "High and middle words unite in the dark, clean and dirty sentences, in the brightness."

當明中有暗 勿以暗相遇

(14) "Right in the middle of light there is dark,
don’t use the mutuality of darkness to meet it."

當暗中有明 勿以明相睹

(15) "Right in the middle of dark there is light,
don’t use the mutuality of the light to see it."

明暗各相對 比如前後歩

(16) "The light and dark are mutual polarities,
For example, like front and back steps."

     Shih-t'ou Hsi-ch'ien (Jap.: Sekitō Kisen, 700-790) in the
     Ts'an-t'ung-ch'i (Jap.: Sandōkai).
     Translation by Gregory Wonderwheel quoted from the web page:
          'An Agreement for Participating Together'.
     For more translations of the Sandōkai visit ibid.:
          "Various English Translations
          of 'An Agreement for Participating Together'."

" - - - Refined and common speech come together in the dark,
clear and murky phrases are distinguished in the light. - - - "

" - - - In the light there is darkness,
but don't take it as darkness.

In the dark there is light,
but don't see it as light.

Light and darkness oppose one another
like the front and back foot in walking. - - - "

     Shih-t'ou Hsi-ch'ien (Jap.: Sekitō Kisen, 700-790) in the
     Ts'an-t'ung-ch'i (Jap.: Sandōkai). Translation quoted from
     the website, entry: "Buddhism: Zen Buddhism:
     Archives: 'Harmony of Difference and Sameness'".

" - - - Darkness is a word for merging upper and lower.
Light is an expression for distinguishing pure and defiled. - - - "

" - - - Right in light there is darkness,
but don't confront it as darkness.
Right in darkness there is light,
but don't see it as light.
Light and dark are relative to one another
like forward and backward steps. - - - "

     Shih-t'ou Hsi-ch'ien (Jap.: Sekitō Kisen, 700-790) in the
     Ts'an-t'ung-ch'i (Jap.: Sandōkai). Translation quoted from
     the website, entry: "Texts: Liturgy &
     basic texts: 'Merging of difference and unity/Sandokai'".

Zu meiner Flöte, die aus Jade ist,
sang ich den Menschen tief bewegt ein Lied -
die Menschen lachten, sie verstandens nicht.

Da hob ich schmerzvoll meine Flöte, die
aus Jade ist, zum Himmel auf und brachte
mein Lied den Göttern dar. Die Götter waren
beglückt und huben auf erglühenden Wolken
nach meinem Lied zu tanzen an . . .

Nun singe ich mein Lied den Menschen auch
zur Freude, nun verstehen sie mich auch,
spiel' ich das Lied auf meiner Flöte, die
aus Jade ist . . . "

     Li Tai-po, 702-763. Trasl. by Hans Bethge, 1923.
     Quoted from Kurt Reinhard, 1956.


" (Zen is) like one's wielding the sword in the air, one does not ask whether it hits the object or not; the air is not cleft, the sword is not broken."

"There are no dharmas [that is, objects] in the triple world, and where do we search for the Mind? The four elements are from the first empty, and where could the Buddha find his abode? The heavenly axle remains unmoved, all is quiet and no words are uttered. It is presented right to your face, nothing more is to be done."

     P'an-shan Pao-chi (Jap.: Banshan Hōshaku, Fuke Zenji's master,
     early 9th century). Trsl. by D.T. Suzuki, 1973.

"The Three-fold World is Immaterial!
Where, then, seek the truth?"

     P'an-shan Pao-chi quoted in the 'Kaidō Honsoku', 1628.
     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 1987.

" - - - The six supernatural powers of the Buddha - - - are:
entering the realm of form without being deluded by form;
entering the realm of sound without being deluded by sound;
entering the realm of smell without being deluded by smell;
entering the realm of taste without being deluded by taste;
entering the realm of touch without being deluded by touch;
entering the realm of Dharma without being deluded by Dharma.
Therefore, we can tell that these six - form, sound, smell, taste, touch and Dharma - are all empty.
They can never bind the independent person of the Way.
Though one's body composed of the five skandas is defiled, one has the supernatural power of walking on the earth."

     Quoted from the Rinzai Roku (Lin-chi lu), 9th cent.,
     chapter 19. Trsl. by Eido Shimano, 2005, p. 51.

Fuke's Myōan poem

Calligraphy by Matsumoto Kyozan, 1985

明頭来 明頭打
暗頭来 暗頭打
四方八面来 旋風打
虚空来 連架打

Míng tóu lái,
Míng tóu dǎ,
Àn tóu lái,
Àn tóu dǎ,
Sìfāng Bā Miàn lái,
Xuànfēng dǎ,
Xū-Kōng lái,
Lián jià dǎ.

Myō-tō rai,
Myō-tō da,
An-tō rai,
An-tō da,
Shihō Hachimen rai,
Senpū da,
Ko-Kū rai, Renga da.

Translation by Ruth Fuller Sasaki (1892–1967):

Puhua was always going around the streets ringing a little bell and calling out:

Coming as brightness, I hit the brightness;
Coming as darkness, I hit the darkness;
Coming from the four quarters and eight directions, I hit like a whirlwind;
Coming from empty sky, I lash like a flail.

The master told his attendant to go and, the moment he heard Puhua say these words, to grab him and ask, “If coming is not at all thus, what then?”
[The attendant went and did so.]
Puhua pushed him away, saying, “There’ll be a feast tomorrow at Dabei yuan.”
The attendant returned and told this to the master. The master said, “I’ve always held wonder for that fellow.”


"Coming from brightness, hit the brightness.
Coming from darkness, hit the darkness.
Coming from the four cardinals
And the eight Directions,
Hit like a whirlwind.
Coming from the empty sky, hit repeatedly."

     Fuke Zenji's statement on the duality of 'The Bright' and 'The Dark'
     quoted in the Lin-chi Lu Chapter 29 (Jap.: Rinzai Roku, 9th century).
     Trsl. by Eido Shimano, 2005.

"When brightness comes, hit the brightness.
When darkness comes, hit the darkness.
When four sides and directions come,
give them a swirling hit.
When emptiness comes, shuck it."

     Fuke Zenji's statement on the duality of 'The Bright' and 'The Dark'
     quoted in Dōgen Kigen's 'Shinji (or Mana) Shōbōgenzō',
     1235. Trsl. by John Daido Loori/Kazuaki Tanahashi, 2005.

"P'u-k'o was always going about the streets ringing a hand-bell and saying,

'If a bright head-comes, strike the bright-head.
If a dark-head comes, strike the dark-head.
Whatever direction or quarter it comes from,
hit it like a whirlwind.
And if it comes from emptiness, cut it down with a scythe.'

Lin-chi sent one of his attendants to have a little talk with P'u-k'o.
When he arrived, the attendant spoke the lines he had been given
[by Lin-chi],
'What do you do when absolutely nothing at all comes forth?'
P'u-k'o pushed the question aside saying, 'Tomorrow there's a maigre feast at the Ta-pei Yüan.'
The attendant returned to Lin-chi and made his report. Lin-chi said, 'I've had my suspicions about that fellow for a long time."

     Chapter 29 in the Lin-chi Lu (Jap.: Rinzai Roku, 9th century).
     Trsl. by James H. Sanford, 1981.

"If attacked in the light, I will strike back in the light.
If attacked in the dark, I will strike back in the dark.
If attacked from all quarters, I will strike as a whirlwind does.
If attacked from the empty sky, I will trash with a flail."

     Fuke Zenji's statement on the duality of 'The Bright' and 'The Dark'
     in the Lin-chi Lu (Jap.: Rinzai Roku, 9th century) as quoted in the
     Kyotaku Denki, 'Transmission of the Imitated Bell', ascribed to the 
     monk Ton'ō, 1640s (?) Trsl. by Tsuge Gen'ichi, 1977.

"When it comes in brightness, I hit the brightness.
When it approaches in darkness, I hit the darkness.BR When it comes from the four quarters and eight directions (of space),
I hit like a whirlwind,
and if it comes out of the empty sky, I thrash like a flail."

     Trsl. by Irmgard Schloegl in:
     "The Zen Teaching of Rinzai [The Record of Rinzai]."
     Published in association with The Buddhist Society, London, 1975.

"If my common essense [lit.: a bright head] comes
I hit my common essense;
If there comes my hidden essense [lit.: a dark head]
I beat the hidden essense;
if all the four directions and all eight sides come
I beat like a whirlwind;
if heaven (or: void) comes
I beat like a pestle."

     Fuke Zenji's statement on the duality of 'The Bright' and 'The Dark'
     in the Lin-chi Lu (Jap.: Rinzai Roku, 9th century).
     Trsl. by Max Deeg, 2007.

明頭来 明頭打
暗頭来 暗頭打
四方八面来 旋風打
虚空来 連架打

"Bright Head comes - Bright Head strikes,
Dark Head comes - Dark Head strikes;
Four Directions Eight Sides come - Whirlwind strikes;
Empty Sky comes - Flail strikes."

     A very literal, word-to-word rendition of Fuke's myōan poem
     in correct accordance with Chinese subject-verb-object syntax.
     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2010.
     Textual source: Eido Shimano, 2005, p. 98.

"Motion and motionlessness both are without self-nature. If you try to seize it [Buddha-nature] within motion, it takes a position within motionlessness. If you try to seize it within motionlessness, it takes a position within motion ...

Virtuous monks, motion and motionlessness are merely two kinds of states; it is the non-dependent Man of the Way who utilizes motion, and utilizes motionlessness." (Discourse XVIII)

     Lin-chi I-hsüan (Jap.: Rinzai Kigen, died 866 or 867) in the Lin-chi Lu
     (Jap.: Rinzai Roku). Trsl. by Ruth Fuller Sasaki.

"One stroke has made me forget all my previous knowledge,
No artificial discipline is at all needed;
In every movement I uphold the ancient way,
And never fall into the rut of mere quietism;
Wherever I walk no traces are left,
And my senses are not fettered by rules of conduct;
Everywhere those who have attained to the truth,
All declare this to be of the highest order."

     Hsiang-yen, 9th century - Trsl. by D.T. Suzuki, Vol. I.
     "One day Hsiang-yen was weeding and sweeping the ground, and
     when a piece of rock brushed away struck a bamboo, the sound
     produced by the percussion elevated his mind to a state of satori."
     D.T. Suzuki.

"Once a young monk called Kyosho came to Master Gensha [Chin.: Hsüan-sha] to study under him. Kyosho said, 'I have come over here seeking the Truth. Where can I start to get into Zen?' At this Gensha the Master asked Kyosho, 'Can you hear the murmuring of the mountain stream?' 'Yes, Master, I can hear it,' Kyosho replied. 'Enter Zen from there!' was the Master's answer."

     Hsüan-sha, 831-906. Trsl. by Shibayama Shinkei, 1970, 1975.


"Sound leads (back again) to ch'i; ch'i leads (back again) to (magical) power [shen]; (magical) power leads (back again) to the void [hsü, Jap.: kyo, 'emptiness'].

(But) the void has in it (the potentiality for) power. The power has in it (the potentiality for) ch'i. Ch'i has in it (the potentiality for) sound.
One leads (back again) to the other, which has (a potentiality for) the former within itself. (If this reversion and production were to be prolonged) even the tiny noises of mosquitoes and flies would be able to reach everywhere."

"The void [hsü, Jap.: kyo, 'emptiness'] is transformed into (magical) power [shen]. (Magical) power is transformed into ch'i. Ch'i is transformed into material things [hsing]. Material things and ch'i ride on one another, and thus sound is formed.
It is not the ear which listens to sound but sound which of itself makes its way into the ear.
It is not the valley which of itself gives out echoing sound, but sound of itself fills up the entire valley."

     T'an Ch'iao (?) writing in the Taoist work Hua Shu, Southern T'ang
     Dynasty, 938-975. Trsl. by Joseph Needham, 1962.

"Something dropped! It is no other thing;
Right and left, there is nothing earthly:
Rivers and mountains and the great earth, -
In them all revealed is the body of the Dharmarāja."

     Yung-ming Yen-shou, 904-975 - Trsl. by D.T. Suzuki, 1970, 1973, Vol. I, p. 250.
     D.T. Suzuki's commentary: Yen-shou's realization took place 
     when he heard a bundle of fuel dropping on the ground.

"A monk came to Shuzan (Shou-shan) and asked, 'Please play me a tune on a stringless harp.' The master was quiet for some little while, and said, 'Do you hear it?' 'No, I do not hear it.' 'Why', said the master, 'did you not ask louder?"

     D.T. Suzuki reporting an anecdote about the Ch'an master Shou-shan,
     10th century. Trsl. by D.T. Suzuki, 1970, 1973, Vol. I.

SUNG DYNASTY, 960-1279:

"Devoid of thought, I sat quietly by the desk in my official room,
With my fountain-mind undisturbed, as serene as water;
A sudden clash of thunder, the mind-doors burst open,
And lo, there sitteth the old man in all his homeliness."

     Chao-pien, lay-disciple of Fa-ch'uan, Sung Dynasty, 960-1279.
     Trsl. by D.T. Suzuki, 1970, 1973, Vol. II.


碧巖錄 - HEKIGANROKU / PI YEN LU / Bìyán Lù



In this very central work of Ch'an Buddhism the concept mu-ku-teki, 無孔笛, "flute with no holes", lit. "no-hole(s)-flute", appears for the very first time known in history, in cases 41, 51, and 82 - in all 5 references.

In Japan the concept of mu-ku-teki is later adopted into the very comprehensive collections, Zenrin kushū, 禪林句集, of so called "capping phrases", jaku-go, 着語 / 箸語, being employed in true "hardcore" Rinzai Zen kōan enlightenment training.


"The (pitch-pipes) are blown in order to examine their tones, and set forth (in the ground) in order to observe (the coming of) the ch'i.

Both (these techniques) seek to (determine the correctness of the) Huang-chung tube by testing whether its tone is high or low, and whether its ch'i (arrives) early or late. Such were the ideas of the ancients concerning the making (of the pitch-pipes) ... "

     Ts'ai Yuan-Ting, 1135-1198, in his treatise on acoustics, the
     Lü Lü Hsin Shu, c. 1180. Trsl. by Joseph Needham, 1962.


Landscape painting by Mu-ch'i

Landscape painting by Mu-ch'i - 13th century

"Out of a blue sky, the sun shining bright, a clap of thunder!
All the living things of the great earth open their eyes widely.
All the myriad things of nature make obeisance;
Mount Sumeru, off its base, is dancing a polka."

     Wu-men Hui-k'ai (Jap.: Mumon Ekai), 1183-1260.
     Trsl. by R.H. Blyth, 1966, 1974, Vol. IV.
     (R.H. Blyth's commentary: "Wu-men studied the kōan 'Mu' for six
     years, but after six years he had still not solved his problem.
     He swore he would not sleep until he understood Mu, and when he
     felt sleepy he would go out into the corridor and bash his head
     against a post.
     One day, when the noon drum was struck, he suddenly came to
     a realization, and composed the above verse.")

"In general, learning the way and grasping Zen means avoidance of attachments to sounds and forms. Though through hearing a sound there may be realization, or from seeing the form of an object the mind may be enlightened, nevertheless this is the ordinary way of things. Especially you Zen monks do not understand how to guide sound, use form, see clearly the value of each thing, each activity of the mind.

But though this is so, just tell me! Does the sound come to the ear, or does the ear go to the sound? But when sound and silence are forgotten, are both forgotten, what can you say of this state? If you listen with your ear, it is hard to hear truly, but if you listen with your eye, then you begin to hear properly."

     Wu-men Hui-k'ai (Jap.: Mumon Ekai), 1183-1260, commenting on the
     Shûramgama Samâdhi Sûtra in the Wu-men-kuan, 12th century.
     Trsl. by R.H. Blyth, 1966, 1974, Vol. IV.

" - - - All of a sudden the sound of striking the board in front of the 
head monk's room reached my ear, which at once revealed me  the 'original' man in full."
 - - -
"With one stroke I have completely smashed the cave of the ghosts;
Behold, there rushes out the iron face of the monster Nata!
Both my ears are as deaf and my tongue is tied;
If thou touchest it idly, the fiery star shoots out!"

     Tsu-yüan alias Fo-kuang, 1226-1286 - Trsl. by D.T. Suzuki, 1970, 1973, Vol. I.


"The thoughts must be serious, the mind peaceful, and the will resolute. Open the lips and emit lightly a small (jet of) breath in blowing, causing the air to enter the tube continuously; then its correct note will be sounded ... For persons to blow the pitch-pipes, do not employ the old or the very young; their ch'i is not the same as that of (persons who are) youthful and strong."

     Prince Chu Tsai-yü, born in 1536. Trsl. by Joseph Needham, 1962.

"I had made an attempt with the theory of the Sung (scholar) Chu Hsi, based on the ancient up-and-down principle, and using this tried to get the positions for the standard pitches on the zither. But I noticed that the (normal) notes of the zither were not in consonance with (those produced from) the positions of the standard pitches, and suspicions therefore arose in my mind.
Night and day I searched for a solution and studied exhaustively this pattern-principle. Suddenly early one morning I reached a perfect understanding of it and realised for the first time that the four ancient sorts of standard pitches all gave mere approximation to the notes.
This moreover was something which pitch-pipe exponents had not been conscious of for a period of two thousand years.
Only the makers of the zither [ch'in] in their method of placing the markers at three-quarters or two-thirds (etc. of the length of the strings) had as common artisans transmitted by word of mouth (the way of making the instrument) from an unknown source. I think that probably the men of old handed down the system in this way, only it is not recorded in literary works."

"I have found a new system. I establish one foot as the number from which the others are to be extracted, and using (square and cube root) proportions I extract them. Altogether one has to find the exact figures for the pitch-pipes in twelve operations."

     Prince Chu Tsai-yü, born in 1536, in his treatise on the equally
     tempered octave of twelve notes, the Lü Hsüeh Hsin Shuo, 1584.
     Trsl. by Joseph Needham, 1962.

     T.O. comment: Prince Chu Tsai-Yü discovered the mathematical
     formula for the precise calculation of the equal-tempered twelve-tone
     scale: The twelfth root of two, as the first in the world. In Europe,
     this formula would only, independently, be calculated shortly
     afterwards, in 1636, by the French mathematician Marin Mersenne.


"A cup fell to the ground
With a sound clearly heard.
As space was pulverized,
The mad mind came to a stop."

     Hsu Yun, d. 1959. Trsl. by Lu K'uan Yü, 1964, 1975.

Link to the next page: Japan 1 • 600-1233
Link to the previous page: China 1 • 6000 B.C.-A.D. 500 ...
Link to page with more pictures: Picture Gallery

List of references:

R.H. Blyth: Zen and Zen Classics, Vol. 4: Mumonkan.
     The Hokuseido Press, Tokyo, 1966, 1974.
Wing-tsit Chan: The Platform Scripture. The Basic Classic of
     Zen Buddhism. St. John's University Press, New York, 1963, 1975.
Edmund Capon and William MacQuitty: Princes of Jade.
     Cardinal/Sphere Book, London, 1973.
Max Deeg: 'Komusō and "Shakuhachi Zen". From Historical Legitimation
      to the Spiritualisation of a Buddhist denomination in the Edo Period.'
      In: 'Japanese Religions', Vol. 32 (1 & 2): pp. 7-38, 2007.
Inagaki Misoshiro, chief editor: Myōan Sanjūnana-sei Tanikita
      Muchiku-shū. Tokyo, 1981.
John Daido Loori: The True Dharma Eye.
      Zen Master Dōgen's Three Hundred Kōans.
      Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston, 2005.
Lu K'uan Yü: The Secrets of Chinese Meditation.
     Rider & Company, London, 1964, 1975.
Joseph Needham: Science and Civilisation in China, Vol. 4.
     Physics and Physical Technology: Sound (Acoustics).
     Cambridge At the University Press, Cambridge, 1962.
Kurt Reinhard: Chinesische Musik. Erik R?th Verlag, Eisenach,
     Kassel, 1956.
James H. Sanford: Zen-man Ikkyū.
     Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions, 1981.
Ruth Fuller Sasaki, trsl.: The Record of Lin-Chi.
     The Institute for Zen Studies, Kyōto, 1975.
Shibayama Zenkei: A Flower Does Not Talk.
     Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc. 1970, 1975.
Eido Shimano: The Book of Rinzai. The Recorded Sayings
     of Zen Master Rinzai (Linji).
     The Zen Studies Society Press, New York, 2005.
Shōsōin no Gakki (Musical Intruments in the Shōsōin). Edited by
     Shōsōin Office. Authors: Hayashi Kenzō, Kishibe Shigeo, Taki
     Ryōichi & Shiba Sukehiro. Nihon Keizai Shimbun Sha, Tokyo, 1967.
Laurence Sickman and Alexander Soper: The Art and Architecture of
     China. Penguin Book, Harmondsworth, 1956, 1968.
Daisetzu Teitarō Suzuki: Essays in Zen Buddhism I, II & III.
     Rider & Company, London. Vol. I: 1950, 1980. Vol. II: 1953, 1980.
     Vol. III: 1953, 1977.
Daisetzu Teitarō Suzuki: Zen and Japanese Culture.
     Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1970, 1973.
Tsuge Gen'ichi: 'The History of the Kyotaku.'
     In: Asian Music, Vol. VIII, 2. New York, 1977.
     Available online at:
Burton Watson, trsl.: The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi. A trans-
     lation of the Lin-chi Lu. Columbia University Press, 1999.
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.
Zengaku Jiten, ed. by Jimbo Nyoten & Andō Bun'ei,
     Shōbō Genzō Chūkai Zensho Kankōkai,
     Tokyo, 1962. Page 1501.

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