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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

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

Errors, Misconceptions & Loose Ends

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

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

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

Highlighted Illustrations

Texts, Quotations & Illustrations
     A Chronological Panorama:

 •  India

 •  China

 •  Japan

 •  The West

The Source Collections

The Written Sources

Research Cases of Special Significance:

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

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

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

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 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

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

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

1950: The Myōan Temple of the True Fuke Sect
     is Opened at Tōfuku-ji in Kyōto

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

c. 1875?: The Komusō zakki Source Collection

1892: Suzuki Jisuke alias Higuchi Taizan's
     Shakuhachi shian Study Book

1894-1912: The Gunsho ruijū Source Collection

1896-1914: The Koji ruien Source Collection

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

1915: The Shakuhachi dokushū annai
     Self-study Book

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

1931-32: The Tokugawa kinreikō
     Prohibition Law Collection

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

1899/1910 ... Translations of Source Texts
     in Western Shakuhachi-related Publications
     including the Internet/WWW



Profile / Bio / CV

Contact Info

Shakuhachi-playing bodhisattva

Shakuhachi-playing bodhisattva
Octagonal bronze-lamp
Tōdai-ji, Nara. 8th century

Shōsōin Jade shakuhachi

Jade shakuhachi
Shōsōin, Nara
Early 8th century

Shakuhachi-playing bodhisattva

Shakuhachi-playing bodhisattva
Statue by Jōchō, 1053
Byōdō-in, Uji

Nara Period court musicians

Nara Period court musicians:
Shakuhachi, mouth-organ
& pan-pipes
In: 'Shinzei kogaku zu'
by Fujiwara no Michinori,
d. 1159


JAPAN 1 • 600-1233

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".




Hōryū-ji Kondō, Nara - 7th century

Hōryū-ji Kondō, Nara - late 7th century - photo: T.O. 1977

Bodhisattva playing a shakuhachi   Bodhisattva playing a shakuhachi

Small sculpture of a bodhisattva playing a shakuhachi look-alike.
Discovered in 2009 during a restoration of the canopy overhanging the Shaka Triad being housed in the Hōryū-ji Kondō.
Source: Yatō Osamu's komusō shakuhachi website

Hoeyu-ji gagaku shakuhachi

Transverse flute (left) and 'gagaku shakuhachi' (right) in the collection of art objects
in The Gallery of Hōryū-ji Treasures, Tokyo National Museum. 7th or 8th century AD.

Hōryū-ji Kondō, Nara - 7th century

Hōryū-ji Kondō, Nara - late 7th century - photo: T.O. 1977

行者 - GYŌJA

Statue of En no Gyōja, born in 634

Statue of En no Gyōja (alt. En no Ozunu), born in 634
Alleged founder of the 'Shugendō', an ascetic religious tradition combining elements of Chinese Taoism, Japanese Shintō,
esoteric Buddhism: Shingon 'Mikkyō' and Tendai,
as well as traditional Japanese shamanism.
A treasure of the Shugendō temple Ōminesan-ji, Yoshino District,
Wakayama Pref., founded by En no Gyōja. Maker and date unknown.

Yamabushi - one who prostrates on the mountain

Yamabushi - modern statue at the entrance of the Hotel Yaotome
in Tsukuoka City, Yamagata Pref. Artist anonymous



Shôsôin Imperial Treasury, Nara

Shōsōin Imperial Treasury, Tōdai-ji, Nara - early 8th century

Gagaku Shakuhachi, Shôsôin Imperial Treasury, Nara
Gagaku Shakuhachi, Shôsôin Imperial Treasury, Nara

Gagaku Shakuhachi, Shōsōin Imperial Treasury, Tōdai-ji, Nara
Early 8th century


Mid 9th CENTURY:

An anecdote about ENNIN, posthum. Jikaku Taishi, 793/794-866

Important note: This anecdote is apocryphal. The "incident" certainly never took place, so to speak!

「成就如是 功徳莊嚴」
ト云所ヲ, エ吹セ給ハザリケレバ、

"At times when Ennin could not hear clearly, he used a shakuhachi in order to chant the Amida Sūtra.
If he did not manage to chant the passage '... an ideal environment so that whatever one lays eyes upon will bring about awakening',* he would usually place himself by the 'Dragon and Serpent' pine wood doors of the temple hall, and when he had stopped blowing, there was a voice in the middle of the empty sky proclaiming, 'Raise the ya note', and so forth. Consequently, the ya note had to be raised."

     Reported in the 'Kojidan', 1212, by Minamoto no Akikane,
     1160-1215. Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson. Source: Koji ruien.
     This anecdote is quite probably apocryphal.
     Do note that Ennin was a Tendai monk, not a Zen monk.
     Rather than actually "performing" the Amida Sutra on a shakuhachi,
     Ennin would have employed the instrument mainly for intonation.
     This anecdote is also reported in the Taigenshō of 1512.

* The unabridged sentence in the Amida Sūtra, par. 3, reads as follows:

舍利弗.極樂國土. 成就如是.功徳莊嚴。

"Shariputra, this land of Ultimate Bliss is an ideal environment so that whatever one lays eyes upon will bring about awakening."
Translation: Jodo Shu Research Institute, 2003.
Link: Jodo Shu Research Institute

Early 11th CENTURY:

" - - - Here in the excitement of the coming fête were assembled several young nobles, in addition to Genji himself. Some practised dancing, others music, the sound of which echoed everywhere around. A large hichiriki and a shakuhachi were blown with the utmost vigor. Even large drums were rolled upon a balcony and beaten with a will. - - - "

     Murasaki Shikibu in 'Genji Monogatari', c. 1000-1020. Chapt. VI:
     "Saffron Flower". Trsl. by Suematsu Kenchō, 1977.

禪の笛 - ZEN no FUE


"In an old Zen story it has been said that a certain monk named Kakua was asked to appear before the Emperor and explain the essence of Zen. Kakua arrived at the court and stood quietly before the Emperor and all his esteemed advisors and courtesans who had all gathered to hear this renowned teacher. After standing for a long period in silence, during which time the court grew agitated, Kakua removed a bamboo flute from the folds of his robe, blew one short single tone, bowed politely and left. He returned to the mountains where he was seldom heard from again."

     Quotation from Stan Richardson's web page

Important note: This anecdote is apocryphal!

- - -

" - - - In the Kaō Period [1169-1171] the Emperor [Takakura, r. 1168-1180] heard of [Kaku-]a's Zen practice. [He] summoned [the monk to the court] and inquired about the essentials of the sect.
[Kaku-]a - [who by his] side [was carrying] a flute - blew it in response to the Imperial command.
The times not yet being ripe, the Emperor and his retainers did not fathom [the essence of Kakua's teaching].
Regretful indeed! [Kakua] left and was not heard from [again], was he?"

     This story about the Rinzai Zen monk Kakua, b. 1142, has been
     preserved in the 'Genkō shakusho', the oldest extant account of
     Buddhism in Japan written by the Rinzai monk Kokan Shiren,
     1278-1346, completed in the second year of the Genkō Period: 1322.
     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2010.

     Although the story is apocryphal - the incident probably never
     took place - at least some facts about Kakua's life are known:
     Born in 1142, Kakua first studied Tendai Buddhism on Mt. Hiei.
     Having heard of the influence of Ch'an in China, however, in 1171
     he went to the mainland to become a disciple of Hsia-t'ang Hui-yüan,
     1103-1176, at the temple Ling-yin-ssu in Hang-chou, S. China.
     Hui-yüan's master was the famous Yüan-wu K'o-ch'in, 1063-1135.
     Receiving his master's Dharma seal, 'inka', in 1175, Kakua returned
     to Japan and spent the remainder of this life as a recluse on Mt. Hiei.

     Do note that Kakua is recorded to have played a 'fue' 一笛,
     most probably a transverse flute - not a shakuhachi.
     Besides, there is a discrepancy between the dates:
     The Kaō Period ended in 1171 and was succeeded by
     the Shōan, 1171-1175, and Angen, 1175-1177, periods.
     Kakua returned from China only in 1175, so ...

     References: Kraft, 1997, p. 49; Dumoulin, 2005, p. 7;
     Baroni, 2002, p. 173; Zengaku Jiten, p. 170.
     The complete entry about Kakua in the 'Genkō shakusho' can be
     found here (PDF): Kakua entry in the 'Genkō shakusho', 1322

Link to the next page: Japan 2 • 1233-1477
Link to the previous page: China 2 • A.D. 500 ...

List of references:

Sonja Arntzen, translator: Ikkyū and the Crazy cloud anthology,
     a Zen poet of Medieval Japan. Foreword by Shūichi Katō.
     University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo, 1986.
Baroni, Helen Josephine: The illustrated encyclopedia of Zen Buddhism.
     The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., New York, 2002.
Christopher Blasdel & Kamisangō Yūkō:
     The Shakuhachi. A Manual for Learning.
     Printed Matter Press, Tokyo, 2008.
     Available at
Steven D. Carter: 'Chats with the Master:
     Selections from "Kenzai Zōdan".'
     In: Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 56, No. 3 (Autumn, 2001),
     pp. 295-347.
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.
Heinrich Dumoulin: Zen Buddhism. A History. Volume 2: Japan.
      Trsl. by James W. Heisig & Paul F. Knitter.
      World Wisdom, Inc., Bloomington, Indiana, 2005.
Gunsho Ruijū, Vol. 28. First published in 1733 by Hanawa Hokiichi.
     Zoku Gunsho Ruijū Kankōkai, Tokyo, 1933.
Eta Harich-Schneider: A History of Japanese Music.
     Oxford University Press, London, 1973.
Carolyn Martha Haynes: Parody in the maikyōgen
     and the monogurui kyōgen. Ph.D. thesis.
     Cornell University, 1988. Pages 102-131 & 268-271.
     Available online at
     Cat. no. AAT 8804579.
Frank Hoff: Song, Dance and Storytelling: Aspects of the
     Performing Arts in Japan.
     Cornell East Asia Series Number 15, 1978.
Victor Sōgen Hori: Zen Sand. The Book of Capping Phrases for Kōan Practice.
     University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, 2003.
H. Mack Horton: The Journal of Sōchō.
     Translated and annotated by H. Mack Horton.
     Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 2002.
Ide Yukio: 'Chūse shakuhachi tsuikō'.
     In: 'Research reports of the Kōchi University. Humanities'.
     Vol. 41, 1-10, Kōchi, 1992-12-27.
     The article may be downloaded from this location:
     Kōchi University
Ikkyū Sōjun: Kyōunshū.
     Facsimile of a late 15th century manuscript.
     Ed. & publ. by Okumura Jūbei, Kyoto, 1966.
Ikkyū Sōjun: Kyōunshū, Kyōunshishū, Jikaishū.
     Rev. & annotated by Nakamura Tamaki.
     Gendai shichōsha, Tokyo, 1976.
Inagaki Misoshiro, chief editor: Myōan Sanjūnana-sei Tanikita
      Muchiku-shū. Tokyo, 1981.
Inoura Yoshinobu & Kawatake Toshio: The Traditional Theatre of Japan.
     Tokyo, 1981.
Kamei Takahashi & Takaha Gorō, compilers and editors:
     Gohon taishō kaihen setsuyōshū
     ("Setsuyōshū in five versions rearranged and compared").
     Tokyo, 1974. 2 volumes.
Donald Keene: Essays in Idleness. The Tsurezuregusa of Kenkō.
     Columbia University Press, 1998.
Kikan hōgaku 5, special issue: 'Shakuhachi no miwaku'.
     Ongaku no Tomo-sha, Tokyo, 1975.
Kiyū Shōran. Comp. by Kitamura Nobuyo (1784-1856), first publ. in 1830.
     Reprint by Seikōkan Shuppanbu, Tokyo, 1933.
Koji Ruien. Ruien Kankōkai, Tokyo, 1896-1914. Reduced size reprint ed.
     by Jungū Shichō, Tokyo, 1927-1930. Latest edition: Yoshikawa
     Kōbunkan, Tokyo, 1967-1971. Vol. 9: Section on Religion.
     Vols. 32 & 35: Sections on Music.
Koma no Chikazane: Kyōkunshō.
     Original work completed in 1233. Publ. in 2 vols. by
     Nihon Koten Zenshū Kankōkai, Tokyo, 1928.
Kraft, Kenneth: Eloquent Zen: Daito and Early Japanese Zen.
     University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1992, 1997.
Kurihara Kōta: Shakuhachi Shikō. Chikuyūsha, Tokyo, 1918, 1975.
Riley Kelly Lee: Yearning for the Bell: A Study of
     Transmission in the Shakuhachi Honkyoku Tradition.
     Ph.D. thesis, University of Sidney, 1992.
     Available online at:
Daigan Matsunaga & Alicia Matsunaga: Foundation of Japanese
     Buddhism. Vol. I: The Aristocratic Age. Vol. II: The Mass Move-
     ment. Buddhist Books International, Los Angeles, Tokyo, 1974, 1976.
Nakatsuka Chikuzen: Kinko-ryū Shakuhachi Shikan.
     Nihon Ongaku-sha, Tokyo, 1979.
Nishiyama Matsunosuke: Iemoto monogatari.
     Chūō Kōronsha,Tokyo, 1971, 1976.
Nishiyama Matsunosuke: Iemoto no kenkyū.
     Yoshikawa Kōbunkan, Tokyo, 1982.
Nishiyama Matsunosuke: 'Komusō no ura-omote'.
     In: Kikan hōgaku 5, Ongaku no Tomo-sha, Tokyo, 1975, pp. 26-30.
NKBZ 25: Nihon Koten Bungaku Zenshū, Vol 25. Revised and annotated
     by Usuda Jingorō & Shimma Shin'ichi. Tokyo, 1976.
NKDJ: Nihon Kokugo Dai-jiten. Nihon Dai-jiten Kankōkai, Tokyo, 1973-1975.
William N. Porter: The Miscellany of a Japanese Priest.
     Being a Translation of Tsure-zure Gusa.
     Charles E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, Tokyo, 1914, 1976.
Torsten Olafsson: Kaidō Honsoku, 1628: The Komosō's Fuke
     Shakuhachi Credo. On Early 17th Century Ascetic Shakuhachi
     Ideology. Publ. by Tai Hei Shakuhachi, California, 2003.
     Includes a CD-ROM with the author's complete M.A. thesis on
     the same subject, University of Copenhagen, 1987.
     Purchasable at
Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen: Emptiness and Temporality.
     Buddhism and Medieval Japanese Poetics.
     Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 2008.
Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen: Murmured Conversations.
     A Treatise on Poetry and Buddhism by the Poet-Monk Shinkei.
     Stanford University Press, California, 2008.
William Scott Wilson: The Unfettered Mind. Writings of the Zen master
     to the Sword Master. Tokyo, New York, San Fransisco, 1986.
Shūhū Yokō, edited by Mori Hikotarō. Publ. by the Kōkoku-ji,
     Yura, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, 1938, 1981.
Suematsu Kenchō: The Genji Monogatari by Murasaki Shikibu.
     London, 1882. Charles E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, London 1977.
Daisetzu Teitarō Suzuki: Zen and Japanese Culture.
     Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1970, 1973.
James H. Sanford: Zen-man Ikkyū.
     Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions, 1981.
Takahashi Kūzan: Fukeshū-shi. Sono shakuhachi sōhō no gakuri.
     Fukeshū-shi kankōkai, Tokyo, 1979.
Takahashi Tone: Tozan-ryū: An Innovation of the
     Shakuhachi Tradition from Fuke-shū to Secularism.
     Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy thesis.
     Florida State University, USA, 1990. Purchasable at:
Tōgi Masatarō & William Malm: Gagaku. Nihon no dentō, Vol. 7.
     Tankōsha, Kyōto, 1968.
Tōgi Masatarō & William Malm: Gagaku. Performing Arts of Japan
     Vol. 5. Transl. from Japanese by Don Kenny.
     Walker/Weatherhill, New York & Tokyo, 1971.
Toyohara Sumiaki: Taigenshō (original dated 1512)
     1933 edition, 4 vols., edited by Masamune Atsuo
     Nihon Koten Zenshu Kankokai, Tokyo, 1933
     The entire 1933 edition may be downloaded
     from this location:
     - Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library, University of Toronto

Tsuge Gen'ichi: 'The History of the Kyotaku.'
     In: Asian Music, Vol. VIII, 2. New York, 1977.
     Available online at:
Ueno Katami: Shakuhachi no rekishi.
     Shimada Ongaku Shuppan, Tokyo, 3rd impr., 1984.
Ueno Katami: Shakuhachi no rekishi. Revised and expanded edition.
     Shuppan Geijutsu-sha, Tokyo, 2002.
Zengaku Jiten, ed. by Jimbo Nyoten & Andō Bun'ei,
     Shōbō Genzō Chūkai Zensho Kankōkai,
     Tokyo, 1962.

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