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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 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


"Myō-An" - The dualistic pair
of the "Bright" & the "Dark"

1970s: Myōan Taizan-ha Thought & Credos

Beyond the illusory duality of the "Bright" & the "Dark"

There are, basically, two approaches to shakuhachi practice:

You may play in a way so as to entertain and enjoy your listeners which is known as Kanshō no ongaku, 鑑賞の音楽, "Music for Appreciation"; or you may blow the shakuhachi as a form and means of "Intensive Mental Discipline": Shugyō, 修行, which is termed Gyō no ongaku, 行の音楽, "Music for ascetic (Buddhist) practice".

This essential "definition" was formulated by Uramoto Setchō, 浦本浙潮, 1891-1965, founder of the Fuke Myōan-ha, 普化明暗派, branch of modern Fuke Shakuhachi, probably at sometime during the 1930s.

The latter, the esoteric practice of shakuhachi asceticism, may be at least as much as three to four hundred years old and has - among other places in Japan - been preserved till today at the Zen temple Myōan-ji in SE Kyōto - the most important center of the original Japanese ascetic bamboo flute traditions most precisely named "Komusō Shakuhachi".


The shakuhachi is an instrument of the Buddhist Law.
The socalled shakuhachi has many numerological meanings to it [lit.: has large numbers].
Taking the distance between the three joints [respectively] determines the distance [or, length; Jap.: chōtan, 長短] between the top and the bottom.
Every part expresses something.
The upper and lower two openings are the Sun and the Moon.
The five holes on the front and back, respectively, are The Five Elements.
It is The Profound Origin of All Creation.
When one blows [the shakuhachi] then All Myriad Beings cause the Darkness of the Ego to dissolve and the Mind [or, mental state] to become One."

     Excerpt from a komusō 'honsoku' issued by the Fuke Shakuhachi
     mother temple Ichigetsu-ji in Matsudo City, Mod. Chiba Pref.,
     in 1811, 5th month (Bunka 8). In Kurihara, 1975, pp. 159-162.
     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2013.


"Myōan Shakuhachi can not be likened to the playing of an ordinary wind instrument.
Such thing as a fixed way of playing does not exist.
What I can say is, plainly, that I am only concerned with directing my blowing towards my own Self - with a gentle mind."

It is my opinion that people who trifle with skill of playing and "play well" - who exercise exceedingly intending to impress the listener and the like - that way of blowing with an egocentric mind represents the worst of human attitudes (that I can think of).

There are people who can produce changing sounds depending on technical skill, but as for the shakuhachi practice of the Myōan Temple, I believe that the ideal way of Zen Shakuhachi is to let one's true Mind listen to the sounds and to cultivate one's own Self in accordance with those sounds.

I can not easily express this in words but to practice the shakuhachi of Zen Shakuhachi is indeed a way of mental training and self-cultivation that is practiced with an open and humble mind and does not develop into (mere) technical skill with a selfish attitude.

The accumulation of this daily practice will, eventually, bring about the realization of the true Self of one's Human Nature.

It is, in any case, wrong to act against Nature.
I am devoting myself every day to follow Nature and not to be mistaken about the Way."

     Expressed by Yoshimura Fuan Sōshin, head [Jap.: kanshu] of the Myōan Zen Temple
     Taizan-ha Shakuhachi School, Kyōto, in 1977. Private communication, 1977. Trsl. by T.O.


"Myōan Shakuhachi is related to the Fuke Sect of Shakuhachi and it has as its purpose to employ the ancient Japanese shakuhachi flute as a Dharma instrument [hō-ki] in order that one may understand the Ultimately Adual Nature of "Brightness" and "Darkness" [myō-an] and experience the Essence of Emptiness and Non-substantiality [kyo] through self-cultivation.
This practice is called Suizen."

     Expressed by Osawa Seizan Sensei, my Fuke Shakuhachi teacher at the Myōan-ji Zen Temple
     in Kyōto, in 1977-78. Quotation from a letter of recommendation, 1978. Trsl. by T.O.

The former, Edo Period Myōan-ji in Eastern Kyōto

The former, Edo Period Myōan-ji in Eastern Kyōto

Present-day Myōan-ji at Tōfuku-ji in SE Kyōto

Present-day Myōan-ji at Tōfuku-ji in SE Kyōto

Present-day Myōan-ji at Tōfuku-ji in SE Kyōto

Present-day Myōan-ji at Tōfuku-ji in SE Kyōto

Present-day Myōan-ji at Tōfuku-ji in SE Kyōto

Statue of Kyochiku Ryōen Zenji at Myōan-ji, Kyōto

Statue of Kyochiku Ryōen Zenji, legendary founder
of the Myōan Temple in Kyōto

Higuchi Taizan, founder of the Taizan line of modern Myōan Shakuhachi

Higuchi Taizan, 1856-1914, founder
of the Taizan line of modern Myōan Shakuhachi

Mu-ku-teki suizen - calligraphy by Myōan Taizan/Higuchi Taizan

"Mu-ku-teki suizen" - calligraphy (n.d.) signed 'Myōan Taizan'.

Page bottom picture gallery credits:
Black & white photos from Tomimori Kyozan:
Myōan Shakuhachi Tsūkai, Tokyo, 1979.
Color photos by Torsten Olafsson, 1977.
"Mukuteki suizen" calligraphy: In the possession of T.O.

Relevant links:
Biography of Higuchi Taizan:

To the front page To the top


Ascetic practice

Yoshimura Fuan Sōshin

Fuan Sōshin

Kyoreizan My?anji


Ozawa Seizan, 1978

Ozawa Seizan, 1978
Photo: T.O.