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The "Ascetic Shakuhachi" Historical Evidence Research Web Pages

Introduction & Guide to the Documentation & Critical Study of Ascetic, Non-Dualistic Shakuhachi Culture, East & West:
Historical Chronology, Philology, Etymology, Vocabulary, Terminology, Concepts, Ideology, Iconology & Practices

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


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Where does All That Widespread Fraudful 'Fuke Shakuhachi' Disinformation Come From?
- WHY and HOW has Ascetic Shakuhachi History been so Sadly Thoroughly Falsified?


Seattle flutist Lauren C. Redburn - academic master thesis, 2014:

"Beginning in the thirteenth century, the shakuhachi became a very important instrument for the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhism.

They practiced a form of meditation with this flute called suizen (blowing meditation).

These monks played on a fuke shakuhachi (one of three types of shakuhachi this paper will explore, though there are several more).

It is believed that this version of the shakuhachi is the grandfather of the modern day instrument."



SOAS Ph.D. Kiku Day - Danish "Mindfulness Instructor Course" graduation thesis, 2014:

"The shakuh[a]chi has a history of being used as a tool for meditation for Zen Buddhist monks between 17th and end of 19th century, although transmission of meditation ceased ... "

"In order to reflect on how the monks may have meditated while playing ... "

"For many shakuhachi players, the instrument’s history as a tool for meditation used by Zen Buddhist mendicant monks is a major part of the attraction of playing the instrument ... "

"While the shakuhachi was indeed used a tool for meditation by the komusō monks (lit. monks of nothingness), the mendicant monks of the Fuke sect,
a subsect of Rinzai Zen, the available evidence indicates that the study of the shakuhachi as a religious tool ceased soon after the sect was permanently abolished in 1871 by the new Meiji government (1868–1912)."

" - - - the experience gained by the komusō monks under some two centuries and more has now faded into oblivion."


An anonymous author/translator at Kyōto Myōan-ji:

Quoted and copied from the Kyōto Myōan Temple online homepage as of April 10, 2023:

"Hotto established suizen of “Blowing Zen meditation” after realizing that blowing shakuhachi is an excellent means of meditation.
Later on, the Zen Shakuhachi style was called Myoan Shakuhachi."

" - - - blowing Zen is not to be displayed in public since it is equivalent to Zen meditation."





COMMENTS as of April 27, 2023:

Just in short - initially, just for a start - for your allround information:

There exists absolutely not the slightest shred of historically solid, documentary evidence that corroborates any of the above quoted stated claims.
Period. Simple as that.


Shakuhachi history has been quite purposefully falsified beginning all since involving the famous Imperial Prince Shōtoku, allegedly having lived February 7, 574 – April 8, 622, as a supposed shakuhachi player.

Fanciful short stories were also created, and preserved, about the Tendai monk Ennin, 9th century, and a "proto-Zen" monk named Kakua, late 12th century.
A short tale in the 1212 text Kojidan about one or more "blind monks" playing the shakuhachi during the early 1200s has added to the confusion.
These may in fact have been blind lute-playing storytellers who could very well have used some 'shakuhachi' type as a tuning device for their stringed instruments.

Then we have the 14th century 'boro-boro' wandering mendicant Pure Land Buddhist monks who just did not play any 'shakuhachi', at all - although historians, beginning with early 17th century Hayashi Razan have been suggesting that 'boro-boro' were forerunners of the 'komosō' ...

Next in line - according to "history" - we have the late 15th century and early 1600s' 'komo-sō' "mat monks" of whom we only can know that they played some so-called 'shakuhachi' flute in order to collect alms for themselves to survive in utterly turmoiled feudal Japan, while allegedly "disturbing" households on their door steps.

Reaching the middle decades of the 1500s, something remarkable seems to have taken place, evidenced by a Chinese/Japanese character dictionary titled Setsu-yō shū:
The term 'komo-sō' is connected with the semi-legendary 9th century Chinese Ch'an (Zen) monk 'Fuke', in Chinese: 'P'u-k'o':

'Fuke-sō/Komosō' in Ryūmon bunko no Setsuyōshū     'Setsuyōshū, title

Details from the 'Ryūmon bunko no Setsuyōshū'
Library of Nara Women's University - precise date unclear, but a. the mid-17th century

However, as Chinese Monk Fuke and the early Japanese 'komosō' are not at all historically connected, this appears to be the earliest example of "fraudful invention of tradition" in the history of "Fuke Shakuhachi", a term that only appeared much much later in time, by the way.

In the document Kaidō honsoku, dated March 26, 1628 - Kan'ei 5, Mid-Spring, 21st day - Fuke Zenji is then most prominently being honoured as the ideological source of inspiration for the early 1600s' mat monks.

That piece of very comprehensive and solid documentary evidence does not mention any practice of 'suizen', nor "shakuhachi meditation", at all!
Neither does the document in any way imply an existence of so called 'komusō' at that time, whatsoever.

Also, in 1628, the 'komosō' are described as wearing swords by their sides, a feature that was never the case with the 'komusō' of later times.

'xxx     'xxx

Left: Undated painting of a 'Komosō' carrying a sword, possibly a. 1615
Right: Painting of 2 'Komosō' carrying swords by Iwasa Matabei, no later than 1630

Learn more about the Kaidō honsoku - translation and commentary

The next noteworthy phase in the history of "purposefully invented Fuke Shakuhachi tradition" begins with a letter written by the renowned Rinzai Zen monk and abbot Isshi Bunshu during the early 1640s, but a few yers before the end of Isshi's short life:

1640-1646: Abbot Isshi Bunshu's Letter to
     a "Proto-komusō" named Sandō Mugetsu

There, in Isshi's letter, you see for the first time ever in history, 9th century Chinese Monk Fuke and 13th century Shingon/Rinzai Zen monk Kakushin - posthum.: Hottō Kokuahi - mentioned together in a text about the earliest mid-1600s' 'komusō' and mendicant shakuhachi playing pseudo-monks.

So, Isshi Bunshu, 1608-1646, in other words, appears to have been the first contributor to the utterly comprehensive history falsification conspiracy that burst into full bloom with the creation of the Kyotaku denki, "History of the Imitated Bell", fairy tale that is still believed to be "true" among countless shakuhachi players - and even academically trained and authorized "historians" - East and West alike.

Interestingly, Isshi Bunshu also appears to be the one who invented the legendary so-called "Four Buddhist Laymen", who did - acc. to the "myth" - accompany Kakushin on his way back from China to Japan in 1254, next allegedly foundng the 4 x 4 = 16 branches of Fuke Shakuhachi players that were actually in existence in 1628, acc. to the reliable Kaidō honsoku documentary evidence.

ca. 1665-1675?: The Kyotaku denki Original Text, 1795/1981
     edition, the Kyotaku denki kokujikai Illustrations,
     and Tsuge Gen'ichi's 1977 Translation

Then we have the numerous claims that a so-called "Fuke Sect" was officially recognized by the Tokugawa Government Bureau of Temples and Shrines in a Oboe Memorandum actually dated January 11, 1678 - not late 1677!, although that particular preserved document does not at all mention any 'Fuke-shū', "Fuke Sect" - only 'komusō'!

1678: The Enpō 5, 12th Month, 18th Day, Komusō-ha Oboe
     Bakufu Memorandum of January 11th, 1678

Even more prominent in the bulk of constructed narratives about Edo Period shakuhachi and 'komusō' "history" we have the "1614 Keichō Year 19 Edict" about 'komusō' privileges being supposedly bestowed upon them by then reigning Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu, 1543-1616.

1751?: The Problematic Keichō 19 (1614) 'Komusō' Scripts:
     The Many Different All Fabricated Versions

Do note that none of those three just mentioned documents refer to anyone of the others, nor corroborate one another!

We have no idea to which extent any of those texts might ever have been more or rather less widely known by shakuhachi players and others during the two centuries ranging from ca. the 1660s through the 1860s.
They can in no way be seen to be referring to - nor corroborating - one another!

"The Grand Shakuhachi History Falsification Conspiracy" can very well be made a major critical, academic investigative research project in its very own right.

So much worse did the fraud manifest when, in 1974, the Japanese record company Nippon Columbia published their triple LP vinyl collection titled "Suizen", and US shakuhachi player Christopher Blasdel, in 1988, published his book The Shakuhachi. A Manual for Learning.

There, in the "Shakuhachi History" chapters, Blasdel presented his own "adaptations in English" of substantial passages from Kamisangō Yūkō's liner notes for the "Suizen" music LP collection, without fact-checking that Japanese shakuhachi historian's claims regarding the origin of the term 'Suizen', at all.

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