「修行尺八」歴史的証拠の研究   ホームページ
      'Shugyō Shakuhachi' rekishi-teki shōko no kenkyū hōmupēji -

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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The Chinese Ch'an Monk P'u-k'o, Ikkyū Sōjun, the Komosō
     Beggars & the Imperialistic Catholic Christian Intruders
     - the Rōnin Samurai, the Fuke-Komosō, the 1640 All Sects
     Inspection Bureau, the 'Danka Seido' System, the Komusō,
     the 'Kyotaku denki', the Kyōto Myōan Temple -
     - and: The Origin of 'Honkyoku' and 'Suizen'
      - The Unprejudiced & Non-False Narrative

In 2003, my 1987 Copenhagen University, Denmark, academic thesis "The Kaidō honsoku, 1628" was published internationally by Tai Hei Shakuhachi c/o Monty H. Levenson in Willits, California, USA.

I can still confirm the overall validity of the 'Kaidō honsoku' thesis as such - only, it has now proven unquestionably evident that the "Fuke Sect" was not really ever a genuine, well established "Buddhist sect" at all, as it has been otherwise claimed and described here and there and everywhere for ages, so to speak.

Whatever kind of an Edo Period "semi-religious congregation" made up of komusō, "Pseudo-monks of the Non-Dual and None-ness", it can in no way be compared with and acknowledged as "equal" in nature and status to the two major "old" Zen sects: the Rinzai-shū and the Sōtō-shū.

The Ōbaku-shū, imported from China in the second half of the 17th century only became a truly independent Zen sect as late as in 1876!

Traditionalistic shakuhachi history writers, Japanese and Western alike, enjoy claiming that the "Fuke Sect" was "affiliated" with, a "branch", of Rinzai Zen, but the truth is that the only komusō "temple" that ever reached some status as a sub temple of the Rinzai Zen institution was the Myōan-ji in Kyōto, in 1705!

In other words: There were only 2 true Zen sects in existence in Japan until the close of the Edo Period - not 4!

Likewise, it is extremely unlikely that the 'Fuke-shū', the so called "Fuke Sect" was ever formally recognized by the Shōgunal Bakufu as any sort of true Zen sect in its own right and even less on any widespread, national scale.

The famous January 11, 1678 - not "December 18, 1677"! - 'Enpō 5' 'Oboe' "edict" was quite evidently
a fabrication produced by the rōnin-komusō themselves.
And, first of all: That "edict" does not mention anything like a "Fuke Sect", at all!

Read much more about the January 11, 1678, 'Enpō 5' "edict" here

As a whole, there are at least these three traditionally highly venerated old "Fuke Shakuhachi" documents that you must simply completely disregard, and discard, in any capacity as any sort of primary and "credible" historical evidence:

1 - The 1614 'Keichō no okitegaki', allegedly issued by the famous first Tokugawa shōgun named Tokugawa Ieyasu, 1543-1616,

2 - The quite most probably from c. 1665 through 1670s created "Kyotaku denki" cover story, and

3 - The above mentioned January 11, 1678, 'Enpō 5' komusō 'Oboe' "memorandum" - a very strange preserved document that, by the way, was indeed not any "confirmation of official recognition", in Japanese known as a kōnin, 公認, at all.

All these three texts must be regarded as, popularly speaking: "truly fake history".

So much more, when you inquire with Wikipedia regarding the "Linji/Rinzai School" and "Fuke", this is what you get:

A final Japanese Zen sect that self-identified* as descending from the Linji school was the Fuke sect; Fuke Zen was suppressed with the Meiji Restoration in the 19th century and no longer exists. Its influence on the development of music for the shakuhachi (bamboo flute), however, has been great."

* My italics ...

And, not least, when you visit Wikipedia to learn about "Rinzai" and "Japanese Zen", the word "Fuke" is not to be found there, at all - plainly speaking:

Wikipedia: "Rinzai School"

Wikipedia: "Japanese Zen"

Well then, how when and how did Fuke Zenji anyhow get adopted as the idol and "ancestor"
of both the late komosō, the Fuke-komosō, and the komusō and their tradition of "ascetic shakuhachi begging practice", the so called 'Fuke Shakuhachi', 普化尺八, way of ascetic Japanese non-dualistic solo flute music?


Let us begin here: Fuke Zenji - or, in Chinese: P'u-k'o Ch'an-shi - may actually never have lived; may never ever have been any real living being.

Fuke is only known from the descriptions of him in but a few chapters of the 'Rinzai roku', Chin.: 'Lin-chi Lu', the "Rinzai Annals" - a collection of anecdotes that were put together several centuries after the early 9th century CE and the (alleged) death of Fuke himself and that of his contemporary famous Master Rinzai/Lin-chi.

We are told that Fuke walked around town waving and ringing a hand bell while he recited a short poem that basically rejects the illusory contradictory duality of "light" and "darkness", that of 'Myō' and 'An', "The Bright" and "The Dark" - see a quote in the below.

Then, well around 700 years later, in the second half of the 17th century at the earliest, possibly some anonymous Japanese mendicant flute player(s) thought out and wrote down a fully fabricated account entitled 'Kyotaku denki', 虚鐸傳記, "History of the Imitated Bell", that a devoted Chinese townsman named 'Chang Po', Jap.: 'Chō Haku', supposedly imitated the sound of Fuke ringing his hand bell with his bamboo flute and thus created a solo flute piece later to be known as 'Kyorei', 虚鈴, the "imitated", or "false", bell.

Then, we are supposed - if not even "expected"? - to fully believe that that flute tune should have been transmitted through 400+ years and 16 generations of the Chang/Chō family until it reached and impressed a Japanese Shingon Buddhist monk named Kakushin who, accidentally, stayed in that same area in China during the early 1250s in purpose of studying Zen under the mentorship of one or more distinguished Chinese Ch'an/Zen masters there.

The Kyotaku denki fairy tale explains to us that Chang Po named his flute a 'kyotaku', 虚鐸, "False", or "Imitated Bell", despite the fact that nothing is really known at all about such a particular Chinese wind instrument throughout that entire span of time, or ever.

Like the modern Chinese hsiao/xiao, and the Japanese 'Gagaku shakuhachi', such a flute would probably have had 6 fingerholes? while the "root-end shakuhachi" on which 'Kyorei' is being played today has only five, with a different basic scale, and was only invented towards the very end of the 17th century.

All shakuhachi players in the "modern" world, at least, are expected to know well about this fable, the 'Kyotaku denki', "The History of the Imitated Bell", that came into being in Japan only sometime during the third quarter of the 17th century - certainly not before, perhaps later although that would not make much sense.

Of course, Fuke Zenji, if ever he lived, wouldn't know a thing about all this fuzz surrounding his person, now almost 1200 years later ...


The gospel and anecdote about Fuke and his waving the honorable beggar monk's bell of his eventually reached Japan together with the spread there of the 'Rinzai roku' anthology and its "teachings".
That important book was first wood block printed in Japan, though in limited numbers, in the year 1320.

The Japanese 13th century Sōtō Zen monk Dōgen, referred in great reverence to Fuke Zenji, and in the late 15th century one particularly notable Rinzai Zen monk named Ikkyū Sōjun, 1394–1481, probably helped considerably to make Fuke Zenji a more admired figure both within, and maybe also outside of, the rather narrow, "élitarian" monastic Zen circles, themselves.

It is a historical fact that when, in 1474, Ikkyū Sōjun was inaugurated to become the new abbot - and by Imperial Request assigned rebuilder - of the partly destroyed grand Daitoku-ji Zen temple in Kyōto, he both played some kind of a 'shakuhachi' there at that occasion and also praised Fuke Zenji with reciting Fuke's 'Myō-An' poem during the ceremony:

Ikkyū at Daitoku-ji, the 1474 Inauguration there

Read more about Ikkyū Sōjun here:

The Ikkyū Sōjun Poems, and more"


The closing decade of the 15th century saw the emergence of a new movement of Buddhist
lay beggar monks, the so called 'komosō', 薦僧/菰僧 - the "Mat monks".

Very little is known about them, in fact - they probably grew out from the very popular "Pure Land" Buddhist sects that drew large followers in those hard times of much misery and despair, as were the social circumstances back then.

The 'komosō' are pictured as having played a vertical, edgeblown bamboo flute called a 'shakuhachi', with which they made themselves heard when they went from gate to gate, door to door, begging for alms. Or, possibly: may also have acted as collectors of funds for various Buddhist projects and purposes, so called "temple solicitation monks".

Initially, we have no idea whether the komosō' favored any deeper and more profound ideology or philosophy of their own that may have inspired and conditioned their practice of blowing the bamboo flute as a possible "ascetic" undertaking.

However, in the middle years of the 16th century, the name 'Fuke', and 'Fuke-sō', "Fuke monk", is suddenly made synonymous with the term komosō' in a couple of Japanese character dictionaries titled 'Setsuyō-shū', 節用集.

What does that indicate? Had the komosō' perhaps connected themselves with Fuke Zenji in some kind of a capacity as their chosen "ancestor", or "spiritual leader"?

Well - we really do not know for certain, as of yet - can only speculate ...


In and after the year 1549, the first Western merchant ships began to carry ardent devoted Christian Catholic missionaries landed on the shores of Japan itself.

That marked the beginning of an utterly turbulent so called "Christian Century" in the isolated archipelago that completely changed the political, economical, social, cultural, and religious/ideological identities of Japan for several centuries to come.

When about 90 years later all Western Catholic Christians and merchants were finally ordered to leave Japan for ever and extra severe persecutions of all native Japanese Catholic converts were put in effect, it left one particular social group in an extraordinarily dire situation, namely the growing mass of masterless, unemployed members of the privileged warrior class in times of peace: The socalled 'rōnin', the "wave men".


The second half of the 16th century was a period of almost constant strife between competing feudal warlords who each aspired to win the status and power as 'shōgun' and de facto ruler of all Japan.
Inevitably, numerous surviving samurai on the losing sides in fierce battles began to see themselves left without a master, an occupation, and an income, as it has been pictured and narrated in famous samurai movies by f.i. Kurosawa Akira. Such "social losers" were dispersed throughout many parts of the country to become private bodyguards, wandering beggars or downright criminals, and some of those 'rōnin', or "wave men", did eventually also meet and team up with the ranks of flute playing "mat monks", the 'komosō', who had first appeared during the late 1400s.


Now, for reasons still unknown, as we know, sometime in the middle years of the 16th century, some 'komosō' prove to have adopted a Chinese 9th century, half-legendary Buddhist monk to be their "spiritual idol", their "ideological example" so to speak - the Chinese name of whom is P'u-k'o, or P'u-hua, a.k.a. in Japanese as 'Fuke Zenji'.

Fuke became known in Japan partly because of the poem he is reported to have recited while wandering around as a Buddhist monk:

"The Bright Aspect of Duality appears,
the Bright Aspect of Duality hits.
The Dark Aspect of Duality appears,
the Dark Aspect of Duality hits.
Appearing from Anywhere & Everywhere,
a Whirlwind hits,
Non-Duality appears - a Harvest Knife cuts through ..."

A message like that would certainly have appealed to samurai warriors, who would so often be facing death in combat ...

The earliest known actual written account of such a 'Fuke-komosō' can be found in Miura Jōshin's "Anthology of the Kenmon Period", the 'Keichō kenmonshū' of 1614.
Here, Miura tells us about an ascetic, shakuhachi-playing former "high-ranking samurai" who loses his "not so precious" sword to a real provocateur of a townsman in Hachiōji near Edo City in a very unusual bet: The challenging townsman succeeds in blowing the shakuhachi with his "rear end" (!) and thus wins the prize: The ex-samurai's sword, the amusing story goes.

Read more about Miura Jōshin's Fuke-komosō in Hachiō-ji


In 1637, a extensive peasant revolt broke out around Shimabara near Nagasaki on the southern island of Kyūshū, led by a group of angry masterless samurai. Many of the participants, both civilians and warriors, were actually Christian converts, but the uprising was soon crushed by the Tokugawa régime with tens of thousands of dead, in 1638.

By then, Spanish and Portuguese Christian missionaries and their several hundreds of thousands converted followers had for a long time posed a serious threat to social order in Japan, and already in 1614, the first total ban on Christianity in Japan had been issued by the shōgunal authorities.

Now, the government had had enough: In 1640, a new "Bureau for the Inspection of Religious Sects", the 'Shūmon aratame yaku', 宗門改め役, was established with the purpose of tracking down all remaining Catholic Christian believers left hiding in the country - and punish them, eventually taking their lives, if they did not reject and renounce their alien religious faith.


In direct consequence of the Shimabara Rebellion, the Tokugawa Bakufu ordered the socalled Shūmon aratame-yaku, or "officers for examining the religious sects", to be set up.

From this time on, the major sects of Buddhism were made responsible for producing registers of religious affiliation of every Japanese household with one specific Buddhist temple.
The socalled Danka seido, or "Danka System", in which Japanese households since the Heian Period, 794-1185, had voluntarily been supporting the temples financially, was now reshaped into a most effective instrument with which the government could monitor and count the population and - first of all - suppress and eliminate the Christian faith and its believers, on a mandatory and continuous basis.

Read more about the "Danka seido" here


All traditionalistic Japanese shakuhachi players and history writers alike believe, and have made a majority of Western shakuhachi players and historians accept and wholeheartedly adore, that 9th century Fuke Zenji was the "founder" of the komusō movement; that 13th century Shinchi Kakushin brought the honkyoku 'Kyorei' to Japan in 1254, and that the first 'komusō' in Japan was the late 14th century samurai general Kusunoki Masakatsu, grandson of the quite more famous Kusunoki Masashige, 1294–1336.

At the same time, both traditionalistic shakuhachi players and ditto history writers can't help trying to prove that both the komusō and the so called "Fuke Sect" were in existence in the second decade of the 17th century. However, none of such claims can be substantiated in any way by known, reliable written sources.
In other words: Utter nonsense.

When studying the 'Kaidō honsoku' document of 1628 we learn that those komosō who produced that impressive credo about ascetic shakuhachi practice certainly showed deep respect for Fuke Zenji's non-dualistic, philosophical message:

"Where from does the Komo come?
Fuke said,
'The Dualistic Notion of "Darkness" appears ... '
Does he come from the Realm of Obscurity?
Fuke said,
'The Dualistic Notion of "Brightness" appears ... '
Does he come from the Realm of Clarity?"

Read the entire 'Kaidō honsoku' here, in English translation:

'Kaidō honsoku' document, 1628

From 'komosō' to 'komusō' ... ?

It is a quite well known discussion whether the komosō were the actual and immediate "natural predecessors" of the komusō?

The term 'komusō' first appears in a still partly questionable 1628 document from the Tosa Province in Shikoku that was first presented by the academic historian Hosaka Hiro'oki in an article of his dated 1994.
That notwithstanding, we do not see the new komusō term quoted in writing until after 1640 at the earliest, that is to say: After the Bureau for the Investigation of Sects" had been established by the powerful religious authorities in Japan.

Having become masterless samurai in a time of peace and having had to join the growing groups of flute-playing beggars to survive, like the komosō:, those rōnin no longer enjoyed the privileges and relative security of belonging to any ordinary families, or households, that could be inspected, approved, and registered every year under the new "Danka System".

They therefore had to figure out how they could possibly organize themselves as sincere members of some kind of a "new" native - definitely non-Christian! - respectable Buddhist movement, or actual "religious sect", in order to achieve respectful acceptance, independence and possible secure legal privileges.

Well, we should assume that those masterless samurai would have each and everyone once belonged to families/households with quite different Buddhist temple relationships since times of old: A majority would probably have "belonged" to the very popular Pure Land sect; some would have depended on the Nichiren, the Tendai, the Shingon, one of the old Nara sects, or Zen sect monks when the time came that a member of their group had died and needed a proper burial with all the traditional Buddhist services and rituals to be performed for the deceased.

In order to establish an sufficiently impressive background for their "shakuhachi beggar monk sect", the ex-samurai actors had to fabricate a long history of their own as they had nothing of that kind to boast about at all during those 1640s when they came under real heavy pressure from the authorities.

From the Fuke-komosō of the early 1600s, they had already inherited the gospel of that half-legendary Chinese Ch'an/Zen monk named P'u-k'o/Fuke whose alleged master and mentor was P'an-shan Pao-chi/Banzan Hōshaku, 720–814, one of the highly esteemed Chinese Ch'an/Zen personalities who is also being referred to in the 'Kaidō honsoku' of 1628.

Strangely so, by the way: we only know that one, single name of Chinese 'P'u-k'o'/'P'u-hua', and Japanese 'Fuke', which is in fact somewhat suspicious, I think ...

So, with nothing but 'Fuke' "to do well with", the rōnin had to construct a duly legitimizing narrative of 'origin', and a genealogy, themselves.

The first steps in that gradual process appears to have been the "invention" of 13th century Shinchi Kokushi to have played the role as a claimed transmitter of some Fuke-inspired tradition when, in 1254, he returned to Japan from Zen studies in China. Kakushin was also credited with having brought "four Buddhist laymen" with him back on his ship.

That narrative is first seen presented in a letter from the highly esteemed Japanese Zen abbot Isshi Bunshu, 1608-1646, a close disciple of Takuan Sōhō's, 1573-1645, in a letter to a proto-komusō named 'Sandō Mugetsu', dated no later than 1646:

Read Abbot Isshi's letter here, in English translation:

Isshi Bunshu's Admonitions to the proto-komusō Sandō Mugetsu


The original 'Kyotaku denki' text, written in 'kanbun', Chinese-Japanese, was first published in Kyōto in 1795.
We do not know whether the document itself had been in circulation in Japan as early as during the mid-17th century when the first komusō emerged in the Japanese public.

Nakamura Sōsan, writing in Kyōto in 1664, only said about the komusō that their "founder" was Shinchi Kakushin/Hottō Kokushi.
Besides, Nakamura only mentioned a few titles of music pieces played by the then local komusō, titles that were and are completely different from those of the later Edo Period honkyoku of the komusō.

Read Nakamura Sōshin's chapter about 'komusō' here

Put shortly, the authors of the 'Kyotaku denki' fairy tale were really creative and invented numerous "persons" that have actually never lived, and events that never took place:
First, they had to establish a link between 9th Fuke Zenji himself and 13th century Shinchi Kakushin, so they invented the imaginery Chang/Chō family that, supposedly, transmitted Chang Po's 'Kyorei' melody through 16 generations of his heirs, so to speak!
Would you really believe that, honestly?

Next, four Chinese "Buddhist laymen" were introduced into the tale to have travelled with Kakushin on the journey back to Japan in 1254. The story does not tell us that those four devoted men also played the 'kyotaku' flute and were proficient in the tune 'Kyorei'.
But those four persons were essential to include because acc. to the 'Kaidō honsoku' of 1628, there were in the mid-1600s 16 "branches" of the "Fuke Movement" and one needed, it appears, to invent four ancient and prominent Chinese ancestors of those four important factions. In addition, we know from Isshi Bunshu's letter that those four important men had four Japanese students each that also founded lineages, so that the four multiplied into the total of 16 "branch sects"!

This is how the komosō of 1628 are directly connected with the new komusō of the 1640s and further on.

Btw., one later addition to the original fable describes how the four Chinese devoted men were put in charge of the bath house at Kakushin's temple in Yura, Wakayama, formerly known as the Saihō-ji, now the Kōkoku-ji. This is because at least some of the later so called "Fuke temples" were actually running professional public bath house businesses in order to generate income for the maintenance of their estates and the continued sustain of their resident komusō. That was the legitimation.

Read about the 'Kyotaku denki' here:

The 'Kyotaku denki', c. 1665-1675?

The 'Kyotaku denki' original, 1981 reprint, and translation

The 'Kyotaku denki kokujikai', 1795


Now, the next important purpose with the 'Kyotaku denki' tale was to establish a strong, direct legitimizing link from Kakushin in 1254 to the mid-17th century Myōan Temple komusō in Kyōto. Therefore, the narrative had to include and feature yet another personality to "do that job", namely that of 'Kichiku', 寄竹 - meaning "to collect bamboo" - who, interestingly, was not of Chinese, but of Japanese descent.

Here, it is noticable that in this way the 'Kyotaku denki' narrative sets the Kyōto lineage of the early komusō apart from the 16 other already established and defined branches recorded in the 'Kaidō honsoku'.

Still, yet many more 'kyotaku' flute players had to be invented in order transmit 'Kyorei' all the way up through the centuries to the Edo Period, namely these, from Kichiku to:

Jinsai, Gihaku, Rinmei, Kyofū, Kyomu (="Kusunoki Masakatsu"?), Gidō, Jitō, Kashō, Kūrai, Jikū, Echū, Ichimoku, Fumyō, Chirai, and Ton'ō, 遁翁, who, supposedly, was active during the Kan'ei Period, 1624-1644 and was credited for writing the 'Kyotaku denki', in fact.

Of course, it is clear that none of these persons ever really lived - they were all invented by one or more mid-17th century early komusō ideologists and storytellers.

It is noticable, however, that when first Myōan-ji had been eventually been established in Kyōto late in the 17th century, one central segment of the original genealogy was changed so that Kichiku was renamed to become 'Kyochiku Ryōen Zenji', 虚竹了円禅師, who is just as much an invented, never-existing figure as all the others.

We do not know when exactly the first Myōan Temple was established in Kyōto. Still, it at least appears to be quite probable that the real historical person who actually founded that temple would have been a person known by the name 'Engetsu Ryōgen', 淵月了源, who according to temple annals is reported to have died in 1695, Genroku 8, 5th month, 23rd day.

On the Kyōto Myōan-ji's present website, Engetsu is being highlighted and praised as the "restorer", the "reviver", 'chūkō', 中興, of the temple. According to the temple's online featured genealogy, Engetsu's (legendary) predecessor named 'Ushin', alt. 'Yūshin', 有心, is supposed to have passed away as early as in the year 1633, Kan'ei 10 - on the 5th day of the 10th month! - which would leave more than 60 years for Engetsu to attempt to and actually accomplish such an impressive task - if we would only believe it.

You can study the official Myōan-ji genealogy here, yourself

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