「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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Errors, Misconceptions, Loose Ends ... and Utter Non-Truths

A Historian's Credo ...

Regarding "historical truth" - in the concluding words of Edgar W. Pope, 2000:

"The existence of different versions of history, then, does not show that all versions are equally valid, or equally biased. What it shows is that there is an ongoing tension between historical evidence and the biases of historians, and that the writing of history requires a constant effort to set aside one's biases when looking at the evidence.

While "absolute" historical truth may be an unattainable (indeed indefinable) ideal, it is clear that some versions of history are more true than others, and that the business of historians is to construct the truest versions possible."

Quoted from:

Edgar W. Pope: 'The Shakuhachi, the Fuke-shū, and the Scholars : a historical controversy.'
     In: Journal of Hokusei Gakuen Women's Junior College 36, 31-44,
     Hokusei Gakuen University, Sapporo, 2000.
     Download URL:

Overall conclusion that has manifested itself
as a result of the present research project

The asserted history and alleged characteristics of Ascetic Shakuhachi Practices in Japan have been most purposefully "constructed" since the very early beginnings.

This more or less constantly ongoing activity of deliberate source falsification, forging and fanciful myth fabrication is taking place still, this very day - generated by "professionals" and "amateurs" alike, inside as well as outside of Japan - be they both shakuhachi musicians and players, musicologists and "history" writers, book editors and publishers - beside a wide variety of enough so sincerely devoted shakuhachi "admirers" in general.

Very little indeed of what you can find and read in most of the books and articles, in phonogram cover notes and on the internet - be that on websites or weblogs presented in a variety of languages - can actually be soberly corroborated when first one is investigating the totality of known, preserved text and picture source materials etc. - the multitude, comprehensiveness and complexity of which is not only aweinspiring but truly terrifying.

禅尺八 / 尺八禅 ? - Zen Shakuhachi / Shakuhachi Zen ?

Do we meet the now quite popular terms Shakuhachi Zen, 尺八禅,
and Zen Shakuhachi, 禅尺八, in texts about the 'shakuhachi' before 1977?

No, the U.S. japanologist James H. Sanford appears to probably being the first to use the compound Shakuhachi Zen, 尺八禅, i.e. in an article of his published in the highly renowned japanological journal Monumenta Nipponica in 1977.

WikiPedia - a trustworthy source of information?

Can you - to any "acceptable" degree whatsoever - trust in the information given on, English section, regarding "Shakuhachi", "Komusō", "Fuke-shū",
and the like and related matters?

No, most certainly, definitely so: You can not!

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

虚無僧 禅宗

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

The 'komusō' - and the Zen Sect?

     Were the 'komusō' ever real "Zen monks"?

     Was the "Fuke Sect" ever anything like a "Zen Buddhist sect"?

「禅と尺八 - 関係全然無い!」

"Regarding 'Zen' and 'Shakuhachi' - there is absolutely no connection!"

In early 1977 I was introduced to the renowned professor and fine arts & aesthetics specialist Yoshida Mitsukuni, 吉田光邦, 1921-1991, at Kyōto University.
I had just enrolled as a "foreign special research student" at that university (granted for a period of 18 months by the Rotary Foundation International).

Having explained to the professor that I was (also) very interested in studying the possible (at least so claimed) relationship "between Zen and the bamboo flute shakuhachi", the professor plainly and boldly replied,

"No connection whatsoever!"

In very straight and direct Japanese: Zen to shakuhachi: kankei zenzen nai!

Read much more about this particular "issue" on this web page:

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

Right, or more likely: Wrong in Shakuhachi history?

True, or rather: False in "Zen Shakuhachi" / "Shakuhachi Zen" "history" ... ?

Essential questions and answers - this is a project "to be continued", and elaborated on,
in the time to come ...

Scroll page down for a select bibliography for this particular web page.

Torsten Olafsson, Denmark - January 2015

1678, not 1677

普化宗 - FUKE-SHŪ
    & 延宝 御法度 - ENPŌ no GO-HATTO
「公認」- kōnin - a "governmental authorization"?

Was the 'komusō' shakuhachi brotherhood ever really "officially recognized" and "authorized" to organize, establish themselves and operate as priviliged samurai members of a so called
Fuke-shū (Fuke Sect) in 1677?
No, honestly - there is no such "clear evidence" at all ... !

Here you see an annotated reprint of a very important Fuke Shakuhachi related document, exhibited in the Komusō Room of the Matsudo City Museum in NW Chiba Prefecture.
This is the vicinity in which the memorable "Fuke temple" Ichigetsu-ji was located during the Edo Period after it had been established at some time towards the end of the 17th century.

Enpō 5 Oboe document reprint displayed at Matsudo City Museum in Chiba

- 'Oboe' - Edited reprint of the so called "Edict of the Enpō Period"
Photo taken by Ronald Nelson in summer 2014.

This document is being regarded as presenting full and reliable evidence of the socalled
"Fuke Sect" being officially recognized and authorized by the "Temple & Shrine Magistrates" in Edo towards the close of the 5th year of the Enpō Period (1673-1681).

Enpō 5 Oboe document reproduction displayed at Matsudo City Museum in Chiba

The above picture appears to show a photographic reproduction of the actual, original Oboe document. According to the small sign underneath, it a treasure of the Myōan Temple in Kyōto.
Photo by Ronald Nelson, summer 2014.

"Komusō Memorandum" - Enpō 5:

Is this really an "Official Recognition and Authorization of the Komusō Fraternity" - a socalled kōnin, 公認?

I myself find that extremely difficult to believe as neither the very term Fuke-shū, 普化宗 - nor the 'shakuhachi', 尺八, for that matter - are mentioned in the text at all.
Not even the very central terms Rinzai Zen, 臨済禅, be it just Zen, , appear in the text!

The document is dated "5th year of the Enpō Era, hinotomi, 12th month, 18th day":


There is one rather significant "problem" here, however:
That particular date is not valid at all. It never existed!
The cyclical calendar sign for the year Enpō 5 was tsuchinoe uma, 戊午 (the 55th of the sexagenary cycle), NOT hinotomi, 丁巳 (the 54th of the sexagenary cycle) as given in the document.

In other words: The year in question: Enpō 5, 延宝五 does not correspond with the calendar sign!
In fact, the correct date would have been: 延宝五戊午年十二月十八日.

How could the official Magistrates of Temples and Shrines have made such a notable mistake?
Possibly, very simply, because they did not.
This document was most probably created - I mean: forged - by the 'komusō' themselves, and not produced by the Tokugawa authorities at all!

You are most welcome to check the date right here on this website, yourself: NengoCalc.

Well now, this is not all, believe me:
First, the shift of cyclical signs from hinotomi, 丁巳, to tsuchinoe uma, 戊午 happened on the 8th day in the 12th month of Enpō 5, which corresponds with the Western date "January 1, 1678"!
Secondly, not least - consequently: The 18th day in the 12th month of the 5th year in the Enpō Period did not "fall" in 1677 at all.
The actual date according to the Gregorian calender was: January 11th, 1678!

Does the term Fuke-shū, 普化宗, "Fuke Sect", appear in any known Japanese text before the year 1687?

Did the famous shakuhachi player Watazumi Dōso, 海童道祖 (1910-1992), believe in the widespread and so very popular claim that the so called Fuke-shū, 普化宗, "Fuke Sect", had ever been officially recognized by the Tokugawa government in the capacity as a "genuine" Rinzai Zen Buddhist sect?
No - simple as that!

That is the real and plain reason why Watazumi Sensei nicknamed himself Shūso, 宗祖, "founder of a sect"!

Were the 'komusō' of the second half of the 17th century in any way "closely affiliated" with the Rinzai Sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism at that time?
No, definitely not!

The terms Zen and Rinzai Zen do not appear at all in any of the surviving Fuke Shakuhachi documents that can be dated to the 17th century.


Was the 'Nezasa-ha', 根笹派, branch of Fuke Shakuhachi during the Edo Period "one of the original 16 sub-sects of the Fuke shu" (John Singer on
No. That is a myth! The oldest known reference to the 'Nezasa-ha' appears in a document that can be dated no earlier than 1777 (Yamaguchi 2005:227-228).

Is "a ‘Nezasa-ha’ listed as one of the sub-sects of the Fuke sect" in "an ancient document dated 1628" (Justin Senryu Williams on
No. That is a mistake!

Do we know of any other Fuke Shakuhachi related document than the Kaidō honsoku,
海道本則, which is dated 1628?
No. Definitely not!

Is the 'Nezasa-ha' listed in the Kaidō honsoku 'komosō', 薦僧, document of 1628 (also known as the Boro no techō, ぼろの手帳?
No, that piece of misinformation is - as a matter of fact - the result of a rather quite remarkable translation error!

This is the list of the (alleged) 16 branches of Priest Fuke's "sect" ('mappa'), 末派, in the Kaidō honsoku of 1628:

3 薦僧開山普化和尚末派十六派アリ、

  1: 一 ワカサリ門派
  2: 一 筑紫ニイヌヤロウ門派
  3: 一 北國ノキハ門派
  4: 一 中國ニノキハ門派
  5: 一 伊勢ニサカハヤシ門派
  6: 一 五畿内ヤワタノキハ門派
  7: 一 武蔵カカリ門派
  8: 一 美濃ニ若衆門派
  9: 一 上州ニサラハ門派
10: 一 中武蔵ニヨリタケ門派
11: 一 下總ニキンゼン門派
12: 一 下野ニコキクハ門派
13: 一 奥州ニタンシヤクヨロコヒ門派
14: 一 常陸ニウメシ門派
15: 一 奥州ニタンシヤク派ヨ
16: 一 北國ニカンタキノハ門派

The Komosō founder Priest Fuke’s sect has 16 branches:

  1: The Wakasari Branch Sect [unidentified]
  2: The Inu-yarō Branch Sect in Tsukushi [present Kyūshū]
  3: The Hokkoku Noki-ha Branch Sect [NW Honshū]
  4: The Noki-ha Branch Sect in Chūgoku [SW Honshū]
  5: The Sakabayashi Branch Sect in Ise [present Mie Prefecture]
  6: The Gokinai Yawata Noki-ha Branch Sect [present Kyōto area]
  7: The Kakari Branch Sect in Musashi [present Tōkyō area]
  8: The Wakashū Branch Sect in Minō [present Gifu Prefecture]
  9: The Sara-ha Branch Sect in Jōshū [present Gumma Prefecture]
10: The Yoritake Branch Sect in Central Musashi [present Tōkyō area]
11: The Kinzen Branch Sect in Shimōsa [present Chiba Prefecture]
12: The Kogiku-ha Branch Sect in Shimotsuke [present Tochigi Pref.]
13: The Tanjaku Yorokobi Branch Sect in Ōshū [NE Honshū]
14: The Umeji Branch Sect in Hitachi [present Ibaraki Prefecture]
15: The Additional Tanjaku Branch in Ōshū [NE Honshū]
16: The Kandan-ki no ha Branch Sect in Hokkoku [NW Honshū]

Obviously, as you can see, the 'Nezasa-ha', 根笹派, does not appear on the list.

This is the actual Japanese text from which the translation error has originated (Kamisangō 1974:17):

各地の虚無僧寺 - 薦僧時代からの派閥

すでに二、三回引用したが、中塚竹禅の調査した興国寺の文献中 に「暮露の手記 (仮称)」 がある。

筆者不明だが、一人の暮露 (薦僧) が自問自答式に薦僧の有様を解説したもので、寛永五年 (一六二八) の日付である。

その末尾に「薦僧開山普化和尚末派十六派アリ」 として、ワカサリ門派、ヨリタケ門派、キンゼン門派などの門派名を挙げている。



小菊派 (夏潭派)、金先派 ( 斯先派)、括惣派 (火下派)、梅地派、
寄竹派、根笹派 (司祖派)、下智派、短尺派、宋和派である。

My own English translation reads like this (December, 2013):

“The 'komusō' temples in various places - The branch sects [lit.: cliques/factions] after the 'komosō' era.

I have already quoted [him] two or three times, but among the records of the 'Kōkoku' Temple which Nakatsuka Chikuzen investigated there is "The Boro Memorandum" [Jap.: Boro no shuki] (temporary name).

The author is unknown, but it is a text [lit.: a "thing"] in which a certain Boro ('komosō') explained the circumstances of the 'komosō' in question & answer fashion, and it is dated the 5th year of Kan'ei (1628).

At the end [of the document, under the headline] "The komosō founder Abbot Fuke's sect has 16 branches" [it says]: 'The Wakasari Branch, The Yoritake Branch, The Kinzen Branch,' to mention but a few.

Likewise, because during the early years after the establishment of the Fuke Sect there is also being said to have been 16 branch sects, there was the possibility to succeed [or, continue] the factions [Jap.: habatsu] from the era of the 'komosō'.

The names of those 16 branches are:

Yōtaku-ha, Gibun-ha, Shirin-ha, Indomoe-ha/Inpa-ha, Yūnan-ha, Nogi-ha, Chigo-ha, Kogiku-ha (*Katan-ha), Kinsen-ha (*Kinzen-ha), Kassō-ha (*Kaka-ha), Umeji-ha, Kichiku-ha, Nezasa-ha (*Shiso-ha/Tsukasaso-ha), Fuchi-ha, Tanjaku-ha, Sōwa-ha.”

Here follows Christopher Yohmei Blasdels - quite different - translation/adaptation into English of the very same passage (Blasdel 2008:102):

"Komosō Sects and Komusō Temples

At Kōkoku-ji, Nakatsuka examined the document called Boro no Techō. The author (name unknown) was a boro (another name for 'komosō') who wrote in a question and answer style explaining the ways of the 'komosō'. Dated 1628, it ends with the phrase (partly quoted above): "Master Fuke was the founder of the 'komusō' of which there are 16 sects," and it lists the sects as the Yōtaku Sect, Gibun Sect, Shirin Sect, Impa Sect, Yūnan Sect, Nogi Sect, Chigo Sect, Kogiku Sect, Kinsen Sect, Kassū Sect, Umeji Sect, Kichiku Sect, Nezasa sect, Fuchi sect, Tanjaku sect, and the Sūwa Sect. When the Fuke sect was established there were also 16 sub-sects, therefore it is likely that they came from these komusō sects."

The discrepancy bweteen the original and the adaption is obvious: The two different branch sect lists described in Kamisangō's article have been mixed up by Christopher Blasdel to become only one, dated 1628 - while the latter can actually only be dated towards the end of the 1700s.
Also, Blasdel mixes up the two terms of 'komosō' and 'komusō' - do note that there were no 'komusō' in existence before around 1640, or so.

Christopher Blasdel's text - with even more errors, regrettably - from 2008 has also been published on the website

Is 'Mu', (Chinese: ), in English: "None-ness", originally a Zen Buddhist concept?
No, certainly not!

Mu was introduced into human thinking by the earliest Taoist philosophers of ancient China, at least two and a half millenia ago.
See for instance Chapter 81-6 in the oldest extant Taoist scripture, the Tao Te Ching.


Was the idea of 'Fu-shō, fu-metsu', 不生不滅 (Chinese: 'Bù shēng bù miè'), in English: "Non-born, non-perished", or: "No birth, no death", conceived by the Chinese Zen Buddhist thinkers of old?
No, certainly not!

'Fu-shō, fu-metsu' was introduced into human thinking by the early Taoist philosophers of ancient China, more than two millenia ago.
See for instance Chapter 81-6 in the oldest extant Taoist scripture, the Tao Te Ching.


Was Fuke Zenji (9th century) the first Zen Buddhist monk in history who, allegedly, presented a now recorded statement regarding the dualistic concept of 明暗, "the Bright and the Dark"?
No, certainly not!

Before Fuke Zenji, the renowned Chinese Zen patriarch Hui-neng (638-713) treated the dualistic concept of myō-an in the "Platform Sutra", and so did another important early Chinese Zen personality named Shih-t'ou (700-790) in his famous discourse "An Agreement for Participating Together".



Has Fuke Zenji's famous 4-line Chinese poem attacking the dualistic concept of 明暗, "the Bright and the Dark" ever been properly understood, interpreted and translated?
No, definitely not!

This is the famous translation by Ruth Fuller Sasaki (1892-1967):

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.

This is the original poem in Chinese:


Míng tóu lái - Míng tóu dǎ
Àn tóu lái - Àn tóu dǎ
Sìfāng bā miàn lái - Xuànfēng dǎ
Xūkōng lái - Lián jià dǎ

In Japanese (romanization):

Myō-tō rai, myō-tō da,
An-tō rai, an-tō da.
Shihō hachimen rai, senpū da.
Kokū rai, renga da.

The "problem" is the change of word order in the translations of the second and fourth sentences:
myō-tō da and an-tō da.
Here, the words myō-tō and an-tō have been made objects, not subjects, of the verb da, "to hit" or "to attack".

Something similar goes for lines three and four: There is noone, no subject, that hits neither "like a whirlwind", nor "like a flail".
These two words are the actual subjects, the agents, in those sentences. Thus, we have:

"Brightness appears, Brightness hits;
Darkness appears, Darkness hits;
Four quarters and eight directions appear, Whirlwind hits;
Kokū appears, Flail hits [or: a harvesting knife cuts]."

"Four quarters and eight directions" should probably be understood in the meaning of "whatever", or maybe: "wherever from"?
As for Kokū, 虚空, literally "empty sky", rather refers to the Indian philosopher Nagarjuna's central concept uf shunyata, "non-substantiality", in Japanese: .

We should, however, not at all rule out that ko here may rather carry the meaning of "imitated" or "false"!

Fuke Zenji certainly must have been polemizing on both Huineng and Shih-t'ou's previous sayings regarding the duality, be it the mutuality, of the very "pair" of Myō and An.

An afterthought: Do we actually know for certain that Fuke Zenji really lived back then in the first half of the 9th century and that he acted and spoke as it has been reported in the Lin-chi Lu / Rinzai roku?
No, to tell the truth!: We cannot know for certain, can we ... ?

Well now, the "rest" is up to your own respective "Zennish imaginations", dear readers

More - perhaps somewhat irritating? - "Zen Shakuhachi" related questions:

These are all highly relevant questions that can be answered in the negative, as: "No, not true!"

Is the 'shakuhachi' flute known to having ever been blown by Buddhist monks in China?
No, definitely not!

Has the term 'komusō', 虚無僧, ever been translated properly?
No, certainly not!

The proper and much more "precise" rendering in English should be: "Pseudo-Monks of the Non-Dual (or, Non-Substantial) and None-ness".

Were there any socalled 'komusō', 虚無僧, in existence during the earliest at least 2 decades of the 17th century?
No, that is indeed completely out of the question! No references like that exist.
A case of a so called 'komusō' allegedly having attacked a high-ranking Tosa Province police official on Shikoku in 1628 is under investigation by T.O., Autumn, 2019.

Were there definitely, irrefutably, any so called 'komusō'- and "Fuke Shakuhachi" temples" in existence during at least the 6th to 7th decades of the 17th century?
No, no positive evidence, whatsoever. Simply impossible!

The earliest fully reliable reference is a document apparently issued by the Edo 'komusō' "temple" Reihō-ji, font, 鈴法寺, in mid-1677.

Is it in any way possible that the Keichō no jōsho, 慶長掟書, "Ordinance of the Keichō Period" (1596-1615), allegedly formulated and signed by the first Tokugawa shōgun Ieyasu, could have been created in 1614 (Berger 2001 quoted by Day 2013)?
No, plainly speaking: simply impossible! That document is a forgery which has been copied and elaborated upon many times throughout history!

Is there any evidence that the first version of the Keichō no jōsho, 慶長掟書, could possibly have been produced exactly in 1614?

We do not even know how the first version of the (constructed) document looked like.
Acc. to Max Deeg, the oldest surviving version of a Keichō no jōsho is dated as late as 1792 (Deeg 2007:27).

However, we do know that some early version of this mysterious and utterly controversial document was indeed in existence during the period of 1681-1685 when the daimyō Inaba Masamichi (Inaba Masamori, 1640-1707) was in office as Temple and Shrine Magistrate (Mikami (2) 1902:66-67; Linder 2012:23).

Is it true - as claimed by Takahashi Kūzan (Takahashi 1979: 31) - that the music treatise Taigenshō, 虚無僧, 1512, contains a poem in Chinese composed by the famous medieval monk and poet Ikkyū Sōjun, 一休宗純, 1394-1481, that reads like this?:


Possible translation:

"When one has cut off Dualism [lit.: "the twin heads"], the essence of the shakuhassun
transcends Past and Present.
That one melody [or, "music"] blowing forth
of a Mind of Impermanence [Mujōshin no ikkyoku],
exceeds the deepest of friendships
beyond limit."
No, here Takahashi sensei certainly appears to have manipulated the actual information given in the Taigenshō;, Maki 5, section about the 'shakuhachi', which looks like this:

Taigensho Maki 5 page 631   Taigensho Maki 5 page 630

Taigenshō, 1933 edition, Maki 5, pp. 631 & 630 respectively

Link to online version of the Taigenshō 1933 edition Vol. 2 at
- Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library, University of Toronto

Go to pages 252 & 253 in the PDF, respectively

Translation of the Taigenshō quotation:




'When one has cut off Dualism,
that surpasses the deepest of friendship, beyond limit.'

And, it has been said,
a person called Kyōgen composed this.

'The music [or the joint?] of the shakuhachi ennobles the row of circular holes;
He searches out a place in the vicinity of Uji;
The single, lonely voice blows to descent the Twin Tower Moon;
Among a million soldiers you hear it - but do not see.'"

     In the 'Taigenshō', maki 5, chapter on Shakuhachi.
     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2010.
     Source: Toyohara/Masamune, 1933, vol. 2, pp. 630-631.

Truly, Ikkyū Sōjun is also well known under his literary artist name Kyōun, 狂雲, "Crazy Cloud".
In the Taigenshō, however, the name of the author of the poem(s) is given as Kyōgen, 狂言, "Crazy Words", which is in fact the name of a specific form of medieval Japanese theatre that originated during the 15th century in connection with the theatre.

In fact, a very similar version of the poem about "cutting off Dualism" is contained in the kyōgen piece Rakuami, 楽阿弥, which is possibly the oldest piece in the kyōgen repertory.

Furthermore, yet another version of that poem is to be seen on a painting of the flute player Rōan, 朗庵, that was, allegedly, created in 1477.

It remains a fact that the role of Ikkyū Sōjun in the history of early Fuke Shakuhachi and "Zen Shakuhachi" in general is being greatly exaggerated, be that both in and outside of Japan.

Did Ikkyū Sōjun really use the 'shakuhachi' "prominently in his practice" and write poetry "about its meditative qualities" (Rubin 2009:223)?
No, there is absolutely nothing in any of Ikkyū's poems that indicates that he may have been using a 'shakuhachi' specifically as a "tool of meditation"!

Can it really be that the early 'komosō', 薦僧, of the 15th century were "Zen practitioners"?
No, they were much more likely lay "monks" practicing and preaching various popular forms of Pure Land Buddhism (or even Shingon Buddhism ... ?)!

What is going on in present-day socalled "academic" shakuhachi research, writing and publishing activity?

Were there any 'komosō' in existence in the thirteenth century and did they possibly look like this (acc. to Wong 2014:66)?:

Root-end shakuhachi-playing komusō in the 'Ukiyo monogatari', 1661

No, so very certainly not. There were no so called 'komosō' in existence in the thirteenth century.
The picture shown by Dr. Wong Wah-sang (Associate Professor at the University of Hong Kong) in his 2014 article is dated as late as 1661, printed in the Edo Period publication Ukiyo monogatari, 浮世物語, "Tales from the Floating World", by Asai Ryōi, 浅井了意 1612-1691 (Ueno 2002: 218).

Did the medieval 'komosō', 薦僧, become extinct towards the end of the 16th century?
No, we certainly know from the Kaidō honsoku, 海道本則, document, dated 1628, that 'komosō' must still have been active during the first three, or even four, decades of the 17th century.

Were there any socalled 'komusō', in Japan before, say 1640?
No, the oldest existing document in which the three characters 虚無僧 appear is in a quite personal letter from the renowned Rinzai Zen Abbot Isshi Bunshu (1608-1646) to a 'komusō' named Sandō Mugetsu, 山道無月, being dated to 1646.

Is it any way possible that Abbot Isshi's letter to Sandō Mugetsu could have been written as early as in 1598 (Linder 2012:151)?
No, Isshi Bunshu was born as much as 10 years later, in 1608, and died in 1646.

It is true that - acc. to a genealogy and death register of the Reihō-ji in Edo, dated 1841 - a certain Sandō Mugetsu, 山道無月, is said to have died in 1598 (Keichō 3, Nakatsuka 1979:113). However, the part of the register covering the period before 1677, or so, is definitely a completely unreliable fabrication.

Could the original Kyotaku denki, 虚鐸伝記, "History of the Imitated Bell", have been written before Abbot Isshi's letter to Sandō Mugetsu?
No! To be elaborated in due time ...

Could the legend about Hottō Kokushi, 法燈国師, returning to Japan (in 1254) together with four Buddhist laymen have been in existence already in 1628?
No! Although at first sight the reprinted versions of the Kaidō honsoku document of 1628 open with one sentence (headline) written in kanbun that carries that piece of information, that sentence has obviously been added to the scroll at a considerably later date.

Do we know with any probability whether Ton'ō, 遁翁, alleged author of the original Kyotaku denki text, was a "Zen Buddhist monk"?

Was Myōan-ji, 明暗寺, the first Myōan Temple in Kyōto - as being claimed so very often - established by a certain Kyochiku Ryōen Zenji, 虚竹了円禅師?

Kyochiku is not a historical person at all - he can never have lived and was, apparently, "invented" as late as during the early 1700s!
Quite reliably, Myōan-ji's actual founder (at best, possibly sometime during the later decades of the 17th century?) was Chūkō Engetsu Ryōgen Zagen, 中興淵月了源座元, who is recorded to have died in the 8th year of the Genroku Period, i.e. in 1695.
For your info: chūkō means "restorer" - of a temple, in this case.

Is it known from any known, surviving 17th century Fuke Shakuhachi related text that the 'komusō' used the 'shakuhachi' flute for "meditation", specifically?
No, such "evidence" is completely non-existant!

Is it possible that the very first 'shakuhachi' "came to Japan from China in the 3rd century AD" and that "Over that time it has been used extensively by Zen monks for meditation" (Abbot:
No, neither of these claims can be confirmed to be "true"!

Are the oldest existing 'shakuhachi' in Japan those being preserved in the Shōsōin treasury in Nara, dating from the mid-8th century?
No, quite probably not! It is actually possible that a shakuhachi having survived among the treasures of the temple Hōryū-ji in Nara is even older.

Did the Tendai Buddhist monk Ennin, 圓仁 (posthum.: Jikaku Taishi, 793/794-866), who travelled and studied extensively in T'ang China from 838 through 847 ever really "play" or "accompany the reciting of" the Amida Sutra on a shakuhachi (Linder 2012:98; Rubin 2009:222-223)?
No, that's impossible - and a myth, too!

The anecdote in question doesw actually read as follows:

「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 only have employed the instrument mainly for intonation.
     This anecdote is also reported in the Taigenshō of 1512.

Did Ennin found "a monastery at Tōfuku-ji (Tōfuku Temple) in Kyōtō which in the seventeen[th] century would allow the komusō to set up a sub-temple called Myōan-ji (明暗寺 - also called Meian-ji)" (Wong 2014:66; Philip Horan,
No, of course he did not!

Ennin was a Tendai Buddhist monk who lived from 793/794 to 866.
The Rinzai Zen temple Tōfuku-ji, 東福寺, in SE Kyōto was founded only in 1236.
It was not Ennin, but Enni Ben'en, (圓爾辯圓, Chinese: Yuan'er Bian-yuan, 1202–1280), who was put in charge of founding the Tōfuku-ji!

Did the Buddhist monk Kakua, 覺阿, ever play a bamboo flute face to face with Emperor Takakura, 高倉 (r. 1168-1180), in the late 12th century?
No ... no way - that's just another myth, fabricated only centuries later!

"Negative answers" to be continued - stay posted, when you like ...


Books & Articles:

Donald P. Berger & David W. Hughes: 'Shakuhachi'.
     In: The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition,
     ed. Sadie Stanley and J. Tyrrell (London: Macmillan, 2001): Vol. 12, 831–836.

Christopher Blasdel & Kamisangō Yūkō:
     The Shakuhachi. A Manual for Learning.
     Printed Matter Press, Tokyo, 1986, 2008.

C. R. Boxer: The Christian Century in Japan, 1549-1650.
     Carcarnet Press Limited, Manchester, 1993.
     First published in 1951 by The University of
     California Press & the Cambridge University Press.

William Bramsen: Japanese Chronological Tables.
     Printed at the "Seishi Bunsha" office, Tokyo, 1880.

Kiku Day: 'The Effect of Meiji Government Policy on Traditional
     Japanese Music: The case of the shakuhachi.'
     In: 'Nineteenth Century Music Review', Cambridge,
     Volume 10, Issue 02, pp 265-292,
     Cambridge University Press, December 2013.

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.

Gunsho Ruijū, Vol. 28. First published in 1733 by Hanawa Hokiichi.
     Zoku Gunsho Ruijū Kankōkai, Tokyo, 1933.

Andreas Gutzwiller: Die Shakuhachi der Kinko-Schule.
     Bärenreiter - Kassel, Basel, London, 1983.

Hori Ichirō: 'On the Concepot of Hijiri (Holy Man).'
     In: Numen 5, 2 (April), pp. 128-160; Numen 5, 3 (September), pp. 199-232, 1958.

Nam-lin Hur: "Death and Social Order in Tokugawa Japan:
     Buddhism, Anti-Christianity, and the Danka System."
     Harvard East Asian Monographs 282, Harvard University Asia
     Center, Cambridge, Mass. & London, 2007, 550 pages.

Ide Yukio: 'Chūse shakuhachi tsuikō'.
     In: Research reports of the Kōchi University. Humanities.
     Vol. 41, 1-10, Kōchi, 1992-12-27.

Henry Johnson: The Shakuhachi. Roots and Routes.
      Published by Brill, Leiden & Boston, 2014.

Kamisango Yūkō: Shakuhachi gaku ryakushi: suizen no rikai no tame ni.,
      "An Abbreviated history of the shakuhachi instrument;
      towards an understanding of blowing Zen."
      In descriptive notes from 'Suizen: Chikuho ryū ni miru Fuke shakuhachi no keifu',
      "Blowing Zen: the Fuke shakuhachi lineage in the Chikuho ryū."
      Nippon Columbia LP recording KX 7001-3: pp. 9-22, Tokyo, 1974.

Jay Keister: 'The Shakuhachi as Spiritual Tool: A Japanese Buddhist Instrument in the West.'
     In: Asian Music, Vol. 35, No. 2. (2004).

Kishibe Shigeo: The Traditional Music of Japan.
     Kokusai Bunko Shinkokai, Tokyo, 1966.

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: Section on Music.

Kurihara Kōta: Shakuhachi Shikō. Chikuyūsha, Tokyo, 1918.

Kurihara Kōta: Shakuhachi Shikō. Chikuyūsha, Tokyo, 1975.

Riley Kelly Lee: Yearning for the Bell: A Study of
     Transmission in the Shakuhachi Honkyoku Tradition.
     Ph.D. thesis, University of Sidney, 1993.

Gunnar Jinmei Linder:
     Deconstructing Tradition in Japanese Music. A Study of Shakuhachi,
     Historical Authenticity and Transmission of Tradition.
     Ph.d. dissertation, Department of Oriental Languages,
     Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden, 2012.

William P. Malm: Japanese Music and Musical Instruments.
     1st edition. Tokyo, New York & London, 1959.

William P. Malm: Traditional Japanese Music and Musical Instruments.
     New edition. Tokyo, New York & London, 2000.

Dan E. Mayers, editor: Annals of the International Shakuhachi Society. Vol. 1.
     Sussex, England: The International Shakuhachi Society, 1990.

Dan E. Mayers, editor: Annals of the International Shakuhachi Society. Vol. 2.
     The International Shakuhachi Society, 2005.

Mikami Sanji: 'Fuke-shū ni tsuite'.
     In: Shigaku zasshi 13, no. 4, 1902, pp. 61-76,
     & Shigaku zasshi 13, no. 5, 1902, pp. 64-82.

Michel Mohr: 'Zen Buddhism during the Tokugawa period: the challenge to go beyond sectarian consciousness.'
     In: Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 21/4, 1994, pp. 341-372
     Download link:

Nakatsuka Chikuzen: 'Fuke-shŌ no seiritsu.'
     In Sankyoku No. 188, Tokyo, Nov. 1937, pp. 20-31.

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.
     Azekura Shobō,, Tokyo, 1956.

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.

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, Denmark, 1987.
     Purchasable at

Torsten Olafsson: 'Kaidō Honsoku, 1628: The Komosō's Fuke Shakuhachi Credo -
     On Early 17th Century Ascetic Shakuhachi Ideology.'
     In: Dan E. Mayers, editor: Annals of the International Shakuhachi Society. Vol. 2.
     The International Shakuhachi Society, 2005, pp. 138-155.

Edmond Papinot: Historical and geographical dictionary of Japan,
     with an introduction to the new ed. by Terence Barrow.
     Tuttle Publishing, Rutland, Vermont, 1989.

Edmond Papinot: Dictionnaire japonais-francais des noms principaux de
     l'histoire et de la g?ographie du Japon suivi de
     17 appendices sur les empereurs, shōgun, nengō,
     sectes bouddhistes, provinces, d?partements, mesures, etc.
     Hongkong, 1899.

Francis T. Piggott: The Music and Musical Instruments of Japan
     with notes ny T.L. Southgate. London, 1893, 1909, 1969.

Edgar W. Pope: 'The Shakuhachi, the Fuke-shū, and the Scholars : a historical controversy.'
     In: Journal of Hokusei Gakuen Women's Junior College 36, 31-44,
     Hokusei Gakuen University, Sapporo, 2000.
     Download URL:

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.

Lauren Nagaryu Rubin: The Shakuhachi and the Didjeridu :
     two case studies of historical iconology, performance practice
     and their relation to avian respiration and song.
     Ph.D. Monash University. Faculty of Arts. School of Music – Conservatorium, 2009.
     Download from:

James H. Sanford: 'Shakuhachi Zen. The Fukeshū and Komusō.'
     In: Monumenta Nipponica XXXII, 4. Sophia University, Tokyo, 1977.

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.

The SAT Daizōkyō Text Database. University of Tokyo.

Norman Stanfield: The Kinko-ryū and its San Koten Honkyoku.
     M.A. thesis, University of British Columbia, 1977.

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.
     The Florida State University, 1990. Purchasable at:

Takeda Kyōson: Komusō: Sei to zoku no igyōsha-tachi,
     "Komusō: Odd People of the Sacred and the Worldly."
     Sanitsu Shobō, Tōkyō, 1997.

Tomimori Kyozan: Myōan Shakuhachi Tsūkai.
     Myōan Kyozan Bōdōyūkai, Tokyo, 1979.

Tonomura Hitomi: 'Forging the Past: Medieval Counterfeit Documents.'
     Monumenta Nipponica 40, 1, 1985, pp. 69-96.

Paul Yachita Tsuchihashi: Japanese Chronologicqal Tables
     from 601 to 1872 A.D.
     Sophia University Press, Tokyo, 1952.

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:

Tsukitani Tsuneko, Seyama Tōru & Simura Satoshi:
     'The Shakuhachi: The Instrument and its Music,
     Change and Diversification.'
     In: 'Contemporary Music Review', 1994, Vol. 8, Issue 2,
     pp. 103-129. Translated by Riley Kelly Lee.
     Link to free download:

Tsukitani Tsuneko: 'The Shakuhachi and its music.' Pages 145-168
     in: The Ashgate Research Companion to Japanese Music.
     SOAS Musicology Series. 466 pages.
     Publ. by Ashgate Publishing Group, England & USA, 2008.

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.

Wong Wah-Sang: 'The Music of Buddha Nature - Blowing Zen on the Shakuhachi.'
     In: International Journal of Humanities and Social Science,
     Vol. 4, No. 8, June 2014, pp. 64-80.
     Link to online PDF:

Yamaguchi Masayoshi: Shakuhachi-shi gaisetsu.
     Shuppan Geijutsu-sha, Tokyo, 2005.

Reinhard Zöllner: Japanische Zeitrechnung.
     Iudicium Verlag, München, 2003.

Western Websites & Webpages Investigated (list to be further expanded):

Carl Abbott -

Oliver Aumann -

David J. Duncavage: "A Brief History of the Shakuhachi" -

European Shakuhachi Society: "History" -

Fuke Shakuhachi: "Fuke Shakuhachi" -

Philip Horan: "Shakuhachi Zen" -

The International Shakuhachi Society: "Nezasa Ha/Kimpu Ryū" -

The International Shakuhachi Society: "Taizan Ha" -

Riley Kelly Lee - -

Gunnar Jinmei Linder -

Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos: "Shakuhachi" -

Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos: "Honkyoku" -

Stan Richardson -

Lauren Rubin -

Shakuhachi Webseite -

John Singer -

Norman Stanfield -

Justin Senryu Williams -

WikiPedia, English: "Fuke-shū" -

WikiPedia, English: "Komusū" -

WikiPedia, English: "Shakuhachi" -

Japanese Websites & Webpages Visited (list to be considerably expanded):

The SAT Daizōkyō Text Database. University of Tokyo.

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