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The "Zen Shakuhachi" Historical Evidence Research Web Pages

Introduction & Critical Guide to the Study and Substantiation of Early Ascetic Shakuhachi Historical Chronology,
Terminology & Etymology of Concepts, Ideology, Iconology & Practices in Particular

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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About this Research Project

Preliminary Realizations & Conclusions

The Chinese Ch'an Monk P'u-k'o, the Komosō Beggars
     & the Imperialistic Catholic Christian Intruders
     - the Rōnin Samurai, the Fuke-Komosō, the Komusō
     & the Kyōto Myōan Temple - an Unbiased Narrative

The Amazing Fuke Zenji / Fuke Shakuhachi /
     Fuke-shū Legend Fabrication Hoax

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

Highlighted Illustrations

1549 ... The Catholic Christian Century in Japan
     & the Temple Patron Household System

Ascetic Shakuhachi Ideology
     and the Realization of The Non-Dual
     - Highlighted Quotations

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

Various Errors, Misconceptions & Loose Ends

Wikipedia: Inaccuracies & Misunderstandings
     about 'Komusō', 'Fuke-shū', 'Suizen' et cetera

The Source Collections

The Japanese Written Sources - An Overview

Texts, Quotations & Illustrations
     A Chronological Panorama

 •  INDIA - 1 web page

 •  CHINA - 2 web pages

 •  JAPAN - 8 web pages

 •  The WEST - 1 web page

Research Cases of Particular Significance,
     Real Importance & Special Concern

ERA of the KOMOSŌ - The "Mat Monks"

     c. 1450 to c. 1550

1470s?: The Dance-kyōgen Play Rakuami

1474: Tōyō Eichō and Ikkyū Sōjun at the
     Inauguration of the Rebuilt Daitoku Temple, Kyōto

1494 & 1501: Two Enchanting Muromachi Period
     Poetry Contest Picture Scrolls

1512: The Taigenshō Court Music Treatise


     c. 1550 to c. 1628?

The Komosō & Fuke-sō / Fuke-komosō Sources

1550-1560: The Early Setsuyō-shū Dictionaries

1614: The Keichō kenmon-shū Short Story Book:
     The Fuke-komosō in Hachiō-ji, West of Edo City

1621-1625: The Neo-Confucian Scholar Hayashi Razan
     on the Shakuhachi, Komosō and Related Matters

1623: Anrakuan Sakuden's Encounter
     with a Wandering Fuke-komosō

1627-1629: Takuan Sōhō, the Purple Robe Affair, the
     Concept of 'Mu-shin Mu-nen' and the Myōan sōsō-shū

1628: The Kaidō honsoku Fuke-komosō Credo

     "Monks of the Non-Dual & None-ness"

     c. 1628? to 1871

The Early Komusō-related Texts
     - from c. 1628? to c. 1750

1628?: A "Fuke Shakuhachi" related Murder Case
     in the Province of Tosa on the Island of Shikoku?

1637-1640: The Shimabara Uprising on Kyūshū,
     the National "Sects Inspection Bureau", and the
     Efficient Extinction of Catholic Christian Believers

c. 1640?: The Kaidō honsoku "Version 2" Copy

1640?: Is a Very Early "Komusō Temple" built
     in Nagasaki on the Island of Kyūshū?

c. 1640?: The Strange Butsu-gen Komusō Document

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

1646 ... The Hottō Kokushi / Kakushin Legend:
     "The Four Buddhist Laymen" & the "disciple" Kichiku

1650s?: The Kaidō honsoku "Version 3" Copy

The Kyōto/Kansai Sources

1659?: A Falsely Dated Myōan-ji Document Revealed

1664: The Shichiku shoshinshū Music Treatise

c, 1665-1675?: The Kyotaku denki Fairy Tale:
     Shinchi Kakushin, Kichiku & Kyōto Myōan-ji

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

1687: The Jōkyō 4, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Komusō Set of Rules

c. 1685-1690: The Yōshū fu-shi
     & Jinrin kinmō zu-i - Evidence of Kyōto Myōan-ji

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 Administrator
     Kandō Ichiyū's Letter about 'Sankyorei-fu',
     the "Three Non-Dual Spirit Music Pieces"

1751: The Keichō 19/1614 Komusō Certificate
     The Many Different All Fabricated Versions

1752: Kyōto Myōan-ji Founder Engetsu
     Ryōgen's 23 Fixed Rules for the Komusō

1795: The Kyotaku denki kokujikai Source Book

1816: Miyaji Ikkan's Shakuhachi hikki Book

1823: Hisamatsu Fūyō's Hitori mondō a.o. texts

The Kiyū shōran Encyclopedia
     on 'Komosō' & 'Shakuhachi'

Post-Edo & Post-WW2 Period History Sources & Matters
     The Re-Writing & Re-Falsification
     of "Fuke Shakuhachi" Narratives

1 - MEIJI PERIOD till the mid-20th CENTURY


1871? (1843-44): The Komusō zakki
     Source Collection

From 1879 ... 1896-1914:
     The Koji ruien Historical Encyclopedia

1890: Higuchi Taizan - Teaching, the "Myōan Society",
     and the Taizan-ha Tradition of Shakuhachi Asceticism

1902: Mikami Sanji's Critical Article
     'Fuke-shū ni tsuite', "About the Fuke Sect"

Early 20th Century Historians & Musicians, Japan:
     Kurihara Kōta, Uramoto Setchō,
     Nakatsuka Chikuzen, Tanikita Mujiku,
     Tomimori Kyozan, Ikeda Jūzan a.o.

1931-1932: Tokugawa kinreikō - A Source Collection
     of Tokugawa Period Prohibition Laws


     1945 ...

1950: "The Myōan Temple of the True Fuke Sect"
     Inauguration at Tōfuku Temple in SE Kyōto

1950s: Yasuda Tenzan, Hirazumi Taizan & 'Suizen'

1960: Uramoto Setchō's Essay about
     'Gyō no ongaku': "Music of Asceticism"

Shakuhachi Historianship in Japan Today?:
     The "Traditionalists" and the "Truth Tellers"

The Legacy of the Late Myōan Taizan-ha Teachers
     Yoshimura Fuan Sōshin & Ozawa Seizan

3 - POST-WW2 till TODAY: The WEST

     1945 ...

1945 ... : Some Early Post-WW2 Shakuhachi Narratives
     Written and Published in Western Languages

Translations of Shakuhachi Source Texts
     published in the West / Outside of Japan
     including the Internet / WWW
      - The Translators

Literature / References


Profile / Bio / CV

Contact Info

c. 1665-1675?: The Kyotaku denki Fairy Tale is Born?
     Shinchi Kakushin, Kichiku, Kyochiku & Kyōto Myōan-ji

虚鐸伝記 - Kyotaku denki

"Record of the History of the Imitated (or, False) Bell"

Anonymous, no known exact date. Most probably created by mid-17th century early Kyōto komusō sometime during the late 1660s and the early 1670s.

Source: Complete text reprinted in Nakatsuka 1979, pp. 123-125 - see scanned pages in the below.
Besides, one edition of the text can be found in an early 20th century Japanese publication preserved at the Japanese National Diet Library in Tokyo, and in 1981 the original version of the 'Kyotaku denki' was made available in a book edited by Kowata Suigetsu - more info below.

Important clarification:

'Kyotaku denki' and 'Kyotaku denki kokujikai' are not "the same"!

'Kyotaku denki', 虚鐸伝記, is a text composed in the so called 'kanbun', 漢文, literary style, Chinese writing, while 'Kyotaku denki kokujikai', 虚鐸伝記国字解, is a Japanese publication dated 1795, in which the 'Kyotaku denki' is presented in both the original and also "translated" into then contemporary classical Japanese "mixed script": 'kana-majiri', 仮名混じり, for easier appreciation.

The times and creation of the 'Kyotaku denki' fairy-tale?:

Why and when was the 'Kyotaku denki' faked history ever thought out and put into writing?

With the formation in 1640 of the "Bureau of Sects Investigation", 'Shūmon aratame-yaku',
宗門改役, those numerous unemployed samurai who had previously identified themselves as freely operating, non-attached 'mat monk' begging "followers" of Monk Fuke of China, were suddenly facing a new, harsh reality:

In order to produce convincing evidence and proof that they were not seriously suspicious secret Christian converts and thus potential traitors in hiding they had to create some religious institution with a proper ideological superstructure that made them appear as true devotees of the respected, well-established Buddhist faith of Japan.

Well, already in the mid-16th century, the 'mat monks', the komosō, are known to have adopted the 9th century Buddhist monk P'u-k'o, a.k.a. Fuke, as some special kind of an "idol", a "spiritual ancestor" of theirs.

But, on the other hand, there was no heritage, no link whatsoever, back through all those 800 years that had passed since the days of Fuke's alleged lifetime till the mid-1600s, when the foreign Western missionaries had finally been thrown out of Japan, in 1639 - and the 'komosō' had to become 'komusō'.

Therefore, the "History of the Imitated Bell", the 'Kyotaku denki', had to be constructed, in order to establish the missing proper, cultured, and honorable legacy of the new komusō's shakuhachi mendicancy activity - though only supposedly having survived "since times of old":

First of all, we realize that fancy titles of three "sacred" pieces of flute music had to be invented, namely 'Kyorei', 'Kokū', and 'Mukaiji'.
That is to say, we do not know that any of these pieces were in existence before being mentioned in the Kyotaku denki.

Of course, the mid-17th century very first komusō must have favored some kind of shakuhachi music repertory. But the only few such music titles that we know from Nakamura Sōsan's 1664 writings do not express any "Zennish spiritual overtones", at all.

Now, Fuke Zenji certainly did not play the shakuhachi himself. So, one invented a completely never having existed secular (non-cleric) Chinese family named "Chang", Jap.: "Chō, , in order to have 'Kyorei', the mythical 'Imitated Bell' tune, transmitted up through the centuries.

16 Family Chang generations of supposed continuous transmission later, allegedly, 'Kyorei' was still alive and well in China in the middle of the 13th century.
Can you believe that?

How then could the 'Kyorei' tune ever reach and spread even further in Japan until this very day today?

Oh, yes: Accidentally so, the renowned Japanese Shingon Buddhist monk Shinchi Kakushin actually happened to be studying Zen Buddhism in China while 'Kyorei' still flourished in the Chang family. Kakushin got well acquainted with the Chang descendant, became deeply impressed with the 'Kyorei' piece, learned to play the music well, and then returned to Japan, in 1254. According to the story, that is ...

Do remember: That is of course a legend, a myth: Kakushin, later honored with the name Hottō Kokushi, certainly never had anything to do with the shakuhachi in the 13th century. Kakushin was simply adopted, if not even "taken hostage" you might say, by the mid-17h century komusō in order to establish a sufficiently prominent "Zen Buddhist" link back to Fuke Zenji himself.

We know from the evidence supplied by the Kaidō honsoku document of 1628 that the komosō at that time "boasted" of having as many as 16 branches of their Fuke-inspired shakuhachi beggar brotherhood. Noteworthily, the names of some of those local 1628 groups certainly re-appear in the names of some of the sub branches of the later so called "Fuke Sect" of the komusō "organization", like for example 'Yoritake'/'Kichiku', 'Umeji', 'Kinsen', and 'Kaka'.

Of course, those probably quite significant sub groups of early ex-komosō komusō had to create their own separate old and honorable heritages, which is why the Kyotaku denki also introduced the "Four Buddhist Laymen", 'shi-koji', 四居士: All of them Chinese natives, who - goes the narrative - accompanied Shinchi Kakushin on his ship on his return to Japan in 1254.

Next, according to a couple of separate written later elaborations of the legend, the lines of those four lay Buddhist 'Kyorei' players multiplied by 4 into a total of 16 - that very same number of sub groups that we read about in the Kaidō honsoku of 1628.

So far, so good, you may now think. But: No! The real "coup" embedded in the Kyotaku denki narrative is that of introducing yet another totally made-up personality, namely that of the Japanese native named 'Kichiku', 寄竹, the kanji of which can also be pronounced as 'yori-take',meaning "collect bamboo".

The Kyotaku denki describes Kichiku as Kakushin's most gifted and favored student, and as we know that Kichiku was later re-baptized 'Kyochiku' and made the founder of the Kyōto Myōan Temple, we can nothing but conclude that the Kyotaku denki was first of all fabricated in order to legitimize and glorify that very important and famous so called komusō "temple" in the old Imperial capital Kyōto of Japan.

To be continued and further elaborated ...

Publications and one 1977 English translation:

Yamamoto Morihide, compiler and author: Kyotaku denki kokujikai.
     Original Kyōto edition published in 1795.

     1925 edition publ. by Rakubundō c/o The National Diet Library.

     Modern version edited by Kowata Suigetsu,
     216 pages, Nihon ongaku-sha, Tokyo, 1981.
     National Diet Library bibliographical information, link:

Tsuge Gen'ichi: 'The History of the Kyotaku.'
     In: Asian Music, Vol. VIII, 2. New York, 1977.
     Link to online PDF file:

OBS: Do note that, most certainly conceived and produced by - and for the benefit of - early komusō who later created the Kyōto Myōan-ji, the Kyotaku denki text does not mention any "Fuke Sect", Fuke-shū, 普化宗, at all!

Printed with rendering in common classical Japanese in Kyōto in 1795 - see link to an online copy of that publication in the National Diet Library, Tokyo, hewre:

Direct link to a copy of Kyotaku denki at The National Diet Library, Tōkyō
- go to frame 14 and onwards


三虚霊譜 - SAN-KYOREI-FU - The Three "Empty Spirit Notations"

It is well known that the legend of the Kyotaku, the "imitated bell", has, for long, been regarded as a forgery, or more precisely: A fabrication.

There can no more be any doubt that the text was primarily produced for the benefit and strengthened reputation of the Kyōto komusō and the somewhat later founded Myōan Temple in SE Kyōto.

The monk Ton'o, the alleged author of the text, is however reported to have been active during the late Kan'ei period (1624-1644), and judging from the subject matter of the story, it could although but only theoretically, have been composed already at that time.

It is, in any case, noteworthy, that central elements of the story about Hottō Kokushi, the four devoted men and Kyochiku (formerly Kichiku, in the Kyotaku denki) were in fact in existence at least in 1735, contained in the Myōan-ji document Kyorei-zan engi narabi-ni sankyorei-fu ben, see below.

- - -


"Gakushin [i.e.: Kakushin, alias Hottō Kokushi] studied the art of the kyotaku. As the days passed, he went to the heart of Zen philosophy and attained proficiency in the kyotaku;
finally he took leave of San [Kakushin's alleged kyotaku teacher Chōsan] (to return to Japan).
Gakushin left Hsü-Chow for Ming-Chow, where he unmoored his ship.
It was in the second year of the Sung Dynasty that he returned to Japan, where it was the sixth year of Kenchō, in the the reign of Emperor Gofukakasu."


"Thereafter, Gakushin confined himself in a mountain temple at Kōyasan, sometimes visiting the capital (Kyoto).
Years passed, and he founded a Buddhist temple named Saihōji in the province of Kishū [present-day Kōkoku-ji in Wakayama Pref.],
where he established his permanent abode.

- - -


"Among his numerous students, there was one called Kichiku. The more earnest he became in his devotion to Zen Buddhism, the more ardent was his admiration for his master.
Gakushin also took a more kindly interest in him than in other students.
One day Gakushin told Kichiku:"

以在宋之時伝 得虚鐸音今尚能調之、

"'When I was (studying) in the country of Sung, I was instructed in the kyotaku and I perform on it well even today.
I would like to initiate you in this flute in the hope that, as my successor, you will pass this art on to posterity.'
Kichiku, dancing for joy and expressing his gratitude, received instruction in this music and attained proficiency in the instrument. He took delight in playing it everyday untiringly."


"There were four more students - - Kokusaku, Risei, Hōfu and Sōjo - - who also learned this flute well. They were known to the world under the (collective) title Shikoji ("Four Devoted Men")."
- - -

     Quoted from the 'Kyotaku denki', trsl. by Tsuge Gen'ichi, 1977.
     Printed in Asian Music, Vol. VIII, 2. New York, 1977.
     The complete translation is available at:

Kyotaku denki, original text in kanbun-a.

Kyotaku denki, original text in kanbun-b.

Kyotaku denki, original text in kanbun-c.

Kyotaku denki, original text in kanbun. Source: Nakatsuka 1979, pp. 123-125.

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