「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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Komosō - 15th century

'Komosō' shakuhachi lay-monk
In: 'Sanjūniban shokunin
Edo period copy
Source: Ueno, 1984

Boro - 15th century

'Boro' nenbutsu lay-monk
In: 'Shichijūichi-ban
shokunin uta-awase'
Edo period copy
Source: Ueno, 1983

Boro - 15th century

'Boro' nenbutsu lay-monk
In: 'Shichijūichi-ban
shokunin sta-awase'
Edo period copy
Source: Gunsho Ruijū, Vol. 28

Boro - 15th century

'Boro' nenbutsu lay-monk
In: 'Shichijūichi-ban
shokunin uta-awase'
Edo period copy
Source: Nakatsuka, 1979

Boro - 15th century

'Boro' nenbutsu lay-monk
In: 'Shichijūichi-ban
shokunin uta-awase'
Edo period copy
Source: Kurihara, 1975

Komosō - Mat Monk


Komosō - 15th century

'Komosō' shakuhachi lay-monk
In: 'Sanjūniban shokunin
uta-awase emaki'
Edo period copy
Source: NKBZ, 1976

Biwa-hōshi - 15th century

"Biwa-hōshi" - (blind) lute monk
In: 'Shichijūichi-ban
shokunin uta-awase'
Edo period copy
Source: Ueno, 1984

Hitoyogiri and pan-pipes - 15th century

'Hitoyogiri' (short shakuhachi)
and 12 pitch pipes
(detail of the above)
In: 'Shichijūichi-ban
shokunin uta-awase'
Edo period copy
Source: Ueno, 1984

Biwa-hōshi - 15th century

'Biwa-hōshi' - (blind) lute monk
In: In: 'Shichijūichi-ban
shokunin uta-awase'
Edo period copy
Source: Gunsho Ruijū, Vol. 28

'Hitoyogiri' shakuhachi, 1512

'Hitoyogiri' shakuhachi
In: 'Taigenshō', 1512
Source: Koji Ruien


JAPAN 3 • 1477-1560

2600 BCE - 800 CE
China 1
6000 BCE - 500 CE
China 2
500 CE ...
Japan 1
600 - 1233
Japan 2
1233 - 1477
Japan 3
1477 - 1560
Japan 4
1560 - 1614
Japan 5
1614 - 1664
Japan 6
1664 - 1767
Japan 7
1767 - 1883
Japan 8
1883 ...
The West
1298 ...

1477-1560 - The ERA of the ORIGINAL KOMO-SŌ



Is this really a "genuine work of art"?

Portrait of Rōan - hanging scroll attributed to Shōkei, late 15th century   Rōan - detail of hanging scroll attributed to Shōkei, late 15th century

Picture of Rōan Playing a Flute
Painting attributed to the Zen monk and painter Shōkei,
aka Kei Shoki, "Clerksman Kei", who was active
during the last two decades of the 1400s and died in 1518.
In the collection of the late Kowata Suigetsu 木幡吹月, 1901-1983

Rōan - detail of hanging scroll attributed to Shōkei, late 15th century

Another Picture of Rōan Playing a Flute discovered on the internet, uncommented.
If you study and compare this picture closely with the two smaller ones above it you will soon realize that they are actually quite different!
How can this be? Which of them is the original - which is a copy?
Are they both falsifications?

If this were indeed a genuine painting, more than 500 years old, it would have been created sometime between 1467, when the renowned painter monk Kenkō Shōkei, 賢江祥啓, was appointed clerksman/calligrapher at the Kenchō Zen Temple in Kamakura, and 1477, when the shakuhachi hermit Rōan supposedly added his short anecdote, his Chinese style 4-line 7-syllable poem, and the place and date, at the top of this quite mysterious hanging scroll.

It has so far been impossible to locate a proper high resolution picture of the painting which includes the written text. Acc. to an internet web page (see link below) the hanging scroll is reproduced in the Nihon-ga taisei, 日本画大成, "A Compilation of Japanese Painting", 1931, Vol. 3, Plate 66.

Fortunately, the shakuhachi scholar Ueno Katami appears to have had access to the original painting (or a good reproduction) and he has presented the complete text in his book Shakuhachi no rekishi, "History of the Shakuhachi", published in 2002 (revised and enlarged edition, first publ. in 1983), on page 153.

Whether this painting attributed to Shōkei is actually "a fabrication", or not, let us appreciate the story and its sincere message for all it is worth, anyway:

以って 紙上に写し、而して予に給す。

"While I [Rōan] was performing a pilgrimage along the Kobuku Road in Sōshū [Sagami, mod. Kanagawa Pref.] I entered the Hōju Hermitage at the Kenchō Zen Temple in [Kamakura] and rested my feet.
The clerksman there, Shōkei the Hermit, noticed my very strange appearance, then rendered [my portrait] on paper and, eventually, bestowed it on me.
For this reason, I said that I would form an attachment, committing myself to [come and] play [the shakuhachi] at that place for years to come."


"When Dualism is cut off,
the shakuhachi dissolves the distinction between Past and Present.
That one unique Sound of Everlasting Impermanence
brings even the Purest of Wisdom [Skt.: Jnana] to an end,
without limit."

時に文明丁酉   秋   宇治の旧蘆に於いて   朗庵叟書

"The 9th year of Bunmei [1477] - Autumn -
Written among the old reeds of Uji by Rōan the Elder."

     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2010 & 2013.
     Source: Ueno, 2002, pp. 152-153.

     A rather poor version of the painting can be found here: &

     The poem is quite similar to poems preserved in
     various versions of the kyōgen play 'Rakuami'.

両頭 - RYŌTŌ - "Dualism"

Late 15th century?: The Kyōgen Play 'RAKUAMI'
- possibly the oldest piece in the kyōgen repertory.


"When both ends are cut, the Middle Way is clear;
One Breath through the flute joins past and present.
In three thousand leagues there will be none
Who understands an enlightened tone."

     Poem recited by the ghost of Rakuami
     in the dance-kyōgen play 'Rakuami',
     possibly late 15th or early 16th century.
     Translated by Carolyn M. Haynes, 1988, p. 271.


Late 15th century: TŌYŌ EICHŌ & 'SHŌRIN MUKUTEKI'

Portrait of Tōyō Eichō, late 15th century

Portrait of Tōyō Eichō, 1428-1504
Anonymous. Owned by Daisen-ji, Gifu Prefecture


Mukuteki mottomo fukigatashi.
"A Flute with No Holes is the most difficult to blow."

     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson.
     Source: Hori, 2003, p. 72 & p. 252.

The renowned Zen monk of the Myōshin-ji line of Rinzai Zen Tōyō Eichō, 東陽英朝, 1428-1504, was among the first to collect socalled "capping phrases" for kōan study.
The above cited phrase is but one among numerous such capping phrases presented in the Zenrin kushū collection by Ijūshi (n.d.), published in 1688.
It remains so far undetermined whether that particular capping phrase may actually have been contained in Tōyō Eichō's capping phrase collection Kuzōshi dating from the late 15th century.

In any case, Tōyō Eichō was the author of a most impressive literary work entitled Shōrin mukuteki, "The Shōrin Flute Without Holes", which was, eventually, published in 1709 (Hōei 6) in 6 volumes, edited by Ueda Shōshin.
A copy of that work is preserved at the Komazawa University Library.

The term mukuteki does in fact appear in quite a number of old Chinese & Japanese Buddhist texts - link to the SAT Daizōkyō Text Database

By the way, in Volume 1 of the Shōrin mukuteki, one finds a very interesting passage that mentions both Ikkyū Sōjun playing the shakuhachi - and: the grandeur of Priest Fuke whose Myō-An poem Ikkyū is known to have recited at the inauguration ceremony at Daitoku-ji in 1474.

Acc. to Tōyō Eichō, he actually witnessed Ikkyū Sōjun playing the (hitoyogiri?) shakuhachi in the Zen temple Daitoku-ji in Kyōto on that very day, in late 1474, when Ikkyū entered the Abbot's Quarters of the temple to become its rebuilder and restorer.
Tōyō Eichō recorded as follows,

- - -

"In the not cold Winter,
after the offering ceremony held on the third Day of the Dog after the Winter solstice [12th month, 1474],
I saw Abbot Ikkyū as he entered beneath the sign board of the Founder's Hall [of Daitoku Temple in Kyōto]
after its destruction [in the Ōnin War, 1467-1477].
- - -
Kyōun [Ikkyū's literary name] blew forth [the tune] Hōsanten, "Summit of the Treasure Mountain"."

Link to the full text in question: Shōrin mukuteki, Chapter 1.
That particular passage is so far awaiting a complete, final and fulfilling translation and commentary.

Daitsū-in, Shōkoku-ji, Kyōto

The Zen temple Ryūkyōzan Shōrin-ji in Kakamigahara, Gifu Prefecture
Tōyō Eichō who founded the temple in 1493 (Meiō 2)
lies buried here. Meiji Period drawing

By the way, the term mukuteki also appears in a literary work entitled Shakuhachi mei narabi ni jo, date 1505, "Shakuhachi Makers' Seals and Introduction", by the Rinzai Zen monk Kōrin (died 1536, Tenmon 5, 6th month, 14th day).
The text is reproduced in Nakatsuka, 1979, pp. 204-206.


Tōyō Eichō, 1428-1504, is appointed jū-ji, 住持, or "chief administrator" of the Zen temple Daitoku-ji i Kyōto.

      Source: Louis Frédéric, 2005, p. 170.


1484: Bunmei 16, 5th Lunar Month, 1st Day:

異つた節で 「太平楽」

"The court dancer Hisatoki was summoned to the Small Imperial Garden, and we had him play the shakuhachi.
Yabu and Ama no Kōji were also summoned, and at different occasions [they performed the dance] Taiheiraku and various other {dances], [that was] unusually joyful!"

     Quoted from the 'Oyudono no ue no nikki',
     "Journal of the Upper Hot Water Room".
     A diary of the events at the Imperial court, recorded by
     the ladies-in-waiting, covering the period 1477-1816.
     Source: Nishiyama, 1976, pp. 158-159.
     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson.





"Regarding the komosō, jugglers, and monkey keepers.
These are all to be expelled from this place as well as from the neighbouring villages."

     Quoted from the 'Ōuchi Uji okitegaki', "Recorded Commandments
      of the Ōuchi Clan", entry dated 1486. Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson.
     Source: NKDJ, Vol. 8, 1973-75.



"Picture Scroll Depicting a Poetry Contest on Thirty-two Professions"

"(uta:) Inmidst of the spring flowers - who should be disturbed by the blowing? It is not the wind but the shakuhachi of the komo.
(kotobagaki:) The samādhi of the komo-sō consists of putting a paper-cape around his shoulder, hanging a rice bowl at his hip going in front of the doors of the rich and the poor and playing the shakuhachi - they are of no other use."

     Quoted from the 'Sanjūni-ban shokunin uta-awase emaki,
     Muromachi Period (1333-1573) picture scroll,
     c. 1494. Trsl. by Max Deeg, 2007.

"Amidst spring flowers who should care that the wind blows?
It is not the wind but the shakuhachi of the komo."
"The komo-sō are absorbed in visiting the houses of both rich and poor,
begging and playing shakuhachi - that is all they can do."

     Quoted from the 'Sanjūniban shokunin uta-awase emaki',
     Muromachi Period (1333-1573) picture scroll,
     1494. Trsl. in Blasdel/Kamisangō, 1988.

Komosō in Sanjūni-ban shokunin utaawase emaki

Komosō in 'Sanjūni-ban shokunin uta-awase emaki'
Date of original: 1494. Kōsetsu-bon version.
Suntory Museum of Art, Tokyo.
Source: Wikipedia, Japan

Komosō in Sanjūni-ban shokunin utaawase emaki






No. 6. Right side. Kyomōsō [winning poem]:

'Even if he plays
when the cherries are in bloom,
everybody wants to evade him.
Unwelcome as the wind -
the Komo's shakuhachi.'

The Komosō is clad in paper meditation garments and a food bucket is tied to his loin. I doubt him to be a person who, besides approaching the gates of high and low, blowing the shakuhachi, has any other profession."

     Quoted from the 'Sanjūni-ban shokunin uta-awase emaki', 1494.
     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 1987.
     Source: Gunsho Ruijū, Vol. 28, 1933.

No. 22. Right side. Kyomōsō [losing poem]:




'That humble monk,
presenting his rice bowl
at miso shop and sake shop;
though modulating his voice,
the only alms he gets is - tea.'"

     Quoted from the 'Sanjūni-ban shokunin uta-awase emaki', 1494.
     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2011.
     Source: Yamaguchi Masayoshi, 2005, p. 119.

Komosō in Sanjūni-ban shokunin utaawase emaki

Komosō in 'Sanjūni-ban shokunin uta-awase emaki'
Tōhoku University Library, Kano Collection






Biwa-hōshi in Shichijūichi-ban shokunin utaawase emaki

Biwa-hōshi with a short single-noded shakuhachi and a panflute by his side
in 'Shichijūichi-ban shokunin utaawase emaki'
Date of original: 1501. Tōkyō National Museum



- - -

- - -

- - -
"Well now, Young Master [1 missing kanji] Shōrin favoured an extraordinary saying,
'That socalled Flute with No Holes is the music not of the nobleman, not of the merchant, nor of the clouds of falling plum blossoms in the capital.
The upper end accords to the Buddhism World;
the lower end represents Hearing at the Shore of the Diamond Realm [i.e. the "final realization of Mahavairocana Buddha"]. When first you understand that sound, your ears do not serve you hearing (it).'"
- - -

     Quoted from the essay 'Shakuhachi mei narabi ni jo',
     dated 1505, by the Tōfuku-ji Zen monk Kōrin,
     d. 1536. Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2011.
     Reprinted in: Nakatsuka Chikuzen, 1979, p. 204-206.

體源抄 / 体源抄


1512 - TAIGENSHŌ - by Toyohara Sumiaki (1450-1524)

Hitoyogiri pictures in the Taigenshô, 1512

Single-node 'shakuhachi' pictures in the Taigenshō, 1512, Maki 5
The entire 1933 edition of the Taigenshō may be downloaded
from this location:
- Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library, University of Toronto

「狂雲子」 or 「狂言」? - KYŌUNSHI or KYŌGEN?


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 Vol. 2 at
- Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library, University of Toronto

Go to pages 252 & 253 in the PDF, respectively




'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.


1518 - POEMS in the KANGIN-SHŪ

" 21 - Dengaku

I take out the shakuhachi from
    beneath my sleeve,
to blow it while waiting and
The wind through the pine -
scatters flowers as though a dream
How much longer will I have to play
    until my heart is quiet again?"

" 177 - Kouta

My shakuhachi is blameless yet
I toss it at the pillow.
It makes a sound katari as it hits
    the wood rim,
Yet even the sound does not make it less
    lonely nor less sad
to sleep alone."

" 276 - Kouta

"I blow you while I wait
I blow you later in my disappointment too -
Worthless Shakuhachi!"

     Trsl. by Frank Hoff, 1978. In Blasdel/Kamisangō, 1988/2008.

1521-1532 - RAKU-CHŪ RAKU-GAI ZU - Machida-bon edition

Two komosō in Kyōto, c. 1530

Two komosō playing vertical flutes in a Kyōto street
Detail of the folding screen 'Raku-chū raku-gai zu byōbu',
"Pictures from In and Around the Capital",
Machida-bon edition.
Dated to between 1521 and 1532.

Two komosō in Kyōto, c. 1530

Close-up detail of the folding screen 'Raku-chū raku-gai zu byōbu',
"Pictures from In and Around the Capital",
Machida-bon edition.
The National Museum of Japanese History, Sakura City, Chiba Prefecture



Portrait of Saiokuken Sōchō with a 'hitoyogiri' by his side

Portrait of Saiokuken Sōchō, 1448-1532, with a 'hitoyogiri' by his side
Painting signed 'Kanō Ryūsetsu', a name used by several different members of the Kanō School,
the earliest of whom was Kanō Hidenobu, c. 1647-1712
A treasure of the temple Saioku-ji, late 17th century or later

The chapter about Jōsū in 'Sōchō shuki'

The chapter about Jōsū in 'Sōchō shuki',
"The Journal of Sōchō" - 1796 edition
Waseda University Library
The poem quoted below is seen in the center of the picture




"Jōsū, a monk and shakuhachi musician, was originally a member of the Higashiyama Ryōzen Ji sect. He spent four or five years at Jōfukuji temple at Gojō Higashinotōin and at Daitokuji's Daisen'in, and until recently he maintained a cottage in Sakai in Izumi Province.
He made his living from shakuhachi students and patrons. I happened to be staying in Yamada when he arrived at Ise Shrine on a pilgrimage; he called on me and stayed more than ten days, until I had to leave for Takigi at Yamashiro. They tell me he was fêted thereafter in Yamada morning and evening.
Then came the news that he had thrown himself into Futami Bay - what could have happened to make him do such a thing?
I composed this on learning it:

That one melody
"Perceiving the Law of Change" -
how could he play it
then sink into the sea?
How awfully sad, this world!

okosu ikkyoku
ika ni shite
ana umi no yo ya.]


"I must have been in the Southern Capital when I received the news.
I sent the verse to Yamada.
His sister, a nun of the Ji sect, told them several times she would like to have his shakuhachi flute returned to her so that she might sell it to pay for services in his memory. But they never sent it back. No, they never sent back the shakuhachi to exchange for money, recalling the changing shadows of Tomorrow River."

     Trsl. by H. Mack Horton, 2002, p. 22.
     Source of Japanese text: Yamaguchi, 2005, p. 90.

H. Mack Horton comments as follows (p. 213, note 151):
"Sōchō's poem may be a straightforward question, expressing dismay and the desire to know what drove Jōsū to his fatal decision. But it may also be asking how the poet's friend could have been enlightened through the shakuhachi piece "Perceiving the Law of Change"
(Mujōshin 無常心) and yet be driven to despair."

'Daisen-in dry garden - 1509-1513

Dry garden in the Daitoku-ji subtemple Daisen-in
founded in 1509-1513 - Photo by T.O., 1977


The fall of the Ashikaga Shōgunate and the beginning of the nationwide "Warring States" Period that lasted almost completely until Tokugawa Ieyasu and his allies' victory at Sekigahara in the year 1600.

1543, September 23 (W. calendar):

A Portuguese merchant ship shipwrecks on a beach of the island Tanegashima south of Kyushu, Japan.
This is the first recorded visit of European Christians in Japan.


The Spanish Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier lands in Kagoshima and begins movement to spread Christian teaching in Japan.

Francis Xavier - 1506-1552

Japanese portrait of Francis Xavier (1506-1552)
Kōbe City Museum, Kōbe, Japan

Link to the next page: Japan 4 • 1560-1614
Link to the previous page: Japan 2 • 1233-1477

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     a Zen poet of Medieval Japan. Foreword by Shūichi Katō.
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Christopher Blasdel & Kamisangō Yūkō:
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     Available at
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     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, 1987.
     Purchasable at
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.
William Scott Wilson: The Unfettered Mind. Writings of the Zen master
     to the Sword Master. Tokyo, New York, San Fransisco, 1986.
Shūhū Yokō, edited by Mori Hikotarō. Publ. by the Kōkoku-ji,
     Yura, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, 1938, 1981.
Suematsu Kenchō: The Genji Monogatari by Murasaki Shikibu.
     London, 1882. Charles E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, London 1977.
Daisetzu Teitarō Suzuki: Zen and Japanese Culture.
     Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1970, 1973.
James H. Sanford: Zen-man Ikkyū.
     Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions, 1981.
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.
     Florida State University, USA, 1990. Purchasable at:
Tōgi Masatarō & William Malm: Gagaku. Nihon no dentō, Vol. 7.
     Tankōsha, Kyōto, 1968.
Tōgi Masatarō & William Malm: Gagaku. Performing Arts of Japan
     Vol. 5. Transl. from Japanese by Don Kenny.
     Walker/Weatherhill, New York & Tokyo, 1971.
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:
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.
Yamaguchi Masayoshi: Shakuhachi-shi gaisetsu.
     Shuppan Geijutsu-sha, Tokyo, 2005.
Zengaku Jiten, ed. by Jimbo Nyoten & Andō Bun'ei,
     Shōbō Genzō Chūkai Zensho Kankōkai,
     Tokyo, 1962.

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