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General Books on Zen Art


Addiss, Stephen. 77 Dances: Japanese Calligraphy by Poets, Monks, and Scholars, 1568–1868. Boston: Weatherhill, 2008.


Addiss, Stephen. The Art of Zen. New York: Henry N. Abrams, 1989.


Addiss, Stephen, and John Daido Loori. The Zen Art Book: The Art of Enlightenment. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2009.


Awakawa, Yasuichi. Zen Painting. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1970.


Barnet, Sylvan and William Burto. The Written Image: Japanese Calligraphy and Paintings from the Sylvan Barnet and William Burto Collection. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002.


Barnet, Sylvan and William Burto. Zen Ink Paintings. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1982.


Brinker, Helmut. Zen in the Art of Painting. London; Arkana, 1987.


Gotze, Heinz. Brush and Ink. Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1989.


Hisamatsu, Shin’ichi. Zen and the Fine Arts. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1971.


McFarland, H. Neill. Daruma: The Founder of Zen in Japanese Art and Popular Culture. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1987.


Omori, Sogen, and Katsujo Terayama. Zen and the Art of Calligraphy. Translated by John Stevens. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983.


Seo, Audrey.  Ensō: Zen Circles of Enlightenment. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2007.


Seo, Audrey, and Stephen Addiss. The Art of Twentieth-Century Zen. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1998.


Shimano, Eido.  Endlesss Vow: The Zen Path of Soen Nakagawa. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1996.


Shimano, Eido Tai, and Kogetsu Tani. Zen Word, Zen Calligraphy. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1995.


Shimizu, Yoshiaki, and John M. Rosenfield. Masters of Japanese Calligraphy, 8th–19th Century. New York: Asia Society Galleries, 1984.


Stevens, John. Sacred Calligraphy of the East, 3rd ed. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1995.


Stevens, John. Three Zen Masters: Ikkyu, Hakuin, Ryokan. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1993.


Suzuki, D. T. Zen and Japanese Culture. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1970.


Terayama, Tanchu. Zen Brushwork. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2003.


Woodson, Yoko. Lords of the Samurai: Legacy of a Daimyo Family. San Francisco: Asian Art Museum, 2009.    


Books on Artists



Seo, Audrey and Addiss, Stephen. The Sound of One Hand: The Paintings and Calligraphy of Hakuin. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2010. Tanahashi, Kazuaki.  


Penetrating Laughter: Hakuin’s Zen and Art. Woodstock, New York: Overlook Press, 1982. Yoshizawa, Katsuhiro.  


The Religious Art of Zen Master Hakuin. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2009.



Furuta Shokin. Sengai: Master Zen Painter. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2000. Suzuki, D. T. Sengai: The Zen Master. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1999.



Stevens, John. The Sword of No-Sword: Life of the Master Warrior Tesshu. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1989.  


Exhibition Catalogs

Awakenings: Zen Figure Painting in Medieval Japan. Japan Society, 2007. Gregory Levine and Yukio Lippit, curators.  


Black Robe, White Mist: Art of the Japanese Buddhist Nun Rengetsu. National Gallery of Australia, 2007. Melanie Eastburn, Lucie Folan, and Robyn Maxwell, curators.  

Enso: The Timeless Circle. Robyn Buntin of Honolulu, 2008. John Stevens, curator.


Obaku: Zen Painting and Calligraphy. Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art, 1978. Stephen Addiss, curator.  


Song of the Brush: Japanese Paintings from the Sanso Collection: Seattle Art Museum, 1979.  


Zen Mind, Zen Brush. Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2006. John Stevens, curator.  


Zen Painting and Calligraphy. Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 1970. Jan Fontein and Money Hickman, curators.  


Zen Painting and Calligraphy, 17th–20th Centuries. Asian Art Museum, 2001. Yoko Woodson and Doryun Chong, curators.  


Zenga and Nanga: Paintings by Japanese Monks and Scholars. New Orleans Museum of Art, 1976. Stephen Addiss, et al. curators.  


Zenga: Brushstrokes of Enlightenment. New Orleans Museum of Art, 1990. John Stevens and Alice Rae-Yelen, curators.


Zenga: The Return from America: Zenga from the Gitter-Yelen Collection. Shoto Museum of Art, 2000. Bilingual Edition. Yuji Yamashita, curator.  


Links See the Zenga section for many outstanding examples from this major collection. Kyoto-based dealer specializing in Zen paintings and calligraphy. The top dealer in Asian antiques with special sections on enso, Zen-related art, and the poetry, painting, and pottery of the Buddhist nun Otagaki Rengetsu. Paintings and calligraphies by Japanese Zen masters from the seventeenth century to the present.  

Learn More

The Shambhala Zen Art Gallery makes a wide selection of original Zen art, from the 17th century up to the present, available for purchase. These rare and exquisite Zenga have been carefully selected and authenticated by John Stevens, Shambhala author, internationally recognized authority on Zen painting and calligraphy, and curator of several major Zenga exhibitions.


How do I display my Zen scroll?

Traditionally, a Zenga is mounted as a hanging scroll made by a professional scrollmaker. Such a scroll is called kakejiku in Japanese. The scroll is stored in a wooden box especially made for that particular scroll.  In Japan, a scroll is displayed in the alcove of a temple or a home, and then stored in the box when not on view. (In western-style homes of course, the scroll needs to find the place where the owners feel it fits best.) Ideally, a scroll should be rested in the box periodically—every couple of months or so—in a dry place. However, often the owners are so fond of a scroll they cannot bear to take it down. That is understandable but the scroll should be rested sooner or later, at least for a time. Conversely, a scroll should never be kept in a box more than one year. It needs to hung and aired at least once during the driest part of the year. A scroll should never be hung in direct sunlight or any place where it can be exposed to wind or rain. Entire scrolls can be framed behind glass, but that is recommended only for the most adverse environments (where there is too much humidity or too many insects that feast on cloth, paper, or wood.)


Note on Condition

In spite of the guidelines given above, with Zenga—frequently considered talismans or objects of veneration—it was often the case that a scroll was hung for decades, even centuries.  Also, because the paper and ink was donated, the materials used were of inferior quality. Consequently, the majority of Zenga suffered greatly from the ravages of time. It is rare to find a Zenga in “perfect” condition. Most Zenga have been browned by the sun, stained by rain, attacked by mold, munched on by rats and insects. They have foxing (small brown spots caused by mold that appear over time) of the paper, and cracks in the backing. Also, since Zen art is created in the here and now with no retouching, the original piece itself sometimes has splashes, drips, characters crossed out or inserted later, tears, cat paw prints, seals placed upside down, and similar marks that would be considered defects in most other forms of art. Despite all this, a Zenga scroll is considered in “good” condition if it is still in one piece.


The Remounting of Zen Scrolls

Over the years, the paper (or silk) will naturally darken with age. This is called yake in Japanese, meaning “tanned.” The paper almost always develops some kind of foxing (mildew spotting, shimi) because of  the nature of the paper and the moist Japanese climate. Paper eventually turns brittle because of long exposure to the air and sun, resulting in cracks. Such cracking is called ore. In addition to these three elements of browning, foxing and cracking both the paper and the mounting itself usually suffer worm damage—either holes or tracks.

On most scrolls one or more of these conditions are present. For Zenga, those elements are not “defects” but just part of the natural aging process. (After all, human skin too becomes tanned, spotted and cracked over the years.) In Japan, dealers will charge more money for a well-preserved scroll than for one that has a clean new mounting.

Sooner or later, however, a scroll gives up the ghost. The mounting paste holding the scroll together deteriorates and the scroll becomes unglued, literally falling apart. Then the scroll goes to a professional scroll-maker. Unlike China, where for some reason mounting never extended much beyond purely functional, scroll making in Japan is a fine art, perhaps because of the influence of tea ceremony aesthetics—the hanging scroll was the primary visual focus of the ceremony.  First, the scroll-maker will “wash” the paper with a special chemical liquid that removes the dirt and grime, the yake and the shimi, as far as possible. Then, if necessary, the paper is pieced back together, tears repaired, missing paper replaced, bug holes filled, and vanished brushwork in-painted. After all the necessary repairs are finished, the paper is re-backed, and the scroll-maker smoothes out all the wrinkles and cracks. Then the paper or cloth is selected, paying close attention to the colors and fibers that best suit the art itself. The paper is glued to the mounting fabric, rollers are added, and the restored and remounted scroll is ready to be displayed in all its new glory.

The scrolls in the gallery described as restored and remounted have been done so under the direction of John Stevens.

For more information on hanging a scroll, click here.

How do I care for my Zen scroll?


Zen scrolls can be displayed in a Western-style environment with no problem but they should not be hung in direct sunlight or any place where they can be exposed to wind or rain. When stored in their boxes, the scrolls should be kept in a dry place, and it is a good idea to insert a moth ball into the box to prevent worm damage.


How do I roll a Zen scroll properly?


For instructions on how to roll and tie a scroll properly, click here.