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Zen Beauty

Enticing to be sure with a beautiful form and a sweet voice,
an appearance as fresh and fragrant as a spring spring flower;
men cluster around her to see what see has within,
but watch out—she can turn out to be a jewel or a stone.
The old monk Chuho, former abbot of Daitoku-ji,
[Painting signed] Nanpo.


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Dimensions: 15x63

Purchase Ref #: 2129

Gallery: Shogetsu Chuho So-u

Scroll Notes: Original mounting, wooden box, good condition. The painting and the calligraphy were done separately and then joined when mounted.


While a portrait of a lovely courtesan may seem to be an unlikely subject for a Zen painting, there are actually a number of works like this. Most of the inscriptions say, in essence, "Watch out!" but Zen masters know that most men will ignore that advice and in fact need to have the experience of loving a women. That is the only way one learns about the "Form" aspect of the "Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form" equation. Also, such great masters as Ikkyu, Hakuin, and Sengai had courtesan disciples and they did not treat them differently from their other students. They were just doing their (important) job. No information on the painter Nanpo.

About the Artist

Shogetsu was the pen name of the Chuho So-u, 406th abbot of Daitoku-ji. Shogetsu was a tea master as well as a Zen master, and he was one of the major cultural figures in Kyoto during his lifetime. Shogetsu was an excellent and productive Zen artist. Shogetsu is especially known for his calligraphy and enso paintings; he often joint pieces with other artists as well.

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