Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Shakuhachi

Date:
18th century
Geography:
Japan
Culture:
Japanese (possibly Uzan)
Medium:
Bamboo
Dimensions:
L. 45.7 cm (18 in.); Diam. top 3.2 cm (1-1/4 in.); base 3.7 cm (1-7/16 in.)
Classification:
Aerophone-Blow Hole-end-blown flute (vertical)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Howard Mansfield, 1948
Accession Number:
48.126.7 a, b
Not on view
The shakuhachi descends from the hitoyogiri.
Both instruments have four finger holes and a thumb hole, are held vertically, and have a blowing edge formed by an outward cut at the rim. The hitoyogiri ceased to be used by the 19th century, but the shakuhachi survives today.
The shakuhachi took shape during the Momayama period (1534-1615), but developed its final form during the Edo period (1615-1868), when it was adopted by the komuso, wandering monks. These monks, many of whom were masterless samurai and stripped of their swords, kept the favor of the shogun by acting as his spies. The monks altered the hitoyogiri, by making it thicker, longer, and slightly curved at the bell. This new design allowed the shakuhachi to serve as a club. The shakuhachi now accompanies poetry, plays in ensemble with the koto and shamisen, and is heard in virtuosic solos.
Helen Coolidge Mansfield
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