This pair of hanging scrolls, though separated recently as is apparent from their different mountings, once formed part of a triptych flanking a central scroll that depicted the Daoist immortal Lu Dongbin (now in the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City). This schema, cultivated and popular in Zen temples in Japan, reflected the desire to express the underlying unity of the natural and spiritual worlds. The flying, calling, sleeping, and feeding geese reference the four fundamental aspects of monastic life.
Tesshū Tokusai was one of the most cultivated monks of early Japanese Zen Buddhism. As a spiritual discipline, he devoted himself to painting orchids and geese in the style of contemporary Chinese masters. The inscription on the left scroll, partially damaged, includes the date of the eleventh month, 1343, as well as the words for “Japan” and “a respected scholar.”
Signature: Small intaglio seal in upper right corner: "Tesshu"