Artist: Musō Soseki (Japanese, 1275–1351)
Period: Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)
Date: 14th century
Medium: Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Dimensions: Image: 11 3/4 x 32 1/2 in. (29.8 x 82.6 cm)
Overall with mounting: 48 7/8 x 38 in. (124.1 x 96.5 cm)
Overall with knobs: 48 7/8 x 40 1/4 in. (124.1 x 102.2 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Sylvan Barnet and William Burto, in honor of Maxwell K. Hearn, 2011
Accession Number: 2011.534
Musō Soseki, the expert calligrapher of this verse, was one of the most influential Zen priests of the fourteenth century, having trained under the Chinese émigré Yishan Yining (Japanese: Issan Ichinei; 1247–1317). He received the special imperial designation “National Master Musō.” As a rule, Musō ’s calligraphic works are executed in an elegant cursive script, reflecting the influence of his Chinese master. The highly stylized characters in this piece suggest that Musō had carefully studied classical examples. The verse reads:
From heaven fall icy petals;
In the sky not a spot of blue remains.
A dusting of jade covers the ground
And buries the blue mountains.
The sun rises over the mountain peak.
The chill pierces my bones.
—Trans. Edwin Cranston