Reading a sutra by moonlight

Unidentified artist

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 212

Chan/Zen art and philosophy blend strict rigor with playful irreverence. The dignified image of an aging master learnedly poring over an abstruse scripture is undercut by the poetic inscription, which suggests that true enlightenment may just as well be found elsewhere:

In this volume of scripture,
The words have no clear meaning.
The sun rises, the moon sets,
When will I finish reading it?
—Translation after Wen C. Fong

Reading a sutra by moonlight, Unidentified artist  , early 14th century, Hanging scroll; ink on paper, China

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