“The Mountain is Empty; A Pinecone Falls”

Zekkai Chūshin 絶海中津 Japanese

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This single column of cursive script by Zekkai Chūshin quotes a longer poem by the Tang-dynasty poet Wei Yingwu (737–790) that captures the experience of deep solitude in the mountains. Zekkai first studied Zen as a teenager at Tenryūji, a major monastery in western Kyoto that Musō Soseki (whose work hangs nearby) had established just a few years earlier; he then joined Musō at nearby Saihōji. In his thirties he journeyed to China, where he studied Zen at storied monasteries in Hangzhou such as Wanshousi and Lingyinsi. He returned to Japan a decade later and briefly practiced in seclusion before accepting abbotships at several major monasteries in Kyoto. Recognized as one of Musō’s most influential disciples, he is also celebrated for his achievements in poetry.

“The Mountain is Empty;  A Pinecone Falls”, Zekkai Chūshin 絶海中津 (Japanese, 1336–1405), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, Japan

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