For a hundred years [I have been] a person with no attachments

Jiun Sonja Japanese

Not on view

This single column of brusquely inscribed calligraphy—reading “For a hundred years [I have been] a person with no attachments” (百年無事人 Hyakunen buji bito)—implies that the artist himself or the recipient is a carefree person and reflects the priorities of a monk who trained in the spartan environment of a Zen monastery. Jiun Sonja’s calligraphies, which usually cite Buddhist sayings, are celebrated for their projection of energy, spontaneity, and forcefulness. Following in the tradition of medieval Zen calligraphy, this Edo monk’s handwriting manifests “flying white” in the brushstrokes. Instead of reinking his brush when it ran dry, Jiun intentionally left uninked areas within strokes to suggest a sense of intense and rapid brushwork.

Jiun Sonja was originally a monk of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, but was eclectic in his religious training. He studied Buddhist teachings of various sects, but also applied himself to the study of Chinese classics and Confucianism. He immersed himself in Sanskrit texts and was known as one of the greatest Sanskrit scholars of his day. In fact, he created “Zen” style Sanskrit calligraphy as well later in his life. Frustrated by his study of traditional Buddhist commentaries, Jiun turned to meditation and became a full-time practitioner of Sōtō Zen Buddhism. A scholar and prolific writer, from about age 70, Jiun dedicated himself to the study of Shinto, and authored books on the subject.

For a hundred years [I have been] a person with no attachments, Jiun Sonja (Japanese, 1718–1804), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, Japan

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