Hotei Pointing at the Moon

Fūgai Ekun Japanese

Not on view

The portly monk Hotei is shown hoisting his satchel over his shoulder while he points a finger at the sky above, toward an unseen moon. The abbreviated brushwork and suggestive use of blank space were earlier associated with Zen monk painters of medieval times. The Zen monk Fūgai Ekun of the Sōtō sect followed in this tradition, and often inscribed his paintings in a highly cursive script. The inscription reads:

生涯不貧、大福無隣、 指月看月、途中老賓
Shōgai hin narazu
daifuku rin nashi
tsuki o sashi tsuki o miru
tochū no rōhin

Throughout my life,
I haven’t been poor
Nor have lived
amid wealth.
Pointing at the moon,
looking at the moon,
I’m just an old traveler
along the way.
—Trans. John T. Carpenter

Hotei Pointing at the Moon, Fūgai Ekun (Japanese, 1568–1654), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, Japan

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