Couplet of Chinese Verse on Spiritual Enlightenment

Feiyin Tongrong Chinese

Not on view

This single-column of dynamic, rapidly and fluidly brushed, faintly angled Chinese characters in cursive script comprises a Buddhist adage, composed in a couplet of five-character verse. It can be deciphered and translated as follows:

霊機活潑〻 透脱任當人

Chinese pronunciation:
Lingji huopopo, toutuo rendang ren

Parsing in Japanese:

A surge in inspiration
with untrammeled vitality—
Enlightenment depends on
each person’s own efforts.

(Translated by Tim Zhang)

The term lingji (Japanese: reiki) 霊機 suggests inspired wisdom and in early Daoist texts has the connotation of a supernatural experience. In Chan teaching, enlightenment is something that each person must strive for through their own diligent religious practice including meditation and study with a master.

The characters in the right column, unusually written in characters as large as the main text, give the date the work was brushed: mid-spring of the bingshen year (1656). On the left, also in large characters, is the monk Feiyin Tongrong’s lengthy signature, mentioning that he composed this work while at Jingshan monastery in Hangzhou. Feiyin is declaring in this his signature that he belongs to the thirty-fifth generation of the Nanyue sect.

Couplet of Chinese Verse on Spiritual Enlightenment, Feiyin Tongrong (Chinese, 1593–1661) (Japanese: Hiin Tsūyō) 費隠通容,, Hanging scroll; ink on paper, Japan

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.