And Naturally Ripens into Fruit

Hanging scroll with five large calligraphic kanji characters. The lower right contains further text and orangish read seals. The background brocade on which it is mounted is green and gold and has a floral design. Two strips of other material lie across the top and bottom of the white material on which teh calligraphy is painted. These strips also have a floral design and a light gold/yellow background.
Ôbaku Tetsugen
c. 1660-1682
In traditional China, calligraphy was regarded as the highest of the arts because it was held to be the truest reflection of one’s character. For Chinese Chán and Japanese Zen monks, who were immersed in Chinese literati culture, calligraphy could thus be a form of self-portraiture. The verse here, piously attributed to Bodhidharma, is the second of a two-line poem and seems to predict the future flourishing of the five lineages of Zen: “One bud opens into five petals, and naturally ripens into fruit.” The calligrapher of this scroll, Ôbaku Tetsugen, was among the first generation of Japanese converts to the Ôbaku sect of Zen; he was a disciple of Muan Xingtao (known in Japan as Mokuan).
Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection Fund
Thursday, December 13, 2018