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Zen scroll translation

deFrel

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Hello everybody,

Just got back this afternoon from my first visit to Japan. Beautiful and impressive country. I went out to search for a scroll/kakemono with a zen related calligraphy. I asked around in shops in Kyoto. Ended up in the Geirinso Book Store on Teramachi Dori, a little shop with a flegmatic owner that spoke zero words English. I asked for a 'zen kakemono'', he showed me some and I bought one.

The only problem: I couldn't find out the meaning of the phrase on the scroll... And I don't know who made it. I don't even know if it's really a zen scroll.

Can any of you maybe help me out? I would really appreciate it!

Eric
The Netherlands

20170902_221656.jpg
 

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joadbres

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I haven't been able to suss out the main message on the scroll, so I'll leave that to someone else.

Based on the signature on the left, the artist appears to be Seki Bokuou (関牧翁), a Buddhist monk who lived in the previous century. He was associated with the Tenryuuji (天龍寺) temple in Kyoto, serving at one time as chief abbot. The calligraphy on the left appears to read Bokuou (in kanji: 牧翁)

The stamps in the lower left appear to read 「天龍沙門」 (Tenryuu "shramana") and 「牧翁」.

The resolution of your photo is not sufficient to read the stamp in the upper right, but based on similar works from Seki Boukou, it probably reads 「臨済正宗」which refers to the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism, to which the temple Tenryuuji belongs.

If you search the Internet using the kanji version of Seki Bokuou's name, you can find other images of his works, and the signature seems to match well with yours. One such example is here: 【五】天龍寺派管長 関牧翁 『無事』 紙本 肉筆 ... - ヤフオク!

Information on the artist in Japanese, partly translated to English, can be found here: 江戸時代の絵画、書、和歌、俳句、古文書 - 南竹の収蔵品f

More information is here, but only in Japanese: 作家検索サンプル 関 牧翁

There is also a Japanese-language Wikipedia page for him, but with only limited information: 関牧翁 - Wikipedia
 

Majestic

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Very impressive, Joadbres. Eric, looks like you have a fine scroll from one of the masters of the last century. If we could just get the actual message!

I'm at a loss for any of the three kanji, although the middle one looks like 歩
 

deFrel

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Wow! That is indeed impressive. Thanks a lot, Joadbres! This really gives me a lot of context for this scroll.

Interesting to find out that kanji like these can be so hard to interpret. I'm curious if someone is able to take a stab at the meaning.

Thanks again!
 

Mike Cash

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I'm curious if someone is able to take a stab at the meaning.
There's no way to take a stab at the meaning if we can't figure out what any of the three characters are. We have nothing on which to base a guess at this point. Or even any way to be sure it is three characters.
 

Toritoribe

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Interesting to find out that kanji like these can be so hard to interpret.
It' not hard to interpret, but hard to read for almost all people, including native Japanese or also Chinese, except experts in the field.

Cursive script is faster to write than other styles, but difficult to read for those unfamiliar with it.
People who can read standard or printed forms of Chinese may not be able to comprehend this script.

Cursive script (East Asia) - Wikipedia
 

deFrel

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It' not hard to interpret, but hard to read for almost all people, including native Japanese or also Chinese, except experts in the field.
I see! Thank you. I guess I always thought that calligraphy consisted of embellished but still recognisable versions of standard kanji. I suppose that is only true for all the 'practical' calligraphy on signs for shops and restaurants, etc? And not for the cursive writing as a form of art?
 

Toritoribe

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The point is what style of handwriting is used in the calligraphy, not whether it's artistic or "practical". The picture below is a handwritten book in cursive script in the 18th century, thus, a "practical" calligraphy. The modern standard printed font in the right side corresponds to the the highlighted part. You can see how different they are with each other.
handwritten cursive.jpg
 

Majestic

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Deciphering grass script is an art in itself.
 

deFrel

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I'm at a loss for any of the three kanji, although the middle one looks like 歩
I'ts been a while, but I found somebody who could read it. It apparently says:

莫妄想
(Mokumosou)

Which would translate to: Do not have illusions.

So there it is. Some closure, for everyone involved. :)
 

Majestic

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Nice! Thanks for the follow-up. I would never have guessed it.
 

joadbres

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I'ts been a while, but I found somebody who could read it. It apparently says:

莫妄想
(Mokumosou)
Yes, thanks so much for following up.

Incidentally, for the sake of posterity on this site, the first character is probably read as "maku" rather than "moku".

If you have a chance, please tell us a little about the person who could read it.
 
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