OBAKU DOKURYU (Calligrapher)
Painting traditionally attributed to Unkoku Toeki, 1591-1644
Signature: Shoeki Dokuryu shi Haidai
Seals: (upper) Dokuryu, (lower) Tengai Ichikanjin
Alexander H. Bullock Fund
This painting of Daruma (Bodhidharma), the Indian monk who traveled from India to China in the sixth century and founded Zen Buddhism, has a traditional attribution to Unkoku Toeki on the basis of interpolated seals. The calligraphy is of greater interest than the portrait, with which it shares a highly simplified style.
Dokuryu (Chinese: Tai Li) was a Chinese scholar and calligrapher who fled the Manchu conquest of his homeland and arrived in Japan in 1653. He took the name Dokuryu when he became a monk under Ingen, the Chinese founder of Mampukuji, the Obaku Zen temple near Kyoto. The Obaku sect was influential in the spread of contemporary Chinese culture in Japan during the Edo period (1600-1868).
Dokuryu's cursive script shares characteristics with his Chinese contemporaries in the late Ming period and has a freedom and rhythm entirely its own, distinct from the calligraphic style of other Obaku Zen monk-calligraphers. The fluid brushwork seen here, with its contrast of wet and dry, light and dark ink, captures the typically irreverent Zen spirit of the inscription, which calls the subject (Daruma) "the old clot."