Mutoku Ryōgo (1651-1742)

Calligraphy 'Cha' and Inscription

Inv. Nr. #19.028
Date Edo period, 1st half 18th C.
Material Ink on paper
Dimensions H 111,2 x W 59,2 cm (29 x 46,6)

Comes with fitted wooden box

Powerful calligraphy with a large, bold single character 茶 (cha, 'tea') and a fluid inscription next to it in running script by Mutoku Ryōgo. The inscription reads: “Whether you have reached [here/it] before or not, have a cup of tea!” (到喫茶去 不到喫茶去). This saying is referring to a Zen buddhist kōan, that first has been originally published 1252 in the Wudeng huiyuan (‘Compendium of the Five Lamps’), but can also found for instance in Dōgen Kigen's (1200-1253) collection of 300 kōan (Shinji Shōbōgenzō). Here, Zen master Zhaozhou (Jap. Jōshū, 778-897) questioned two new arrivals. He asked the first one: “Have you reached [here/it] before?” - “No, I haven’t reached [here/it] before.” Zhaozhou said: “Then have a cup of tea.” Then he asked the other monk: “Have you reached [here/it] before?” - “Yes, I have reached [here/it] before.” Zhaozhou said: “Then have a cup of tea.” The monastery head monk [who observed that] asked Zhaozhou afterwards: “Aside from the one who has been here, why did you say ‘Have a cup of tea!’ to the one who had not been here?” Zhaozhou said: “Head monk.” The head monk responded: “Yes?” Zhaozhou said: “Have a cup of tea!”

Mutoku Ryōgo, born 1651 in Aizu, has been a Sōtō school monk, who also learned under the new Chinese Ōbaku Zen masters Yinyuan Longqi (Jap. Ingen Ryūki, 1592-1673) and Mu’an Xingtao (Jap. Mokuan Shōtō, 1611-1684), as well as under the popular Japanese Rinzai Zen master Bankei Eitaku (1622-1693) - who were all excellent calligraphers too. Mutoku played an important role in revitalizing the Sōtō school in mid Edo period Japan.