Nishigaki Daidō (*1942)

Calligraphy "Green Mountains, Blue Water"

Inv. Nr. #A.48
Date 2nd Half 20th C.
Material Ink on paper

Comes with fitted signed and sealed wooden box.

Excellent calligraphy by Zen master Nishigaki Daidō (*1942). The four characters sei zan roku sui 青山緑水, meaning "Green Mountains, Blue Water" are often found in the traditional text canon of Zen Buddhism. For example in a saying by Zen master Qingyuan Weixin (9th C.) that is recorded in the Xu chuandeng lu ("Records of the Continued Transmission of the Flame"): "Before the old monk studied Zen for thirty years, he saw mountains were mountains, and water was water. When arriving at a more intimate knowledge, one comes to the point to see mountains are not mountains, and waters are not waters. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it's just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters. "


One of the most often quoted explanations of these words related to the gradual process of enlightenment is given by master Guoan Shiyuan (12th c.) in his around 1150 written preface for the ninth picture of the "Ten Oxherding Pictures" (shiniu tu 十牛圖) - which is in fact a landscape. Therein he explains that a person who got final insights in his self-nature and who has returned to his original nature just "watches the growth of things, while himself abiding in the immovable serenity of nonassertion. He does not identify himself with the māyā-like transformations [that are going on about him], nor has he any use of himself [which is artificiality]. The waters are blue, the mountains are green; sitting alone, he observes things undergoing changes." (Translation by Daisetz T. Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, London 1949, 24).   


The short aphorism is masterfully written here by Nishigaki Daidō in his bold but lively handwriting. Especially in the last character he gives the quotation a distinct visual note. Nishigaki did not write the character for 'water' (水) following the rules of the standard script, but let the middle and the right stroke running directly downwards to the open space of the empty paper like the streaming waters of mountain's waterfall.


Daido is abbot of Gyokuroku-ji , an ancient temple in Hyōgo Prefecture affiliated with Daitoku-ji. He often does calligraphy for tea ceremony scrolls.
Signed: Master of Mt. Mannen [=Gyokuraku-ji] Daidō.