禅尺八 真理研究 ホームページ

The Zen Shakuhachi Truth Research Web Pages

Introduction & Critical Guide to the Study of Early Ascetic Shakuhachi History & Ideology in Particular

Torsten Olafsson • 無穴笛オーラフソン トーステンデンマーク • Denmark



About this Research Project

Realizations & Conclusions

Highlighted Pictures

Highlighted Quotations

Texts, Quotations & Illustrations
     A Chronological Panorama:

 •  India

 •  China

 •  Japan

 •  The West

To be - or not to be:
     a "Zen Buddhist Priest"?

Errors, Misconceptions & Loose Ends

The Source Collections

The Written Sources

1470?: The Kyōgen Play Rakuami

1505: Kōrin's Shakuhachi Essay

1512: The Taigenshō Music Treatise

The Komosō & Fuke-komosō Sources

1614: The Keichō kenmon-shū

1628: The Kaidō Honsoku Evidence

1628: The Kaidō Honsoku Thesis

1640s?: The Butsu-gen Evidence

1646: Isshi Bunshu's Letter
     to the Komusō Sandō Mugetsu

1646 ... The Hottō Kokushi Legend

The Early Komusō Texts

The Kyōto/Kansai Sources

The Edo/Kantō/Tōkyō Sources

1664: Shichiku shoshinshū

1677: The Enpō 5, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Ordinance

1678: The Enpō 5, 12th Month
     Komusō-ha Oboe Memorandum

1687: The Jōkyō 4, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Ordinance

1694: Engetsu's Honsoku deshi ...

c. 1700?: The Kyotaku Denki myth

1703 & 1705: The Myōan-ji
     c/o Kōkoku-ji Interrelationship

1722: The Kyōhō 7, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Memorandum

1730: The Kyōhō 15, 7th Month
     Ichigetsu-ji & Reihō-ji Memorandum

1732: The Shakuhachi denrai-ki
     and early 'honkyoku' history

1735: Myōan-ji's Kyorei-zan engi ...

1751: Keichō no okitegaki -
     Existing Reprint Versions

1752: Myōan Temple Restorer Engetsu Ryōgen's
     23 Fixed Rules for the House

1770: The Kurozawa Kinko Honkyoku Collection

1795: Kyotaku denki kokujikai

1816: Miyaji Ikkan's Shakuhachi hikki

1823: Hisamatsu Fūyō's Hitori mondō



Profile / Bio / CV

Contact Info

About this Research Project

By Torsten Olafsson - updated Spring 2018

The studies of mine that are underlying these research web pages began in early September, 1968:

First Chinese Studies: Chinese Language & Culture; next, from 1974: Japanese Studies: Language & Culture - while a that time being enrolled as a graduate research student at the Eastasian Institute, University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

The fundamental approach and goal is that of an uncompromisingly critical and unbiased investigation of all the extant, available original written and pictorial Japanese sources of shakuhachi 尺八 history and ideology, primarily focusing on the period from approximately 1450 through around 1750.

Well, then - I do admit to the truth: That is really an ambitious project, isn't it?
How could that come true at all, only possibly?

When, back in 1968, I began to study Chinese at the Copenhagen University in Denmark,
I couldn't know that half a century later I would be managing a website like the present, with all the discipline and diligence that actually demands of one single person, essentially working all alone, on his own, like I do - fully independently.

A completely non-profit research project it is indeed - con amore ...

In the Chinese language, culture & arts program, I soon found myself sincerely enjoying to learn a completely different language (and way of thinking and viewing the world, our planet Earth) from what I so far knew, and learn about a culture of such an immense importance in human history.

Learning modern Chinese lingo was one sort of challenge - studying Classical Chinese literature such as excerpts from the Confucian Analects, Taoist teachings and texts about Classical Chinese music theory - that was simply a mind-blowing experience. Chinese archaeology, arts, philosophy, religion, calligraphy - and painting bamboo with but a few almost dry brush strokes on paper ...

However, becoming better acquainted and musically so fascinated with the Japanese shakuhachi bamboo flute, I had to change course and devote myself to the study of Japan, the geography, culture, society, language, arts, music and thought systems - in all that outspoken diversity and complexity.

At the Eastasian Institute in the very center of Copenhagen we read, analyzed, translated - and were eventually tested and examined in - the native literature from the very beginnings to recent times, for example:

'Kojiki', 'Nihon shoki', 'Taketori monogatori'; the poetry of 'Manyōshū' and other classical poetry anthologies such as 'Kokin wakashū' and 'Shin kokin wakashū'; the Heian court lady diaries 'Murasaki Shikibu Nikki' and 'Genji monogatari'; the warrior epic 'Heike monogatari' and writings with strong underlying Buddhist inspiration like 'Hōjōki' and 'Tsurezuregusa'.

Not to forget the 15th century masterpieces of linked verse, known as renga - first of all the 'Minase sangin hyakuin' by the poets Sōchō, Sōgi & Shōhaku, dated 1488.

Edo Period must read material was for instance the neo-confucian writers Dazai Shundai and Ogyū Sorai (the latter writing in Chinese style kambun); the much famed novel writer Ihara Saikaku and the certainly even more celebrated haiku poet Bashō.

Entering the post-Tokugawa times after 1868, the most prominent authors investigated were Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, Natsume Sōseki and - Mishima Yukio.

Besides, on top of all this, dozens and more dozens of pages about Japanese music and shakuhachi history were eagerly but painstakingly studied, devotedly digested and warmly appreciated.


I keep feeling sincerely grateful towards my many gifted supportive teachers and academic bystanders, be they professors, bright scholars and assistant professors back then, in those utterly inspiring bygone days at the university:

Kirsten Refsing, Esperanza Ramirez Christensen, Mette Laderierre, Schuyler van R. Cammann, Olof G. Lidin, Mette Laderierre, Kirsten Rønbøl, Birthe Ahrendrup, Setsuko Bergholdt,
Nina Fønss, Chi-yun Eskelund, Professor Chang, Else Glahn, Søren Egerod, Bo Gyllensvärd and Göran Malmqvist.

Professor Emerita Kirsten Refsing lecturing at Hokkaidō: University

Kirsten Refsing
Japanologist, translator & novel writer, Dr. Phil., Professor Emerita,
former Hong Kong University professor, retired Copenhagen University Dean.
Longtime internationally renowned Ainu Language researcher and expert.
Received the prestigious Order of Dannebrog on November 18, 2011.

Photo: Kirsten Refsing speaking and lecturing at Hokkaidō: University, N. Japan.

Among my many gifted high school teachers first of all Mr. Leif Bruun-Andersen who was responsible for the music program at Christianshavns Gymnasium during the mid- and late 1960s.
My so very inspiring, fantastic shakuhachi teachers in Japan:
Ozawa Seizan and Yokoyama Katsuya.
Not to forget Yoshimura Fuan Sōshin who introduced and recommended me to Ozawa Seizan sensei in 1977.

Fellow students and university friends that I shall never ever forget: Joan Hornby,
Erik Fæster Olesen, Elisabeth Grønvald, Karen E. Bjerre, Finn Chemnitz, Kari-Nina Pedersen, Søren M. Chr. Bisgaard, Kjeld Erik Brødsgaard, Inga-Lil Hansson & Ole & Ki Aabenhus.

Furthermore, persons - be they additional great friends, musician colleagues, shakuhachi enthusiasts, specialists & mentors alike - for their kind support, appreciation, declared respect, inspiration, and valuable various assistances - for convenience here listed in the alphabetical order of their family names:

Marianne Alo, Jørgen Bennick, Martina Binnig, Hans Otto Bisgaard, Lea Stine Brich, Peder Bundgaard, Mary Lu Brandwein, Torben Dan Christensen, Kiku Day, Geoff Duckworth, Frank Erdmann Fürst, Johnnie Gellett, Gert Günther, Morten Hansen, Douglas Hernandez, Philip Horan, Jytte Hovgaard, Jan Hurtigkarl, Svend M. Hvass, Mads Mazanti Jensen, Birgit Jenvold, Alxander Kabanov, Kakehi Atsuko, Kishi Kiyokazu, Kim Kyung-Hee, Palle Kjærulff-Schmidt, Jem Klein, Kosuge Daisetsu, Jørgen Krarup Edl, Lilli Krarup Edl, Kenneth Larsen, Louise Lerche-Lerchenborg, Mei Levenson, Monty H. Levenson, Gunvor Lidin, Gitte Lund, Jørgen Lund, William P. Malm, Vlastislav Matousek, Dan E. Mayers, Kim Menzer, Chris Moran, Ron Nelson, Jerome Neu, Nancy Neukirch, John Høyer Nielsen, Agar Kyosui Noiri, Anders Nordin, Hanne Nøhr, Maria Olafsson, Marianne Olafsson, David Palanquez, Tim Pallis, Yuki Pallis, Laurence E.R. Picken, Graham Ranft, Lene Regius, Sakaguchi Yoshie, David Sawyer, Yōkō Schandorff, Mikkel Scharff, Simura Satosi, Gert Smedegaard, Kasper Søeborg, Taguchi Noriko, Taguchi Shigeo, Frédérique Thouvenot, Steen Toft Andersen, Tsukitani Tsuneko, Walther Ulrich, Uwe Walter, Per Weiss,
Marco Flemming Widding, Per Wium, Yamakawa Sōkyū, Palle Aarslev ...

Not least, the sincerest thanks to my (younger) brother Finn Olafsson who, in Spring 1983, produced the one and only solo shakuhachi LP album of mine:
"Standing Waves - Zen Shakuhachi Meditations", the very first music album that Finn and I created and released together on our Olafssongs Music Publishing record label in that same year.

The album was kindly and expertly recorded in Sweet Silence Studios, Copenhagen - engineered by worldwide renowned recording engineer & music producer Flemming Rasmussen. Thank you, both!

Finn Olafsson and Flemming Rasmussen

Finn Olafsson and Flemming Rasmussen in present-day Sweet Silence Studios
in Helsingør/Elsinore, town of the Kronborg Castle and Shakespeare's Prince Hamlet,
North Sealand, Denmark

Kronborg, Spring 2017

Kronborg, Spring 2017 - Photo: Torsten Olafsson

Finally, most importantly, indeed: The warmest of cordial thanks to my dear Japanese hosts in Kyōto in 1977-78, the Tamura Family, with whom I am again in so very friendly contact.

Tamura Yoshiko and Tamura Shozo, Sanzen-in NE Kyoto

Tamura Yoshiko and Tamura Shōzō at Sanzen-in, NE Kyoto, Spring 1977

Tamura Yoshiko: Japanese sumi-e ink painting of Lake Biwa - 2016

Tamura Yoshiko: Japanese sumi-e ink painting of Lake Biwa - 2016

Please do note that you are really not reading a printed book here - this is just a WWW Internet based "E-publication".

It keeps growing ever steadily as I can't help but finding yet more new "goodies" to be shared with you ...

So utterly different from a traditional old-fashioned printed book, though:
It disappears by the very moment you turn off the electrical power supply ...

To be continued, deepened and elaborated upon ...

Japanese standard books about the shakuhachi

Japanese standard reference books about the shakuhachi, and other ...

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Torsten Olafsson