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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

Profile / Biography

Born in late January 1950 in Hellerup, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Grew up on the island of Amager in Southern Copenhagen.

Studied music (and dancing) from very early childhood and on:
Singing, piano, recorder, bugle, drums, electric bass, acoustic guitar, vibraphone, Indian tabla, percussion - then Japanese shakuhachi, a little Japanese koto, acoustic bass guitar and – as of lately: Arabic darbuka drum.

First "professional" appearance as a pop/rock drummer on October 3rd, 1965, on the island of Amager, Copenhagen.

1965-68: Specialized language (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, English, German, French & Latin) & classical music studies in high school.

1968: Formed the symphonic rock band ACHE, who composed and recorded the world’s first genuine rock ballet, "De Homine Urbano" in 1969, released on LP in 1970 (Philips) & re-released six times since then, internationally.
Second ACHE album, ‘Green Man’, 1971, also reissued six times, worldwide.

1968: Began university studies in Chinese Language and Culture.
BA degree in 1974 - Danish equivalent academic degree:

1974: Began university studies in Japanese Language and Culture.

1977-78: Studies in Japan: Kyōto University foreign special research student, and Myōan-ji, Taizan-ha shakuhachi, with Ozawa Seizan sensei, Yamashina, Kyōto.

Torsten Olafsson Myōan Temple admission certificate, 1977 Torsten Olafsson Myōan Temple admission certificate, 1977 Torsten Olafsson Myōan Temple admission certificate, 1977

Torsten Olafsson's Myōan Temple admission certificate, 1977

1981: BA degree in Japanese/Japanology - Danish equivalent academic degree:

1983: Release of the LP ‘Standing Waves – Zen Shakuhachi Meditations’ (Olafssongs OLP 001/OMC 001).
Geoff Duckworth wrote in his review in "Take no Michi", published by The International Shakuhachi Society (selections):

" - - - Listening to the music one is immediately struck by its starkness in terms of tonal variation, decoration, vibrato etc., that one hears in the music of players from the Kinko, or Tozan schools.
If you have developed your shakuhachi listening with the music of Yamaguchi, Reibo, Yamamoto, or Yokoyama, for instance, the music here may be a shock." - - -

" - - - You may, or may not like the music on this record. But I think this would miss the point, that this record adds to the richness of both one's personal store, and the whole body of shakuhachi music. - - - "
Link to a scanning of the complete review, PDF

1986: Special research in the Tōkyō area. Leisure time shakuhachi studies with Yokoyama Katsuya in Chiba.

1987: MA thesis in Japanology submitted to the University of Copenhagen: ‘Early 17th Century Ascetic Shakuhachi Ideology. The Kaidō honsoku. A Komosō’s Fuke Shakuhachi Credo, dated 1628.’ Published by Monty H. Levenson/Tai Hei Shakuhachi, California.

1991-2000: Print Manager, then Serious Music Manager with Warner/Chappell Music Denmark A/S.

1997: On invitation by then International Shakuhachi Society president, the honorable, late Dan E. Mayers, Esq., Torsten writes an introductory essay to the ‘Kaidō honsoku’ thesis.

2001: ‘Standing Waves’ is re-released on CD by Fønix Musik, Denmark (Fønix Musik CD FM 1183).

2003: The ‘Kaidō honsoku’ thesis together with the introductory essay is printed and published internationally by Monty H. Levenson/Tai Hei Shakuhachi, Willits, California, USA.

2003: Website about Fuke/Zen Shakuhachi research is launched, now c/o

2005: Introductory essay about the ‘Kaidō honsoku’ thesis is published by the ISS, in Annals vol. 2.
The editor, the late president of the International Shakuhachi Society, Mr. Dan E. Mayers, Esq., wrote in his introduction to the article:

"Torsten Olafsson taught himself, unaided, to read ancient Japanese in order to complete the following thesis: an astonishing scholarly feat.
The conclusions of the thesis are not widely accepted by Japanese scholars but are interesting and challenging, throwing new light on an area in which Japanese scholarship has tended to become all too formal.
Those wishing further scholarly enlightenment should consult the original thesis, of which this is a very brief and incomplete summary. Only through study of the original thesis can a full appreciation be obtained of the scholarship involved. The Editor"

2008: The late Prof. Tsukitani Tsuneko concluded in her article in the book “The Ashgate Research Companion to Japanese Music”:

"The body of shakuhachi researchers in Japan is relatively small; names that recur in the bibliography include Kamisangō, Tsukitani/Tukitani, Seyama and Simura/Shimura.
It is regrettable that the most conspicuous work is being produced not in Japan but by scholars abroad. (See the works by Fritsch, Gutzwiller, Keister, Lee, Olafsson.)"

Torsten Olafsson has contributed as a versatile studio musician to more than 40 Danish music albums; as a professional graphic artist created more than 60 music album cover designs; transcribed, music engraved, typeset and layouted well over 1.300 mostly Danish pop, rock, jazz, folk & instrumental guitar music pieces and, since a. 1980, in his capacity as music editor and publishing company music editor and print manager, produced several hundred sheet music and music book titles.

Torsten is currently – beside his various shakuhachi activities - working closely with his younger brother, internationally renowned acoustic & electric guitarist Finn Olafsson, OIafssongs Music Publishers, Denmark, as a concert & studio recording musician, music editor, graphics designer, photographer, webmaster - as well as performing as a lecturer on Japanese shakuhachi history, music & ideology.

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Torsten Olafsson