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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

Kaidō Honsoku - The Thesis, 1987 / 2003

This particular presentation has been transferred directly from the previous website and may be further re-edited.

I have been researching the historical background, ideology and musical characteristics of the Japanese bamboo flute shakuhachi (though somewhat "off-and-on") for more than forty years.
Enrolling at the East Asian Institute, University of Copenhagen, in 1968, I first studied Chinese language (classical and modern), history, art, philosophy and music theory over a period of six years, obtaining a B.A. degree in Chinese Culture in 1974.
Then followed further studies in the fields of Japanese language (classical and modern), history, art, philosophy and music, and I acquired another B.A. in 1981 - in Japanology.

At that time, realizing that one ought to study the original sources themselves - textual and pictorial - I began to search through the significantly many surviving source materials available in reprint which illustrate and illuminate the history of the shakuhachi.

Then, in 1983, having for some time been researching a subject for a Master's thesis in Japanology, in one of my Japanese source collections I discovered a reprint of a hitherto virtually unnoticed 1628 hand-scroll entitled KAIDŌ HONSOKU, produced by the very last generation of the medieval Japanese ascetic shakuhachi itinerant monks known as komosō, or "mat monks".
While translating the text I soon came to the realization that among all of the numerous known written sources of Fuke Shakuhachi history and ideology the KAIDŌ HONSOKU should in fact be appreciated as perhaps the most important and significant of them all.

The resulting thesis was completed and submitted to the University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Letters, in 1987, entitled:

     Early Seventeenth Century Ascetic Shakuhachi Ideology:
     The Kaidō Honsoku.
     A Komosō's Fuke Shakuhachi Credo dated 1628.
     M.A. thesis in Japanology.
     East Asian Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 1987.
     145 pp., ill.

The complete thesis is available in PDF-format on CD-ROM, enclosed with an introductory article on the subject published by Tai Hei Shakuhachi, California:

     Kaidō Honsoku, 1628: The Komosō's Fuke Shakuhachi Credo.
     On Early 17th Century Ascetic Shakuhachi Ideology.
     24 pp., ill. Edited by Mei Levenson.
     Published by Monty H. Levenson, Tai Hei Shakuhachi,
     Willits, California, 2003.

You may read more about the edition here:

Kaidô Honsoku Thesis, front


The KAIDŌ HONSOKU thesis presents a full, annotated translation of the KAIDŌ HONSOKU text itself and references to other significant early sources of Fuke shakuhachi history, including translations from Chinese and Japanese literature, pictures, detailed maps, discussions and new theories.

Among the findings:

The Chinese Zen monk Fuke (Chin: P'u-k'o Ch'an-shi, 9th cent.) did not play the shakuhachi, nor did he have any disciple(s) who - acc. to the traditional legend - copied the tinkling of Fuke's hand bell on his flute. Neither could the Japanese Shingon monk Kakushin (alias Hottō Kokushi) have learned any kind of "Fuke shakuhachi music" when he studied zen (Ch'an) Buddhism in China in the mid-13th century. Only sometime during the course of the 16th century was Priest Fuke "adopted" by the komosō, or "mat monks", as their spiritual ancestor, or "role model".

When these Fuke shakuhachi itinerants produced the KAIDŌ HONSOKU in 1628 they were still referring to themselves as komo-sō (and bo-ro), whereas the term k(y)o-mu-sō, "monk of non-substantiality & noone-ness"?, was invented afterwards, probably as late as during the 1640's.

Likewise, the long and  thick root-end shakuhachi as we know it today appeared even later, sometime during the last decades of the 17th century, or so.

It is noteworthy that - according to the KAIDŌ HONSOKU evidence - the Fuke Shakuhachi mendicants of 1628, the komosō, did indeed not explain their peculiar practice in terms of Zen Budhhist philosophy only.

Ideas derived from ancient Indian Advaita (or "non-dualistic") Vedanta philosophy and Dhyana Buddhism, Chinese Yin-Yang cosmology, Five Element theory, Taoism and Ch'an Buddhism, combined with Japanese Shingon (Tantric Buddhism), Tendai and Pure Land Buddhist thought are represented as well, directly or indirectly - including the acknowledgement of Shintō.

Basic Zen concepts like f.i. zazen, sammai, and takuhatsu angya do not figure in the KAIDŌ HONSOKU at all.
Neither do the terms ichi-on jō-butsu (or "becoming a Buddha in a single sound"), onsei seppō (or "musical sermons") & hō-ki (Dharma instrument) - nor the very word Zen . . . , for that matter.
While acknowledging the existence of "16 Komosō branch sects", there is no reference to the existence of any actual Fuke Shakuhachi temple organization as such, i.e. in 1628.

     "And now being deprived of employment anywhere, be it at any
     of  the three barriers of Akama-ga-seki in the Nagato Province,
     Ōsaka-no-seki at the capital, or the the two checking stations of 
     Shirakawa in Ōshū, the Komo who abundantly wander the world, 
     to whom Heaven and Earth have the same root and All Creation is
     One Body, have neither confinements nor attachments."
          [KH par. 12. Trsl. by T.O.]

Torsten Olafsson

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Kaidô Honsoku

"Kaidō Honsoku"

Komosô = Mat Monk


Komosô - Mat Monk

"Mat monk"
Late 15th century