「禅尺八」歴史的証拠の研究   ホームページ
      "Zen Shakuhachi" rekishi-teki shōko no kenkyū hōmupēji

The "Zen Shakuhachi" Historical Evidence Research Web Pages

Introduction & Guide to the Critical Study and Substantiation of Early Ascetic Shakuhachi Culture in Particular:
Historical Chronology, Philology, Etymology, Vocabulary, Terminology, Concepts, Ideology, Iconology & Practices

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



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Newly Added Extra Web Page Menus

T.O. Profile / Bio / CV

About this Research Project

Preliminary Realizations & Conclusions

The Chinese Ch'an Monk P'u-k'o, the Komosō Beggars
     & the Imperialistic Catholic Christian Intruders
     - the Rōnin Samurai, the Fuke-Komosō, the Komusō
     & the Kyōto Myōan Temple - an Unbiased Narrative

The Amazing Fuke Zenji / Fuke Shakuhachi /
     Fuke-shū Legend Fabrication Hoax

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

Highlighted Illustrations

1549 ... The Catholic Christian Century in Japan
     & the Temple Patron Household System

Ascetic Shakuhachi Ideology
     and the Realization of The Non-Dual
     - Highlighted Quotations

Chronology of Ascetic Shakuhachi
     Ideology-related Terms, Concepts & Names

Various Errors, Misconceptions & Loose Ends

Wikipedia: Inaccuracies & Misunderstandings
     about 'Komusō', 'Fuke-shū', 'Suizen' et cetera

The Source Collections

The Japanese Written Sources - An Overview

Texts, Quotations & Illustrations
     A Chronological Panorama

 •  INDIA - 1 web page

 •  CHINA - 2 web pages

 •  JAPAN - 8 web pages

 •  The WEST - 1 web page

Research Cases of Particular Significance,
     Real Importance & Special Concern

ERA of the KOMOSŌ - The "Mat Monks"

     c. 1450 to c. 1550

1470s?: The Dance-kyōgen Play Rakuami

1474: Tōyō Eichō and Ikkyū Sōjun at the
     Inauguration of the Rebuilt Daitoku Temple, Kyōto

1494 & 1501: Two Enchanting Muromachi Period
     Poetry Contest Picture Scrolls

1512: The Taigenshō Court Music Treatise


     c. 1550 to c. 1628?

The Komosō & Fuke-sō / Fuke-komosō Sources

1550-1560: The Early Setsuyō-shū Dictionaries

1614: The Keichō kenmon-shū Short Story Book:
     The Fuke-komosō in Hachiō-ji, West of Edo City

1621-1625: The Neo-Confucian Scholar Hayashi Razan
     on the Shakuhachi, Komosō and Related Matters

1623: Anrakuan Sakuden's Encounter
     with a Wandering Fuke-komosō

1627-1629: Takuan Sōhō, the Purple Robe Affair, the
     Concept of 'Mu-shin Mu-nen' and the Myōan sōsō-shū

1628: The Kaidō honsoku Fuke-komosō Credo

     "Pseudo-Monks of the Non-Dual & None-ness"

     c. 1628? to 1871

The Early Komusō-related Texts
     - from c. 1628? to c. 1750

1628?: A "Fuke Shakuhachi" related Murder Case
     in the Province of Tosa on the Island of Shikoku?

1637-1640: The Shimabara Uprising on Kyūshū,
     the National "Sects Inspection Bureau", and the
     Efficient Extinction of Catholic Christian Believers

c. 1640?: The Kaidō honsoku "Version 2" Copy

1640?: Is a Very Early "Komusō Temple" built
     in Nagasaki on the Island of Kyūshū?

c. 1640?: The Strange Butsu-gen Komusō Document

1646 at the latest: Abbot Isshi Bunshu's Letter to a
     "Proto-Komusō" named Sandō Mugetsu

1646 ... The Hottō Kokushi / Kakushin Legend:
     "The Four Buddhist Laymen" & the "disciple" Kichiku

1650s?: The Kaidō honsoku "Version 3" Copy

The Kyōto/Kansai Sources

1659?: A Falsely Dated Myōan-ji Document Revealed

1664: The Shichiku shoshinshū Music Treatise

c, 1665-1675?: The Kyotaku denki Fairy Tale:
     Shinchi Kakushin, Kichiku & Kyōto Myōan-ji

The Edo/Kantō/Tōkyō Sources

1677: The Enpō 5, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Komusō Set of Rules

1678: The Enpō 5, 12th Month Komusō-ha Oboe
     Bakufu Memorandum of January 11th, 1678

1687: The Jōkyō 4, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Komusō Set of Rules

c. 1685-1690: The Yōshū fu-shi
     & Jinrin kinmō zu-i - Evidence of Kyōto Myōan-ji

1694: Myōan-ji Founder Engetsu Ryōgen's
     23 Rules for his Komusō Disciples

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

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

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

1732: The Shakuhachi denrai-ki
     and Early 'Honkyoku' History

1735: Kyōto Myōan-ji Temple Chief Administrator
     Kandō Ichiyū's Letter about 'Sankyorei-fu',
     the "Three Non-Dual Spirit Music Pieces"

1751: The Keichō 19/1614 Komusō Certificate
     The Many Different All Fabricated Versions

1752: Kyōto Myōan-ji Founder Engetsu
     Ryōgen's 23 Fixed Rules for the Komusō

1795: The Kyotaku denki kokujikai Source Book

1816: Miyaji Ikkan's Shakuhachi hikki Book

1823: Hisamatsu Fūyō's Hitori mondō a.o. texts

1830: The Kiyū shōran Encyclopedia
     on 'Komosō' & 'Shakuhachi'

Post-Edo & Post-WW2 Period History Sources & Matters
     The Re-Writing & Re-Falsification
     of "Fuke Shakuhachi" Narratives

1 - MEIJI PERIOD till the mid-20th CENTURY


1872-1878 (1843-44): The Komusō zakki
     Source Collection

From 1879 ... 1896-1914:
     The Koji ruien Historical Encyclopedia

1880-1899: Tokugawa kinreikō - A Source Collection
     of Tokugawa Period Laws & Regulations

1890: Higuchi Taizan - Teaching, the "Myōan Society",
     and the Taizan-ha Tradition of Shakuhachi Asceticism

Early to mid-20th Century Research Pioneers,
     Author Musicians, Editors & Publishers, Japan:
     Mikami Sanji, Kurihara Kōta, Uramoto Setchō,
     Nakatsuka Chikuzen, Mori Hikotarō, Tanikita Muchiku,
     Nishimura Kokū, Takahashi Kūzan, Tomimori Kyozan,
     Ikeda Juzan a.o.

1902: Mikami Sanji's Critical Article
     'Fuke-shū ni tsuite', "About the Fuke Sect"

1931-1932: Tokugawa kinreikō - A Source Collection
     of Tokugawa Period Laws & Regulations


     1945 ...

1950: "The Myōan Temple of the True Fuke Sect"
     Inauguration at Tōfuku Temple in SE Kyōto

1950s: Yasuda Tenzan, Hirazumi Taizan & 'Suizen'

1960: Uramoto Setchō's Essay about
     'Gyō no ongaku': "Music of Asceticism"

Shakuhachi Historianship in Japan Today?:
     The "Traditionalists" and the "Truth Tellers"

The Legacy of the Late Myōan Taizan-ha Teachers
     Yoshimura Fuan Sōshin & Ozawa Seizan

3 - POST-WW2 till TODAY: The WEST

     1945 ...

1945 ... : Some Early Post-WW2 Shakuhachi Narratives
     Written and Published in Western Languages

Translations of Shakuhachi Source Texts
     published in the West / Outside of Japan
     including the Internet / WWW
      - The Translators

Literature / References


Contact Info


1974 ...: Misleading 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi Meditation"
     Information & Assertions, East & West
     - Presented in Western Languages



The special term, or compound, 'Suizen', can not be seen in Japanese writing nor elsewhere at all before the year 1950,
at the earliest. Period.

It is therefore quite absurd to postulate that the 'Komusō' of the Edo Period ever "practiced 'Suizen'".
Nor, that anyone else ever did so before them, for that matter. Period!

Therefore, of course, using the term 'Suizen' as some sort of "proof" the 'Komusō' ever employed the shakuhachi for "meditation", even "Zen Meditation", is utterly meaningless.

The "idea" of 'Suizen' originated only during the very early 1950s among a group of devoted revivers of the Kyōto Myōan Temple, a serious and sincere project that seems to have been headed ideologically by the temple's first chief Zen monk named Yasuda Tenzan, 安田天山, especially.

Before then, however, already in 1928-1930, Tomimori Kyozan and Kobayashi Shizan of the Myōan Kyōkai in Kyōto proposed the use of the term
'Sui-shō-zen', 吹簫禅, in writing: "To blow a flute meditation". Nothing like that had existed before.

After 1950, Yasuda Tenzan introduced the new term 'Suizen', and he produced more than one expressive 'Suizen' calligraphy like this one, for example:

Yasuda Tenzan 'Suizen' calligraphy, detail   Yasuda Tenzan 'Suizen' calligraphy, detail

Yasuda Tenzan 'Suizen' calligraphy, details"

In 1978, Ozawa Zetsugai Seizan, a direct and very close student of the 40th Myōan Taizan-ha 'Kansu', Yoshimura Fuan Sōshin, explained the essence of Taizan-ha 'Suizen' like this:


Ozawa Seizan, 1978

Ozawa Seizan Sensei, 1939-2012
Photo: Torsten Olafsson, Spring, 1978

"Myōan Shakuhachi is related to the Fuke Sect of Shakuhachi and it has as its purpose to employ the ancient Japanese shakuhachi flute as a Dharma instrument [hō-ki] in order that one understands the Ultimately Adual Nature of the 'Bright' and the 'Dark' [Myō-An] and experiences the Essence of Non-Substantiality [kyo] through Self-Cultivation.

This [practice] is called 'Suizen'."

     By Ozawa Seizan, 1939-2012, Myōan-ji, 1978, in a letter of recommendation to Torsten Olafsson.


Columbia Japan, Sakai Chikuhou II Suizen 3 LP record set   Columbia Japan, Sakai Chikuhou II Suizen 3 LP record set

At least four, probably even more years beforehand, however, the record company Nippon Columbia had decided to produce an ambitious triple-LP release project titled 'Suizen - Chikuhoō ryū ni miru Fuke Shakuhachi no keifu' - published in 1974.

The Chikuhō School shakuhachi player Sakai Chikuhō II was engaged to record 14 shakuhachi tracks for the collection - although he was actually
not a representative of the Myōan Taizan-ha society of shakuhachi players, at all.

     Links to track lists with sound samples:

An impressive more than 64 pages pamphlet with explanatory notes, illustrations and music notations was designed and printed alongside with the three LP records.

Here, four highly acknowledged Japanese musicologists were invited to write about and explain 'Suizen' "history" and "ideology", namely:

Tanabe Hisao, Kishibe Shigeo, Kamisangō Yūkō, and Tsukitani Tsuneko.

Throughout Kamisangō's long narrative, 'Suizen' is being emphasized and honored as the very underlying essence of all the 'Komusō''s 'honkyoku' shakuhachi pieces of the entire Edo period - no less than that.

However, not even a single one of the Taizan-ha personalities that influenced the Myōan Shakuhachi revival, following WW2 and after 1950, and who invented 'Suizen', is mentioned by Kamisangō Yūkō in his 'Suizen' narrative of 1974.

Instead, Kamisangō gave the reader the clear impression that 'Suizen' had almost "flourished forever", like here not least, on page 18 in the pamphlet:

Kamisangou about Suizen, 1974, p. 18


'Suizen no shisō wa sude ni
'Komosō' jidai kara mebaeta mono de aru ga,
Fuke-shū no kakuritsu wa sore o
seiren junka shita no de atta.'

"Suizen ideology is something
that sprouted already since the 'Komosō' era,
but the establishment of the Fuke Sect
refined and purified it."


'Fuke shakuhachi no koten honkyoku wa subete
kono suizen kara umarete kara、
sono shuyō-na ongaku-teki tokushoku mo
suizen ni yurai suru.'

"Since the classical honkyoku of Fuke Shakuhachi
were entirely born from this 'Suizen',
their major musical characteristics
were also derived from 'Suizen'."

Some years later then, first published in 1988, appeared Christopher Yohmei Blasdel's impressive book
"The Shakuhachi - A Manual for Learning".
For Part II of the book: "History and Development", Blasdel "translated and adapted" substantial parts
of Kamisangō's 'Suizen' text to English.

As an example, here is Christopher's rendering of the quotation shown just in the above:

"If the suizen idea was in its infancy
during the times of the komosō,
it reached refinement and idealization
with the establishment of the Fuke Sect."

"The pieces the komusō played, called honkyoku,
were all born from the Zen spirit,
and the musical characteristics of these pieces
have their origins in suizen."

Among the prominent Myōan-ji personalities who were "instrumental" in the creation of the 'Suizen' term and ideology after 1950, directly or indirectly, one way or the other, Kamisangō Yūkō and Christopher Blasdel did not refer to any of these names in in their respective narratives:

Kobayashi Shizan, Tomimori Kyozan, Tanikita Muchiku, Yasuda Tenzan,
Hirazumi Taizan, Koizumi Ryōan, Fukumoto Kyoan & Yoshimura Sōshin.

1974 - Illustrations for the forewords
by Tanabe Hisao & Kishibe Shigeo:

Suizen stele, Tanabe Hisao foreword Suizen stele, Kishibe Shigeo foreword

In the 1974 'Suizen' LP pamphlet, both forewords are illustrated with basically the same picture
of Myōan-ji's now very famous 'Suizen' stone monument, or stele, the so called 'Suizen-hi',
吹禅碑, that was erected on the temple ground in 1966.

For Kishibe Shigeo's text, however, the picture has been somehow psychedelically manipulated, though ...

In their respective forewords for the 1974 'Suizen' LP set pamphlet, neither Tanabe Hisao nor Kishibe Shigeo gave any credit to the personalities at Kyōto Myōan-ji, who actually supported the concept of 'Suizen' there during the early 1950s.

Well, Tanabe did indeed write a little about 'Myōan-dō no Shakuhachi', 明暗道の尺八, "The Myōan Way of Shakuhachi" - a really uncommon expression, in fact - and he mentioned the two Meiji Period personalities, Katsuura Shōzan and Higuchi Taizan, however only in short. That's it.

As for Kishibe, he did not refer to Myōan-ji, at all, but rather focused on discussing the term 'Sui-chiku-zen', 吹竹禅, an idea that has only been in vogue among a few Japanese musicologists, I believe - not among the genuine Myōan Taizan-ha 'Suizen' practitioners, themselves.

Anyway, no matter what: There was no 'Suizen' in existence, nor "in action", in Japan before 1950, simple as that.

Genuine, still really well hidden, Myōan Taizan-ha 'Suizen' shakuhachi recordings:

1978 & 1995:

Suizen ichinyo LPs, 1978? Suizen ichinyo CDs, 1995?

Despite the fact that Yoshimura Fuan Sōshin's Taizan-ha 'Suizen' shakuhachi recordings of the late 1970s are titled 'Suizen ichinyo', 吹禅一如,
"Blowing the Shakuhachi & Meditation Are Not Two" [literally: "Are One"],
at the ISS website, Yoshimura Sōshin's recordings are registered under the both insufficient and quite misleading headline 'Meianji Shoden Shakuhachi Honkyoku Shū' 1-3,

     Links to track lists with short sound samples:

Links to directly related webpages:

1950s ... : The Origin of 'Suizen' at Kyōto Myōan-ji:
     Kobayashi Shizan, Tomimori Kyozan,
     Tanikita Muchiku, Yasuda Tenzan,
     Hirazumi Taizan, Koizumi Ryōan,
     Fukumoto Kyoan, Yoshimura Sōshin a.o.

1852: Kyōto Myōan-ji's 32nd 'Kansu' Rodō Genkyō's
     Commandments Regarding Komusō Begging Practice
     and 'Sui-teki shugyō' - and the Possible Origin
     of the Now so Much Favored Term 'Suizen'?

1861: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by George Smith

1864 & 1874: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Gustav Adolf SpieÞ

1893: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Francis T. Piggott

1899: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Edmond Papinot

1935 & 1964: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Sir Charles Eliot

1959: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by William P. Malm

1966: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Kishibe Shigeo

1967: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned in the anonymous cover notes
for the Lyrichord LP "Japanese Masterpieces for the Shakuhachi".

1968: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Elliot Weisgarber

1969: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Donald Paul Berger

1969: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Koizumi Fumio

1976: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Daigan Matsunaga & Alicia Matsunaga

1977: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by James H. Sanford

1977: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Tsuge Gen'ichi

1979: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Ingrid Fritsch

1987: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Torsten Olafsson

1974: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Kamisangō Yūkō

Kamisangou Yuukou about Suizen, 1974, page 17

いわば昇格したのであるから ...

"As an outcome of the establishment of the Fuke Sect
the 'komosō' groups that included beggar monks and lunatics,
be they homeless persons,
(turned into) a religious group of 'rōnin' "wave men",
the membership privilege of whom was limited to persons with samurai rank
who performed 'suizen'
and samurai martial arts, (thus) climbing in status, so to speak ..."

     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2020
     Source: Nippon Columbia 'Suizen' LP-set pamphlet, page 17.

1977: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to James H. Sanford:

James H. Sanford did not in his historical Monumenta Nipponica magazine article refer to any Edo Period 'komusō' having ever practiced any Edo Period tradition of so called 'Suizen'.

But, James H. Sanford titled the article of his "Shakuhachi Zen. The Fukeshū and Komusō!"

1979: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Ingrid Fritsch

Actually, Ingrid Fritsch did not present the term 'Suizen' in her pioneering book.

However, when discussing the role of the Edo Period Kyōto Myōan-ji, Fritsch clarified as follows,

"Hier betrieb man die Praxis des Suichiku-Zen ( Zen des Bambus-Blasens ) mit grösster Intensität, wobei die Flöte as Hōki, als religiöses Werkzeug zur Meditation fungierte."

     Source: Ingrid Fritsch, 1979, page 14.

1983: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Andreas Gutzwiller

"Das Spielen der shakuhachi in den Tempeln außerhalb religiöser Zeremonien wurde ebenfalls als meditative Übung betrieben, sie als suizen (blasende Meditation) bezeichnet wurde, und die in den verschiedenen Zen-Sekten übliche Form der Meditation, zazen, ergänzte."

     Source: Andreas Gutzwiller, 1983, page 20.

1988, 2008: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Christopher Blasdel & Kamisangō Yūkō

"Ritual pieces, begging pieces and even the pieces which seemed like entertainment for the monks were all part of the Zen training called suizen.

The word zazen, familiar in the West, refers to Zen meditation while sitting (za).

Sui means to play or to create a sound on a wind instrument.
Therefore it was literally "blowing Zen."

- - -
"Indeed, it is not surprising that the shakuhachi lends itself to the practice of suizen."
- - -
"If the suizen idea was in its infancy during the times of the komosō, it reached refinement and idealization with the establishment of the Fuke Sect.

The pieces the komusō played, called honkyoku, were all born from the Zen spirit, and the musical characteristics of these pieces have their origins in suizen."

     Source: Christopher Blasdel, 2008 (1988), page 106.

"Development of the shakuhachi as a tool for for Zen meditation."
- - -
"Historical inconsistencies aside, the lifestyle of the Fuke monks was extraordinary.
Fuke monks - in other words, komusō monks - made it part of their discipline to beg while playing while playing the shakuhachi on pilgrimages.
Shakuhachi playing, however, was just not a way to beg for alms.

The komusō ardently played the shakuhachi as a way toward enlightenment in what was called suizen or "blowing" Zen meditation.
This took the place of the more traditional zazen, or "sitting" meditation."

     Source: Christopher Blasdel, 2008 (1988), page 93.

"The change of nomenclature for the wandering monks from the ignominious komosō (straw mat monks) to Zen-sounding komusō (monks of nothingness) was very important, as it provided an air of mysticism.

The monks began to play the shakuhachi as suizen meditation and traded their instruments from the light hitoyogiri for the heavy, root-end shakuhachi ... "

     Source: Christopher Blasdel, 2008 (1988), page 101.

1990: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Takahashi Tone:

" - - - This tradition [the Kinko-ryū], established during the Edo Period in Japan, was associated with the 'komusō' (mendicant priests), who practiced shakuhachi as part of their religious training;

they practiced 'suizen', blowing shakuhachi, instead of 'zazen',
sitting in lotus position (for meditation)."

     Source: Takahashi Tone thesis, 1990, pp. 1-2.

1993: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Riley Kelly Lee:

"Throughout the history of the Fuke sect,

there were bonefide practitioners of suizen who were continuing a tradition at least as old as 14th century Ikkyū Zenji.

     Source: Riley Kelly Lee Ph.D. thesis, 1993, page 84.

"As stated above (see p.1), for at least the two centuries leading up to the latter 19th century, honkyoku, the oldest and most venerated of all of the genres of shakuhachi music, were played almost exclusively by mendicant priests, who belonged to the Fuke-shū

(普化宗) , a sub-sect of Zen Buddhism.

Even today, though the instrument is largely secularized, many shakuhachi players perform honkyoku

not as an act of making music but as an act of suizen (吹禅, 'blowing Zen'), a practice which has probably existed since well before the sixteenth century (Blasdel 1984:216; Kamisangō 1974:10-11; Ueno 1984:159-162)."

     Source: Riley Kelly Lee Ph.D. thesis, 1993, page 4.

"The monks residing in the temples followed a routine similar to that found in other Buddhist sects, with

an additional focus on playing the shakuhachi as suizen.
Kamisangō (1974:17) describes a typical day in a Fuke temple ... ":

     Source: Riley Kelly Lee Ph.D. thesis, 1993, page 80.

"The members of the Fuke sect have left us with

very little written material elucidating the philosophy which underlay their playing shakuhachi as suizen, blowing Zen, the honkyoku presumably speaking for themselves.

Kinko I is said to have

verbalized the concept of suizen with short pronouncements such as ichi on jōbutsu (一音成仏, 'one-sound Buddhahood'), chikuzen ichi'nyo (竹禅一如, 'bamboo and Zen are one') (Gutzwiller 1984:241)."

     Source: Riley Kelly Lee Ph.D. thesis, 1993, page 82.

"During the Meiji era, the suizen tradition was kept alive, particularly in the Kyōto area, by former Fuke sect members whose activities had centered around the third honzan of the Fuke sect, Myōanji."

     Source: Riley Kelly Lee Ph.D. thesis, page 93.

1994: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Tsukitani Tsuneko, Seyama Tōru & Simura Satosi,
     translated by Riley Kelly Lee:

"It was not so easy to become a member of the Fuke sect or a komusō.
This was due to the arrangement of the system of rules as determined by the Tokugawa shogunate.

Accordingly, it can be said that the shakuhachi has been handed down to us within a limited, chartered organisation.

That organization maintained an ideology centered around Zen Buddhism.

Moreover, Zen in the Fuke sect was nothing but the playing of the shakuhachi.
This ideology and lifestyle was called suizen ('blowing Zen').
Thus, in terms of suizen, the shakuhachi was not a musical instrument, and naturally pieces performed on it were not considered as being music.

To them, the shakuhachi was a hōki ('religious instrument'), that is to say, a sacred tool for the purpose of spiritual training.
If one were to use the above-mentioned emic viewpoint, within the organisation of the komusō the shakuhachi was not included in 'music', or rather was not allowed to be included."

     Source: Tukitani Tuneko, Seyama Tōru, Simura Satosi and Riley Kelly Lee (1994): "The Shakuhachi:
     The instrument and its music, change and diversification." In: Contemporary Music Review, 8:2, p. 111.

2000: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Hugh De Ferranti:

" - - - [b]y the seventeenth century the Fuke sect of Zen had institutionalized the practice of suizen - - - "

     Source: Hugh De Ferranti. 2000, page 71.
     Quoted by Christopher T. Mau, 2014, p. 115.

2002: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Simura Satosi:

"The huke syakuhati developed in the Huke subsect of Rinzai-sect Zen during the Edo period (1600-1867).

It was used in Buddhist services for suizen 'blowing Zen', a meditative activity comparable to zazen 'sitting Zen' (Sanford 1977)."

     Source: Simura Satosi in The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Vol. 7, Routledge, 2002, p. 702,
     Comment: No, James H. Sanford did not refer to "sitting Zen" in his 1977 article.

2005: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Steve Weiss and Kurahashi Kōdō II

Map of 26 Suizen temples - late Tokugawa Period?

Map of 26 "'Suizen' temples" - during the late Tokugawa Period, really?
Compiled by Steve Weiss, 2005, approved by Kurahashi Yoshio.

     Comment: There were, of course, no such "'suizen' temples" mentioned anywhere, nor ever, in Edo Period documents, whatsoever.

2005: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Bruno Deschenes
in his online article "The Interest of Westerners in Non-Western Music":

In the abstract:

"In Japan, the shakuhachi developed from

an instrument utilized by the Zen Buddhist priests of the Fuke Shuu (Fuke sect) in a form of meditation known as suizen (blowing Zen)

to an instrument, which is presently used internationally not only for meditation, but also in movie soundtracks, contemporary compositions by Western-trained composers, and even Jazz."

In the article:

"The following are, according to the questionnaire, some of the overall reasons why non-Japanese are playing the shakuhachi:
1) tone color, timbre—mystical/exotic elements—embodiment of the "Zen" sound;

2) spiritual/meditative qualities—concept of suizen—historical connection with Zen Buddhism;

3) simplicity—lack of mechanization; 4) portability/personal quality/intimacy."

In the conclusion:

"Possibly the most common Japanese instrument found outside of Japan (with the possible exception of taiko drums),

the shakuhachi is well known for its history as an instrument of Buddhist meditation.

This spiritual background of the instrument, along with its association with the natural world due to its seemingly "natural" bamboo structure, makes the instrument highly appealing for Western seekers of spirituality through music."


2005: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Steven Casano:

"Just as Japan has been economically and technologically influential worldwide, its artistic and cultural forms have also been influential on a global level.
Over the past thirty years, the shakuhachi, a Japanese end-blown bamboo flute, has steadily grown in popularity throughout the West.

In Japan, the shakuhachi developed from an instrument utilized by the Zen Buddhist priests of the Fuke Shuu (Fuke sect) in a form of meditation known as suizen (blowing Zen)

to an instrument, which is presently used internationally not only for meditation, but also in movie soundtracks, contemporary compositions by Western-trained composers, and even jazz.

     Source: Steven Casano article: "From Fuke Shuu to Uduboo:
     The Transnational Flow of the Shakuhachi to the West", 2005.

2007: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Max Deeg

"This 'spiritualisation' of an originally historical Zen denomination which had its roots in the late Edo period, 江戸時代, (1603-1868) and early Meiji period, 明治時代, (1868-1912) can be comprehended with the aid of

two concepts, those of "attaining buddhahood through one sound" (ichion-jōbutsu
and "the Zen of blowing (the flute)" (suizen
吹禪 )."

     Source: Max Deeg article: "Komusō and Shakuhachi-Zen", 2007.

2008: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Tsukitani Tsuneko

"The Fuke sect was named after its putative Tang Chinese founder, Pu-hua (Jap. Fuke).
It has no doctrines or scriptures, parishioners or lay believers;

its equivalent to Zen meditation or sutra recitation is the playing of shakuhachi
- what practitioners call suizen (blowing Zen).

No such use is recorded in China."

     Source: Tsukitani Tsuneko, 2008, page 150.

2011: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Vladislav Matoušek:

"Within the walls of the Fuke Temples the 'monks of nothingness' observed an everyday routine of discipline similar to that in other Buddhist sects, although there was

greater emphasis on shakuhachi-playing as a means of practising suizen, or 'blowing meditation'."

     Source: Vladislav Matoušek, 2011, page 61.

2012: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Zachary Wallmark:

"At the beginning of the Meiji Restoration in the late 1860s, the new, Western-oriented imperial government decided to end such chaos by officially banning the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhism.

With this edict came a corresponding, implied musical proscription against using the shakuhachi as a tool for meditation (suizen, "blowing meditation"),

: the flute would be used in secular contexts such as ensemble music (sankyoku) and folk song (minyo), but not tolerated as a solitary implement of Zen self-cultivation, at least not within the Fuke context.
In other words, the Meiji government actively redefined the shakuhachi as a "musical instrument" (gakki) instead of a "spiritual tool" (houki).
The conceptual bifurcation between gakki and houki, music and non-music, is still an ambivalent yet active division today."

     Ethnomusicology Review, Volume 17, 2012.

2012: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Gunnar Linder

"This line of spirituality can be seen as a Poietic Process in the notion of sui-zen, often translated as "blowing Zen."

This notion has gained perhaps a greater popularity in the West than in Japan, in line with the 'retransfer' to which Deeg refers, or a reimport.

Kamisangō's text from 1974, reprinted in 1995, carries the original Japanese title "Shakuhachi-gaku ryakushi – suizen no rikai no tame ni," which means "An Abbreviated History of the Shakuhachi Music – For the Understanding of suizen."

The origin of the word sui-zen is to be found in a four-character expression displayed at the temple Myōan-ji in Kyoto, one of the main komusō temples during the Edo period."

     Source: Gunnar Linder Ph.D. thesis, 2012, page 225.

2014: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Kiku Day

"Shakuhachi and meditation undoubtedly overlap due to history.

And shakuhachi playing as meditation is often described as suizen (lit. blowing Zen), often as a counterpart to zazen (lit. sitting Zen or the meditation practice performed in Zen Buddhism).

However, I have not seen the word suizen in any historical documents, and nor had prof. Tsukitani Tsuneko (1944–2010), who explained to me, that

the first time the word appeared was when the stone, in which the word is engraved, was erected at the Myōanji temple in Kyoto in the early 20th century (personal conversation 2007).

     Source: Kiku Day, "Mindful playing, mindful practice.
     The shakuhachi as a modern meditation tool." 2014, p. 13.

"Komusō (虚無僧) lit.: Monks of nothingness.
The monks, of the Fuke sect, who played shakuhachi as a meditation tool."

     Source: Kiku Day, 2014, p. 26.

"Suizen (吹禅) : lit.: Blowing Zen or meditation playing shakuhachi.
A word that is engraved in a Stone at Myōanji temple, Kyoto, Japan.

According to ethnomusicologist Tsukitani Tsuneko, it is a word that did not appear before early 20th century.

     Source: Kiku Day, 2014, p. 26

     Comment: In fact, according to the 41st 'Kansu' Kojima Hōan, the Myōan-ji 'Suizen' stone monument was, actually, first erected in 1966.

Suizen monument at Myōan-ji, Kyōto. Photo by Torsten Olafsson

Photo by Torsten Olafsson, early Spring, 1977.

2015, or earlier?: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Kiku Day's Facebook group
     "Suizen - 吹禅 - Meditation through flute music


I named this group "Suizen" to honor a Honkyoku tradition I am studying with my teachers.

Suizen is a Japanese word and means "Blowing Zen".
This is an ancient tradition of playing Japanese bamboo flute as a form of meditation.

Just another way of being present in the moment.
This is definitely not an entertainment music.
This is not an easy listening New Age style.
So listen at your own risk :-)
We also welcome other form music and sound meditation:
Native American Flute, Didgeridoo, Ney, Bansuri, Crystal Bowls etc."

     Source, link to the Facebook group URL:

2015: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Alice Harriet Jones

"History of Suizen (Blowing Zen)

Suizen originates in applying the practice of zazen (sitting Zen) to playing or making sound on a wind instrument (sui).

The principle of ichi'on jōbutsu ("enlightenment through a single note" or "Buddhahood through a single tone"), which can be achieved equally through non-musical experiences as through musical ones,

has a long and prominent history in Japanese Buddhism and the shakuhachi habitus."

" - - - komusō – literally "priests of emptiness and nothingness."

They were monks of the Fuke-shū who played the shakuhachi in order to achieve enlightenment (suizen) during the Edo period (1600-1868)."

     Source: Alice Harriet Jones Ph.D. thesis, 2015, p. 224.

2017: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Bruno Deschênes

"Suizen, 吹禅

Zen du souffle. Nom donné à la pratique ascétique par la secte Fuké.
Ils cherchaient à atteindre l'illumination par le son et le souffle."

"Suizen. The breath of Zen. Name given to the ascetic practice of the Fuke Sect.

They were striving to achieve enlightenment by the sound and the breath."

     Source: Bruno Deschênes, 2017, note in vocabulary on page 239.

newly visited as of early April, 2021:

2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Wikipedia, English language version

"Suizen was traditionally practised by the Komusō ("monks of emptiness"), the Zen Buddhist monks of the Fuke sect of Japan who flourished during the Edo period (1600 to 1868)."


2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to WikiWand, English language version

"Suizen ( 吹禅 ) ("blowing Zen") is a Zen practice consisting of playing the traditional Japanese shakuhachi bamboo flute as a means of attaining self-realization.
Suizen was traditionally practiced by the Komusō ("monks of emptiness"), the Zen Buddhist monks of the Fuke sect of Japan who flourished during the Edo period (1600 to 1868)."


2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to The European Shakuhachi Society,
     Resources, Glossary

"Suizen ( 吹禅) – Lit: Blowing Zen. The act of playing the shakuhachi as an act of meditation.

Although widely used, this word is, according to Tsukitani Tsuneko (conversation, 2007), a post-Edo period creation.


2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Carl Abbott:

"The Shakuhachi is an ancient flute that captivates many who cross its path.
Hidden in its simplicity is profound possibility.
The windy, resonant sound of the Shakuhachi brings deep serenity to sympathetic ears.

For the devoted player, it is also a spiritual tool for training the mind and breath.
Zen monks have been using the Shakuhachi for Sui Zen for centuries.
Sui Zen, which means blowing Zen, is meditation using Buddhist music composed for the Shakuhachi."


2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Hanzaburō Araki Kodō II


The shakuhachi is an end-blown Japanese bamboo flute

associated with the Fuke sect of Zen buddhism in the practice of sui zen.

The Araki Family has been playing and passing down the skills and traditions of Kinko-Ryu shakuhachi since the 19th century."


2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to the website Chadō - Der Japanische Teeweg

"Für die Fuke-Wandermönchen war die Shakuhachi nicht mehr als Musikinstrument (gak-ki) im Gebrauch, sondern wurde zu einem religiösen Werkzeug (hō-ki) und bildete den Mittelpunkt von Meditationsübungen.
Das Spiel der Shakuhachi wurde zu einem Zenweg des Erwachens."
- - -
"Für die Komusō ist die Shakuhachi ein Instrument für ihre religiöse Praxis, die als "Atemmeditation" (sui-zen) oder "Atemmeditation mit Bambus" ( 吹竹禅 suichiku-zen) bezeichnet wird, und ein "Gefäß für den dharma" ( 法器 hōki)."


2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to the 'Kyotaku' website


The study of "Zen" using an elongated bamboo flute, or "Kyotaku."

During the Kamakura period, (1185-1333) a Buddhist emissary to China, also known as Hōtōenmei, Hōtō-Kokushi of Kokokuji Temple in Wakayama Prefecture was given a shakuhachi as a part of his Zen practice in China, and accompanied the fourth master of the shakuhachi on his return to Japan.

Through Hōtōenmei,

the shakuhachi became linked to Zen and eventually developed more systematically into "SUIZEN".

- - -

"In Tang Dynasty (9th century) China, a monk by the name of Puhuà (Fuke in Japanese) used a shakuhachi flute as a meditation tool,

the act of 'blowing Zen' (suizen) as it was known."


2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Alcvin Ryūzen Ramos:

"Suizen (kanji: 吹禅; blowing zen, or blowing meditation) is the practice of playing the shakuhachi bamboo flute as a means of attaining self-realization.

The monks of old Japan who practiced suizen were called Komuso, or Monks of Nothingness and Emptiness

(Ko: kanji: emptiness, mu: kanji: nothingness, so: kanji: monk or priest).

These monks belonged to a Rinzai Zen Buddhist sect called Fuke-shu, named after the legendary Tang Dynasty Chinese monk (Ch. P'u Hua) who first inspired the use of a bamboo flute as a meditation tool.

These solo pieces on which suizen are based are called hon-kyoku kanji:
本曲, or original pieces.
In the beginning, this term was not used.


2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Bruno Deschênes:

"The shakuhachi, an end-blown flute, came from China with Gagaku music. At that time it had 6 holes.

In the 9th century, it was removed from the orchestra.

Around the same time, a monk tried to introduce a 5-hole version which did not attract the attention of musicians.

It was around the 10th century that four Chinese monks were invited to teach the xiao, the ancestor of the shakuhachi, to Japanese monks, and slowly attract their interest.

But it was not until the 13th century that monks of the Fuke sect thought of using it as a way to replace Buddhist sutra chanting.
This new way of chanting the sutras was then called suizen or 'blowing zen'.

     Source, undated web article:

2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Myōan-ji Dōshu-kai, Kyōto:

"Hotto established suizen of "Blowing Zen meditation" after realizing that blowing shakuhachi is an excellent means of meditation.

Later on, the Zen Shakuhachi style was called Myoan Shakuhachi.
In this way, Myoan Shakuhachi occupies a completely different dimension from other musical environments."


President of The International Shakuhachi Society

"Honkyoku as meditation

Many documents mention the use of the shakuhachi for religious purposes, but none actually outline how this was done.

We can assume any number of scenarios revolving around the concentration needed to accomplish the difficult manual techniques of playing the honkyoku repertoire and, especially, the control of breathing required, (much like seated Zen meditation), but the fact remains - we can never really know with any certainty how the komusō's meditative practice called Suizen (Blowing Zen) was done.

This, in spite of sayings passed down to us like, "Enlightenment in one sound", or, "Blowing and Zen are one".

It must be noted that, at least to this author, the mastery of a honkyoku and playing it for oneself is, unquestionably, a mind-and-consciousness-altering act.

Perhaps we should simply let the honkyoku speak for themselves."


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