Shakuhachi



「修行尺八」歴史的証拠の研究   ホームページ
      'Shugyō Shakuhachi' rekishi-teki shōko no kenkyū hōmupēji - zen-shakuhachi.dk

The "Ascetic Shakuhachi" Historical Evidence Research Web Pages

Introduction & Guide to the Documentation & Critical Study of Ascetic, Non-Dualistic Shakuhachi Culture, East & West:
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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ca. 600 to ca. 1500: The Fanciful Fully Fabricated Fairytales
     about Prince Shōtoku, Ennin, Fuke and 'Kyorei', Kakua,
     the Kojidan "Blind Monks", Kakushin/Hottō Kokushi,
     the Four Chinese Buddhist Laymen, Kichiku/Kyochiku,
     Kyomu/Kusunoki Masakatsu, the 'Boroboro',
     Ikkyū, Fuke-dōsha, Rōan & Rakuami

Sadly speaking, there is really very little information that shakuhachi "historians" have been giving you over the years that can be described as representing anything close to "true history":
Accounts of historical events that, supposedly, took place sometime back then, in bygone days, many centuries ago. That is to say: Did those "events" ever really happen?

In the the following you will be presented with quite an impressive number of narratives about the past that cannot in any way be confirmed to represent "historical fact":


6th-7th CENTURY:

Did the highly honored Imperial Prince Shōtoku Taishi ever really play the shakuhachi?

The 1238 'Kokon mokuroku shō'

Traditionalistic Japanese shakuhachi players have shared a special pride in being players of a musical instrument that may also once have been favored by a very famous member of the Imperial family. However, quite certainly, here we are just dealing with a legend made up for reasons otherwise unknown, centuries after the lifetime of the prince. Read more here:

The Shōtoku Taishi shakuhachi myth in the 'Kokon mokuroku shō', 1238




9th CENTURY:

Did the Tendai monk Ennin/Jikaku Taishi play the shakuhachi and use it as a tuning device?

The 1212 'Kojidan'

Ennin is especially famous for the account of his about his travels, studies and experiences in China during the period of 838 through 847. Did Ennin perhaps learn the shakuhachi while staying in China? We do not know. Then, did Ennin really perform the entire "Amida Sutra" on a shakuhachi, as some present-day writer has dared to describe it?
Of course not! Read more here:

The Ennin/Jikaku Taishi myth in the 'Kojidan', 1212




9th CENTURY:

Did the (quite probably legendary) Chinese monk P'u-k'o/Fuke inspire to the creation of the much respected honkyoku 'Kyorei'?

The ca. 1670 'Kyotaku denki'

Sometime during the third quarter of the 17th century ever growing masses of masterless samurai had to do something really serious to save themselves from the harsh scrutiny of the governmental religious inspectors - and to survive somehow, even being now outcasts in society. As well witnessed by "history", they conspired to create and possibly institutionalize a new lay Buddhist brotherhood of beggar monks who attracted almsgivers by playing bamboos flutes of various kinds.
Quite a few of them had probably already been active and struggling to sustain themselves as 'komosō' "mat monk' beggars during the early decades of the century, and after 1640, becoming targets of the All Sects Inspection Bureau and soon also having to cope with the Danka Seido system and its intelligence agents: the Buddhist monks, they had to come up with something quite extraordinary to legitimize their brotherhood and create an honorable identity for themselves.

As komosō they would already have shared a common reverence for 9th century Chinese Fuke Zenji and his "gospel" but beside that there was absolutely nothing linking their own humble mendicant flute playing directly with the spirit of Fuke's. Almost geniously, however, the very sound of Fuke's hand bell ringing was raised to be the very spiritual message itself. When the tinkling sound of the bell was mimicked on a bamboo flute, the resulting piece of music could then be titled "The Imitated (or False) Bell", which in Sino-Japanese spells and writes like 'Kyorei', 虚鈴.

One major challenging question arises here: At the time when the early komusō made up all of this, did the music already exist, or: did the title come first, and then the music? Nobody ever presented that particular quite intriguing schism, I think.

Read about the mythical more than 700 century long time travel of 'Kyorei' in the 'Kyotaku denki' original, 1981 reprint, in Tsuke Gen'ichi's English translation




Late 12th CENTURY:

Did a monk named Kakua to lecture the Emperor and his court about 'Zen' with his flute?

The 1322 'Genkō Shakushō'

Again, here we have a story about a person who probably never lived, and en event that never took place:

The Kakua myth in the 'Genkō Shakushō', 1322




13th CENTURY: Did "blind monks" play the "short shakuhachi" in 1233?

The 1233 'Kyōkunshō'

This piece of "historical information" is frequently being shared by writers on the background of shakuhachi playing: That "monks" played the "short flute", as type of 'shakuhachi'?, already early in the 13th century:

The blind shakuhachi playing monks story in the 'Kyōkunshō', 1233




1254: Did the highly esteemed Shingon Buddhist monk Shinchi Kakushin really bring the music piece 'Kyorei' with him back from his excursions in China?

The 1646 'Letter from the Rinzai Zen abbot Isshi Bunshu to the Komusō Sandō Mugetsu' and other important related source materials

It is absolutely impossible that Kakushin could have played any role in a transmission of a non-existing music piece named 'Kyorei' from China to Japan.
Yes!There is not a single indication in the impressive collection of Kakushin-related documents or elsewhere in reliable sources that might confirm such a claim.

Read more here:

The Kakushin/Hottō Kokushi shakuhachi myth, first invented and written down in 1646, at the latest

Shinchi Kakushin "featured" in 'Kyotaku denki'




13th century: The Four Chinese Buddhist Laymen

Ca. 1670 Kyotaku Denki

Again, these four figures never existed but were invented for one specific purpose, in particular:

The "Four Buddhist Laymen" in 'Kyotaku denki'




13th century: Kichiku - later renamed: 'Kyochiku'

Ca. 1670 Kyotaku Denki

This figure, yet another pure invention, is fascinating in more than one way:
Kichiku was chosen by the ex-samurai storytellers to be a native Japanese who became Kakushin's most studious and favored student. It was Kichiku who was made "responsible" for the creation of the music pieces 'Mukaiji' and 'Kokū', and his name was later changed to 'Kyochiku', to become the (legendary) founder of the Kyōto Myōan-ji, sometime between the years 1705 and 1735, or so ...

'Kichiku' in 'Kyotaku denki'




14th century: Kusunoki Masakatsu a.k.a. 'Kyomu'

The masterless samurai beggar monks who at some time during the mid-17th century put together the 'Kyotaku denki' legend also chose to insert a strong element of samurai heritage in their tale.
They picked Kusunoki Masakatsu, grandson of a famous general, to play this essential part in their "scam" and gave him the name 'Kyomu', 虚無僧, like in 'K(y)omosō', of course.

The samurai Kusunoki Masakatsu a.k.a. 'Kyomu' in 'Kyotaku denki'

About Kusunoki Masakatsu's famous grandfather Kusunoki Masashige:

The Chinese Zen monk Minki admonishes Kusunoki Masashige - a legend




14th century: The 'Boro-boro'

Ca. 1330: The 'Tsurezuregusa'

A special type of wandering lay monk movement, inspired by Pure Land Buddhism, is some times included in writings and speculations regarding early shakuhachi history. The most famous account of the these 'boro-boro' existences is contained in Yoshida Kenkō's literary masterpiece 'Tsurezureguza'
Whether the 'boro' ever really played any flutes is quite questionable:

c. 1330: The 'Tsurezuregusa' and the 'boro-boro'




15th century: The 'Rōan' Legend

Text to be added soon ...

The 'Rōan' Legend




15th century: The 'Rakuami' Legend

Text to be added soon ...

The 'Rakuami' Legend




18th century: Kyochiku Ryōen Zenji (originally: Kichiku)

1735: Kyōto Myōan-ji document to the Myōshin Zen Temple in Kyōto

Text to be added soon ...

1735: 'Kyorei-zan engi narabi ni sankyorei-fu ben' and the invention of the mythical Myōan-ji founder "Kyochiku Ryōen Zenji"


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