White Birds in Snow Asian Art Poster

White Birds in Snow


White Birds in Snow Framed Art Print
Shoson, Ohara
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Although the general course of Japanese art has, of late, become widely known, it may be of interest to outline the immediate predecessors of ukiyo-e, most of which continued to exist side by side with the new form -though usually appealing to a different class of society.

During the preceding Heian, Kamakura, and Muromachi periods (in the ninth to sixteenth centuries), Japanese painting had developed on two broad fronts, one principally native and one based upon Chinese models. The Japanese styles of painting generally emphasized gorgeous coloring and softness of contour, and most often took their themes from native subjects. Originally termed Yamato-e ("Yamato pictures" -- from the old word for Japan), by the fifteenth century the style had come to be associated most closely with the painters of the Tosa school, who enjoyed the patronage of the declining Kyoto court nobility. The more linear Chinese styles of painting, on the other hand, were highly varied in manner, depending upon several sources of inspiration. Most prominent of the Chinese styles was the school of Buddhist ink painters (headed by the great Zen priest Sesshu), who concentrated on boldly simplified monochrome paintings of Chinese subjects; and the members of the Kano school, who eclectically
combined the features of the Chinese styles with the coloring and other devices of the Japanese -- style painters, and were often the favorites of the military rulers, the Shoguns. Due partly to its intimate connection with the dictatorial ruling class, the Kano school was the most popular and influential of the classical schools during the period of ukiyo-e's development, and it was only natural that several of the greatest ukiyo-e masters should have received training under Kano teachers -- although at the same time, they indirectly derived much from the Tosa painters as well.

Ando Hiroshige Landscape Poster Asian Art

Unknown (Landscape)


Unknown (Landscape)
Framed Art Print
Hiroshige, Ando
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In a sense it was Hiroshige who really taught us to see the inherent poetry of nature, where the earlier Chinese and Japanese landscape masters had never quite succeeded in reaching the common heart with their more subtle and exalted essays upon the rhythms of nature.

Ando Hiroshige ( 1797-1858) was the son of a member of the official Tokyo Fire Brigade attached to Edo Castle -- a position entailing more ceremony than actual work. He inherited the hereditary post at his father's death in 1809, but passed it on to his own son as soon as he was able. Hiroshige had studied drawing from an early age, including brief periods under a minor Kano artist-friend, as well as painters of the Literati school and the naturalistic Shijo style. Attracted to ukiyo-e, Hiroshige, after failing in an attempt to enter the popular, crowded Toyokuni school, was accepted by Toyohiro in 1811, at the age of fourteen. Although Toyohiro had been Toyokuni's fellow student in the atelier of the landscape pioneer Toyoharu, as we have pointed out earlier he had never, despite his talent, achieved the renown of his colleague; this was doubtless due to his own retiring nature and lack of driving ambition.

Hiroshige's early work as a pupil of Toyohiro consists generally of undistinguished actor and warrior prints. In his mid-twenties he shifted to making girl prints in the direct manner of Eizan and Eisen -- rather "decadent" artists who had taken the lead by default after the passing of Utamaro. Hiroshige was thirty-one when his master died; for some reason he declined the customary privilege, as the leading pupil, of adopting the name "Toyohiro II" and taking over Toyohiro's atelier. Instead, he turned to a field which had attracted him all along: landscape and nature studies. It was just at this time that Eisen and other figure-print artists were also turning to landscape, and the reason for this was clearly Hokusai's great step in developing the Japanese landscape print as an independent genre.

After a few initial experiments in which he directly emulated Hokusai, Hiroshige was already able, in 1831, to produce his first landscape prints in a unique style. These were the Famous Views of Edo, a series of ten prints which served to establish Hiroshige's name almost overnight. In the striking qualities of the bold, unconventional compositions and the Occidental overtones, Hiroshige was certainly indebted to Hokusai; but the rare and sustained poetic mood was clearly his own innovation, and one which was thereafter always to distinguish his finest work. In the following year, Hiroshige really hit his stride, beginning the production of such a masterly series as the Famous Views of Japan, from this series, will show both his superficial indebtedness to Hokusai and the elements of sinuous grace and forceful beauty of coloring he contributed from his own genius.

Woman With Kimono Poster Asian Art

Kimono


Kimono Framed Art Print
Gotzes, Sabine
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The nude, it happens, never developed as a separate form in Japanese art; the emphasis in female beauty lay most often on the facial features, the long raven hair, and the kimono. Certainly it cannot be denied that the elaborate Japanese kimono was a work of art in itself, well worthy of enshrinement in the graphic arts. Perhaps more than in any other country, the dress became a vital criterion in the appreciation of feminine beauty. The matter was stated very plainly by the courtesan Naoe of the Shimmachi pleasure quarter in Osaka. At the time of the Kansei reforms of 1789 and after -- a period when the feudal government was attempting to restrict all luxuries -- this redoubtable female sent in a strong protest to the authorities against the ban on rich kimonos. She said, in part, "Our world is different from the ordinary world... If we were to dress ourselves just like ordinary girls, how on earth could we manage to attract lovers?"

Conversation Asian Art Poster

Conversation


Conversation Framed Art Print
Thanh Binh
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The question of Zen's origin and its relationship to Buddhism has been taken up by many authorities and given different answers, depending upon the author's background and point of view. Yet everyone agrees that Zen--to use Alan Watts's expression--has a peculiar flavor and is unlike anything found in India. As Sir Charles Eliot says, "Zen, as far as our knowledge of its history goes, is a Far Eastern religion, and it is not easy to say anything definite about its connection with India. Even if the Lankâvatâra-sûtra expresses its main doctrines, it expresses them in a thoroughly Indian way, and the idea of not depending on books and letters is not at all Indian." No doubt there are parallels between certain aspects of Indian thought and Zen, but, interestingly enough, these are found not so much in Buddhist scriptures as in the Upanishads, with their strong mystic tone. As other authors, such as Professor Arthur Wright, have observed, Zen may be looked upon as "the reaction of a powerful tradition of Chinese thought against the verbosity, the scholasticism, the tedious logical demonstrations, of the Indian Buddhist texts." Since the Chinese tradition was a humanistic one which emphasized common sense rather than abstract philosophical speculation, Ch'an, with its directness, its simplicity, and its distrust of intellectual analysis, was very much in keeping with Chinese thought. In fact, during the Late Chou and Han periods, long before Dhyani Buddhism was introduced from India, the Chinese had already developed their own form of mysticism in Taoism. Christmas Humphreys, the president of the Buddhist Society of London, puts it aptly when he says that although Zen was not a Mahayana doctrine, Mahayana was a prelude to Zen's birth, "for it was the Chinese genius working on the raw material of Indian thought which, with contributions from Confucian and Taoist sources, produced, with Bodhidharma as midwife, the essentially Chinese School of Ch'an, or as the Japanese later called it, Zen Buddhism."

Meditation Buddhism Poster Asian Art

Meditation


Meditation Framed Art Print
Amrhein, Elvira
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When a monk asked him for instruction, he replied, "Show me your original face before you were born." Unlike the Indian sages, who thought in abstract philosophical terms, his approach was always direct and specific, in keeping with the Chinese tradition. Upon being asked about his teaching, he replied, "My master had no special instruction to give, he simply insisted upon the need of our seeing into our own nature through our own efforts; he had nothing to do with meditation, or with deliverance. To take hold of this non-duality of truth is the aim of Zen. The Buddha-Nature of which we are all in possession, and the seeing into which constitutes Zen, is indivisible into such opposition as good and evil, eternal and temporal, material and spiritual. To see dualism in life is due to confusion of thought; the wise, the enlightened, see into the reality of things unhampered by erroneous ideas."

Perhaps the best summary of Zen teaching is found in the following gatha or sacred lines, which have been attributed to Bodhidharma himself but which probably date from several centuries later.

"A special transmission outside the doctrinal teaching, No dependence on letters or words, Pointing directly at the Mind in every one of us, And seeing into one's Nature, whereby one attains Buddhahood."

All the essential features of Zen Buddhism are contained in these lines. First, Zen exists outside the traditional doctrines of Buddhism, having little to do either with religion or philosophy as they are usually understood. It stands apart from all other sects, and in a way is closer to the experiences of mystics in general than to the followers of Sakyamuni or the worshippers of Amitabha, the Buddha of the Western Paradise. Second, in contrast to the other sects, the Zen masters paid little attention to the sacred scriptures of Buddhism, of which the Buddhist canon includes no less than five thousand volumes, some attributed to Gautama himself, others to later disciples and various unknown authors. The reason that Zen turned away from the Scriptures is that it was felt that real knowledge could never be found through study but only in awakening to one's own nature. This leads to the third and fourth points: that the Mind, the Ultimate Essence, the Tao, or, as the Zen masters would say, the Buddha, is not in Paradise, or the temple, or the sutras, but in our heart, and only by looking into the depth of our essential self--after first stilling the desires and tensions of our outward life--can we find peace and become a Buddha. There is a striking parallel between this doctrine and that of other mystic sects. What the Dhyani Buddhist calls the Buddha nature, or Zen, is similar to what the Christian mystic calls God, Lao-Tzu and his followers Tao (a term also used by Zen Buddhists), the Hindus Brahman, or Martin Buber, the great contemporary Jewish mystic, the Ground of All Being.

Teatime Japanese Poster Asian Art

Teatime, Oolong-Kwai Flower


Teatime, Oolong-Kwai Flower Framed Art Print
Dahan, Sushila
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Of all the aspects of contemporary Japanese culture, the one which is most directly an expression of Zen ideals is cha-no-yu, or the tea ceremony, as it is known in the West. Originally practiced by monks in Zen temples, it has become for the most part a polite accomplishment for well-brought-up, traditional girls, but it still retains much of the Zen spirit, although those practicing it may be completely unaware of this debt.

Although cha-no-yu as it exists today was developed by the Japanese, the habit of drinking tea was introduced from China by Zen monks who used it during their meditation as a stimulant to help keep them awake. The ritual drinking of tea, forgotten today in China, not only persists as cha-no-yu in Japan but shows an unexpected vitality in face of the Western that has made such inroads on Japanese culture. In fact, it might be said that as a counterreaction to the Westernization of the postwar period, cha-no-yu has had a certain revival both as a protest against foreign influence and as a reaffirmation of the national heritage.

Although the earliest record of tea drinking in Japan goes back to the Nara period in the eighth century, when the Emperor Shomu invited one hundred Buddhist monks to take tea in his palace, it was not until the Kamakura period that it became at all widespread. The monks of the Five Great Temples of the Zen sect brought tea seeds back from China, and growing tea plants became popular in the Uji district not far from Kyoto, a region which to this day is famous for the quality of its tea. The Zen teacher Eisai ( 1141-1215) is said to have been responsible for making tea popular in Japan by pointing out its beneficial effects in curing a variety of diseases.

The ritual drinking of tea, introduced by the Zen priest Dai-o in 1267, did not become important in Japanese culture until the Muromachi period when, under the Zen master Ikkyu ( 1394-1481) and especially his pupil Shuko ( 1422-1502), tea drinking was developed into an elaborate cult. Shuko taught the art of tea to the Ashikaga shogun Yoshimasa ( 1435-90), who became an enthusiastic chajin, or tea man. To this day the villa (known as the Togudo) in which he celebrated cha-no-yu is preserved on the grounds of the Ginkaku-ji, or Silver Pavilion, in the northeastern outskirts of Kyoto, where Yoshimasa lived. Its tearoom (called the Dojinsai), which was the model for all later tearooms or chashitsu, was designed during the late fifteenth century by Shuko for Yoshimasa to practice cha-no-yu with his friends. So popular did the ceremony become that cha-no-yu parties were held at all hours of the day and night, and the taste of the tea devotees became so influential that the whole period might be said to reflect the spirit of cha-no-yu.

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Novice Monks at Doi Kong Mu Temple, Mae Hong Son, Thailand


Novice Monks at Doi Kong Mu Temple, Mae Hong Son, Thailand Framed Art Print
Evrard, Alain
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Feasts and festivals observed by the Thai Buddhists are mainly religious and are related to the changing seasons. Here we have to say something of the Thai traditional calendar, for most of the feasts and festivals are based on it.

The Thai traditional calendar, like all the calendars of this part of Southeast Asia, is a lunar one, consisting of twelve moons or lunar months of twenty-nine days and thirty days alternately. The former are called oddnumber months, the latter even-number months. There is an intercalated month between the eighth and ninth months every third year. The Thai name their lunar months in numerical order; the first month begins at nearly the same time as December, except in northern Thailand where the first month answers nearly to October, two months earlier than in other parts of the country. Evidently this first month, as its name shows, marked the first Thai New Year's Day in former times. The old Thai word for their first month of the year was ciaŋ or ceŋ month, a word no different from the name of the Chinese first month. Nevertheless the Thai traditional New Year's Day is now otherwise.

A month, called dyan in Thai, which means "moon," is divided into two parts, the waxing moon from the first to the fifteenth or full moon of the month, and the waning" moon beginning with the sixteenth which, however. is counted as the first of the waning moon; the waning moon ends on the fourteenth or the fifteenth according to whether the month is an odd or an even one. Hence there are two numerical series of days in a month. The days, like the months, have their odd and even numbers also. No marriage ceremony is performed in an odd-number mouth, with the exception of the extra month added in an intercalary year. This month is the beginning of the Buddhist lenten season when no marriage ceremony is traditionally performed. No cremation takes place on an even-number day of the waxing moon or on an odd-number day of the waning moon, for its first day is regarded as the sixteenth day of the mouth considered as a whole, and sixteen is an even number. Everything in number that pertains to a marriage ceremony is in pairs, and everything that pertains to a cremation is in odd numbers. Logically a marriage ceremony requires a pair of man and woman to consummate the ritual, and a cremation is confined to a dead man alone. Any odd or even number of either month or day is viewed superstitiously and with apprehension with the notion that "like produces like." A marriage ceremony performed in an odd-number month will result in one of the wedded couple not surviving long in married life. So also the cremation performed on an even day to a superstitious mind requires another living man to follow the dead one to complete such a number. The superstition is now weakening in urban areas, especially in Bangkok perhaps because of the reckoning of days and months by the solar system.

Plaisant Poster Asian Abstract Art

Plaisant


Plaisant Framed Art Print
Aubert, Sylvie
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What differentiates Zen most characteristically from all other teachings, religious, philosophical, or mystical, is that while it never goes out of our daily life, yet with all its practicalness and concreteness Zen has something in it which makes it stand aloof from the scene of worldly sordidness and restlessness.

Here we come to the connection between Zen and archery, and such other arts as swordsman. ship, flower arrangement, the tea ceremony, dancing, and the fine arts.

Zen is the "everyday mind," as was proclaimed by Baso ( Ma-tsu, died 788); this "everyday mind" is no more than "sleeping when tired, eating when hungry." As soon as we reflect, deliberate, and conceptualize, the original unconsciousness is lost and a thought interferes. We no longer eat while eating, we no longer sleep while sleeping. The arrow is off the string but does not fly straight to the target, nor does the target stand where it is. Calculation which is miscalculation sets in. The whole business of archery goes the wrong way. The archer's confused mind betrays itself in every direction and every field of activity.

When a man reaches this stage of "spiritual" development, he is a Zen artist of life. He does not need, like the painter, a canvas, brushes, and paints; nor does he require, like the archer, the bow and arrow and target, and other paraphernalia. He has his limbs, body, head, and other parts. His Zen-life expresses itself by means of all these "tools" which are important to its manifestation. His hands and feet are the brushes and the whole universe is the canvas on which he depicts his life for seventy, eighty, or even ninety years. This picture is called "history."

Ornamental Umbrellas Thailand Poster

Ornamental Umbrellas for Sale, Thailand


Ornamental Umbrellas for Sale, Thailand Framed Art Print
Bibikow, Walter
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Partly because Thailand has never been under Western control, this nation is, perhaps, less well known in the Western world than almost any other. Yet the winds of change have affected Thailand no less because she has maintained political autonomy; in some ways, indeed, Thailand's leaders have been the more ready to adopt new ideas, new techniques, new ways of looking at resources, because nationalism there has been less of an issue. The present shape of the Thailand economy, the patterns of its recent growth, and the paths it is likely to follow in the future hold interest, then, not merely for their own sake, but as a possible indicator of how the whole of the noncolonial but still underdeveloped world may in time react, when present political feeling no longer obscures the longer-range problems of economic growth.

Statistics are fragmentary, reliable estimates of resource potential and use still lacking for most sectors of the Thai economy. And such information as is available is scattered in obscure periodicals and learned journals.

Perhaps a major merit of the present volume is that it gathers together many of these separate bits of information and presents them, for the first time, between the covers of a single volume. This book is not a comprehensive study of all aspects of life in Thailand; it is, however, a more comprehensive stocktaking of Thai physical and economic geography than has yet been presented in English.

Close View of a Geisha Poster

Close View of a Geisha Eating Tofu with Chopsticks


Close View of a Geisha Eating Tofu with Chopsticks Framed Art Print
Johns, Chris
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The geisha girl in English and mousme in French as the epitome of the cliche of imposed sensuality on Japan. The Orient, including Japan, was associated with the gratification of sexual pleasures by Western men. The geisha repeatedly appeared in Western literature and art. Madame Chrysantheme (1887) by Pierre Loti (1850-1923) and Madame Butterfly (1904) composed by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), depended heavily on geisha images. However, a hasty conclusion that the sexual image of the geisha was unilaterally imposed by Western Orientalism is inappropriate. The Japanese also utilized the discourse on geisha. In the Japanese context, the sexual image was toned down and the geisha became a symbol of Japanese beauty made more acceptable for the Japanese.

The best example of Japan as an object/subject of Orientalism is the case of novelist Jun'ichiro Tanizaki (1886-1965), author of The Makioka Sisters (1943-1948) and The Key (1956). His works before 1930 greatly depend on the discourse of Orientalism for the representation of both Japan and China. Tanizaki orientalizes Japan itself when he expresses the charm and beauty of the country from the perspective of a Westerner (Self-Orientalism, Japan as the object). But when it comes to representing China, the Japanese writer confidently adopts the colonizer's viewpoint (Japan as the subject).

Anant Orchid Poster Asian Art

Anant Orchid


Anant Orchid Framed Art Print
Carney, Dennis
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Many elements of Japanese culture which today seem typically Japanese-flower arrangement, landscape gardening, the tea ceremony, sumi-e (ink painting), the cult of the subdued, the love of simplicity and understatement--were all borrowed from Chinese Zen during the Ashikaga period. Over the centuries, however, they have become such an integral part of Japanese culture that they are no longer felt to be foreign or, for that matter, even particularly Zen.

Over the centuries, Zen in China became fused with Taoism and Confucianism, thus ceasing as a major cultural force, but in Japan it permeated the entire culture, entering every phase of Japanese life. An example of a form marked by Zen is the seventeen-syllable poem known as haiku. Its greatest practitioner was the early Edo poet Basho, who roamed the countryside as a wanderer like the Zen sages of old. Although few of his poems are religious in a strict sense, all of them are imbued with a Zen feeling toward the world.

Yet if the history of the modern Japanese house is traced back to its beginnings in the Muromachi period, it becomes clear that its origin will be found in the buildings erected by the Zen abbots. The qualities which today seem peculiar to the Japanese aesthetic sensibility, such as simplicity, plainness, restraint, and severity of design, are ultimately derived from Zen sources. In fact, the whole feeling of calm and purity that we associate with Japanese architecture expresses the Zen spirit very beautifully. Other features of Japanese architecture which--although anticipated in Shinto buildings--were typical of Zen temples and teahouses are the closeness to nature, with the structure built as to be in harmony with its landscape surroundings, and the use of natural materials like unpainted wood, bark, straw, rushes, reeds, stones, and rice paper--all of which enhance the feeling of unpretentiousness which the Zen masters so admired.

Takara Tea Room Poster Asian Art

Takara Tea Room


Takara Tea Room Framed Art Print
Sewell, Krista
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The art form most favored by the tea masters was pottery, and many of the great treasures of the tea cult are ceramic vessels. The two shapes particularly important in the tea ceremony are the cha-ire or tea caddy, which contains the powdered tea, and the chawan or tea bowl. The shapes were not designed especially for the tea ceremony, but were borrowed from quite ordinary vessels. The oldest and most precious of the cha-ire were oil or drug bottles produced in Sung China, and the most celebrated tea bowls, valued so highly by masters like Rikyu and assiduously collected by Hideyoshi and his generals, were humble rice bowls which had been used by Korean peasants. So great was this love for the simple that pots which had misfired or had been mended were also treasured, while fine porcelains and ornately decorated wares were considered inappropriate for the tea ceremony. Coarseness and irregularity were looked upon as particularly desirable. Rikyu himself attached no importance whatsoever to the age and value of the utensils so long as they had the qualities which the chajin so greatly prized.

Various shapes and types of pottery could be used for the tea ceremony. Many of them (especially during the early period of tea--that is, before the time of Rikyu) were imported from China and Korea, but later they were produced largely in Japan. Among the Chinese wares the tea masters preferred were the dark-brown chien ware, known as temmoku in Japan; the greenish celadon, referred to as seiji; and the cruder types of blue-and-white ware that the Japanese call sometsuki. Among the Korean bowls, the Ido wares were especially valued for their strong, simple shapes and the fine network of crackle which covers their surface. The colors of all these wares were subdued, in keeping with the spirit of cha-no-yu, while bright colors and rich designs were considered inappropriate.

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Twin Birds in the Branches


Twin Birds in the Branches Framed Art Print
Chang, Hsi-tsun
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Another strong influence on garden design was Chinese-style ink painting, and it has often been said that the gardens of the fifteenth century are nothing but sumi-e pictures translated into another medium. In both, the artist attempts to express nature in symbolical terms, using a kind of artistic shorthand. Characteristically enough, one of the most famous treatises on this subject, the Tsukiyama Teizo-den (Making of Hill Gardens), was written by the famous ink painter Soami, who was also an outstanding garden architect. In describing the construction of gardens and the spirit which inspired them, he says, "Even in a limited area, a landscape suggestive of the heart of the mountain or a deep ravine can be created, but only by an expert. Take for instance the case of the waterfall. If a waterfall is exposed to full view from the top to the bottom, it will appear low and add very little to the scenic effect. But if the upper part of it be concealed by trees, the middle part partially hidden by projecting rocks or by a branch of a tree, and the basin have a growth of grass or plants, the fall is not exposed in its entirety, and may give the impression of being of a great height. It is the same with the pond . . . too great a stress cannot be placed on the importance of the dignity or the spiritual quality of nature represented. Caution should be taken not to be too anxious to overcrowd the scenery to make it more interesting. Such an effect often results in a loss of dignity and a feeling of vulgarity. One's heart and mind should be concentrated on the profundity of nature, and there should not be any suspicion of frivolity in one's attitude towards it."

Cherry Blossoms Poster Asian Art

Cherry Blossoms


Cherry Blossoms Framed Art Print
Lange, E.
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The Japanese school of Zen painting which had originated during the fourteenth century reached its culmination during the fifteenth at a time when Ch'an art had all but died out on the continent. Besides portraits and paintings of Zen scenes, many landscapes were produced--in fact, by far the most common subject was the landscape. The views represented were always ideal Chinese landscapes with misty mountain peaks, gnarled pines, rocks, waterfalls, lakes or rivers--never the softer, more gentle landscapes of Japan. It might seem odd that Zen priests painted landscapes, but to them they were just as much a religious subject as the paradise scenes had been for the Buddhist artist of an earlier age. Although the underlying conception of the tiny sage contemplating the vastness of the cosmos, or the fisherman living in harmony with nature, is no doubt Taoist in origin, the idea was taken over by the Zen Buddhists, who were very close in philosophy to the Taoists. Like the Southern Sung painters, the Japanese expressed through the landscape their own mystic view of the world.

Of the painters of the early years of the fifteenth century, the two most famous were Josetsu and Shubun, who are reputed to have been the teachers of Sesshu. Both were priests associated with the great Zen temple of Kyoto, the Shokoku-ji, which served as a cultural center for the court. Little is known about Josetsu, and only a few works can be attributed to him with any certainty. The most famous is a typical Zen picture entitled "Catching a Catfish with a Gourd," which is owned by the Taizo-in of Myoshin-ji in Kyoto. Painted in the early years of the fifteenth century, with inscriptions by Taigaku Shusu and no less than thirty poems of other Zen priests, it is the earliest authenticated Japanese landscape in the Chinese style. Jagged mountaintops rise above mist in the background, and in the foreground there are bamboos, rushes, and a stream swirling around rocks. In the middle, standing at the edge of the bank, is a rustic who is trying to catch the slippery catfish with a gourd. The scene is a Zen parable, the point being that it is just as hard to define the elusive nature of Zen as it is to catch a fish in a crude container. In this early example of the "new style" of Zen painting, as this scroll was called in its inscription, the landscape is combined with a Zen story, but there is no doubt that Josetsu and others were already painting pure landscapes in the Chinese style.

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Nine Dragons Chasing Flaming Pearls, Chinese, C 19th Century


Nine Dragons Chasing Flaming Pearls, Chinese, C 19th Century Framed Art Print
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The Zen monasteries, which were sanctuaries of peace in these troubled times, were the center of this artistic activity. Many of the most famous painters were actually Zen monks, and almost all of them were deeply influenced by Zen, whose impact on Japanese culture was so profound that even the court artists could not help reflecting the prevailing taste. Not only were Zen subjects treated by practically every painter, but Zen itself had a far more lasting effect in Japan than it ever had in the country of its birth. While in China Ch'an Buddhism had been a special cult without any broad popular appeal, in Japan it permeated all of life, influencing not just art but ordinary things of everyday life.

The earliest of the Japanese Zen monk painters were Mokuan and Kao. Little is known about either, and few of their works have survived. Mokuan is believed to have lived during the first half of the fourteenth century. In 1326 he is said to have traveled to China, where he remained for many years, studying Zen and perfecting himself in the art of ink painting until his death around 1348. Apparently much admired, Mokuan was celebrated as a reincarnation of Mu-ch'i, whose style he followed. This led to a confusion between their works, and it is now thought that many of the paintings traditionally attributed to Mu-ch'i are actually by Mokuan. The subjects he treated were usually taken from Zen legend, illustrating the lives of Zen saints, or dealing with enlightenment--a kind of painting which the Japanese call doshaku-ga. Most of his works have long inscriptions by contemporary Chinese Ch'an masters, suggesting the close association between art and religion in this type of painting. Among the surviving works of Mokuan, the finest is the scroll in the Maeda collection called "The Four Sleepers," showing the beloved pair Han-shan and Shih-tê. (Kanzan and Jittoku in Japanese), with Fêng-kan (Bukan in Japanese) and his tiger ( Plate 12 ). Painted in a loose, easy style, the figures are presented with a good deal of humor, lolling against each other and draped over the tiger, who looks as harmless as an overgrown cat. Although Mokuan was a follower of Mu-ch'i, this work also resembles that of Yin-t'o-lo in its light skillful line and its lack of any deep inner tension. There is nothing in the style or iconography that is specifically Japanese, and there can be no doubt that Mokuan saw his painting as a continuation of that of his great Chinese predecessors. Other works attributed to Mokuan are the painting of Hotei (Chinese Pu-tai), the fat, jolly incarnation of Maitreya, and a picture of a kingfisher--the one in the Sumitomo and the other in the Ohara collection. Although the theme of the latter does not seem particularly Ch'an, Zen artists often chose such subjects as an expression of the belief that the Buddha nature inhabits all living things.

Buddha's Hand Poster Asian Art

The Hand of Buddha


The Hand of Buddha Framed Art Print

Sitton, Hugh
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The influence of Zen Buddhism was by no means restricted to religious architecture but extended to domestic architecture as well. The origin of the Japanese house as we know it today goes back to the late Kamakura and above all to the Muromachi period, when a new style of house, known as shoin-zukuri, replaced the traditional shinden-zukuri type, which had been popular with the Kyoto nobility of the previous period. This new type of house, which was characteristic of the austere and vigorous culture of the warrior class, was influenced by the residence of the Zen abbots, for the relationship between these two classes was intimate during both the Kamakura and the Muromachi period. One group, forming the intellectual elite of the nation, dominated the culture, while the other concentrated the military and political power in its hands; yet both the Zen priests and the military men had much in common, for each made a cult of rigorous self discipline, frugality, austerity, and boldness.

The outstanding traits of this new type of domestic architecture were features which to this day may be found in the Japanese house--the shoji or sliding screens with translucent paper panels; the tokonoma or toko, an alcove with a raised platform used for the display of works of art (in the priest's dwelling it would have been Buddhist scrolls or calligraphy); the tana, a shelf built into the wall (used for storing sacred texts in the monasteries); and the shoin (from which this style of architecture is named), a window with a desklike elevation used as a kind of study. In addition, there was the entrance hall or genkan, a feature still typical of the Japanese house. The arrangement of the rooms and the various parts of the building complexes was very irregular, not symmetrical as it had been in the shinden-zukuri style of the Heian period. But the trait which was the most outstanding and also the most immediately related to Zen was the extreme severity of its design and the simplicity of its forms. The straight lines of the interior created geometric patterns of a very pure kind of beauty, and the materials themselves were simple and unadorned. The floors, which in the earlier houses had been wood, were now tatami, consisting of a straw base covered with reed matting; the walls were made of wood and plaster; the ceiling was of plain wood; and the scrolls in the tokonoma, in keeping with Zen artistic ideals, were usually painted in monochrome so as to blend in with the soft tones of the rooms. All these features are found both in the abbots' quarters and in the houses of the aristocracy, but there is no doubt that they can be traced back to the Zen monasteries.

Moonlight Pagoda Asian Art Print

Pagoda in Moonlight


Pagoda in Moonlight Framed Art Print
Hasui, Kawase
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The general plan of the traditional Zen temple complex was usually organized along a central axis leading from the outer gate (somon) to the main gate (sammon), to the Buddha hall (butsuden), and the Dharma hall (hatto). The abbot's quarters, known as the hojo, were usually in back of these main buildings. Various smaller structures, such as the kitchen, the bath, the lavatories and the library, stood at the sides of this main group without following any particular plan. Sometimes there was also a pagoda, but it was less essential than it had been in traditional temple design. The zendo or meditation hall was sometimes incorporated into the main axis, but more frequently it had a precinct of its own and was actually the spiritual center of the temple. In fact typical Zen temples, such as the great monastery of Daitoku-ji in Kyoto, consist of a whole cluster of subtemples and residences grouped loosely around the main buildings. These were used for private meditation and living quarters not only for the abbots and monks but also for guests who wished to devote themselves to the religious life and for old people who had withdrawn from the world in order to practice meditation. While in most cases the architectural detail of these structures does not differ noticeably from that used in the buildings of other sects, the general spirit of these temple yards, with their serenity, cleanness, and simplicity is profoundly Zen, and this aspect has had an incalculable effect not only on the further development of Japanese architecture, but also on the general aesthetic culture of the Japanese people.

Asian Art Framed Poster - East

East


East Framed Art Print
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IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to define Zen in words. The Zen masters insisted that what can be expressed verbally is not Zen, just as centuries earlier Lao-tzu had said, "If the Tao could be comprised in words, it would not be the unchangeable Tao." Sakyamuni himself, to whom legend attributes the origin of Dhyani Buddhism, is supposed to have pointed at a bouquet of flowers when he was questioned about the nature of ultimate reality. "Not a word came out of his mouth. Nobody understood the meaning of this except the old venerable Mahākāśyapa, who quietly smiled at the master, as if he fully comprehended the purport of this silent but eloquent teaching on part of the Enlightened One. The latter, perceiving this, opened his gold-tongued mouth and proclaimed solemnly: 'I have the most precious treasure, spiritual and transcendental, which this moment I hand over to you, O venerable Mahākāśyapa.'" Ever since that day, according to Zen legend, there has existed a third tradition, Dhyani or meditative Buddhism (known as Ch'an in China and Zen in Japan) which stands apart from the two main bodies of Buddhism, the Hinayana, or Small Vehicle school, which still flourishes in Ceylon, Thailand, and Burma, and the Mahayana or Great Vehicle school, which has been dominant in China and Japan.

The first event in the history of Zen Buddhism which can be documented with a fair amount of certainty is the arrival in China in A.D. 527 of the Indian monk Bodhidharma, better known by his Japanese name of Daruma, who is said to have been the twenty-eighth patriarch in the line of descent from Buddha's disciple Kasyapa. The Liang dynasty emperor Wu, upon hearing of the great teacher's arrival, at once summoned him to his court at Nanking, but the encounter must have been a disappointment to the emperor, who could not have enjoyed the answers that the monk gave to his questions. When the Son of Heaven asked if he had acquired merit by building temples, distributing scriptures, and giving alms, Bodhidharma replied, "Not at all." Upon being asked in what true merit consisted, the teacher said, "In the obliteration of Matter through Absolute Knowledge, not by external acts." Finally, when asked who he who had come before the imperial throne was, the patriarch replied, "I do not know." It is reported that Bodhidharma thereupon left the capital and established himself in a small country temple in northern China where he sat contemplating a wall for nine years, during which period disciples came from all over China to study with him. Little is known about his end. Some records say that he returned to India, others that he died in China, but all agree that he lived to a venerable old age. Considered the first of the Chinese Ch'an patriarchs, he had many followers, among whom Hui-k'o was the most significant.

Cherry Blossom Asian Art Poster

Cherry Blossom


Cherry Blossom Framed Art Print
O'Flannery, Jill
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Many modern artists, although perhaps not consciously Zen, reflect the influence of Zen thinking or at least show that they are trying to express similar sentiments. Nonfigurative painting gives the painter the opportunity to discover the essence and to be able to express the inner self. When the American sculptor Lassaw speaks of "an awareness of the universe" directed unconsciously by what he believes to be the "profoundest levels of his being," then one can hear the voices of the Zen masters who saw the nature of artistic expression in similar terms. Small wonder, therefore, if essays on Zen and paradoxical Zen tales are enjoying a great popularity among abstract artists.

Another phase of Zen--the emphasis upon the spontaneous, the nonrational and the intuitive--strikes a sympathetic note in many a modern artist. When Langdon Warner says that in Zen painting "the technique thus evolved was a shorthand in which not only the subject matter but the very manner of the brush stroke came to be a most expressive vehicle of meaning" he seems to be talking about today's action painters. Even closer to their way of thinking is a story about the Chinese monk painter Fang I-chih of the early Ch'ing period. "After the change of dynasty he shaved his head, entered a monastic order, and started life as a hermit. He wore coarse clothes and his food was simpler than that of the poorest scholar. He severed all his connections with the world, but when inspiring thoughts arose, he would express them in poems or paintings, and most of it was done according to the Ch'an mode, simply as self-expression without any attempt to make it intelligible to others. . . . He used a worn out brush and did not aim at likeness. He often said, 'Can you guess what it is? It is what Wu Tao-jen has made of nothing.' From these remarks it becomes evident that the meaning of his pictures was of Ch'an origin."

In Japan itself, few of the outstanding modern artists show any Zen influence. This is partly because of the tremendous impact that Western oil painting has had on Japanese artists and partly because of the fact that the conservative painters who work in a traditional style look back to other phases of Japanese art such as Momoyama decorative screen paintings, Yamato-e narrative scrolls, or the woodblocks of the ukiyo-e. Among those who claim a Zen heritage, by far the most vital and original is Shiko Munakatal, born in 1903, who both in style and in subject clearly reflects his Zen beliefs. Many of his prints as well as his ink paintings and calligraphies are definitely Zen in inspiration, showing Buddhist saints, abstract landscapes similar to those of the Ashikaga Zen painters, and calligraphic scrolls of Zen sayings. His manner of work is even more characteristic of the Zen approach. Charles Terry, in writing about Munakata, says, "As for his attitude towards art, he flatly answers that it is based on Zen Buddhism, and he firmly believes that true art should follow the Zen principle of selflessness. Too many artists, he has said, have too much self in their work." To him creativity is something very natural, which springs spontaneously from the inner self. A few strokes, the brush moving with an astonishing, almost effortless speed, or a quick attack of the knife on the block, and the statement has been made, the truth revealed. Although his work is not Zen in a traditional sense, it gives expression to the same spirit that motivated the Zen masters and shows the vitality of the Zen tradition even in the Japan of the modern world.

Oriental Fan Asian Art Print

Oriental Fan II


Oriental Fan II Framed Art Print
Cairns, Sally Ray
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Zen, Dormant for so many years, has not only experienced a revival in Japan but has also begun to influence the West. Zen abbots are touring the United States, Zen groups are forming in various parts of the world, Zen scholars are teaching at leading universities, Zen ideas are being discussed in Greenwich Village and among the beatniks in San Francisco, and books on Zen are having a brisk sale, just as works on existentialism did a decade ago. Serious young Westerners have even gone to Japan to study in Zen monasteries, submitting themselves to the exacting discipline in order to find an answer to the puzzle of human existence.

Modern men are indeed groping in the dark which envelops the birth pangs that usher in a new age in all fields of human activity. Some of them, independent and original, revolt against liberalism and philistinism, communism and despotism, industrialism and automation, science and technology--which characterize the modern world of cheap, shallow intellectualism. But those of the 'Beat Generation' are not fully conscious of why they rebel or what they propose to do; they do not know their inner Self which is moving in the deep unconscious; they do not know that there is something in each of them, in dividually and collectively, prodding them to go on and they cannot intellectually determine what it is. But if they come to feel and find this mysterious something their 'new Holy Lunacy' will cease; they will just rest satisfied with themselves and with the whole world confronting them. It goes without saying that this satisfaction is not sheer passivism or doing-nothing-ness.

Not only scholars and writers have delved into Zen and pondered its relationship to the visual arts, but also many creative artists have studied both the spirit and technique of Zen painting in order to use the insight they gain in their own work. Among those most deeply versed in Zen are Mark Tobey and Morris Graves, two West Coast painters from the Seattle area. Members of a Northwest school of art which is oriented towards the East, they look to China and Japan for inspiration rather than to New York or Paris. Both have lived in the Far East, and throughout their lives, have been enthusiastic students of Oriental religion and philosophy. To them the calligraphy and ink painting of China and Japan are just as familiar as the oil painting of the School of Paris, and significantly enough, both have done their major work in the water-color medium. In fact, in 1934 Tobey (who was born in 1890) actually lived in a Japanese Zen temple, and spent several months in China in order to study Chinese calligraphy. In 1956 Graves also visited Japan. For many years prior to that, he had been a student of Far Eastern art and Zen philosophy, notably during his stay in Honolulu when he had been granted a Guggenheim fellowship for study in Japan but had been unable to go there because of the restrictions on travel during the immediate postwar period.

Tobey, twenty years older than Graves, who was born in 1910, first directed Graves's attention to Oriental art. Although Tobey never became a Zen Buddhist but has been a lifelong follower of Bahai, the modern Persian religion which teaches a new universal faith, he is close to Zen thinking and has been influenced both by Zen ideas and by Zen art. As his biographer Collette Roberts says, "Tobey has an intuitive Zen sense of existence that harmonizes with his Quaker heritage. He refers us to Watts's book, The Way of Zen, but does not wish to comment on Zen. That Tobey's work, essentially reflective, has found in and through the Orient a means of expressing the inexpressible--has found a language--is a certitude." Tobey's white-writing paintings are deeply imbued with Zen, for like the calligraphy of the Zen masters, they express the inner self and are no longer concerned with outer form alone. Like the Zen painters, Tobey is a mystic intent on his inner vision rather than on the outer appearance of the world around him. As he once said, "The dimension which counts for the creative person is the space he creates within himself. The inner space is closer to the infinite than the other, and it is the privilege of a balanced mind--and the search for equilibrium is essential--to be as aware of inner space as he is of outer space."

Waving Reeds Asian Art Poster

Waving Reeds II


Waving Reeds II Dimensional Product
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In emptiness, forms are born. When one becomes empty of the assumptions, inferences, and judgments he has acquired over the years, he comes close to his original nature and is capable of conceiving original ideas and reacting freshly.

Behind the creation of such a painting are many years of practice with brushes and ink, years of study of paintings of the same school, years of observation in such surroundings, years of training with Zen masters. Yet we know that for each such masterpiece, a thousand other paintings, now forgotten, have come from a similar background. Only occasionally is great work created, for only occasionally does insight of such a high degree of purity inform technique. Both training and inspiration are necessary, but only when a person's conscious actions are guided by the preconscious intuitions of his whole being does he do his best work. But what is going on inside him may result in a great painting or poem, a great piece of cabinetry, a great political decision. Perhaps the painter of this picture was enabled to create this masterpiece by just such meditations.

Cloisonne Jet Wall Tapestry Asian Art

Cloisonne Jet


Cloisonne Jet Wall Tapestry
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Man arises from nature and gets along most effectively by collaborating with nature, rather than trying to master it. In many typical Western paintings, Homo sapiens is pictured taking up the larger part of the canvas, with the mountains and lakes and sky serving merely as an inconsequential backdrop to his self-importance. In Zen landscapes, the man-environment proportion shows a sound ecological relationship, in which no element dominates or damages any other. Consequently you are likely to experience a feeling of harmony as you look at this picture (and at others painted with this same insight. In such a timeless landscape you relax your tensions; you get in touch again with existential basics. You, too, are part of this harmony. Flow with it.

As you sit here quietly, enjoy your quiet self. Forget your activist self. Such forgetting is not a denial of real self. There is no real self to deny--a self that persists always in one pattern, one mood, one degree of intelligence, one turn of affection. The living you is always changing. Live now; accept yourself as you are now. There is no one to be always blamed, no one to be always praised.

Terra Cotta Garden Stretched Canvas Print

Terra Cotta Garden


Terra Cotta Garden Stretched Canvas Print
Li-Leger, Don
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Everything is a word with mind-expanding connotations. No one can visualize everything, but this landscape, with its indefinitely vast horizon, suggests the illimitable. Beyond the lake that winds out of sight behind the cliffs lie ranges of mountains and other valleys. And beyond them--is it a mirage?--spreads a long lake at the foot of a range that disappears out of the reach of our mental vision. What is the basis for this harmony? Billions of transactions between frost and rock, water and sand, tree and soil, mountains and clouds. Each transaction has been working out according to its Tao-the way things go. The total sum lies before us: this present moment--the result of everything that has gone before. Everything has a cause, and the cause of anything is everything.

The self and the rest of the universe are not separate entities but one functioning whole. We cannot logically say self and nonself are one, since quite obviously the lake and the fisherman are not the same. Just as obviously, however, the lake and the fisherman lose their significance as fishcontainer and fish-catcher, respectively, without the other. They are not two unrelated entities, but parts of one functioning whole.

Cranes Over Moon Asian Zen Art Poster

Cranes Over Moon


Cranes Over Moon Stretched Canvas Print
Nishimura
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If we can view ourselves--and also tigers and people and plants and even social or business situations--with a nonjudging, open eye, the potentialities of each person, situation, and thing will be freer to develop. And the tiger may lie down with the fat boy. And each of us may live at peace with himself. Clouds, mountains, man, fields--fulfilling their own natures, neither dominating nor being dominated. Not apart, yet not together. To learn the nature of each field we till and then to till it in accordance with its nature--there harmony exists, and creativity. What is the significance of the bamboo leaves, or of the bird? Are they beautiful? Are they useful? The eager, categorizing grasshopper-mind struggles to classify them. In vain. Before this moment of eternity frozen in a nonspan of time, this mind falls silent.

The bamboo leaves, the bird, the cliff top are. They exist as bamboo leaves, bird, cliff top. This is it. No whence; no whither. In the abysmal void they take their place with the countless forms that rise from that void and sink back into it. Large, small, mobile, immobile--each manifests its own nature.

And so with you. Can you sit as quietly as the bird and the bamboo and the cliff top? Can you feel yourself as a form that has come out of formless energy and is a part of it; that exists in its own right, apart from any of the classifications given to it? Can you be just aware, like the cliff top, the bamboo, the bird, frozen in a nonspan of time? A nonself. A being. A formless form. A . . . Flowers bloom calmly. Human beings squirm restlessly. Well-they bloom; we squirm.

Bamboo Inspirations Wall Tapestry

Bamboo Inspirations II


Bamboo Inspirations II Wall Tapestry
Mccoy, Thomas
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Man arises from nature and gets along most effectively by collaborating with nature, rather than trying to master it. Everything is fulfilling its part in the whole. Such is life--and of such are the realities of life. Harmony comes in understanding things on their own terms, and in a compassionate and humorous acceptance of the way they fulfill their roles. The artist's technique contributes to this feeling of the universal in the particular. This is the way things are on planet Earth, our only home.

Everything exists according to its own nature. Our individual perceptions of worth, correctness, beauty, size, and value exist inside our heads, not outside them. Each one of us--sage, tiger, man on the street--exists on other levels than the conscious one. We say, "It came to me that . . ." or "A thought just popped into my mind." Where did these thoughts come from? Can we answer this question by saying, "From the same place that the directions for body growth and repair come from"? That is to say, they come from our inner nature, that makes each one of us a unique person, with unique potentialities that often get fouled up by the attempted imposition of standards alien to that nature.