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Purity of the Moon

The word calligraphy comes from the Greek and means “beautiful writing.”
In China and countries within its sphere of cultural influence, such as Japan and Korea, calligraphy reflects something much more complex than mere appearance. The Chinese term shufa (method of writing) implies the importance of technique, skill, and know-how. Rules govern the way in which a character is formed, and more than a thousand years of criticism and commentary informs their style or lack thereof.

In the hands of a master the writing brush becomes an instrument of great refinement and power as in this tour de force of brushwork. Buddhist monks, particularly those who practiced Chan Buddhism (Zen in Japan), often employed this rapid style of painting and calligraphy because of the discipline it required. This painting of a pair of poems written by two Chinese monks is not only beautiful but also rare—it records the transfer of Obaku Zen Buddhism from China to Japan.

Feiyin Tongrong
Chinese, 1593–1662
Yinyuan Longqi
Chinese (active in Japan), 1592–1673
Purity of the Moon
1655
Ink on paper
16 3/16 x 38 3/8 in. (41.1 x 97.4 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 83.41