19. Hey! Listen!



Nantembō Nakahara (1839-1925), made in 1923 at the age of 85
Handprint and ink on paper, original mounting
127 x 30.5 cm (198 x 47 cm)

Nantembō’s handprint is a rarity and a unique form of self-portrait. A similar work was published in “The Art of Zen” by Stephen Addis, and by the same author with John Daido Loori in “The Zen Art Book“. Here Nantembō simply dipped his left hand in ink and pressed it on paper. Above, he wrote in phonetic Japanese, Saa, kike! which means “Hey ! Listen!.” He mentions his age of 85 years, and puts on his seals. Everything else is empty.
Nakahara Nantenbō, also known by the names Tōjū Zenchū and Nantembō Tōjū, was one of the greatest Zen masters of the 20th century. He is born into a family of samurai known for its tradition of audacity, dynamism and impressive determination. When he was only 7 years old, he lost his mother and decided to become a monk in order to penetrate the mysteries of life and death. He became an apprentice monk at the age of 11 and studied successively in several temples known for their austere practices. He himself became famous for the incredibly strict standards he imposed on his disciples. Known in his time as an ardent reformer, he was also an accomplished artist who produced many examples of Zen art bridging the gap between older forms of Zen Buddhist art and their extensions in the twentieth century.