Shining moon illuminates enlightened mind


Gōchō Kankai (1749-1835)
Ink on paper
The End of Edo period, 19th century
101 x 36 cm (176 x 57 cm)

Kōgetsu zenshin o terasu
Shining moon illuminates enlightened mind

Gōchō is the second son of the priest of the Senkō-ji temple in Higo (currently Kumamoto prefecture). He started his religious training at the age of seven, many years of strict training with Tantric Buddhism (beginning in his region and later at Mt. Hiē), he became an esteemed priest. Having finished his training, he went back to succeeded the Jufuku-ji temple in Higo. He followed strict religious rules, kept simple and pure life.
He learned the calligraphy as a basic culture of priests, and he achieved his own style using imported Chinese ink. He is still counted as one of the three best calligrapher in Higo of that time. He had a good relationship with Sengai Gibon as well. Many of his calligraphies remain until now, and there are some poems and literati paintings. One calligraphy is in the collection of Los Angeles County Museum of Art; another one in the collection of the Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence (Kansas, USA).

The theme of calligraphy originates in the Li Qi’s poem of the Tang dynasty, China. The original poem goes清池皓月照禅心: The bright moon and the clear pond illuminate the enlightened mind. Since Li Qi longed for Taoims, Gōchō might have sympathized with the purity of the mind in this poem. Gōchō left some calligraphies taken from this poem, one is in the collection of Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art.