A paper kakemono (hanging scroll) painted in ink with the character ichi (One) and a Zen dictum written in calligraphy.
Inscribed: Zen Ryūhōzan-in, Shōgetsu rōsetsu sho – written by clumsy old man Shōgetsu, formerly of the Ryūhōzan-in (honorary name of the Daitokuji Temple)
Right: kochū jitsugetsu nagashi – lit. ‘in the pot, sun and moon shine eternally’.
Left, upper: Chūhō
Left, lower: Hasui kanjin (Hasui lit. ‘broken sleep’ is one of Chūhō’s art names. Kanjin, meaning ‘amongst men’ is a humble reference to himself.)

Japan 19th century Edo period
Scroll: H. 40¾” x W. 24¾” (103.5cm x 62.5cm)
Painting: H. 6¼” x W. 23¾” (15.5cm x 60cm)

This is a Zen dictum based on an episode of the Daoist immortal magician Hu Gong, as written in the Hou Han Shu (Late Han Dynasty Chronicles). Hu Gong practiced medicine in a marketplace, hanging a pot before his stand from which he produced cures for any malady, and which he jumped into every night at the close of business. The world inside the pot was beyond time and space, representing an absolute world within our mind. The teaching is that the sun and moon shine within all of us, and by practicing zazen (seated meditation) we can realize the source of this true ‘Big Mind’ and our own absolute power.

Chūhō (1760-1838). (art names): Rakuyōjin, Shōgetsu-rōjin, Shōgetsu-sō, Hasui. He was born in Kyoto, and studied Zen Buddhism under Sokudō Sōki, the 406th Abbot of Daitoku-ji Temple in Kyoto, head-quarters of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism.

Chūhō Sōu later became the 418th Abbot of Daitoku-ji Temple, after his abbotship he resided at Tokai-ji Temple, and he retired to the Shōgetsu-an (‘The Studio of Pine and Moon’) of the Hōshun-in sub-temple, Daitoku-ji Temple, Kyoto. He excelled in poetry, calligraphy, tea ceremony and crafted tea utensils including teaspoons and pottery. He died on the 8th of December, 1838, aged 79.

‘Ichi’ (one) is the origin of all the myriad things. Everything in the universe is born from One and returns to One. This is known as Bampo ikki. It is absolute Being, one law that penetrates into millions of Dharma laws. In Buddhism it is known as Jisho-shojo-shin or Bussho (Buddha Nature).

The concept of painting the character ‘one’ refers to the term ichi-go ichi-e literally: ‘one time, one meeting’ this idea fits perfectly with Zen Buddhism and its concepts of transience.

Linked with the famed tea master Sen no Rikyū, it is particularly associated with the Japanese Tea Ceremony, ‘Ichi‘ scrolls are often hung in the tea room as a reminder to the participants that each tea ceremony is unique and can never be repeated.

Close to the Japanese heart the same concept is also much repeated in budō (martial ways). It is sometimes used to admonish students who become careless or frequently stop techniques midway to ‘try again’, rather than moving on with the technique despite the mistake. In a life-or-death struggle, there is no chance to ‘try again’. Even though techniques may be attempted many times in the dōjō (training hall) each should be seen as a singular and decisive event.

For a contemporary re-telling of the story behind the Zen dictum ‘kochū jitsugetsu nagashi’ see ‘Moon by the Window: The Calligraphy and Zen insights of Shodo Harada, Wisdom Publications, 2011, p.193.