Daruma crossing the Yangtze River on a reed
Hanging scroll, ink on paper
風外慧薰 Fūgai Ekun (1568-1654)
66.8 x 27.9 cm (137.5 x 32.7 cm)
Fūgai Ekun was a Japanese Zen monk, painter and calligrapher. He entered the Shingon-sect temple Kansoji at the age of four or five, transferring to the Soto-sect Zen temple Chogenji a few years later. Around the age of 16 he moved to the leading Soto temple in eastern Japan, Sorinji. After completing his Zen training, perhaps in 1596, Fūgai spent two decades on pilgrimage. In 1616 he became abbot of Joganji in Sagami Province (now part of Kanagawa Prefect.), but after only a few years he gave up his position to live in mountainside caves, which earned him the nickname 「穴風外 Ana Fūgai (‘Cave Fūgai’). This practice may have been in emulation of Bodhidharma (Jap. Daruma, the first Zen patriarch), who was reputed to have meditated in front of a wall for nine years; but such rejection of temple life was rare for a 17th-century Japanese monk. While living in the Kamisoga Mountains, Fūgai is said to have made ink paintings of Daruma, which he would hang at the entrance to his cave, so that farmers could leave rice for the monk and take the paintings home. Many such works remain, darkened by incense, in farmhouses of the region. After some years Fūgai moved to a small hut in the village of Manazuru, south of Odawara, where he continued his ink painting and calligraphy. Besides Daruma, he also depicted the wandering monk Hotei (Chin. Budai; one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune) and occasionally brushed self-portraits and landscapes in ink on paper.
There are many renderings of Daruma figures, but what they want to express on the inside is always the same. It is the spirit of Daruma Daishi (about 5th Century), the eighth generation Great Master after Shakyamuni Buddha, founder of the Zen sect. Legend says that Daruma was born the third prince in a South Indian kingdom. He was of a sharp mind already as a child and followed the Great Master Prajnaatara, where he studied Buddhism intensely and carried on his tradition. He then took off to China to preach Buddhism, taking the sea road to South China. He was invited by Emperor Wu and expounded his wisdom for him. But the emperor did not understand the preaching of Daruma, so Daruma took off again, crossing the Yangtze River to the east and ended up in the Shaolin Temple near Loyang. He stood on some reeds when crossing the river, which leads to the famous iconographic rendering of “Rush-leaf Daruma” (Royoo Daruma 芦葉達磨).