Xutang Zhiyu (J. Kidô Chigu, 1185-1269) was a Chinese Chan (J. Zen) monk active during the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279). He was an eminent monk of the Songyuan lineage of the Linji (J. Rinzai) School. Early in his career he served as the head monk of a number of temples, and in his later years he became the fortieth head monk of Wanshou Temple on Mt. Jing. Many Japanese monks traveled to see this Chinese master.
This calligraphy, written by Xutang Zhiyu when he was about eighty, is dedicated to a "brilliant Japanese Zen practitioner" (J. Nihon no shôzenja), who may have been Mushô Jôshô (1234-1306), a monk from Jôchi-ji Temple in Kamakura. Mushô went to visit him in China in 1262. Three years later, in 1265, he returned to Japan and later founded Busshin-ji Temple in Kyoto.
Another Japanese monk who also received an enlightenment certificate (J. inka) from Xutang Zhiyu was Nanpo Jômyô (1235-1308), a Zen master in the lineage of the Daitoku-ji and Myôshin-ji Temples in Kyoto. Because Daitoku-ji in particular has had close associations with the art of Japanese tea ceremony, Xutang Zhiyu's manuscripts have been highly valued by tea masters.
The scroll was at one time a prized possession of the merchant and tea afficionado Takeno Jôô (1502-1555) of the city of Sakai. It then passed into the ownership of Daimonjiya Eisei, a wealthy Kyoto merchant during the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573-1615). In 1637 (Kan'ei 14), however, a servant entered the family storage vault, ripped the document, and then committed suicide. Since then it has been known as the "Torn Xutang" (J. Yabure Kidô). It later came into the hands of the lord of Matsue and famous tea master, Matsudaira Fumai (1751-1818), and was for many years passed down within the Matsudaira family of Izumo Province (present-day Shimane Prefecture).