National TreasureLetter of Wuzhun Shifan ("Calligraphy of the Board Gift")

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  • 無準師範墨蹟
  • By Wuzhun Shifan
  • 1 hanging scroll
  • Ink on paper
  • 32.1x100.6
  • Southern Song dynasty/Junyuu(Chunyou) 2(1242)
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • TB-1174

The Chinese Chan (J. Zen) monk Wuzhun Shifan (J. Bushun Shiban, 1177-1249), who lived during the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279), was the head monk of a number of temples before becoming the thirty-fourth head monk of Wanshou Temple at Mt. Jing. Among his disciples were many famous monks, including Wuxue Zuyuan (J. Mugaku Sogen), who came to Japan and founded Engaku-ji Temple in Kamakura; Wuan Puning (J. Gottan Funei), who also came to Kamakura and was chosen as the second head monk of Kenchô-ji Temple; and the Japanese monk Enni Ben'en (also known as the "National Teacher Shôichi" [J. Shôichi Kokushi], 1202-1280), who traveled to China in 1235 (Katei 1), received an enlightenment certificate (J. inka) from Wuzhun Shifan, and returned to Japan to found Tôfuku-ji Temple in Kyoto.

In 1242 (Jun'yû 2), the year after Ben'en returned to Japan, Wanshou Temple, where Wuzhun Shifan resided, was destroyed by fire. Ben'en was at Jôten-ji Temple in Hakata when he learned of the fire, and he donated a thousand boards of lumber to help reconstruct Wanshou Temple. This document, also known as the "Calligraphy of the Board Gift" (J. Itawatashi no Bokuseki), is Wuzhun Shifan's letter of thanks for Enni Ben'en's gift. In the letter, Wuzhun Shifan congratulates Ben'en on the construction of Jôten-ji, informs Ben'en of how many boards were received, thanks him for the gift, and encourages him in his efforts to spread the Zen School in Japan.

This letter was once owned by Matsudaira Fumai (1751-1818), the lord of Matsue and a famous tea master.