Important Cultural PropertyLetter

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  • By Daikyū Shōnen (Ch Daxiu Zhengnian)
  • 1 hanging scroll
  • Ink on paper
  • 35.4x100.3
  • Kamakura period/13th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • B-2424

Daikyu Shonen (1215–1289) was a high priest of the Rinzai sect in the Song period in China. He was a disciple of Sekkei Shingetsu of Kinzan and came to Japan in 1269 as he was invited by Hojo Tokimune. Rankei Doryu, the head of Kenchoji Temple, received him and later, Hojo Tokimune became a Buddhist under his guidance. Shonen stayed at Zenkoji, Kenchoji, Jufukuji, and Enkakuji temples and later established Jochiji Temple. He contributed significantly to the rise of Zen Buddhism in Japan. After he died, he was given the posthumous honorific name of Butsugen Zenshi and "The Sayings of Daikyu Shonen" has been written. This letter was written on September 15, 1286, soon after Mugaku Sogen passed away (September 3), when Daikyu was at the age of 72. Since it is three years before he passed away in 1289 at the age of 75, this letter shows his handwriting in his later years. Compared to his writing style at the age of 64 in his Sharikei Byakumon (possessed by Tokyo National Museum) that shows a well-organized and graceful style suggesting an influence of Chosokushi in the Song period, it has changed to a strict style with strong brushstrokes, showing the spiritual strength he obtained through Zen training. While the addressee of this letter is unknown, judged from its polite writing, this may be a reply addressed to a high priest in the same sect.