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52. Nantembô (1839-1925)
Rinzai Zenga
, Staff -
Signed: Hachijû ô (80) Nantembô Tôjû (1918)
Seals: Hakugaikutsu, Tôjû, Nantembô (tp)
Technique: sumi on paper 137,7 x 33,8
Date: 1918
Mounting: dark blue brown damask
dark wooden rollers, 183 x 47,2
Condition: very good

The inscription reads: 道得南天棒道不得南天(棒)

If you speak, Nantenbô [the nanten bô will hit you]!
if you don't speak, Nantenbô [the
nanten bô will hit you too]!

Some people consider these staff paintings Nantembô’s self-portraits, certainly they are his most famous icon.

Nantembô, Tôjû Zenchû, started painting when he was already more than 65 years old. Despite his advanced age, he was one of the most productive and important Zenga artists of the Meiji and Taishô era. In the West, Nantembô is without any doubt the best-known 20th-century Zen painter.
Nantembô derived his name from his bô (staff) cut from a 200-year-old nanten (Nandina domestica) tree. At the age of 7 he resolved to become a monk and at the age of 11 he began his training. He spent most of his mature life travelling and teaching. In 1885 he met Yamaoka Tesshû (1836-1888) and together they established a Zen training centre. In 1908 Nantembô became chief abbot of the Myôshin-ji, but he spent the rest of his life at the Kaisei-ji.

Welch 1995
Seo p.17-34
Addiss p.186-203
Berry 2001 p. 176