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53. Nantembô (1839-1925)
Rinzai Zenga
Devils’ rod
Signed: Hachijûshi ô (84) Nantembô Tôjû
Seals: Hakugaikutsu, Tôjû, Hachijûshi Nantembô (84)(tp)
Technique: sumi on paper 131,9 x 31
Date: 1922
Mounting: blue crushed paper
black lacquered rollers, 194 x 43,9
Condition: scattered foxing, otherwise

The inscription reads: 此の棒を恐るるものは極楽に

Those who who fear the devils’ rod will go to paradise.

It is believed that demons use this kind of rod to beat sinners on their way to hell. People who fear the demons’ iron rods and the other torments of hell are capable of rebirth in paradise. This one of the teachings of Ekaku Hakuin (1685-1768).

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