Terebess Asia Online (TAO)


Oxherding Pictures Index


Japanese Zenga, Ten Ox Herding Pictures
直原玉青 Jikihara Gyokusei (1904-2005)
柴山全慶 Shibayama Zenkei (1894-1974)

A published set of 10 Zen Scrolls by Jikihara Gyokusei and Shibayama Zenkei showing the 10 stages of enlightenment through the parable of the bull and the ox-herd. Ink on paper in blue silk border with wood rollers. Each scroll measures 44 x 188.5 cm. This set of scrolls is the subject of the 1975 book* Zen Oxherding Pictures by Zenkei and Gyokusei, and each is published in the text followed by a discussion of the imagery, in both English and Japanese.

*Zenkei Shibayama and Gyokusei Jikihara: Zen Jūgyūzu – Zen Oxherding Pictures, Tokyo: Sōgen-sha, 1975.
Cf. Zenkei Shibayama: Jūgyūzu, Tokyo: Kōbundō, 1941, repr. 1954.

The Ten Ox Herding Pictures are inspired from the Chinese Zen Master
廓庵師遠 Kuoan Shiyuan in the 12th century to illustrate the stages of enlightenment in Mahayana Buddhism as illustrated in the original Avatamsaka Sutra. The pictures tell the story of an Ox herder (an ordinary person) who must go in search of his lost charge (the true self, the Buddha Nature). Wandering through the wilderness he searches until finally finding its tracks, he follows, captures, then must tame the beast through discipline. Following is realization and the two become one and return home. Then transcend their own self-imposed boundaries and perceptions. All is overcome and the practitioner reaches enlightenment and can return to society where his image inspires others.

A similar pair by Gyokusei reside in the Zen Mountain Monastery of New York. Zenkei and Gyokusei also co-authored a book on the Zen Oxherding pictures in 1967. Another thing special about these is they show the friendship between Zenkei and Gyokusei, and it is through the chance meeting of Zenkei and Michael Hoffman, the prominent American ink painter, at the Zen center in Los Angeles, that Zenkei introduced him to Gyokusei, who would become Michaels life-long Mentor.

Shibayama Zenkei (1894-1974), a former Abbot of Nanzenji and was a Rinzai master well-known for his commentary on the Mumonkan. One of his better-known students is Fukushima Keido former abbot of Tofukuji. Shibayama also taught at Otani University and was the head abbot of the entire Nanzenji Organization, overseeing the administration of over five hundred temples. Due to a number of lecture tours he undertook to the United States in the 1960s, and the translation of several of his books into English, Shibayama was a significant contributor to the establishment of Zen in America

Jikihara Gyokusei (1904-2005) was born in Okayama prefecture, and graduated the Osaka Municipal School of Art where he had studied under Yano Kyoson. He was accepted into the Nanga-In Ten National Nanga Exhibition in 1930. Subsequently his fame as an artist grew, exhibiting at the Teiten and subsequent Nitten National Exhibitions as well, however his yearning for something more grew as well. In 1956 he entered Nanzenji to study under Shibayama and a lifelong friendship was born. As an artist he received many awards throughout his career and was honored with the Hyogo Prefectural Cultural Citation. He also became the head of his own Zen Temple and helped to further the teaching of Zen in Japan and in America.