Japanese Zenga scroll painting of a staff by the Zen master Nakahara Nantenbō (Toju Zenchu) (1839–1925). Born into the Shioda samurai clan in Saga Prefecture, Nantenbō lost his mother when he was 7 years old and was sent to Yukoji monastery to study as a novice when he was 11 where he became a monk of the the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. From there he trained at many different centers, making a pilgrimage to visit twenty four leading Zen masters, earning an inka (certificate of enlightenment) and becoming the abbot of Daijoji temple in Yamaguchi Prefecture. He became known as Nantenbō because of the staff he had fashioned from a nanten tree which he often used to disciplined his students.
Painted in sumi-e ink on silk. The seal at the top right says:
Hakkeikutsu or Hakugaikutsu (depending on source)
This is one of Nantenbō’s alternate names (“White Cliff Cavern”)
At the lower left, the upper seal says
83(-year old) old man
Nantenbō included his age on his works a lot, and this one indicates he was 83 so the year of this painting is 1922/1923.
On the right side, the characters start with 道 and 得, the begining of his well known phrase “If you speak” (the rest of his favorite saying is “If you don’t speak” ending with “(blows of) Nantendo”, referring to his disciplining of his students. Whether they spoke a wrong answer or were silent, they were punished. And he has written it in Chinese kanbun form:
道得南天棒… which gets interpreted as ii-eru mo nantenbō in Japanese. On the left side is the line starting with 八十三 (“83”) referring to his age at the time.
Dimensions: Total size of scroll: 80″ high x 16 3/8″ wide (18 1/2″ wide including rollers). Size of art: 49 1/2″ high x 12 3/4″ wide