bald headed, friendly-appearing figure at left holding a bag open between his hands, which extends toward left; two bold text characters on bag and three thinner characters; two red seals at left center at bottom of bag; blue and brown mount

Budai Opening His Sack, mid 18th century

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Hakuin Ekaku (1685–1769), a Zen priest and prolific amateur painter, is credited with reviving the Rinzai sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism after a long period of decline. Hakuin focused on meditation and paradoxical anecdotes or dialogues called kōan, the contemplation of which may lead to spontaneous awakening. Hakuin’s bold, sometimes humorous, and altogether unprecedented paintings were an important vehicle for his teachings, which spread far beyond the monasteries and captured the minds of laypeople. This painting represents one of Hakuin’s unique and humorous takes on the popular Buddhist figure called Budai, an eccentric wandering monk who is nearly always shown carrying a large cloth sack that holds all of his belongings. Here, he holds the big cloth sack open for us, begging us to peer inside. An inscription, brushed sideways on the sack, reads, “Life and happiness are as endless as the sea.”

Details
Title
Budai Opening His Sack
Artist Life
1685 - 1769
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2018.66.2
Curator Approved

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bald headed, friendly-appearing figure at left holding a bag open between his hands, which extends toward left; two bold text characters on bag and three thinner characters; two red seals at left center at bottom of bag; blue and brown mount