The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Three Laughters of the Tiger Ravine

Kokei Sanshō 虎渓三笑 
Three Laughers of Tiger Ravine


Three Laughers
at Tiger Ravine
by Chūan Shinkō
仲安真康 (mid +15C)
Tokyo Nat’l Museum
spacerBelow text courtesy of JAANUS. Chinese = Huxi Sanxiao. An allegory about three Eastern literati (東晋) who realize by accident that spiritual purity cannot be measured by artificial boundaries. One day the poet Tao Yuanming 陶淵明 (Jp. = Tou Enmei, +365-417) and the Taoist Lu Xiujing 陸修静 (Jp. = Riku Shuusei, +406-477) traveled to the Donglin 東林 temple on Mt. Lu 廬山 to visit the Buddhist theologian Huiyuan 慧遠 (Jp. = E On, +334-416) who lived there as a recluse, vowing never to cross the stone bridge over the Tiger Ravine (Jp. = Kokei 虎渓) that marked the boundary of the sanctuary. After an evening together, Huiyuan accompanied his friends as they left the temple. Deeply absorbed in conversation, Huiyuan inadvertently walked with them across the Tiger Ravine bridge. When the men realized what had happened they broke out in spontaneous laughter -- hence the title of the anecdote "Kokei Sanshou" or "Three Laughers of the Tiger Ravine." It is this moment that is usually depicted in paintings. The story probably originated with the late Tang poet Guanxiu 貫休 (Jp. = Kankyuu +832-912). Variations on the theme stress that the three men represent China's three creeds -- Confucianism (Tao Yuanming), Buddhism (Huiyuan), and Taoism (Lu Xiujing) -- and that in the instant they crossed the bridge all were enlightened by realizing that narrow adherence to one philosophy or religion is contrary to true wisdom. Notable works include those by Chinese artist Ma Yuan 馬遠 (Jp. = Ba En, late +12th century), and, in Japan, by Chuuan Shinkou 仲安真康 (mid +15th century), Shoukei 祥啓 (late +15th century, Kohouan 孤逢庵, Daitokuji 大徳寺), Kanou Sanraku 狩野山楽 (+1559-1635; Myoushinji 妙心寺), and Ike no Taiga 池大雅 (+1723-76, Manpukuji 万福寺, Kyoto). <End JAANUS quote>
Symbolism in This Artistic ThemeBridge = Buddhism, Crossing to “Other Shore”
Boundary = Taoism, Polarity, Yin/Yang, Natural Laws
Adherence to Strict / Rigid Rules = Confucianism
Confucius (Confucianism) = Tao Yuanming 陶淵明
Lao tsu (Taoism) = Lu Xiujing 陸修静
 Shakyamuni (Buddhism) = Huiyuan え遠 

Actually, I wanted something a little less scholarly in the explanation of the import of this incidence, and as I was looking around, I found a blog post that sums it all up very nicely. A portion is excerpted below. You can read the whole post at Church of the Churchless. Enjoy.

Three laughers at the tiger ravine

Today I came across a scroll, painted by Bangaku, of “Three Laughters at the Tiger Ravine.” This anecdote explains their laughter.
Three_laughers_at_tiger_ravine

"This is an allegory in which three literati realize by accident that spiritual purity cannot be measured by artificial boundaries. One day the poet Tao Yuanming and the Taoist Lu Xiujing traveled to the Donglin temple on Mt. Lu to visit the Buddhist theologian Huiyuan who lived there as a recluse, vowing never to cross the stone bridge over the Tiger Ravine that marked the boundary of the sanctuary.

After an evening together, Huiyuan accompanied his friends as they left the temple.

Deeply absorbed in conversation, Huiyuan inadvertently walked with them across the Tiger Ravine bridge. When the men realized what had happened they broke out in spontaneous laughter-- hence the title of the anecdote 'The Three Laughers of the Tiger Ravine.'"
Ray Grigg, in his “ The Tao of Zen,” tells the story somewhat differently in a chapter on “Playfulness.” And he’s describing a drawing of the scene by Bunsei. But the meaning is the same.
[The drawing] shows a Taoist, a Confucian, and a Buddhist circled together in uproarious laughter. Apparently the Buddhist had taken a vow never to leave the monastery but, in the enthusiasm of visiting with his two friends, he inadvertently wanders over the bridge of the ravine that defines the monastery’s grounds.

The distant roar of a tiger breaks the spell of their visit and they realize the vow of confinement has been broken. They clasp each other’s hands and laugh. This is the playful spirit that supersedes vows and teachings and ideologies.
Three_laughers_at_tiger_ravine2
I like how Bangaku depicts the faces of the men. The image brings a smile to my own heretical face. Freedom! Release! Tiger roar!

These guys aren’t out to cause trouble. The Buddhist’s friends didn’t visit him with the intention of making him break his vow. They just ended up walking over the bridge naturally. And when the vow was broken, they laughed about it. Naturally.

3 comments:

Zen said...

:-) . I like it!!

Zen said...



_/|\_

Rick Matz said...

I worked at a store a long time ago, that sold collectibles among other things. We sold netsukes.

We had a netsuke consisting of the three sages of the Tiger Ravine.