Shion aka Kuo-an
Chi-yuan was a 12th c Chinese master in the lineage of Rinzai
(Lin-Chi). He is known only for this classic representation of what Zen
or The Search is all about. Many versions of his work exist on the
net, with both different translations and new drawings.
The classic modern version is a translation by Paul Reps and Nyogen
Senzaki, forming part of Reps' book, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. In their
introduction, they say:
"Kakuan drew the pictures of the ten bulls, basing them on
earlier Taoist bulls, and wrote the comments in prose and verse
translated here. His version was pure Zen, going deeper than earlier
versions, which had ended with the nothingness of the eighth
picture. It has been a constant source of inspiration to students
ever since, and many illustrations of Kakuan's bulls have been made
through the centuries."
About ending "with the nothingness of the eighth
picture," it should be noted that there are quite a few
versions currently of the ten bull/ox-herding pics and verses which
have nothingness (Kakuan's eighth) as their final tenth, and their
additions consist of new stages PRIOR to that stage. As theirs is
not the predominant view, and as Kakuan himself "went
beyond" nothingness, and as going beyond nothingness is the
richer and more satisfying view, that view shall be taken here as the
Both views, interestingly, are presented
in DT Suzuki's 1935 "Manual of
Zen Buddhism." Terebess
has both versions extracted from his manual, introduced by his discussion of their history and
provenance. As Suzuki's is the only such detailed history i can find
so far, i reproduce it below
in full. And speaking of Terebess, i should mention here that it has a
much larger collection of different versions of the ox-herding series
than i have managed to assemble, so if you really want to immerse
yourself in this fascinating world, that is the place. Here is a link to the Index of this fabulous collection.
original drawings have been lost but are said to have been more or
less faithfully reproduced by the 15th c monk Shubun. Those
illustrations, along with various translations of Kakuan's text, are
what has made it into most of the traditional renditions. Suzuki
says that this line has prevailed in Japan, while the other has been
the predominant one in China. Some modern versions have muddled the
two, eg matching text from one with drawings from the other, or
attributing the Chinese version wrongly to Shubun, etc.
Various sites refer to the oldest known scroll or some such dating
to 1278 CE, some even purporting to have images from the scroll, but
afaict, there are no images from this scroll on the net. They ARE (said to be) in
a book called The Ox Herder: A Zen Parable
Illustrated, intro by a Stephanie Wada, a curator of the blah blah
which holds the manuscript, but not on the net yet.
The site linked to at top reproduces Kakuan's verses and commentary
from ZFZB and its drawings, which are not Kakuan's originals or
modern versions by Kyoto woodblock artist Tomikichiro Tokuriki. It
is a good place to start.
From that page, the tenth verse, In the World:
Barefooted and naked of breast, I mingle with the people of the
My clothes are ragged and dust-laden, and I am ever blissful.
I use no magic to extend my life;
Now, before me, the dead trees become alive.
Comment: Inside my gate, a thousand sages do not know me. The beauty
of my garden is invisible. Why should one search for the footprints
of the patriarchs? I go to the market place with my wine bottle and
return home with my staff. I visit the wine shop and the market, and
everyone I look upon becomes enlightened.
translations and pics
(internal numbered links are
to alternate text versions of Verse ten, below.
No link means either no text or identical text, with or without
collection and research have been the inspiration for this page. He uses
the same Reps text but with his own spare line drawings and more
commentaries, from Martine Batchelor.
Kubota Ji'un A teisho
(extended commentary) on the verses, with pics by Yokoo Tatsuhiko (1)
by Master Gyokusei Jikihara, done at New York’s Zen Mountain Monastery in
Cat-Herding Pictures of Enlightenment Lest we get too serious, a modern parody version.
Now Magazine, with pics from big paintings on the outer
walls of a hall at Songgwang-sa Temple in Korea and text a modern
commentary-like prose, augmented by other Buddhist quotes, 1.5 MB pdf.
Sang Sa Temple Pics from the outside of the temple's Buddha Hall, no
text, another Korean temple, a Flickr photo montage.
Pics only, by 15th c Japanese Rinzai Zen monk Tensho Shubun, said to be
copies of Kakuan's originals, now lost. These are big pics, and
sepia-toned, unlike most other versions of Shubun**.
About Zen Claims to be "the standard version," but falls into the
category mentioned above of ending at nothingness. Source is
the "Chinese" version via Suzuki, though he is not named, with
text (5) by Pu-ming and artist unknown.
Link is a site search result, four pages of which have among them
three versions of pics, three of English text and two of Chinese: one page
has Hsu Yun's original verses (6) and
pics by Fa Lian Shakya. The other two text versions are one identical to (5)
(pics too, "Series 1") and one similar to (1) ("Series 2," with Shubun's drawings, though
not identified as such, with more ornate "frames" but higher
(starker) contrast than the Wikimedia versions (and in b/w), and
text translation by Kuo An Zhe) (7).
Crowe Pics only: modern, idiosyncratic line drawings.
Tai Photos by AYK of naturalistic paintings in Chung
Tai Chan Monastery in Taiwan + text by the "Chung Tai
Translation Committee" (8).
Surreal b/w photos, original poetry (9).
Retreat Centre Monochrome painting/drawings + original text
unattributed, South Africa (10).
Master Ji Bong No pics or verses, a short commentary
Osho A whole book,
The Search, of commentary based on Reps' text, scroll to download pdf e-book
compressed in .zip format
Trang Vietnamese discussion board, scroll down to three versions of pics
and verse in English:
1. Circular portions of Shubun's square pics in Hsu Yun above (series 2),
though contrast toned down, Reps' verses,
+ commentary by "Rerevend Eshin"
2. Text and pics as in "About Zen" above, with square simple
drawings mistakenly attributed to Shubun, correctly to Suzuki.
3. Small but stunning colour paintings, + verses translated by Urs App (11).
Tim Jundo Williams
Pics only, modern paintings with splashy colours, calligraphic circle
pervades each in series (large images)
Four Peaks Tokuriki's pics from
ZFZB + four
versions of text: translation by Philip Kapleau (12), the
Reps version plus two different commentaries thereon, by Alfonso Carrasco
and a scolding contrarian position by Ming Zhen Shakya (13)
Buddhanet Text not in
poetic form but prosaic, reductionist explanations (14),
original, spare, contemporary drawings by graphic designer Hor Tuck Loon.
Ruben Habito As above, text not poetic form but prose (15),
with the "liberated" but hokey TX-friendly idea of a young female
cowgirl as protagonist, and with original, spare, drawings within
calligraphic circles, by Jim Crump.
Shoeless and bare-chested he enters the marketplace;
He is daubed with earth and ashes, and a smile fills his face.
Making no use of the secrets of gods and wizards,
He causes withered trees to bloom.
Barefooted and naked of breast,
I mingle with the people
of the world.
My clothes are ragged and dust-laden,
and I am ever blissful.
I use no magic to extend my life;
Now, before me, the dead trees
He returns to work to discover that everything is just as it ever
but now he wears a crazy tie on Casual Fridays
Transcending time and
We have matured; the buddha-nature functions freely.
We are at home wherever we go and have
brought ultimate truth into our normal lives.
No one knows us. We go on our way with
a huge smile and everyone we see is enlightened.
History, from the Manual of Zen Buddhism
author of these "Ten Oxherding Pictures" is said to be a Zen master of
the Sung Dynasty known as Kaku-an Shi-en (Kuo-an Shih-yuan) belonging to the
Rinzai school. He is also the author of the poems and introductory words
attached to the pictures. He was not however the first who attempted to
illustrate by means of pictures stages of Zen discipline, for in his general
preface to the pictures he refers to another Zen master called Seikyo (Ching-chu),
probably a contemporary of his, who made use of the ox to explain his Zen
teaching. But in Seikyo's case the gradual development of the Zen life was
indicated by a progressive whitening of the animal, ending in the disappearance
of the whole being. There were in this only five pictures, instead of ten as by
Kaku-an. Kaku-an thought this was somewhat misleading because of an empty circle
being made the goal of Zen discipline. Some might take mere emptiness as all
important and final. Hence his improvement resulting in the "Ten Oxherding
Pictures" as we have them now.
to a commentator of Kaku-an's Pictures, there is another series of the Oxherding
Pictures by a Zen master called jitoku Ki (Tzu-te Hui), who apparently knew of
the existence of the Five Pictures by Seikyo, for jitoku's are six in number.
The last one, No. 6, goes beyond the stage of absolute emptiness where Seikyo's
end: the poem reads:
beyond the ultimate limits there extends a passageway,
Whereby he comes back among the six realms of existence;
Every worldly affair is a Buddhist work,
And wherever he goes he finds his home air;
Like a gem he stands out even in the mud,
Like pure gold he shines even in the furnace;
Along the endless road [of birth and death] he walks sufficient unto himself,
In whatever associations he is found he moves leisurely unattached."
ox grows whiter as Seikyo's, and in this particular respect both differ from
Kaku-an's conception. In the latter there is no whitening process. In Japan
Kaku-an's Ten Pictures gained a wide circulation, and at present all the
oxherding books reproduce them. The earliest one belongs I think to the
fifteenth century. In China however a different edition seems to have been in
vogue, one belonging to the Seikyo and Jitoku series of pictures. The author is
not known. The edition containing the preface by Chu-hung, 1585, has ten
pictures, each of which is preceded by Pu-ming's poem. As to who this Pu-ming
was, Chu-hung himself professes ignorance. In these pictures the ox's colouring
changes together with the oxherd's management of him. The quaint original
Chinese prints are reproduced below, and also Pu-ming's verses translated into
as far as I can identify there are four varieties of the Oxherding Pictures: (1)
by Kaku-an, (2) by Seikyo, (3) by Jitoku, and (4) by an unknown author.
"Pictures" here reproduced are by Shubun, a Zen priest of the
fifteenth century. The original pictures are preserved at Shokokuji, Kyoto. He
was one of the greatest painters in black and white in the Ashikaga period.