Nakahara Nantembo (1839-1925)
ink on paper; signed hachiju-go ou Nantembo (Nantembo at the age of 85) with three artist's seals hakugaikutsu, toju and hachiju-go ou Nantembo, ca. 1921
painting: 53 7/8 by 12 3/4 in., 137 by 32.5 cm
overall: 77 1/8 by 17 3/8 in., 196 by 44 cm
The influential Zen master Nantembo, born Tojyu Zanchu to a samurai family, acquired his nickname in reference to his large staff ('bo') of a type of bamboo ('nanten') which he apparently brandished as a weapon of intimidation as well as using it directly upon trainees. Known for his rigorous training and adherence to strict Zen principles, Nantembo developed a highly regarded individualistic Zen painting style.
The enso (lit. 'circle') is strongly associated with Zen Buddhism, and is a popular subject of Japanse calligraphy (although technically it is not a character). In Zen teachings the enso represents a void for contemplation of simplicity, strength, elegance, everything and nothingness, and enlightenment itself. Here, Nantembo references both the enso, and a less abstract circle, the moon.
Kono tsuki ga
If you want this moon
I will give it to you
try to capture it
Stephen Addiss, The Art of Zen: Paintings and Calligraphy by Japanese Monks 1600-1925, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1989
Yoko Woodson, Zen: Painting and Calligraphy, Asian Art Museum, 2001
Yuji Yamashita, Zenga-The Return from America: Zenga from the Gitter-Yelen Collection, Asano Laboratories, Inc., 2000, p. 168, pl. 87
Scholten Japanese Art is open Monday - Friday, and some Saturdays by appointment only
Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
to schedule a visit between 11am and 4pm for no more than two individuals at a time.
In order to adhere to New York State guidelines visitors are asked to wear face masks and practice social distancing.
site last updated
March 5, 2021
Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475
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