Sengai Gibon was a Zen priest of the late Edo period(1600-1868) who was 123rd head of the temple Shofuku-ji in the Hakata area of Fukuoka City. He is known as a painter of witty and humorous depictions of Zen subjects and common folk. In Zen, a simple circle can represent the character of Buddha, the essence of reality and other immutable phenomena. For a priest, painting such a circle is doubtless an expression of his search for the boundaries of his own enlightenment. However, this particular circle also invites laughter, since the inscription, "Eat this, then have tea," indicates the circle can be seen as simply a manju, or sweet bean cake. This work well illustrates the breadth of Sengai's artistic vision, which does not require of the viewer strict interpretation as a search either for personal enlightenment or for ultimate truth.


  • Title: Circle
  • Creator: Sengai Gibon
  • Date: 19th century
  • Physical Dimensions: w49 x h37 cm
  • Materials and Techniques (Japanese): 紙本墨画
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Ink on paper

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