Nanzen zanmyou 南泉斬猫
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Ch:Nanquan zhanmao. A painting subject depicting the Zen 禅 parable of the priest Nanquan puyuan (Jp: Nanzen 南泉, alternatively Nanzen Fugan 南泉普願; 748-834) killing a cat. One day Nanquan observed the monks of the Eastern and Western halls of his temple fighting over possession of a favorite cat. Grabbing the animal, Nanquan brandished a large knife and asked the monks to give an answer that would save the cat, for if they did not he promised to cut it in two. No answer was given and the cat lost its life. That night the priest Zhaozhou (Jp: Joushuu Juushin 趙州從しん; 778-897) returned to the temple and Nanquan told him of the event. Zhaozhou removed his sandals, placed them on his head, and left the room. Nanquan remarked that if Zhaozhou had been present earlier the cat would have been spared. The story appears originally in the Jingde Chuandenglu (Jp: KEITOKU DENTOUROKU 景徳伝燈録; 1004). In the Wumenguan (Jp: MUMONKAN 無門関; 1229), it is transformed into a famous question for meditation kouan 公案. The screen painting *fusuma-e 襖絵 in Tenjuan 天授庵, Kyoto, by Hasegawa Touhaku 長谷川等伯 (1539-1610) provides a good example of the subject. The theme also occurs frequently in the paintings of Sengai 仙崖 (1750-1837).


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