CHIYONO: Mugai Nyodai
This way and that way
I tried to keep the pail of water together,
hoping the weak bamboos
would never break
But suddenly the bottom fell out:
no more water
no more moon in the water
and emptiness in my hand!
Mugai Nyodai – Japan’s first female Zen Master (1223-1298)
Photo: INSTITUTE FOR MEDIEVAL JAPANESE STUDIES
In the thirteenth century an extraordinarily realistic portrait statue (chinso chokoku) was carved depicting Abbess Mugai Nyodai in her seventies. Chinso statues are a category of remarkably realistic life-sized statues of the seated figures of historical Zen masters made as substitutes for the living person to convey the essence of the Zen master to his disciples after his death. This statue, the only thirteenth-century portrait statue of a female Zen master extant.