The subject of this portrait is a Chinese gentleman-scholar known as Tai Li who emigrated to Japan in 1653 after the fall of the Ming dynasty in China. Later, Subsequently, Tai Li joined the Obaku sect of Zen Buddhism and took the name Dokuryþ.
The painter of this portrait, Kita Genki, lived in Nagasaki at a time when it was virtually the only channel through which foreign influences could enter Japan. He was influenced both by contemporary styles of Chinese portraiture and by Western models.
In the inscription by Dokuryþ (datable to 1671) he reflects on a moment of personal enlightenment:
Contemplative emptiness: the moon suspended over the village at midnight.
Suddenly my soul is startled by the howl of an ape.
Who could know that it would arouse me beyond my senses,
And bring me an inner vision from Mt. Sumeru.