Reflections of Priest Foyen

Location: not on view
You can copy, modify, and distribute this work, all without asking permission. Learn more about CMA's Open Access Initiative.

Download, Print and Share


Left by his mother at a small Zen temple in Kyoto at the age of six, Ikkyu later drew on his early studies and experiences for his writings, which focused on his keen interest in the Chinese classics. Poetry in particular was a favorite subject and images from classical poetry or passages from favorite poems or commentaries frequently provided Ikkyu with the core ideas for his own work. A rare example of his calligraphy, this narrow scroll contains a verse in eight phrases, each comprising four characters. The whole verse is organized in three towering lines of brusque, emphatic calligraphy augmented by Ikkyu's signature-the two lines of running script in the lower left corner. The text refers to a passage included in the Chronicle of the Zen Sect that contains a cautionary reminder attributed to the legendary Chinese monk Foyen Qingyuan (1067-1120), long revered in Japan. The initial phrase begins: "Life is a mirage."
Reflections of Priest Foyen

Reflections of Priest Foyen


Ikkyū Sōjun

(Japanese, 1394–1481)
Japan, Muromachi period (1392–1573)

Visually Similar Artworks

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.