Zen Violence: The Legacy of Nantenbō Tōjū’s Calligraphy in the Postwar Avant-Garde

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Rinzai Zen priest Nantenbō Tōjū (1839–1925), an important figure in modern Japanese Buddhism, was also a prominent calligrapher. His eccentric large-scale works inspired avant-garde artists of the Gutai and Bokujinkai groups, and reverberated globally in postwar abstract art. Known for his close ties with the Meiji military, particularly General Nogi Maresuke (1849–1912), Nantenbō promoted the values of “Imperial-Way Zen.” This article shows how Nantenbō’s calligraphy, which channeled the militarist ideology of the Japanese Empire, fed into the postwar avant-garde and complicated Zen’s role in the politically charged art of the cultural Cold War.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Japanese Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 Feb 2023

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