Ouchi Gyokuso (1879-1944) - Ox and boy netsuke
Tokyo, circa 1920
A young herdsboy slumbers peacefully, resting his head and plump right hand against the back of an ox. The left arm is flung across the creature’s spine, a flute grasped in the boy’s fist. The ox meanwhile is alert and watchful, thick folds of skin at its neck falling into a rippling dewlap. The eyes are inlaid in dark horn with pierced pupils, one himotoshi banded in green-stained stag antler.
Representative of the penultimate stage of Zen Buddhist enlightenment, the ox gazes up at the moon, while his attendant has realised that things are just what they are in themselves and self and reality have been left behind.