Ouchi Gyokuso (1879-1944) - Ox and boy netsuke

Tokyo, circa 1920

Ouchi Gyokuso netsuke of a herdsboy resting his head against an ox

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.

Ouchi Gyokuso netsuke of a herdsboy resting his head against an ox
Ouchi Gyokuso netsuke of a herdsboy resting his head against an ox
Ouchi Gyokuso netsuke of a herdsboy resting his head against an ox

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.

Too many steps have been taken
returning to the root and the source.
Better to have been blind and deaf
from the beginning!
Dwelling in one’s true abode,
unconcerned with and without –
The river flows tranquilly on
and the flowers are red.
I have abandoned whip and rope.[1]

[1] Ox-Herding: Stages of Zen Practice, John M. Koller Department of Cognitive Science

Signed: Gyokuso with inlaid square seal: Ouchi
Width: 4 cm
With hakogaki

Ouchi Gyokuso (1879-1944)
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