Rankoku Genjo (蘭谷元定)

Rankoku Genjo (1653 - May 31, 1707) was a priest of the Rinzai sect Obaku school of the early Edo period. Rankoku was his go (a title), and Genjo was his name. He was superior in suibokuga (painting with India ink), tenkoku (carving using a special Chinese character, Tensho) and sculpture.

Brief Biography

While he was born as the son of a clothing shop owner in Kyoto, and visited Mt. Obaku following his father, in 1667, at age 15, he became a disciple of Gettan Docho, an attendant of Ingen.

Accordingly, Gettan became the second chief priest of Jikishi-an Temple in Sagano, Kyoto, whereupon Genjo became the shuso (the leader of monks practicing asceticism) and began to live in Gangyokuken, at Mt. Obaku. He completed the practices of a Zen monk in 1703. He passed away in 1707. While his master Gettan mourned the death of his beloved disciple and, in his ceremonial message said, 'He was good at many arts,' Genjo was actually superior in painting, tenkoku and sculpture.

He learned how to use carving knives for butsuzo (statue of Buddha) carving from the Buddha sculptor Handosei; his manner of carving was decorative and graphic, being reminiscent of the Ming style. He carved a small graven image of his own father at the seventh anniversary of his father's death, and placed it at Jikishi-an Temple. He became famous with tenkoku and was asked to engrave seals for Jinsai ITO, Togai ITO and Kotaku HOSOI. It was the time when the art of tenkoku was emerging, and therefore Genjo had considerable influence on young newcomers. As a painter he was adept at chinso (portraiture), and he left portraits of Dokusho Shoen and Gettan. At one of the Tatchu (a sub-temple on the site of a main temple) of Manpuku-ji Temple, Shinko-in Temple, there remains a chinso of Mushin Shokaku. He was also skilled at painting with India ink in a manner similar to bunjin-ga (a style of painting that originated in China, in which intellectuals such as writers and other non-professional would try their hand), and he liked painting subjects ranging from orchids to Shikunshi (four plants with high virtue, namely orchid, bamboo, ume plum tree and chrysanthemum). It's interesting to consider that a Japanese monk would have such a touch with a brush 50 years earlier than Nankai GION of Japan.