Sound of One Hand

Back cover blurbs

“This handsome, richly illustrated book offers an insightful, wide-ranging, and always lucid account of one of Japan's most inventive artists. Seo and Addiss examine Hakuin's work in religious, philosophical, and social contexts, but they never forget that the paintings and calligraphies are aesthetic objects: Much of the commentary helps readers to enjoy the artistry of specific works.”

Sylvan Barnet, PhD, Tufts University, author of A Short Guide
to Writing about Art
, coauthor of Zen Ink Paintings

The Sound of One Hand is a masterful account of the art and poetry of the famous eighteenth-century Zen master Hakuin, but it is so much more. The way in which the authors have juxtaposed image, history, and biography not only succeeds in making Hakuin’s spirit relevant to any reader today, but their essays provide a virtual textbook of how to approach, and understand, the long history of Zen in Japan. Humor, profundity, and charm, and satire can be found here in images, calligraphy, and poetry alike. The whole book provides any reader with a striking lesson in how to look.”

J. Thomas Rimer, PhD. Professor Emeritus of Japanese Theater,
Literature, and Art, University of Pittsburgh, coauthor of
Traditional Japanese Arts and Culture: A Sourcebook


"What a treasure trove this book is for all those interested in Zen Buddhism as well as Japanese religion, art history, and folklore. Reading this book and viewing its plates and figures is an exhilarating and thought-provoking experience for the way it insightfully captures East Asian culture and aesthetics."

Steven Heine, PhD, Professor of Religious Studies and History and Director of
Asian Studies, Florida International University, author of Opening a Mountain:
Koans of the Zen Masters
and Barganin’ for Salvation: Bob Dylan, a Zen master?


Hakuin Ekaku (1685–1768) is one of the most influential figures in the history of Zen. He can be considered the founder of the modern Japanese Rinzai tradition, for which he famously emphasized the importance of koan practice in awakening, and he revitalized the monastic life of his day. But his teaching was by no means limited to monastery or temple. Hakuin was the quintessential Zen master of the people, renowned for taking his teaching to all parts of society, to people in every walk of life, and his painting and calligraphy were particularly powerful vehicles for that teaching. Using traditional Buddhist images and sayings—but also themes from folklore and daily life—Hakuin created a new visual language for Zen: profound, whimsical, and unlike anything that came before. The Sound of One Hand is a study of Hakuin and his enduringly appealing art, illustrated with a wealth of examples of his work, both familiar pieces like “Three Blind Men on a Bridge” as well as lesser known masterworks.

Audrey Yoshiko Seo, PhD, is an independent scholar and consultant on Japanese art. Her areas of research and publications include painting and calligraphy by Japanese Zen masters from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, and contemporary Japanese fashion. Her latest book is Ensô: Zen Circles of Enlightenment.

Stephen Addiss is Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities and Professor of Art at the University of Richmond in Virginia. A scholar-artist, he has exhibited his ink paintings and calligraphy in Asia, Europe, and in many venues in the United States. He is also the author or coauthor of more than thirty books and catalogues about East Asian arts, including 77 Dances: Japanese Calligraphy by Poets, Monks, and Scholars, 1568–1868.