Materials & Techniques

Zenga

The term Zenga refers generally to the ink paintings and calligraphy of Zen masters of China, Korea, and Japan, although it usually refers to works of Edo-period Japan. Painting and calligraphy were an important medium for the transmission of Zen principles, and the art of ink painting was considered a meditative practice. Works of Zenga calligraphy and painting tend to be expressive but minimal and often incorporate sayings or quotations associated with Zen Buddhism. In some cases, as in portrayals of Daruma [1972.1], Kanzan [1970.28], and Jittoku [1970.29], Zenga incorporates light-hearted portrayals of famed Zen masters. The gestural brushstrokes reflect Zenga's spirit of spontaneous and personal expression and were meant to promote contemplation for the calligrapher and viewer alike.

Drawn from

  • John Stevens, "The Spiritual Dimensions of Zen Art," in Zenga: Brushstrokes of Enlightenment (New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art, 1990), 9-18.

  • Alice Rae Yelen, "Looking at Zen Art," in Zenga: Brushstrokes of Enlightenment (New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art, 1990), 19-42.

  • Getty Vocabulary, AAT (Zenga: AAT: 300310625).