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Nakayama Jin 中山仁 (甚)

The Chinese story named Yuanhou Zhuyue (Japanese = Enkou Sokugetsu, 猿猴捉月) tells of a group of monkeys who attempt to catch the moon's reflection, but all are drowned in the effort. The phrase 井中撈月—literally "ladling the moon out of a well" (Jp. Shou Chuu Rou Getsu)—references the same parable.

The image can also be read as a Buddhist metaphor for unenlightened people who are deluded by mere appearances. Another term is 心猿 (Jp. Shin-en), literally "the mind of a restless monkey." In modern meditation practices in many Buddhist sects, one must first subdue the "monkey mind" before meditation can yield results. The goal is to overcome the restless monkey mindset, to stop jumping from branch to branch, to stop grabbing whatever fruit comes into sight, to stop being fooled by mere appearances. Enlightenment is within the grasp of all who seek it if they remain true, sincere, and dedicated.

Hakuin_monkey_moon (29K) Hakuin Ekaku 白隠慧鶴, 1685-1768, also alludes to this Buddhist image in a poem he appended to one of his paintings:

The monkey is reaching for the moon in the water.
Until death overtakes him he'll never give up.
If he'd let go the branch and disappear in the deep pool,
The whole world would shine with dazzling pureness.

monkey_moon (161K) Creator.Personal Name: 中山仁 (甚)
Creator.Personal Name: Nakayama Jin.
Creator.Role: painter
Title: 月が御猿 [Moon and royal monkies]
Description: hanging scroll; ink on paper; signed by artist 甚 one artist's seal; with storage box (tomobako), title inscribed on the exterior of the lid and signature and seal on the inside.
Date: Later Shōwa (ca. 1980).
Subject: Monkeys.
Subject: Moon.
Type: Scroll (Visual work)--Japanese.
Type: Genre paintings--Japanese.
Type: Watercolors--Japanese.
Culture: Japanese.
Style.Period: Modern.
Technique: painting.
Material.Medium: ink.
Material.Support: paper.
Measurements: 22 x 68 in.
Location.Current Repository: private collection, C. J. Campbell (Chicago, Ill.)
Rights: C. J. Campbell.
Record Type: work.
Signature & seals on painting
and storage box interior:
monkey_moon_sig (53K) monkey_moon_box_sig (61K)
Tomobako lid:
monkey_moon_box_lid (158K)

Japanese Painting