(1758 - 1831) is a famous Soto Zen monk
who excelled in Buddhist scriptural
. In Izumozaki
, where Ryokan
was born, a legend
is told of a Go
game between Ryokan and Sekigawa Mansuke. Mansuke was a close friend
of Ryokan’s and people would often ask him if he could talk, or even trick, Ryokan into doing some calligraphy
. Everyone wanted an original poem written with brush and ink in Ryokan's own hand. Ryokan knew about this, of course, and the story that follows concerns an interaction between two good friends over a wager for calligraphy.
Legend has it that one chilly autumn morning Mansuke was picking persimmons in his garden when he turned to see Ryokan standing there, looking up at the sky dreamily. Mansuke climbed down from the tree and Ryokan said, “Let’s play Go today.”
Mansuke loved to play Go, so they went into his house and Mansuke immediately laid out his Go board and stones. But before they began to play he said, “Just playing an ordinary game of Go isn’t much fun. Why don’t we bet something? If you win….”,
“It’s getting cold,” Ryokan said, “so if I win, you could give me a quilted robe.”
“And if I win?” asked Mansuke.
“I have nothing to give you,” Ryokan replied.
“Then why don’t you do some calligraphy?” asked Mansuke, looking over at the brushes and calligraphy paper he had piled on his desk.
“All right,” agreed Ryokan.
They began to play, but Mansuke was much more skilled at playing Go than Ryokan was, (which Ryokan knew from long experience) so he soon beat him. And he insisted that Ryokan do some calligraphy. Ryokan took a fan from the desk on which he wrote:
my balls feel the chill
of the autumn wind
Mansuke read the poem with a bitter smile. They resumed playing and when Mansuke won, Ryokan wrote out the same poem. When this happened three times, Mansuke, in exasperation exclaimed, “Three times for that same poem about balls is too much!”,
“Well,” Ryokan replied, ‘you won the same game of Go three times, didn’t you? So I wrote the same poem three times.”