Image: © Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The inscription is excerpted from a eulogy for Budai by the Song-dynasty Daoist master Bai Yuchan (1194–1229), who integrated Chan (Zen) teachings of enlightenment into his philosophy. The inscription was transcribed in bold, cursive, and highly expressive calligraphy by Tetsuzan Sōdon, a leading Zen monk-scholar who served as an abbot of Myōshinji in Kyoto.
The inscription reads:
Hotei’s sack encompasses the Great Emptiness.
Holding a staff, he tramps around 3,000 worlds.
Miroku claps his hands, and laughs—ha, ha!
The bright moon shines, the wind disappears . . .
The above poem is by the master
of Sanyian Monastery,
brushed by Tetsuzan Sōdonsai, aged 85,
at Dairyū in Temple in Kyoto.
—Trans. John T. Carpenter