Although official history of the Fuke-shu sect starts only with the Edo era, Shakuhachi of this sect and its philosophy would have been introduced from China to Japan in the 13th century by the grand Hotto Master.

Disciple of Chosan, 17th descendant of the Fuke sect of China which was created in the 9th century, he returned to Japan in 1254 in order to transmit his teaching. Thus the bases were thrown out of what was going to become one of most admirable contemplative music.

Blowing Zen

The monks of this sect played Shakuhachi instead of practicing Zazen (ภ‘T   sitting Zen  or sitting position to meditate) and reciting Sutras. Shakuhachi was then considered not as a musical instrument but as a religious instrument dedicated to meditation. From this concept of Blowing Zen (‘T ); meditation by the blowing in opposition to sitting Zen.  

The Fuke sect was a branch of the Zen Buddhism just like the Rinzai sect.  

With the coming to power of the Tokugawa Government (birth of the Edo era), the control of the Buddhist monks became a tricky question which was necessary to be solved quickly in order to impose and maintain the order and safety; it should remember that monks of that time did not devote themselves only to the meditation and the study of the precepts.  

Some sects were more feared than respected by people and Government for making reign of terror (in the facts, it was a question for the government to control powerful religious orders who wished to preserve their independence, which is in contradiction with all dictatorial policy).  

It should also be reminded that the coming to power of Tokugawa had been done with many sacrifices, and that a great number of Samurai following the defeat of their clan became Rônin, Wandering Samurai through the force of circumstance. In order to control this mass of Rônin likely to seek to appease their revenge and to save the honor of their defeated clan, it was the right time for the government to positively mobilize these energies.  

Under the dictate of the Tokugawa government, the Komusô monks were thus gathered around Temples allowing to control them more easily. It is around this sext exclusively made up of members coming from the noble class of warriors; the Samurai - that was  officially created the order of the Buddhist Zen Fuke-shû sect.  

These warrior monks called Komusô (‹•–ณ‘m monks of the Emptiness) are known for their hat of reed hiding their face.

During the Edo era, Komusô monks played an important role in the maintenance of law and order established by the Government of Tokugawa aiming to maintain peace and to thwart political intrigues. This stabilized domestic policy enable to preserve a lasting peace during 265 years.  

In exchange of favor done to the government, Komusô were free to pass without obstacle the various points of control around the country, and had many privileges of which among other things the right to carry dagger.

At the end of the shogunate of the Edo era, it comes to appear that a few number of impostors not belonging to the class of Samurai were putting on the dress of Komusô; some to survive thanks to the flute, others to flee and hide (the Komusô wore a hat of reed hiding their face) from the authorities. These pseudo-monks not being familiar with the traditional parts, played of the popular airs having nothing to do with the traditional pieces of which the aim was the meditation. 

With the Meiji (1868) revolution, the Fuke sect was dismantled and prohibited in 1871 by the new administration in place because of its implication and its active role in the preceding government of Tokugawa.

Just like it is the case in the majority of the great traditional schools, one can consider that the teaching is transmitted on two levels: the basic teaching given to the members of the sect, and fundamental teaching to some initiated only.

The tradition wants that the heir of a school transmits the secrets of his heritage to one or two disciples so that the teaching does not disappear. These disciples in their turn are  charged to transmit the heritage.

The tradition and teaching of Master to disciple thus continued to be transmitted until nowadays  via some Grand Masters like Miyakawa Nyozan, Kobayashi Shizan, Okazaki Meido, Katsuura Shozan, Takahashi Kûzan, and today Fujiyoshi Etsuzan.

One of the characteristics of the Fuke sect was its assortment. Indeed, the different temples situated in the various provinces of Japan transmitted parts of identical name pieces but  often of different contents. The reasons are simple; In order to preserve the secrets, the pieces were often transmitted only partially to the monks coming from other temples. Moreover, it did not exist until recently of written music sheet, and the memory is sometimes capricious.  

It is Takahashi Kûzan who gathered and synthesized teaching to transmit the original pieces and their variations. He would have inherited more than 260 parts whereas it continued his spiritual search through Japan (•ŽาCs Musha-shugyô or spiritual search of the warrior monks).  

Thus, it is known that Suzuru (‘ƒ’฿) is the oldest version of the piece "the nest of the crane", which gave rise to different variations and whose name evolved to give parts known under the name of Tsuru No Sugomori (’฿‚ฬ‘ƒ โฤ).

One also knows that various pieces coming from different provinces were transmitted under the name of Reibo (—้•็). In order to classify them, one often added the name of origin; thus Kyûshû-Reibô and many other pieces were renamed to preserve the traditional and various repertory of the sect. It is also the case of the parts Shirabe (’ฒ)(piece sometime transmitted under the name Chôshi which is a mistake) where the name evolved to Yamato-No-Shirabe, etc, according to their origin, and of many other piecesc

Today, pieces transmitted in Fuke-shû school are notified with their place of transmission ( Fudai-ji temple, Ichigetsu-ji, Reihô-ji, Myôan-ji etcc). It is thus possible to go up again with the origin.  

Shakuhachi has always been more than a sect, but a musical principle and a philosophical school of thought. If for political reasons, this philosophical school born from the Buddhism Zen was structured during the Edo era, its essence resides above all in its music and musical  bases. Fuke Shakuhachi never disappeared even if its teaching was often transmitted in the secret.  

Parallel to this teaching centered around the traditional pieces (which remain its base), the training today also turned to other styles of music such as Minyô-Shakuhachi or folk Shakuhachi, Western classical music, folk music of the world,  jazz and as well as others, giving a universal dimension to this instrument and this music absolutely unique in the world.

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