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Kokû (Dokyoku)

虚空

This is a piece of genre Koten from the Dokyoku / Chikushinkai School.

Kokû (Dokyoku) appears on the following albums

AlbumShakuhachiKotoShamisen
Bamboo In Zen Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos


Deep Night - Yearning for the Bell Volume 5 Riley Kelly Lee

    Empty Sky

    Empty Sky is the usual translation of Koku. It fails, however, to convey the meaning of the original Chinese characters, which by definition, cannot be known by the rational mind of the 'relative'. The second character of the word, 'ku' is easy; it means 'sky' or 'air'. The first character 'ko' is not so easy. It refers to a concept that is in the realm of the Absolute and therefore cannot be explained or understood with words. Words, and indeed our thoughts, are of the world of the relative. For example, the word 'empty' has no meaning apart from the word 'full'. The work 'ko', on the other hand, does not mean merely 'empty', because it is not the opposite of 'full'; it is 'that' which has nothing to do with 'fullness'.

    This piece, transmitted through the Watazumi/Yokoyama lineage of shakuhachi, is one of many versions of 'Empty Sky', which is one of a trilogy of the oldest and venerated honkyoku, the other two being "Empty Bell", and "Flute on the Misty Ocean".

His Practical Philosophy - 1


Hotchiku (CD) Watazumi Doso Roshi

    Koku-Ji

    ("Emptiness")

    Legend says that Koku-Ji is the oldest piece in Japan. It comes from Kyoto.

    The title does not refer to the emptiness of space, but to the state of not being attached to Form, not being attached to Nothingness, and not being attached to the concept of not being attached. Everything emerges naturally. This surpassing of Form and Nothingness is at the core of Koku, which is expressed through a bamboo flute. (ji) to become Koku-Ji.

    Koku-Ji has been handed down for over 700 years, and so it contains both a sense of those who created it 700 years ago and a sense of mystery for those who play it today.

    A 2.95 shaku hocchiku was used for this piece.

In Dead Earnest Ishikawa Toshimitsu

Japan - Splendour of the Shakuhachi Okada Michiaki

    The three oldest pieces in the Fuke set repertoire are Kyorei, Mukaiji, and Koku. These works are collectively referred to as the Koden Sankyoku. There are many legends as to the origin of these works, but the truth as to their history is not known. However they are respected as the oldest works and transmitted in all branches of shakuhachi playing.

    The work is in three part form: calm-movement-calm. Even though it is a very long piece it is very well organized. In each part various techniques are developed.

Japan - Tajima Tadashi, Master of Shakuhachi Tajima Tadashi

    The empty sky, G, 2.7

    According to legend, Kyochiku (literally, "empty bamboo"), a Zen priest who founded the Myoan temple in Kyoto in the thirteenth century, fell asleep while practicing shakuhachi inside the temple at Ise. He dreamed of a solitary boat floating on a misty sea and heard a strange sound from the heavens. As the mist gradually disappeared, another sound reached his ears. Awakened, he immediately transcribed the mysterious sounds into the sounds of his bamboo instrument, thus creating three pieces: "Koku" (Empty sky), "Kyorei" (Empty bell), and "Mukaiji" (Misty sea). These pieces, which later became known as the "Three Olden Compositions," were all characteristically orderly and well regulated. "Koku" is no exception: built on two contrasting parts, one with simple melodic movements in a slow tempo and the other with more complex ornamented melodic figures, both parts retain a mood of tranquility and serenity, ending with the instrument's lowest pitch.

Japanese Traditional Shakuhachi Yokoyama Katsuya

    Tohoku district origin. Koku is a Buddhist concept described as "the eternal space where all lives and creatures are allowed to exist without any hindrance (the Kojien Dictionary)".

Japon L'art du shakuhachi Yokoyama Katsuya

    Koku (Vacuity)

    This piece is considered to be one of the three most ancient and important pieces in the shakuhachi repertoire, together with "Mukaiji" (Misty Sea) and "Kyorei" (Soul of Vacuity). These three compositions give a descriptive picture of vacuity (Sunyatii), which is the aim of the executant. By his playing, he tries to attain this ultimate state of enlightenment in which he sheds his personal identity and identifies with the Absolute, thus ceasing to be a slave to material things, yet without becoming free from them either.

Katsuya Yokoyama Plays Shakuhachi - 2 Yokoyama Katsuya

Koten Shakuhachi Kakizakai Kaoru

    Koku is said to be around 700 years old and originating from the North-East area of Japan. The first breath seems to carry a lot of meanings, similar to “- (one)" in calligraphy. Seemingly simple, it is difficult to write a good "-".


Searching - Yearning for the Bell Volume 7 Riley Kelly Lee

    Though Empty Sky is the usual translation of Koku, this fails, however, to convey the meaning of the original Chinese characters, which pertain to the Absolute, and which by definition cannot be fathomed by the rational mind. The second character of the word, 'ku' is easy; it means 'sky' or 'air'.

    The first character 'ko' is not so easy. It refers to a concept that is in the realm of the Absolute and therefore cannot be explained or understood with words. Words, and indeed our thoughts, are of the world of the relative. For example, the word 'empty' has no meaning apart from the word 'full'. The concept of 'fullness' is implicit in our understanding of the word 'empty'. The word 'ko', on the other hand, does not mean merely 'empty', because it is not the opposite of 'full'; it is 'that' which has nothing to do with 'fullness'.


Shingetsu Tajima Tadashi

Spirit of Silence, The Iwamoto Yoshikazu

    The story which gives rise to the title of this piece "Koku" (Empty Sky) concerns Fuke, a Zen monk of ninth century China, who was known for his extraordinary feats and purity of character. He used to roam through the streets ringing a handbell and saying:

    When the brightness comes, hit the brightness
    When the darkness comes, hit the darkness
    When it comes from the four quarters and the eight directions, hit like a whirlwind
    When it comes from the empty sky, strike like the thrashing of a flail.

    When he was about to die, he went alone beyond the city walls and laid himself inside a coffin. He asked a passing traveler to nail down the lid. The news spread at once and the people of the market rushed to the coffin. On opening it, they found that the body had vanished, but from high up in the sky they heard the ringing of his handbell, resounding faintly and then dying away.


Tajima Tadashi Shakuhachi no Sekai I Tajima Tadashi


The International Shakuhachi Society - 2018