That side a learned man,
But he isn’t good at chess;
This side a stupid man,
But he knows the tricks!
Even at the point of mate
He can find a way out,
The third man laughs.
Sengai was a famous Zen priest who presided over a large and prosperous temple, and was still more famous for his drawings, paintings and poems.
Though a master of traditional styles, his work has mostly an unconventional appearance, often with a refined humour. But underneath there is often a deep meaning for those interested in such things.
Though he lived a long life of eighty-eight years, he showed no attachment to the favours and honours showered on him by influential aristocrats and men of power; in this era when fine distinctions of rank were strictly observed, he treated all the same.
Sengai picture of chess from the Old Zen Master
© Trevor Leggett