47. The Stingy Artist
Gessen was an artist monk. Before he would start a drawing or
painting he always insisted upon being paid in advance and his fees
were high. He was known as the 'Stingy Artist’.
A geisha once gave him a commission for a painting. 'How much can
you pay?' inquired Gessen. 'Whatever you charge,' replied the girl,
'but I want you to do the work in front of me.'
So on a certain day Gessen was called by the geisha. She was holding
a feast for her patron. Gessen with fine brushwork did the painting.
When it was completed he asked the highest sum of his time. He
received his pay.
Then the geisha turned to her patron, saying: 'All
this artist wants is money. His paintings are fine but his mind is
dirty: money has caused it to become muddy. Drawn by such a filthy
mind his work is not fit to exhibit. It is just about good enough
for one of my petticoats.'
Removing her skirt, she then asked Gessen to do another picture on
the back of her petticoat.
'How much will you pay?' asked Gessen.
'Oh, any amount,' answered the girl.
Gessen named a fancy price, painted the picture in the manner
requested and went away.
It was learned later that Gessen had these reasons for desiring
money. A ravaging famine often visited his province. The rich would
not help the poor, so Gessen had a secret warehouse, unknown to
anyone, which he kept filled with grain prepared for these
From his village to the National Shrine the road was in very poor
condition and many travelers suffered while traversing it. He
desired to build a better road. His teacher had passed away without
realizing his wish build a temple and Gessen wished to complete this
temple for him.
After Gessen had accomplished his three wishes he threw away his
brushes and artist's materials and retiring to the mountains never
48. Accurate Proportion
Sen no Rikyu, a tea-master, wished to hang a flower basket on a
column. He asked a carpenter to help him, directing the man to place
it a little higher or lower, to the right or left, until he had
found exactly the right spot. That's the place,' said
Sen no Rikyu finally.
The carpenter, to test the master, marked the spot and then
pretended he had forgotten. Was this the place? 'Was this the place,
perhaps?' the carpenter kept asking, pointing to various places on
But so accurate was the tea-master's sense of proportion
that it was not until the carpenter reached the identical spot again
that its location was approved.