The Blue Cliff Record, or the Hekiganroku, has been used as a teaching tool for students of Zen Buddhism for a thousand years.
Its one hundred koans were originally compiled by Setcho (980 -1052), a poet and scholar, in early eleventh century China. This present book is an iconoclastic version of The Blue Cliff Record, a book that was in its time also deeply iconoclastic.
It contains all the original koans but with fresh variations on the introductory statements and commentary. It is also, I believe, the first time since its creation that the book has ever been fully illuminated.
In the ancient tradition of those early Irish monks. I have chosen to illuminate what cannot be illumined with a piece of artwork to accompany each case in the collection.
I choose the word “illuminate” deliberately. In part to mirror the work of those monks laboring to illuminate, to bring visible brightness of a visual and oral culture to the page of manuscripts in scriptoria lit only by the light of day, and in part to distinguish the work from mere illustration, which only goes one way and is either a visual description of the text or a way of telling one how one should respond to the text. Illumination goes both ways; outwardly showing the way we must travel, and inwardly, clarifying who we are taking these steps towards clarity. But we are taking these steps alone.
This is an artist’s book, that is, not a book containing pictures art, but a work of art itself, using the book form as a medium. This artist’s book is in six copies.