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The Art of Twentieth-Century Zen

Japan Society: New York City

Nov. 19—Jan. 10 1999

Traveling the U.S. through

March 11, 2000

Audrey Yoshiko Seo and Stephen Addiss

Shambhala Publications: Boston, 1998

232 pp.; $65 (cloth)

Kay Larson

To Zen Buddhists, the most spectacular object in the National Gallery's exhibition of the art of Japan in the Edo period might well be the broad bladelike tower rising improbably high from the crown of a black war helmet. Made in the eighteenth century for a daimyo to don on his obligatory excursions to and from the shogun's castle, this bold lacquered-wood signboard is inscribed with characters for the five cosmic elements: earth, water, fire, wind, and—at the top—mu, or emptiness.

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