This symbol is called a hanko which is stamped near the back hole of the shakuhachi and identifies the maker of the flute. My hanko includes two Japanese characters: the upper Ku translates as "emptiness or void"; the lower Setsu or fushi is "the joint that divides the bamboo".

Setsu or Chieh, in Chinese, comes from the ancient Chinese oracle, The I Ching (Hexagram #60: Chieh / Limitation), which I consulted after making my very first shakuhachi in 1970. [See Richard Wilhelm, tr., The I Ching / Book of Changes (Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series XIX, 1950) p. 231].

The wooden hanko pictured above was a gift from my friend Robbie Hanna Anderman. It was made by Solar Woodcuts.

Tai Hei is Japanese for "Pacific" as in Pacific Ocean or, in this case Tai Hei Ogawa, the Pacific Rim. (It also means "Great Peace"). I work with shakuhachi on both sides of the Rim, living  in the coastal mountains about 10 miles northeast of Willits, a small town in northern California about an hour's drive from the Pacific coast. My workshop in Japan is located in the tiny farming village of Kitagawa, Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's four main islands. Shuttling between two spots on the "Ring of Fire" we get to  experience an earthquake or two on a regular basis.


View of the Willits Valley from near my workshop. (Photo by Anna Levenson)

The name Shakuhachi is a corruption of I Shaku Ha Sun which is derived from an ancient Japanese measuring system and literally means "1.8 feet", (54.5 cm.) the length of the classical flute in the key of D. A shaku is just shy of one foot and is divided into 10 equal parts, each called a sun. "I" is short of ichi or "one" in Japanese; "Ha" is short of hachi or "eight". Hence, I Shaku Ha Sun = 1 shaku + 8 sun which, over time, became shortened toshakuhachi. Not very romantic!

A "Shaku" tape measure.




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