This subject,which pairs a broom depicted with thick lines of ink and a white puppy, is based on the Zen parable “Zhaozhou’s Dog” (Jōshū Kushi). When asked whether a dog has Buddha-nature, the Zen monk Zhaozhou refuted the question by saying “Wu,” which means “empty” or “nothing.” The Chinese poem inscribed on this painting by the monk Musen Jōzen (Tangai) says that the dog in the painting plays innocently around the immortal Hanshan’s (Jp. Kanzan) broom and that the existence or non-existence of Buddha-nature is not something to be questioned.
Although this appears to be a simple, abbreviated ink painting, the dog is outlined with thin, dry lines which effectively portray the softness of his coat. This creates a contrast with the broom, which is depicted with wet lines that make use of ink bleeding effects.