Eight paintings on paper illustrating some excerpts of "Tale of Heike". It is described with great realism, the accession to power of the Heike clan warriors or Taira particularly his struggles with the Genji clan or Minnamoto.
An ancient and extremely popular tale in Japan, the Tale of the Heike was originally declaimed by monks accompanied by the biwa. The identity of the original author is not certain, but the name Yukinaga is the most commonly advanced. While sources agree on the name, they diverge on his function, making him either the governor of Shinano province or a lay monk.
Japan-Edo paintings (18th century).
Screen mounting four back leaves.
Height 84 cm-175 cm length.
This book narrates the life of Taira no Kiyomori, the heir of the warrior Heike clan. The reader follows his slow rise to the highest echelons of power, into the depths and depravity of the court and the strife of civil war.
The other tale told is the ascension of the warriors (bushi) who were up until that point looked down upon by the nobles.
- Taira no Kiyomori, Lord of Aki and Haruma, he is the main character in Eiji Yoshikawa's novel, he will become Prime Minister, an honor never before acquired by a warrior.
- Taira no Shigemori, son of the previous one.
- Minamoto no Yoshitomo, leader of the Genji clan during the Heiji War, executed as a result of this rebellion.
- Ushiwaka, son of the previous one, better known under the name of Minamoto no Yoshitsune, a very important historical figure in Japan, after having reconquered Japan with his half-brother Yoritomo and crushed the Heike Clan he will be betrayed by Yoritomo and will kill himself by seppuku.
- Minamoto no Yoritomo, half-brother of the previous one, banished to the east as a teenager after the Heiji rebellion, he will win the final victory against the Heike Clan, will move the capital to Kamakura and will establish the Shogunate.
- Fujiwara no Nobuyori, ally of Minamoto no Yoshitomo in the Heiji rebellion.
- Fujiwara no Shinzei, Kiyomori's ally, after a bloody passage to power he will be executed with his family during the Heiji rebellion.
- Fujiwara no Tsunemune
- Emperor Shirakawa, emperor and presumed father of Kiyomori.
- Emperor Go-Shirakawa
- Emperor Nijo, son of Go-Shirakawa
The Heike clan, following a long stranglehold of power by the Genji clan, had in the Japanese historical imagination a bad image of brutal warriors. Thanks to Eiji Yoshikawa's book, the Heike clan and Taira no Kiyomori were "rehabilitated" and statues in their memory were erected in Japan.
Description of the scenes (from left to right and in lines) :
Scene 1 (top first sheet): Arrival of the Genji troops surprising the Taira defenders with the small number of enemy troops coming to challenge them at dawn on March 27, 1184, during the Battle of Ichinotani.
Scene 2 (top second sheet): Kinreimon-in (Taira no Tokuko), daughter of Taira Kiyomori and mother of the young emperor Antoku, in conversation with Taira Munemori, commander-in-chief of the Taira army.
The scene depicts the moment when a messenger arrives on board a ship to announce to Kinreimon-in and the general the attack of the Genji troops. After the defeat of the Taira, they flee by boat.
Scene 3 (top third sheet): Kumagai Naozane chasing Taira no Atsumori who is protecting himself with a shield.
Scene 4 (top fourth sheet): Two Taira defenders preparing to shoot their arrows.
Scene 5 (bottom first sheet): "The end of Atsumori".
The episode in book nine tells how Taira no Atsumori was killed by Kumagai Naozane. The text gives us the point of view of the latter, a warrior from the eastern provinces. During the battle of Ichi-no-tani, Kumagai disarmed Atsumori and prepared to kill him. But discovering his opponent's face as he was about to slice his neck, Kumagai realizes that he is a young and handsome boy about the age of his own son, and he is unable to perform the fatal gesture. However, he has no choice but to kill the young Atsumori. He then exclaims: "Weary, nothing is more cruel than the fate of those who carry bows and arrows! If I had not been born in a house dedicated to the arts of war, such misfortune would have been spared me! »?
Here, the scene presents the moment when Kumagai hesitates to kill Atsumori.
Scenes 6 and 7 (bottom of second and third leaves): Fight between Satsuma no Kami Tanadori, leader of the Western Army, and Okabe no Rokuyata Tadazumi of Musashi.
The episode (volume 9, chapter 14) tells how Okabe, taking Satsuma for an enemy, challenged him. The latter told him that they were of the same party, but the other did not want to hear, taking him for a Taira (Heike). If the fight was first in his favor, Satsuma was finally defeated by Okabe who beheaded him.
It was in wanting to know who his opponent was that he identified him in one of his poems, which he had fixed to his quiver, and entitled Hotel of Flowers. The poem read as follows: Tonight, tired from a long stage / it is under a roof of flowers that I will rest.
Okabe having recognized his adversary, conceived a great sorrow to have killed him.
This famous scene was later repeated in many theatrical performances.
Scene 8 (bottom of fourth sheet): Taira no Shigehira, son of Kiyomori, who burned the city of Nara and the Todai-ji Temple housing the large statue of Buddha, fleeing with his men. Shigehira was finally captured in Ichinotani and handed over to the monks of the Todai-ji, who killed him in revenge for the burning of their temple.
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