Taiheiki (太平記) (genre 1318 – 1368)



[Chronicle of Great Peace] "Historical works in 41 volumes, attributed to the bonze Kojima (+ 1374) [小嶋], of the Hiei-zan [比叡山]. It covers one of the most troubled epochs of Japanese history, from 1318 to 1368."

Quoted from: Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan by E. Papinot, p. 615.


"...Namboku gunki monogatari in forty parts, written by many people in various stages - particularly, it seems, by priests favoring the southern dynasty, and perhaps given its final version by Priest Kojima in 1372. According to Imagawa Ryōshun's criticisms in his Nan Taiheiki, Priest Gen'e produced a thirty-book version on order from Ashikaga Tadayoshi [1306-52], who found it so full of errors that he had it thoroughly revised. Because of Gen'e's and Tadayoshi's deaths are recorded by part thirty as we have the work, much reworking was done.

This narrative covers the five decades (1315-1367)) of recurrent war following Godaigo's efforts to rally groups disaffected with the Kamakura bakufu run by the Hōjō regents in his vain hope to restore power about the sovereign in Kyoto. The vicissitudes of these years are well shown. The early part of the work deals especially with the wars of the Shōchū and Genkō eras (1324-1326 and 1331-1334), culminating in the brief recovery of power by the court during the Kemmu Restoration (1334-1336) (parts 1-12). But Godaigo's triumph was short-lived. He was out of touch with the new realities of fractious military houses. Various temporary allegiances split, regrouping in dynastic terms about the rival northern and southern courts (parts 13-21). As a consequence, forces identified with the Ashikaga regime had been able to regroup, only to discover its own divisions as power was reacquired. With more bloodshed - including the deaths of the shoguns Tadayoshi, the brilliant if corrupt Takauji, and then Yoshiakira, the stage was set for the stewardship or regency of Hosokawa Yoriyuki over the child Yoshimitsu and government left no more stable than it had been (parts 22-40).

The later books appear to be more critical of the Ashikaga regime, and one line of interpretation holds that the work as we have it is governed by social criticism. Another, religious, interpretation discovers the theme of karma working throughout. Both are plausible, but we may also read the title as The Record of the Great Pacification less to indicate the irony of a social critic or the worldly allusion posited by priests than as a vain but persistent desire for peace in an age whose diverse rivalries and violent tragedies continued to frustrate natural human hope."

Quoted from: The Princeton Companion to Classical Japanese Literature by Early Miner, Hiroko Odagiri and Robert E. Morrell, pp. 243-244.