Transactions of the Japan Academy
Online ISSN : 2424-1903
Print ISSN : 0388-0036
ISSN-L : 0388-0036
Shinsei and his Descendant
Author information

1987 Volume 42 Issue 3 Pages 171-192


The names of six persons are mentioned as the authors of Heike-Monogatari (the story of the Taira clan), in Heike-kanmonroku (a book of oral traditions by blind men), and it is among others a noticeable fact that four persons of them are found to be Shinsei's sons. By this fact, it can be conjectured that Shinsei's posterity much concerned in the process of creation of Heike-monogatari.
Apart from the problem of authors, we can never overlook an active roll played by Shinsei and his posterity in the fields of literature, performing arts and thought of the times from the Heian period down to the Kamakura period, exerting a great influence on the culture of the Middle Ages.
Shinsei's name as a layman was Michinori FUJIWARA. He was born to the Confucian family and was a man of talent with extensive learning. Though he was held in high esteem by Sadaijin (the second Cabinet minis ter) Yorinaga FUJIWARA, he was not contented with his position, and after being promoted to the rank of Shonagon (the third councillor of State), renounced the world in the 3rd year of Koji. Even after his retirement into religion, he continued to wait on the retired Emperor Toba, and abused his authority, after the Hogen revolt (1156), serving close to the Emperor Goshirakawa.
Therefore, he earned the dislike of Nobuyori FUJIWARA, Yoshimoto MINAMOTO and so forth, and on the run from Kyoto at the time of the Heiji revolt, he met his end. Honchoseiki (a voluminous book on history) and Hossoruirin (a voluminous book on law) are rated highly among his chief literary works. He was also an authority on Chinese classics and poems and owned a large library. He was famous for his thorough knowledge of performing arts, such as singing, dancing, instrumental music and the like.
In Sonpibunmyaku (a big genealogical record), we can find out Shinsei's 15 sons and 5 daughters. Five of his sons were court nobles and 10 were Buddhist priests. The eldest son, Toshinori (1122-1167) was a famous writer, who published Kanjuhisho (a book on ancient practices and usages). The second son, Sadanori was a poet, who called himself Ben-no-nyudo after his retirement into religion, and his son, called Gedatsu-Shonin (saint) after becoming a priest, was living in Kasagi and was a writer excellent in preaching. The fourth son, Shigenori (1135-1187) was a man of refined taste, who loved cherry-blossoms very much and was, therefore, called Sakuramachi (the street of cherry-blossoms)-chunagon (the second councillor of state). He was a well-known poet and wrote Kara-monogatari (a narrative literature translated from a Chinese source) and gave it to the public. Most of his sons, like Joken (the chief priest of Daigoji-temple), were the priests of high virtue.
One of Shinsei's daughters, Kogo-no-tsubone (a court lady) won the Emperor Takakura's favor. The fifth son, Naganori was also a poet, who was one of the attendants close to the ex-Emperor Goshirakawa. Joken (1124-?), one of the said ten priests, was a thoughtful wise man and enjoyed the confidence of the ex-Emperor Goshirakawa and Kiyomori TAIRA as well. He was said to be an excellent poet ranked next to Shigenori. Choken (1126-1203) was most famous for his skillful preaching and advocacy. His son, Seikaku succeeded his father and handed down Aguiryu (way) of advocacy to the Kamakura period. Other sons, too, were regarded as priests of high virtue of the day.

Information related to the author
© The Japan Academy
Next article