Teikin Orai (庭訓往来)

Written in an oraimono (exchange of letters) style, Teikin Orai was an elementary textbook used as a copybook and reader at Terakoya (temple elementary schools during the Edo period). It is believed to have been put together between the later part of the period of the Northern and Southern Courts and the beginning of the Muromachi period. Although it is generally considered to have been authored by Gene, a monk who lived during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts, this has not been confirmed.


Written in pseudo-Chinese style, Teikin Orai covered a wide range of topics on general knowledge including lifestyle, vocation, territory management, architecture, law, duty, Buddhism, weapons, education, and medical treatment. It consisted of 25 letters, 12 letters to send and another 12 to receive for the respective months of the year and an additional letter for August 13, designed to help students learn many words and model sentences. A great number of shahon (manuscripts), chushakubon (commentaries), and eiribon (illustrated books) for Teikin Orai are known. Since Teikin Orai dealt with common practices that were timeless and universal, it served as a textbook at Terakoya well into the Edo period. There are about 30 kinds of koshabon (old manuscripts) and 200 kinds of itahon (books bound in Japanese style) for Teikin Orai.

The word "teikin" originates from a historical event taken from the Ji Shi (Chief of the Ji Clan) section of "Rongo" (the Analects of Confucius) in which Confucius called to his son to stop running in a garden and encouraged him to learn poetry and etiquette, signifying teachings from father to son and home education.

Form and Content

Formatted in the following order: 'introduction' of a letter, 'word groups' essential in everyday life, 'closing' of a letter, date, sender's name, and address.
Subjects for Word Groups
January: New Year's meetings
February: Banquet for cherry blossom viewing and poetry reading
March: Territory management by feudal lords, encouragement of agriculture, construction of houses, and fruit trees
April: Prosperity of territories, understanding of politics, administration of villages and towns, invitation of various professionals, facilities for commercial trades and types of business, and indigenous local products
May: Furniture and household articles, and names of cooking tools
June: Departure for the subjugation of robbers, borrowing of weapons and horses, knowledge of departure for battle and of the chain of command, and nomenclature of weapons and harness
July: Costume, various items and tools for competitions
August: Judicial system, law procedures, organization and management of monchujo (board of inquiry) and samurai-dokoro (board of retainers.)
August (single letter): Dignity of the procession of sons in the shogun family.
September: Buddhist temples, Buddha statues, programs for the Buddhist mass, sextons, dancing children, and various items for the occasion of great Buddhist masses
October: Refreshments, miscellaneous taxes in temples, names of soi and sokan (ranks and positions of Buddhist priest), offerings, food served as refreshments such as sweets, tea utensils, soups and side dishes for the occasion of taisai (grand festival) events.
November: Types of diseases and their treatment, and taboos for the sake of preventing disease and staying healthy
December: System of local administration, descriptions of inauguration and government control

Types of Kanpon (printed copies) for Teikin Orai

Kanpon for Teikin Orai was broadly classified into four types: 'Tehon-kei' (model handwriting-type), 'Tokuhon-kei' (reader-type), 'Chushakubon-kei' (commentary-type), and 'Esho-kei' (illustrated commentary-type).

Tehon-kei' was made for the purpose of teaching penmanship. Bound in large size, its characters were big, usually written in gyosho-tai (semi-cursive style of writing) and handwritten. After the mid Edo period, some Teikin Orai containing kuten (punctuation marks), kaeriten (signs to indicate reading order), okurigana (hiragana to accompany kanji), and furigana (hiragana to show pronunciation) started to be seen.

Tokuhon-kei' attempted to assist in learning to read every single letter. The period from 1688 to 1703 saw the appearance of those that contained two kinds of furigana; one was necessary for reading body texts and placed to their right, and the other to the left showed another way of reading them. In addition, various teaching materials were seen at the beginning and the end of a book as well as in the space above the body texts. Represented in some of these materials were: Appreciation of the art of flower arrangement, poetry, small pieces of song, manners for writing, business know-how, penmanship, brushwork, and synonyms for the names of the months. They were sufficiently organized to be referred to as integrated elementary textbooks.

Chushakubon-kei' attempted to give a commentary on words, phrases and sentence meanings in the form of 'book notes.'
In 1834, the book "Teikin Orai Guchusho" (Commentary of Teikin Orai), each letter was broken down into several paragraphs and each paragraph had a let-in note that contained both kanji and kana with all kanji accompanied by furigana, always closing with a section on 'sentence meaning' that summarized the whole paragraph.

Esho-kei' attempted to help the student get a faster and accurate grasp of its texts with the aid of illustrations. In 1688, the book "Teikin Orai Zusan" (Home Education Textbook, the illustrated edition) contained 509 illustrations above the sentences, each supplied with simple comments on keywords.