Taiheiki (Record of the Great Peace) (太平記)

"Taiheiki" is a work of Japanese literature.

It is a war chronicle in 40 volumes that describes the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan) from 1318 through 1368 (for about 50 years), starting from Emperor Godaigo's ascension to the throne and continuing through the fall of the Kamakura shogunate, the Kemmu Restoration and the split into northern and southern courts that followed its collapse; the Kanno disturbance, and the death of the second shogun, Yoshiakira ASHIKAGA, and ending with the assumption of the office of kanrei (deputy shogun) by Yoriyuki HOSOKAWA. There are several extant texts such as the Imagawake-bon, the Kokatsuji-bon and the Seigenin-bon, among others. The name 'Taihei' is said to represent a prayer for peace, and some have suggested that it refers to the pacification of vengeful spirits.

As many other novels and TV dramas called "Taiheiki" were made after World War II, some people call it "the classic Taiheiki" in order to avoid ambiguity.

Period and authorship

Although the author and the period in which it was written are unknown, there is a description in Sadayo IMAGAWA's 'Nan-Taiheiki ' stating that the priest Echin of Hossho-ji Temple (Enkan) showed Tadayoshi ASHIKAGA its 30-some volumes, and it is thought that the volumes up to the twenty-first, which describes the death of Emperor Godaigo, had been written by the middle of the fourteenth century, likely by men of letters close to the Ashikaga shogunate, such as Enkan, the priest Genne, etc. That version was revised and enlarged at the hands of Priest Kojima (the same person as Takanori KOJIMA?), among others, and it is thought that the present Taiheiki in 40 books had come into existence by around 1370. Some have suggested the possibility that Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA, the third shogun of the Muromachi shogunate, and the kanrei Yoriyuki HOSOKAWA were involved in its revision.

It has been assumed that the reason it is consistently biased toward the Southern Court is that the author was on the side of the Southern Court or because it was for the repose of the dead souls of the Southern Court. Also, it criticizes contemporary trends in society, such as 'basara (extravagance)' and gekokujo (the spirit of 'lower overthrowing the upper').

Structure and content

There are 40 volumes. The extant circulating text has 40 volumes in total, but Vol. 22 had already been lost by the sixteenth century, and it is believed that the present one was completed by taking material from the volumes before and after it. The work consists of three parts: Part 1, describing the period from Emperor Godaigo's ascension to the fall of the Kamakura shogunate (vols. 1 to 11); Part 2, describing the period from the failure of the Kemmu Restoration and the split into northern and southern courts to the death of Emperor Godaigo (vols. 12 to 21); and Part 3, describing the disorder inside the Ashikaga shogunate caused by the rampancy of the vengeful ghosts of the Southern Court (vols. 23 to 40).

The overarching concepts behind the work are the Confucian theories of "taigi meibun" (the theory of social hierarchy) and "kun-shin ron" (the relationship between ruler and the ruled), along with the Buddhist idea of karmic retribution, and it is thought to have been influenced by Sung Confucianism. Based on these concepts, Emperor Godaigo is depicted in the story as an emperor who lacks virtue, although Mitsukuni TOKUGAWA argued in his historical complication, the 'Dai Nihonshi (History of Japan),' that Godaigo, who aimed at direct imperial administration, was in fact very orthodox. Consequently, Takauji ASHIKAGA was regarded as a rebel, while Masashige KUSUNOKI, Yoshisada NITTA and others on the side of the Southern Court were idealized as loyal vassals (the Tokugawa shogunate family claimed that it had descended from the Nitta clan), with this continuing up through the Mitogaku, which led to sonno joi (revere the emperor; expel the barbarian) at the end of the Edo period, and koukoku-shikan (emperor-centered historiography) before the Pacific War.

The influence of 'Heike Monogatari (The Tale of the Heike)' is seen everywhere in the book, with Emperor Godaigo's passing away in the middle corresponding to the death of TAIRA no Kiyomori, etc.; moreover, the text occasionally wanders with quotations from classic works, and many parts have been dramatized.

Influence and value as a source

Taiheiki' was passed on from the medieval period by monogatari-so (storytelling priests) through taiheiki-yomi (taiheiki storytelling or storytellers) and was used as a text for primary study, later becoming one of the stories told in the kodan (vaudeville storytelling) of the Edo period. During the Muromachi era, many war chronicles inspired by the 'Taiheiki' were written.
It also influenced early-modern Japanese literature; for example, after the Forty-Seven Ronin Incident in the Genroku era, where 47 ronin of the Ako domain took vengeance on Yoshinaka KIRA, the story was told as 'Chushingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers)' by Izumo TAKEDA and others under the pretext of 'The Tale of Takasada ENYA.'

Because the period of the Northern and Southern Courts is regarded, along with ancient history, as a period connected with the origins of the Imperial Family, and the images of Takauji as a rebel and Masashige as a loyal vassal had been fixed as the basis of koukoku-shikan, the 'Taiheiki' has rarely been used as the subject of novels, movies and TV dramas. Against that tendency, after World War II Eiji YOSHIKAWA wrote a novel about the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan) called the "Shihon Taiheiki," giving Takauji ASHIKAGA a new interpretation that was different from the previous image of him. In 1991, a drama "Taiheiki" (NHK Taiga drama) based on this "Shihon Taiheiki" was made and broadcasted by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation.

Value as a source
A contemporary, Sadayo (Ryoshun) IMAGAWA, pointed out errors in Taiheiki in his 'Nan Taiheiki (Faulting the Taiheiki),' which was written in 1402. However, this might be related to the fact that Imagawa was an important figure in the Muromachi shogunate. In the early-modern period, Mitsukuni TOKUGAWA used it as a source for his book "Dai Nihonshi," but Kunitake KUME, a professor at the University of Tokyo during the Meiji era, denied its value as a source. Additionally, there was a dispute about the historicity of a warlord on the side of the Southern Court named Takanori KOJIMA, said to be described only in the 'Taiheiki,' between Yasutsugu SHIGENO, who denied it, and Oko KAWADA, who sought a more careful interpretation of the materials (it is erroneous to see this as rooted in ideological opposition, with Shigeno as progressive and Kawada as conservative). Today it is regarded as a source to be studied in comparison with other important sources such as contemporary diaries, etc.