Fujiwara no Kiyohira (藤原清衡)

FUJIWARA no Kiyohira was a warlord in the late Heian period and the founder of the Oshu-Fujiwara clan.


He was born as a son of FUJIWARA no Tsunekiyo from the local ruling family of Watari County, Mutsu Province (later Iwaki Province), and a daughter of ABE no Yoritoki. His childhood name is unknown. Tsunekiyo of Watari District is said to be a descendant of FUJIWARA no Hidesato (TAWARA no Toda) from the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan, and his name appears as 'Tsunekiyo of Mutsu District' in "Zo Kofukuji Ki" (Records of the Construction of Kofuku-ji Temple), which lists the names of the Fujiwara clan who held the court rank equal to or higher than Goi (Fifth Rank). It indicates that the Fujiwara clan in the Imperial Court then recognized him as a member of the clan.

In Zen Kunen no Eki (Earlier Nine Years' War), his father Tsunekiyo turned against MINAMOTO no Yoriyoshi and supported the Abe clan (in Mutsu Province), who lost in the Battle of Kuriyagawa and he also died with them. Kiyohira was then seven years old. He was to be killed as the heir of an enemy warlord, but then allowed to survive because his mother came to remarry KIYOHARA no Takesada, the first son of warlord KIYOHARA no Takenori who had destroyed the Abe clan, and Kiyohira, as her child, was also adopted by KIYOHARA no Takesada.

Go Sannen no Eki (Later Three Years' War)

The Kiyohara family had KIYOHARA no Sanehira, who was the first son of Takesada and Kiyohira's older brother-in-law, Kiyohira, and KIYOHARA no Iehira, who was Kiyohira's younger maternal half-brother, as well as KIMIKO no Hidetake, who was a cousin and son-in-law of KIYOHARA no Takenori, and thus this complex kinship relationship might easily cause a dispute between the family members.

When Hidetake turned against Sanehira, Kiyohira and Iehira supported Hidetake, and Sanehira, being supported by Governor of Mutsu Province MINAMOTO no Yoshiie, attacked Kiyohira and Iehira. Kiyohira and Iehira were severely defeated and escaped, but immediately after that, Sanehira died. Kiyohira and Iehira surrendered to Yoshiie, who divided the territory of the Kiyohara clan, on his discretion, to be succeeded by each of them. The decision of Yoshiie is presumed to have been advantageous to Kiyohira, and many consider that it is because Yoshiie tried to provoke a confrontation in order to weaken the Kiyohara clan. Iehira was of course discontent about the decision, and in 1086, attacked the residence of Kiyohira and killed his wife, children and all family members. Yoshiie supported Kiyohira, who had escaped, and destroyed Iehira.

Go Sannen no Eki was considered as a private battle between the members of the Kiyohara clan, and no reward nor court rank was awarded to Kiyohira, but he became a powerful man possessing six counties in Mutsu Province as the last survivor of the family. It was in 1087, when Kiyohira was 32. He later changed his surname back to that of his biological father, Fujiwara, and became the founder of the Oshu-Fujiwara clan.

Construction of Hiraizumi

Kiyohira tried to expand his territory based in Toyota Mansion in Esashi County (now in Oshu City), while securing his position as a ruler of Ou region (now Tohoku region) by deepening his relationship with the Fujiwara clan in Kyoto by means such as presenting horses to Kanpaku (imperial regent) FUJIWARA no Morozane in 1091, by paying taxes on behalf of Otakayama-jinja Shrine in Shibata County and Kattamine-jinja Shrine in Katta County, and so on. In June 1092, Governor of Mutsu Province FUJIWARA no Motoie wrote an official letter alleging that Kiyohira might be plotting an attack, and it is presumed to be around that time that he became Oryoshi (Suppression and Control Agent) (there is another theory saying that he was appointed as Oryoshi in 1089).

Around Kaho era (1094 - 1095), he moved to Hiraizumi in Iwai County and started to construct the city, which was to be the center of politics and culture. In 1108, he started to construct Chuson-ji Temple and the basis of grand medieval city Hiraizumi, which led to 100 years' prosperity of the Oshu-Fujiwara clan over four generations.

The construction of Konjiki-do Hall (Golden Hall) of Chuson-ji Temple was completed, with gorgeous decorations of gold, silver and raden (mother-of-pearl inlay work), and in the following year (1128), he died at the age of 73, having a long life for a person of that time.
In the document known as Chusonji Kuyo Ganmon (Prayer for the Dedication of Chuson-ji Temple), he referred to himself as 'chief of eastern barbarians' and 'head of subjected barbarians.'

The Four Generations of the Fujiwara Clan Buried at Konjiki-do Hall

As a result of the investigation of Kiyohira's body buried at Konjiki-do Hall, his blood type is AB and there is no contradiction about the direct line of four generations down to his great-grandson FUJIWARA no Yasuhira. Kiyohira had a rather short face, with high cheekbones and straight nose. He was 159cm high, with small spindly hands. The muscles of arms and legs were well developed. He was slightly-built. According to an X-ray examination, the left side of the body shows remarkable bone atrophy, which indicates that he suffered partial paralysis due to cerebral hemorrhage, cerebral embolism or cerebral tumor. It is presumed that he developed the disease probably from 1117 to 1119, when he was unlikely to recover and his wife transcribed sutra and dedicated it to a temple. The age of death is estimated to be over 70, which coincides with the one according to historical materials.


Historical materials often refer to 'Kitakata Heishi' (literally, the Kitakata-Taira clan) as a wife of Kiyohira. It is considered that 'Kitakata Heishi' was his legal wife. However, her identity is unclear, and there are various theories about it such as a relative of TAIRA no Kunitae who was a maternal relative of his father Tsunekiyo, the Jo clan (Taira clan) in Echigo Province, the Iwaki clan (Kaido-Taira clan), the Daijo clan in Hitachi Province, or a member of the Taira clan in Kyoto, but none of them is decisive.

The postscript of 'Konshiki Kinginji Kosho Issaikyo, Daibon-kyo, Kan 22' (Complete Buddhist Scriptures Written in Gold and Silver on Dark Blue Paper, Mahaprajnaparamita-sutra, Volume 22) indicates that Kiyohira had six sons and three daughters at that time.

There is a theory that he served at the Imperial Court in Kyoto during Kanji and Kowa era, adopting his wife's surname 'Taira' and is referred to as 'Hyoe no Jo (Lieutenant of the Middle Palace Guards) Kiyohira' and 'TAIRA no Kiyohira' in "Chuyuki" (the diary of FUJIWARA no Munetada).