Taira no Tokuko
For the asteroid, see 5242 Kenreimonin
Taira no Tokuko (平 徳子?, 1155–1213), later known as Empress Dowager Kenrei (建礼門院, Kenreimon-In?), was the last Heike Imperial survivor from the modest vessel carrying the emperor in the great naval battle of Dan-no-ura.
Her life became a compelling narrative which survives as both history and literature.
Daughter of an emperor
Tokuko-hime became the adopted daughter of Emperor Go-Shirakawa (後白河天皇, Go-Shirakawa-tennō?), the 77th emperor of Japan who reigned from 1155 through 1158. In 1171, when Tokuko was adopted at age 17, the former-Emperor had abdicated the throne and entered the Buddhist priesthood, taking the Buddhist name of Gyōshin. Twelve days later, Gyōshin's new daughter was further elevated in the role of consort of Emperor Takakura, age 11.
Consort of an emperor
She was the second daughter of Taira no Kiyomori (平清盛), and thus she was her emperor husband's first cousin (as his mother and Tokuko's mother were half-sisters).
Emperor Takakura abdicated on the 21st day of the 2nd month of 1180; and when his son was enthroned, the mother of the emperor (kōdai-kugō) received the name Kenrei-mon In. In this period, the names of the several gates in the walls surrounding the Imperial grounds refer not only to the wall-openings themselves; these names were also used to refer indirectly to a nearby residence of an empress whose husband had abdicated, or as an indirect way of referring to an empress dowager herself.
For example, Empress Dowager Kenrei (建礼門院, Kenrei-mon-In?), whose official home, after the abdication and death of Emperor Takakura, was located near the Kenrei Gate.
Mother of an emperor
Kenrei-mon In was the mother of Imperial Prince Tokihito (言仁親王, Tokihito-shinnō?), who would later become Emperor Antoku (安徳天皇, Antoku-tennō?), the 81st emperor of Japan. The boy Emperor reigned from 1180 through 1185.
Survivor of Dan-no-ura
- Genryaku 2, on the 24th day of the 3rd month (April 25, 1185): The Taira and the Minamoto clashed for the last time.
The Taira were defeated decisively. Many of the Taira samurai threw themselves into the waves rather than live to see their clan's ultimate defeat at the hands of the Minamoto. Antoku's grandmother, Taira no Tokiko, the widow of Taira no Kiyomori, leapt into the water with the young emperor clasped firmly in her arms.
This sometime daughter, wife, and mother of emperors became a recluse in her later years.
- Bunji 1, on the 1st day of the 5th month (1185): Kenrei-mon In took the tonsure at Chōraku-ji, a branch temple of Enryaku-ji on Higashiyama....Link to assorted photos of Chōraku-ji
- Bunji 1, on the 30th day of the 9th month (1185): Kenrei-mon In retreated further from the world when she moved to Jakkō-in, a Buddhist nunnery near the village of Ōhara, northeast of the Heian-kyō....Click for link to photos of Jakkō-in and Ōhara
- Bunji 2, on the 20th day of the 4th month (1186): Gyōshin, the cloistered former-Emperor Go-Shirakawa, visited Kenrei-mon In at her rural retreat in Ōhara.
- Kenkyū 2, in the 2nd month (1192): Kenrei-mon In dies in Ōhara.
This once-pampered great lady is said to have composed this poem in her hermit's hut:
- Did I ever dream
- That I would behold the moon
- Here on the mountain --
- The moon that I used to view
- In the sky o'er the palace?
Many stories and works of art depict this period in Japanese history, and it is through these sources that the life of Tokuko-dono is best known. The Tale of the Heike (平家物語, Heike Monogatari?) is the most famous of the sources from which we learn about this historical character, although many kabuki and bunraku plays reproduce events of the war as well.
The central theme of the Heike story—and the mirrored theme of Taira no Tokuko's life story—is a demonstration of the Buddhist law of impermanence. The theme of impermanence (mujō) is captured in the opening passage:
The sound of the Gion Shōja bells echoes the impermanence of all things; the color of the sāla flowers reveals the truth that the prosperous must decline. The proud do not endure, they are like a dream on a spring night; the mighty fall at last, they are as dust before the wind.
In this and other classic Japanese monogatari, the central figures are popularly well known, the major events are generally understood, and the stakes as they were understood at the time are conventionally accepted as elements in the foundation of Japanese culture. The accuracy of each of these historical records has become a compelling subject for further study; and some accounts have been shown to withstand close scrutiny, while other presumed “facts” have turned out to be inaccurate.
In English-language literature, Tokuko's life and reign are depicted throughout the two-volume historical fiction narrative, White as Bone, Red as Blood, by Cerridwen Fallingstar, published in 2009 and 2011, respectively.
- Brown, Delmer M. et al. (1979). Gukanshō, p. 333.
- Kitagawa, Hiroshi et al. (1975). The Tale of the Heike, pp. 652-678; Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du Japon, pp. 211-212.
- Titsingh, pp. 188-190; Brown, pp. 326-327; Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki. pp.205-208.
- Titsingh, pp. 195-200; Brown, pp. 330-333; Varley, pp. 212-214.
- Brown, p. 331; Titsingh, p. 424; Kitagawa, p. 764.
- Titsingh, pp. 200-207; Brown, pp. 333-334; Varley, pp. 214-215.
- Kitagawa, Hiroshi et al. (1975). The Tale of the Heike, p. 787; Titsingh, pp. 211-212.
- Kitagawa, pp. 676-677.
- Kitagawa, pp. 678; Titsingh, p. 212.
- Kitagawa, pp. 763-765.
- Kitagawa, pp. 766-768, 787.
- Kitagawa, pp. 769-779, 788.
- Kitagawa, pp. 780-782, 788. [Although The Tale of the Heike gives 1192 as the year of Kenrei-mon In's death, the Gukanshō identifies 1213 as the year of her death -- cf. Brown, p. 333.]
- Kitagawa, p. 772
- McCullough, Helen Craig. (1988). The Tale of the Heike,.
- Brown, pp. 385-386.
- White as Bone, Red as Blood: The Fox Sorceress (2009), and White as Bone, Red as Blood: The Storm God (2011).
- Brown, Delmer M. and Ichiro Ishida. (1979). The Future and the Past: a translation and study of the 'Gukanshō'. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03460-0
- Kitagawa, Hiroshi and Bruce T. Tsuchida. (1975). The Tale of the Heike. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press. ISBN 0-86008-189-3
- McCullough, Helen Craig. (1988). The Tale of the Heike. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-1803-2
- Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan. Kyoto: Ponsonby Memorial Society. OCLC 194887
- Sansom, George Bailey. (1958). A History of Japan to 1334. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
- Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du Japon (Nihon Ōdai Ichiran). Paris: Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland.--Click link to digitized, full-text copy of this book (in French)
- Varley, H. Paul. (1980). "A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns: Jinnō Shōtōki of Kitabatake Chikafusa. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-04940-4
- Meiji Gakuin University: Heike monogatari (in English)
- University of Virginia: Heike monogatari (in Japanese)
- Kyoto City Tourism and Culture Information System -- Jakkō-in (Ōhara)
- Kyoto City Tourism and Culture Information System -- Chōraku-ji (Kyoto)
Fujiwara no Ikushi
|Empress consort of Japan