Ariwara no Narihira
|Ariwara no Narihira|
Ariwara no Narihira by Kanō Tan'yū, 1648.
|Died||May 28, 880|
|Subject||nature, romantic love|
|Children||Ariwara no Muneyana, Ariwara no Shigeharu, Ariwara no Motokata, others|
|Relatives||Emperor Heizei (paternal grandfather), Fujii no Fujiko (paternal grandmother), Emperor Kanmu (maternal grandfather), Fujiwara no Minamiko (maternal grandmother), Prince Abo (father), Princess Ito (mother), Ariwara no Yukihira (half-brother), Ōe no Otondo (half-brother), Ōe no Chisato (nephew)|
He exerted a profound influence on later Japanese culture; his many renowned love affairs inspired the Ise Monogatari, and he has ever since been a model of the handsome, amorous nobleman.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Journey to the east
- 3 Names
- 4 Poetry
- 5 Connection to the Tales of Ise
- 6 Relationship with Ono no Komachi
- 7 Influence on later Japanese culture
- 8 Gallery
- 9 References
- 10 Bibliography
- 11 External links
Birth and ancestry
He was a grandson of two emperors: Emperor Heizei through his father, Prince Abo (阿保親王 Abo-shinnō?), and Emperor Kanmu through his mother, Princess Ito (伊登内親王 or 伊都内親王 Ito-naishinnō?). He was the fifth child of Prince Abo.
In 841 he was appointed Lieutenant of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards, before being promoted to Lieutenant of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards and then Keeper of Imperial Archives. In 849, he held the Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade.
He later rose to the positions of Provisional Assistant Master of the Left Military Guard, Assistant Chamberlain, Provisional Minor Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards, Captain of the Right Division of the Bureau of Horses, Provisional Middle Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards (右近衛権中将 ukon'e no gon no chūjō?), Provisional Governor of Sagami, reaching the Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade. By the end of his life he rose to become Chamberlain, and Provisional Governor of Mino.
Keene observed in his description of Narihira as the hero of the Tale of Ise:
Narihira combined all the qualities most admired in a Heian courtier: he was of high birth (a grandon of the Emperor Heizei), extremely handsome, a gifted poet, and an all-conquering lover. He was probably also an expert horseman, adept in arms, and a competent official. These aspects of his life are not emphasized in Tales of Ise, but they distinguish Narihira from other heroes of Heian literature, including Genji.
Narihira was known as a great lover; a third of his poems included in the Kokinshū describe his various romantic affairs, and after his death national history Sandai Jitsuroku (901) said of him: "Narihira was elegant and of handsome appearance, but he was unrestrained in his self-indulgence."
It has been speculated, based in part on their being considered the most beautiful man and woman of their age, that Narihira and Ono no Komachi may have been lovers, but their is little evidence for this one way or the other (see below).
The Tale of Ise portrays him as falling in love with Fujiwara no Takaiko, a consort of Emperor Seiwa, and it is hinted that this was one of the reasons for his leaving the capital and travelling east.
Journey to the east
The Kokinshū, Tales of Ise and Tales of Yamato all describe him as leaving the capital to travel east, travelling along the Tōkaidō and crossing the Sumida River, composing poems at famous places (see utamakura) along the way. There are doubts as to whether this journey actually took place, however, from the point of view both that the number of surviving poems is quite small for having made such a trip and composing poems along the way, and in terms of the historical likelihood that a courtier could have gone wandering to the other end of the country with one or two friends keeping him company.
Among his children were the waka poets Muneyana (在原棟梁?) and Shigeharu (在原滋春?), and at least one daughter. Through Muneyama, he was also the grandfather of the poet Ariwara no Motokata (在原元方?).
He is also known by the nicknames Zai Go-Chūjō (在五中将?), Zai Go (在五?) and Zai Chūjō (在中将?). Zai is the Sino-Japanese reading of the first character of his surname Ariwara, and Go, meaning "five" refers to him and his four brothers Yukihira, Nakahira, Morihira, and Ōe no Otondo. Chūjō ("Middle Captain") is a reference to the post he held near the end of his life, Provisional Middle Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards.
Thirty of his poems were included in the Kokinshū, and when combined poems attributed appearing in imperial anthologies number eighty-seven in total. Many of these poems in later court anthologies were attributed to him based on their inclusion in the Tales of Ise, a work whose attribution to Narihira is dubious, and some of them were composed after his death.
He was one of the Six Poetic Geniuses, poets mentioned in Ki no Tsurayuki's kana preface to the Kokinshū as important poets of an earlier age. He was also included in Fujiwara no Kintō's later Thirty-Six Poetic Geniuses.
|Japanese text||Romanized Japanese||English translation|
Although at least some of the poems attributed to him in imperial anthologies are dubious, there is a large enough body of his work contained in the relatively reliable Kokinshū for scholars to discuss Narihira's poetic style. Narihira made use of engo (related words) and kakekotoba (pivot words).
Narihira's poems were exceptionally ambiguous by Kokinshū standards, and so were treated by the anthology's compilers to relatively long headnotes. He was the only poet in the collection to receive this treatment. An example of Narihira's characteristic ambiguity cited by Keene is Kokinshū No. 747:
|Japanese text||Romanized Japanese||English translation|
The Edo period kokugaku scholar Motoori Norinaga interpreted the first part of this poem as a pair of rhetorical questions, marked by the particle ya. He explained away the logical inconsistency with the latter part of the poem that his reading introduced, by reading in an "implied" conclusion that though the poet remains the same as before, everything somehow feels different. The late-Edo period waka poet Kagawa Kageki (香川景樹?, 1768-1843) took a different view, interpreting the ya as exclamatory: the moon and spring are not those of before, and only the poet himself remains unchanged.
A similar problem of interpretation has also plagued Narihira's last poem (Kokinshū 861):
|Japanese text||Romanized Japanese||English translation|
The fourth line, kinō kyō to wa, is most normally read as "(I never thought) that it might be yesterday or today", but has been occasionally interpreted by scholars to mean "until yesterday I never thought it might be today"; others take it as simply meaning "right about now". But the emotion behind the poem is nonetheless clear: Narihira, who died in his fifties, always knew he must die someday, but is nonetheless shocked that his time has come so soon.
Tsurayuki's preface to the Kokinshū described Narihira's poems as containing "too much feeling and insufficient words. They are like faded flowers whose color has been lost but which retain a lingering fragrance." Literary historian and critic Donald Keene pointed out that this criticism likely reflected a change in literary tastes in the decades between Narihira's compositions and Tsurayuki's criticisms. His history of Japanese literature, Seeds in the Heart concluded its discussion of Narihira with the following:
Narihira was not a profound poet. His surviving poems are mainly occasional, and even when the expression suggests deeply felt emotion, its worldly manner keeps his poetry from attaining the grandeur of the best Man'yōshū poems in the same vein. He is nevertheless of historical importance as one who maintained the traditions of the waka during the long night of the dominance of poetry in Chinese.
Connection to the Tales of Ise
Narihira was once widely considered the author of the work, but scholars have come to reject this attribution. Keene speculates that it is at least possible that Narihira originally composed the work from his and others' poems as a kind of inventive autobiography, and some later author came across his manuscript after his death and expanded on it. The protagonist of the work was likely modelled on him. The work itself was likely put together in something resembling its present form by the middle of tenth century, and took several decades starting with Narihira's death.
Three stages have been identified in the composition of the work. The first of these stages would have been based primarily on poems actually composed by Narihira, although the background details provided were not necessarily historical. The second saw poems added to the first layer that were not necessarily by Narihira, and had a higher proportion of fiction to fact. The third and final stage saw some later author adding the use of Narihira's name, and treating him as a legendary figure of the past.
Relationship with Ono no Komachi
It has been speculated for centuries that Narihira and his contemporary Ono no Komachi may have been lovers. 20th-century scholars such as Makane Sekitani (関谷真可禰 Sekitani Makane?) have held up this theory, but it can be traced back at least as far as the 14th-century historian Kitabatake Chikafusa.
Chikafusa was likely using Kamakura period Kokinshū commentaries like the extant Bishamondō-bon Kokinshū-chū (毘沙門堂本古今集注?), which speculates that one of Komachi's poems was left for Narihira after a tryst. The Bishamondō-bon Kokinshū-chū was in turn likely working from a then-common belief that the Tales of Ise, a work of fiction, was a genuine historical work detailing the actual events in Narihira's life (see above). Kamakura period commentaries on the Tales of Ise therefore tried to insert the names of real women where the original text simply said "a woman", and thus inserted Ono no Komachi into several passages of the text.
The literary scholar Yōichi Katagiri, on analysis of the surviving evidence (or, rather, lack thereof), concluded that, while it is possible that Narihira and Ono no Komachi knew each other and were lovers, there was no usable evidence to say conclusively either way.
Influence on later Japanese culture
In later centuries he has been considered the epitome of the amorous bel homme, and his famed romantic escapades gave rise to many later legends. He and his contemporary Ono no Komachi were considered the archetypes of the beautiful man and woman, respectively, of the Heian court, and appear in this capacity in many later literary works, particularly works of the Noh theatre.
- Keene 1999 : 224.
- Nihon Koten Bungaku Daijiten article "Ariwara no Narihira" (pp. 99-100, author: Teisuke Fukui).
- McMillan 2010 : 135 (note 17).
- Britannica Kokusai Dai-Hyakkajiten article "Ariwara no Narihira". Britannica.
- MyPaedia article "Ariwara no Narihira". Hitachi.
- Daijisen entry "Ariwara no Narihira". Shogakukan.
- Suzuki et al. 2009 : 28.
- The Daijisen entry "Ariwara no Narihira" names Prince Abo as his father, and its entry on the latter ("Abo-shinnō") names Emperor Heizei as his father.
- Keene 1999 : 453.
- Keene 1999 : 225, citing (240, note 27) Mezaki 1970 : 24.
- Katagiri 2015 : 8-13.
- Nihon Koten Bungaku Daijiten article "Ariwara no Motokata" (p. 100, author: Teisuke Fukui).
- Daijisen entry "Mukashi-Otoko". Shogakukan.
- Keene 1999 : 225.
- McMillan 2010 : 158.
- McMillan 2010 : 19.
- Keene 1999 : 229.
- Keene 1999 : 226, citing (240, note 31) Okumura 1975 : 23.
- Katagiri 2009 : 299.
- Keene 1999 : 226.
- Katagiri 2009 : 341.
- Keene 1999 : 232-233.
- Keene 1999 : 233, citing (242, note 61) Mezaki 1970 : 152.
- Keene 1999 : 233
- Keene 1999 : 452.
- Keene 1999 : 453, citing (472, note 57) Fukui p. 115 in Katagiri et al. 1972. See also McCullough 1968 : 187-93 for a discussion in English of the different texts of the work.
- Keene 1999 : 472, note 57, citing Katagiri 1975 : 15-23.
- Keene 1999 : 518-519.
- Keene 1999 : 545, note 25.
- Katagiri 2015 : 9.
- Katagiri 2015 : 10.
- Katagiri 2015 : 10-11.
- Katagiri 2015 : 13.
- Katagiri Yōichi. 1975. Ise Monogatari, Yamato Monogatari in Kanshō Nihon Koten Bungaku series. Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten.
- Katagiri Yōichi. 2009 (1st ed. 2005). Kokin Wakashū. Tokyo: Kinuma Shoin.
- Katagiri, Yōichi (2015). Shinsō-ban: Ono no Komachi Tsuiseki. Tokyo: Kasama Shoin. ISBN 978-4-305-70781-9.
- Katagiri Yōichi, Fukui Teisuke, Takahashi Seiji and Shimizu Yoshiko. 1972. Taketori Monogatari, Yamato Monogatari, Ise Monogatari, Heichū Monogatari in Nihon Koten Bungaku Zenshū series. Tokyo: Shogakukan.
- Keene, Donald (1999). A History of Japanese Literature, Vol. 1: Seeds in the Heart — Japanese Literature from Earliest Times to the Late Sixteenth Century. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-11441-7.
- McCullough, Helen Craig (1968). Tales of Ise: Lyrical Episodes from 10th Century Japan. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-0653-0.
- McMillan, Peter. 2010 (1st ed. 2008). One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each. New York: Columbia University Press.
- Mezaki Tokue. 1970. Ariwara no Narihira, Ono no Komachi. Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō.
- Nihon Koten Bungaku Daijiten. 1983. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten.
- Okumura Tsuneya. 1975. "Kokinshū no Seishin" IN Bungaku 43:8.
- Suzuki Hideo, Yamaguchi Shin'ichi, Yoda Yasushi. 2009 (1st ed. 1997). Genshoku: Ogura Hyakunin Isshu. Tokyo: Bun'eidō.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ariwara no Narihira.|
- List of Narihira's poems in the International Research Center for Japanese Studies's online waka database.
- The Narihira-shū in the same database.
- Ariwara no Narihira on Kotobank.