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Kishōtenketsu (起承転結) describes the structure and development of classic Chinese, Korean and Japanese narratives. The structure originated in China and was called qǐ chéng zhuǎn hé (起承轉合) and used in Chinese poetry as a four-line composition, such as Qijue. From there, it moved to Korea where it is called gi seung jeon gyeol (Hangul: 기승전결; Hanja: 起承轉結). Finally, the art style came to Japan, where it is referred to as kishōtengō (起承転合), from which the English word derives.


There are variations of this dramatic structure based on region due to differences in how the Chinese characters are interpreted per the country and culture.


The Chinese interpretation is:

: means start or introduction, usually meaning the reason something started

: meant handling, process, or hardships

: turn, turning point, crescendo

: result.

Original Chinese English Translation
送 別

王 維

山 中 相 送 罷 ,

日 暮 掩 柴 扉 。

春 草 明 年 綠 ,

王 孫 歸 不 歸 。


by Wang Wei (699-759)

qi: After a farewell in the mountain,

cheng: Dusk falls, and I shut my firewood-made gate.

zhuan: When the spring grass is green next year,

he: I wonder if my friend will return.


The Korean interpretation is

 : raising issues and introducing characters

 : the beginning of the action (But not to solve a problem, necessarily more for self realization)

 : a change in direction or reversal

 : the thing to be concluded and any lessons gained through the process or results.

Original Korean English Translation

정지상의 송인(送人)



비 갠 긴 강둑에 풀빛 파릇한데,



남포에서 임 보내며 구슬픈 노래 부르네.



대동강의 물은 언제 마르리오?



이별 눈물이 해마다 푸른 물결에 보태지네.

Escort by Jeong Ji Sang


Multicolored green grass on the banks of a long river.


He's singing a sad song in Nampo.


When is the water of Daedong dry?


Every year, farewell tears add to the blue waves.


고구려 유리왕



펄펄 나는 저 꾀꼬리



암수 서로 정답구나.



외로워라 이 내 몸은



뉘와 함께 돌아갈고.

Hwangjo (Yellow Tide)

By King Yuri of Goryeo


Fluttering Yellow Birds


male and female depend on each other


Lonesome self


Who will go home with me?


Kishotenketsu Story Structure--the height of the bumps leading to the twist can change per story.
Kishotenketsu Story Structure--the height of the bumps leading to the twist can change per story.

The Japanese interpretation of it is

kiku (起句) is 'ki ()': introduction, where 起 can mean rouse, wake up, get up

shōku (承句) is 'sho ()': development, where 承 can also mean acquiesce, hear, listen to, be informed, receive

tenku (転句) is 'ten ()': twist, where 転 can mean revolve, turn around, change

kekku (結句) is 'ketsu ()': Conclusion, though 結 can also mean result; consequence; outcome; effect; or coming to fruition; bearing fruit

Media the structure is used in.

The following is an example of how this might be applied to a fairytale.

  • Introduction (ki): introducing characters, era, and other important information for understanding the setting of the story.
  • Development (shō): follows leads towards the twist in the story. Major changes do not occur.
  • Twist (ten): the story turns toward an unexpected development. This is the crux of the story, the yama (ヤマ) or climax. In case of several turns in the narrative, this is the biggest one.
  • Conclusion (ketsu), also called ochi (落ち) or ending, wraps up the story.

The same pattern is used to arrange arguments:[1]

  • Introduction (ki): In old times, copying information by hand was necessary. Some mistakes were made.
  • Development (shō): Copying machines made it possible to make quick and accurate copies.
  • Twist (ten): Traveling by car saves time, but you don't get much impression of the local beauty. Walking makes it a lot easier to appreciate nature close up.
  • Conclusion (ketsu): Although photocopying is easier, copying by hand is sometimes better, because the information stays in your memory longer and can be used later.

In the structure of narrative and yonkoma manga, and even for document, dissertation, and music. The style in kishōtenketsu applies to sentence or sentences, and even clause to chapter as well since it gives a structure from introduction to conclusion.

Original Japanese English Translation

San'yō Rai

Osaka Honcho Itoyano Musume

Anewa Juroku Imotowa Jyushi

Shokoku Daimyowa Yumiyade Korosu

Itoyano Musumewa Mede Korosu

Sanyō Rai (頼山陽):


Daughters of Itoya, in the Honmachi of Osaka.


The elder daughter is sixteen and the younger one is fourteen.


Throughout history, daimyōs killed the enemy with bows and arrows.


The daughters of Itoya kill with their eyes.[2]

The concept has also been used in game design, particularly in Nintendo's video games, most notably Super Mario games such as Super Mario Galaxy (2007) and Super Mario 3D World (2013); their designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Koichi Hayashida are known to utilize this concept for their game designs.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lucy K. Spence, Yuriko Kite (2017-06-10). "Beliefs and practices of writing instruction inJapanese elementary schools". Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  2. ^ Maynard, S. K. (1997). Japanese communication: Language and thought in context. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press, 159-162.
  3. ^ Tom Phillips (2015-03-17). "Nintendo's "kishōtenketsu" Mario level design philosophy explained". Retrieved September 16, 2016.