Sangō Shiiki

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Sangō Shiiki (三教指帰) is a dialectic allegory written by Kūkai in 797. It is Japan's oldest comparative ideological critique.

At the time of writing, Kūkai was 24 years old. It is his debut work.


The text is three volumes in length. It is written in a dialectic style comparing and critiquing Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Teachers from each school of thought attempt to educate a dissolute nephew Tokaku. In volume one, Kibō lectures on Confucianism. In volume two, Kyobō Inji critiques Confucianism from a Taoism position. Finally, in volume three, Kamei Kotsuji critiques Taoism from a Buddhist position. The conclusion is that Buddhism is the superior philosophy.


The main characters appearing within the text were based on actual people:


  • Kubota, Jun (2007). Iwanami Nihon Koten Bungaku Jiten (in Japanese). Iwanami Shoten. ISBN 978-4-00-080310-6.
  • Nihon Koten Bungaku Daijiten: Kan'yakuban. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten. 1986. ISBN 4-00-080067-1.
  • Watanabe, Shōkō; Yūshō Miyasaka (1965). Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei: Sangō Shiiki, Shōryōshū (in Japanese). Iwanami Shoten. ISBN 4-00-060071-0.