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Session 109: Diaries and Records: Historical and Literary Perspectives on Tenth- and Eleventh-Century Japanese Sources
Organizer: Christina Laffin, University of British Columbia
Chair and Discussant: Edward Kamens, Yale University
The Heian period (794–1185) saw a proliferation of diaries and records documenting the lives of men and women, official and unofficial, public and private. Traditionally, the private has been associated with women, and their kana diaries read as literary texts. In contrast, courtier kanbun journals, known as kokiroku, have been understood as records of the court and approached as historical documents.
This panel questions the traditional classification of such diaries, and seeks to find new interdisciplinary approaches to interpreting kanbun and kana records. Through a close examination of both the texts and their historical context, the panel will consider the meaning of nikki and kiroku, not only to their Heian authors, but to their audiences as well. Who produced such records and for whom were they written? How have they been received in later periods? What can we learn from them as both historical and literary texts? How do these records shape our understanding of social and literary history?
Yoshida Sanae’s paper will consider the production of journals and their significance in the context of courtly social and political life. Takeshi Watanabe will discuss the use of historical sources in the Eiga monogatari. Christina Laffin will take up kana and kanbun sources in analyzing how diaries (nikki) were defined in the tenth century. Joan Piggott will examine Teishinkōki as a source that helps us understand the role of a regent in the early tenth century.
The Significance of Diaries in Heian Courtier Life
Yoshida Sanae, University of Tokyo
Aristocratic journals (kiroku) greatly increased in number during the Heian period, specifically from the tenth century onward. In this paper, I discuss the burgeoning rise of these personal records in the context of structural change in the government, and in the increasing demand for reliable reference works on court conduct. I will also introduce the format, content, and style of such records, and particularly how they were read and used.
Why did the demand for courtier diaries increase in the tenth century? How were diaries circulated and received within the courtier class? I will argue that these diaries had a private function within each aristocratic lineage, but that they were also valued by individuals outside the lineage and circulated as sources of information via client, factional, and marital ties. Using one important record, the Teishinkōki of Fujiwara no Tadahira (880–949), as an example, I will consider the political implications of producing a diary and how such works were circulated, cited, and abstracted.
The Teishinkōki has been the subject of close scrutiny by a group of American scholars whom I supervised in a workshop in the summer of 2000 at Cornell University. A volume consisting of a translation from the year 939 of this journal will be coming out shortly. In conclusion, I make some observations about this particular journal, and its value for later readers.
Historical Writing and Heian Women: A Look through Eiga monogatari
Takeshi Watanabe, Yale University
Although Eiga monogatari is widely known, the implications this eleventh-century text presents for the understanding of Heian conceptions about historical writing, and of the relationship between women and history, have not been investigated fully. This presentation aims to introduce these issues by comparing how Eiga and Shōyūki, the diary of Fujiwara no Sanesuke, represent the Chōgen Incident of 996.Shōyūki has traditionally been considered "historical" in its dry documentation of what Sanesuke did and heard on any given day. In my comparison, however, I show how Eiga and Shōyūki are not necessarily as far apart as one may have believed. In presenting one narrative about a love triangle involving a Retired Emperor, and the consequent exile of a dashing courtier, Eiga even ventures into historical analysis, a mode generally invisible in Shōyūki.
The authorship of Eiga has not been proven, but many scholars agree upon Akazome Emon as the most likely candidate. Even if Akazome were not the author, there are passages that portray a woman as the work’s narrator, despite the presence of many kanbun texts (of historical and religious nature), thought to be the domain of men. Much has been made of Ki no Tsurayuki’s adoption of the female voice to compose Tosa nikki. The fact that a woman wrote a history, without resorting to such gender crossing, is ready to command equal attention to refine our understanding of Heian culture.
Kager˘ nikki in the Context of Heian Kanbun and Kana Diaries
Christina Laffin, University of British Columbia
Scholarship on Japanese diaries (nikki) has tended to divide works into historical journals written by men in kanbun and literary memoirs composed by women in the kana script. This presentation will consider the significance of nikki in the tenth century, how authors of kanbun and kana diaries defined their works, and whether nikki can be seen as a shared cultural construct for writers of the Heian period.
I will briefly examine the historical usage of the term nikki in kanbun sources such as the Ruijű fusensh˘ (Collection of Imperial and Ministerial Edicts, 737–1093) and in kana texts such as the famous opening to the Tosa nikki (The Tosa Diary, ca. 935). My analysis will focus on the Kager˘ nikki (The Kager˘ Diary, ca. 974) by Michitsuna’s Mother, a text which not only defines itself as a nikki, but also implies what should and should not be included in a personal diary. How does the definition of a diary found in Kager˘ nikki compare to other examples in tenth-century kanbun and kana works? For what kind of readership did authors of kana and kanbun produce their journals? How did the content and the social context for these works differ? If courtier diaries such as the Teishink˘ki can be read as personal records, is their function similar to that of diaries such as Kager˘ nikki?
By examining how nikki have been defined within works that have traditionally been read as either historical or literary texts, I hope to show what diaries signified for writers and readers of the Heian period and why such works are important as resources for understanding the literary and socio-political climate of tenth-century Japan.
Fujiwara Tadahira’s Memory Project: The Teishink˘ki
Joan R. Piggott, University of Southern California
I have long wondered how Northern Fujiwara regents actually led the Heian court from the late ninth through the late eleventh centuries. Since there is next to nothing written in English on the subject, it is often left to images from literature—the Tale of Genji or Tales of Flowering Fortunes—to provide a sense of how court and monarchy functioned at the time. But a very different picture emerges from courtier journals written in Sino-Japanese (kanbun). In order to get a better handle on what a regent actually did, I have been studying such journals as the Teishink˘kish˘, the digest of the daily journal kept by the Northern Fujiwara regent Tadahira (880–949) between 907 and 948. This record provides a host of new insights into Tadahira’s preparation for court leadership as he moved upward in officialdom before 930; into his daily activities as regent (sessh˘) in the court of the child-monarch, Suzaku Tenn˘, after 930; and into changes in his demeanor after Suzaku’s coming-of-age rites in 940, when Tadahira became Suzaku’s viceroy (kanpaku). The journal itself seems to have been a self-conscious effort to leave behind precedents that played an important role in routinizing the regency. In my brief report on this research, I will present selected moments from Tadahira’s daily life in the journal that demonstrate what a regent actually did as court leader in the first half of the tenth century.