Rien (Theatrical World) (梨園)

Rien refers to the theatrical world of Kabuki and/or Kabuki itself. However in the recent years, rien is sometimes employed to mean the world of Kabuki as something which does not quite reflect the public at large, or a kind of an exclusive society that serves only elites.


The origin of rien is when in 712, the first year of Emperor Xuan Zong's reign in the Tang Dynasty, the performers and musicians were gathered together in a garden with pear trees called Rien (pear orchard) at the imperial garden called Seinaien in the north-western suburb of Changan, the capital of Tang, for the purpose of practicing their arts at facilities called Ongaku kyoshu-fu (Music School). In Onkaku kyoshu-fu, there were musicians who belonged to Taigakusho (music department) of Taijo-ji (a government office which was in charge of the rituals at the court), such as the disciples of zabugi (musicians accompanying the dance performed at the party held at the court), female dancers belonging to kyobo (training center for imperial dancers), and some of the court ladies. They were called the Emperor's Rien Disciples because Emperor Xuan Zong himself taught his favorite faqu (a type of Tang popular songs) directly to them.

Although the court music declined severely as a result of the An Shi Rebellion, it was revived in the subsequent generation and in 838, faqu was renamed senshokyoku (仙韶曲), and rien was renamed senshoin (仙韶院). Later, rien disappeared during the turmoil occurring at the end of the Tang Dynasty.

The name rien is also applied to the Chuo gekidan (central theatre) of the Meiji Period and thereafter.

[Original Japanese]