Eiga Monogatari (栄花物語)

"Eiga Monogatari (A Tale of Flowering Fortunes)" is a classic work of the Heian period.
A kana text
An annalistic, story-like history written by a woman


An historical tale of unknown authorship
Written with the intention of being a successor to the Six National Histories, it covers approximately 200 years, the reigns of 15 emperors from that of Emperor Uda up to February 1092 during the reign of Emperor Horikawa, when the Regency government was weakening. It is divided into 30 volumes covering up to the death of FUJIWARA no Michinaga, with a sequel in 10 volumes.

There is a theory that the principal 30 volumes were written by Akazome Emon and the 10-volume sequel was written by Idewa no Ben and several women such as Suo no Naishi, but such a claim remains unproven. Undoubtedly, both the principal part (during Emperor Go-Ichijo's reign, around 1024 - 1028) and the sequel (from the end of the eleventh century to the beginning of the twelfth century) were written by women at court. In the description of the birth of Prince Atsuhira in the 'First Flower' (Chapter 8) there is a quotation from "Murasaki Shikibu Diary," although it was not quoted verbatim but instead was altered slightly.

While "Okagami (The Great Mirror)," a contemporary historical tale written in the style of a biographical record, consistently tells the story from the view of an official (probably a man), the annalistic "Eiga Monogatari" was written in a woman's hand, and the structures and style were strongly influenced by women's literature such as "The Tale of Genji." Things such as giving each chapter an elegant name and praising the glory of the Regent's Line of the Fujiwara family's Northern House, especially the father Michinaga and his son FUJIWARA Yorimichi, are both expressions of this influence. It is said that a defining characteristic is the admiration seen in the descriptions of Michinaga, but it also clearly shows his suffering due to illness in his later years and even the pains of living in defeat under the Regency government.

Evaluation and Influence

Compared to "Okagami" (The Great Mirror)," Eiga Monogatari" has less of a critical spirit, and it treats the narrative as being so important that the descriptions are often inconsistent with history. Also, because it focuses on mastery over the rear palace by the Northern House of the Fujiwara family rather than on politics, the descriptions in the latter part seem like mere lists of facts. For this reason it is outdone by "Okagami" both as history and as literature. However, according to Professor Shin'ichi MACHII of Sagami Women's University, "It should be appreciated that it writes history in a 'story' style using kana (also called 'woman's hand'), and that it was revolutionary in terms of being a history to be read by women, in making a historical tale by women and for women, combining history and literature to make history familiar."
It laid the groundwork for the series of historical tales called 'mirror works.'

The Texts

According to their form, the texts can be divided into three categories: the old texts, vulgate texts and variant texts.

The major surviving texts are as follows: the Umezawa manuscript (formerly the Sanjonishi manuscript, old text, first subgroup, a National Treasure), the Yomei Archives manuscript (old text, second subgroup), the Nishi Hongan-ji Temple manuscript (vulgate text, first subgroup, an Important Cultural Property), old movable type manuscripts (printed in the Genna (Japan) and Kan'ei eras (1615-44)), woodblock-printed manuscripts of the Meireki era (1655-58) (vulgate text, second subgroup), a nine-volume illustrated abridgement (vulgate text, third subgroup), and the Tomioka manuscript (two texts-A and B, variant texts, with A, an Important Cultural Property, and both A and B up to chapter 30), etc.

Among them, the Umezawa manuscript (40 chapters, 17 books), which Sanetaka SANJONISHI obtained and gave his descendants, was designated as a former National Treasure in 1935 and as a present National Treasure in 1955, as the oldest complete manuscript copied by hand before the mid-Kamakura period. It is a combination of a manuscript on rectangular paper (10 books, up to chapter 20, copied by hand, mid-Kamakura period) and a manuscript on square paper (seven books, up to chapter 40, copied by hand, early Kamakura period) (the details of why they were combined are unclear); the title of the rectangular-paper manuscript was "Eiga Monogatari," and the title of the square-paper manuscript was "Yotsugi Monogatari." Additionally, the details of how Sanetaka SANJONISHI got the text are in the "Sanetaka Koki," in the entries for November 4 and 8 of 1509. The 'Iwanami bunko,' 'Nihon koten bungaku taikei' and 'Shimpen Nihon koten bungaku zenshu' editions are based on this Umezawa manuscript.

The Title and Contents of Each Volume

There are 40 chapters divided into two parts: the principal part and the sequel. The principle part describes the period up to the time of Michinaga's death, and the sequel describes what happened to his descendants.

(The principal part)
The Moon-Viewing Banquet: During the reign of Emperor Murakami, the daughter of FUJIWARA no Morosuke, FUJIWARA no Anshi, enters the court as a bride of the Emperor and later becomes the Empress, with Morosuke taking power.

The Chunagon (vice-councilor of state)'s Quest at Kazan: Emperor Kazan takes Buddhist orders. FUJIWARA no Kaneie comes on the scene.

Joyous Events: FUJIWARA no Senshi enters the court as a bride of Emperor Enyu, and her son Emperor Ichijo accedes to the throne at seven years of age.

Unfinished Dreams: FUJIWARA no Michinaga takes power.

The Separation of the Brothers: FUJIWARA no Korechika is defeated by Michinaga in a struggle for political power, and is demoted to a position in the Dazaifu (a local government office located on the island of Kyushu).

Radiant Fujitsubo: FUJIWARA no Shoshi, the eldest daughter of Michinaga, becomes the chief consort of Emperor Ichijo.

Toribeno: The deaths of Teishi and Senshi come in quick succession.

First Flower: Empress FUJIWARA no Shoshi's gives birth to a son, and there is a partial quotation from "Murasaki Shikibu Diary."

Iwakage: The death of Emperor Ichijo

Cord Pendants: Emperor Sanjo's accession to the throne

The Budding Flower: The birth of Princess Teishi

Clustered Chrysanthemums: Emperor Go-Ichijo's accession to the throne

Paper-Mulberry Strips: The abdication of Crown Prince Atsuakira and Michinaga's intervention

Pale Blue: As Michinaga's daughter FUJIWARA no Ishi becomes the Empress of Emperor Go-Ichijo, there are simultaneously three empresses from one family.

Doubts: Michinaga takes Buddhist orders at the age of 54, and founds Hojo-ji Temple.

A Drop of Moisture from a Stalk: The celebration of the construction of Hojo-ji Temple
Michinaga was at the height of his prosperity.

Music: A memorial service for the main hall of Hojo-ji Temple

The Mansion of Jade: The major buildings are founded in Hojo-ji Temple, and visiting nuns praise it as a paradise.

The Putting On of the Train: The ceremony of putting on the train (a coming-of-age ceremony for girls) is held for Princess Teishi, the daughter of Emperor Sanjo.

The Longevity Celebration: A sixtieth birthday celebration is held for Michinaga's wife, MINAMOTO no Rinshi (a celebration of long life).

The Major Captain's Regrets: FUJIWARA no Norimichi, the minister of the palace and the son of Michinaga, grieved at his wife's death.

Dance of the Birds: A ceremony for the dedication of a statue at Yakushido

An Imperial Visit to the Horse Races: Horse races are held at the mansion of Chancellor FUJIWARA no Yorimichi. The Emperor also attended.

The Young Shoot: FUJIWARA no Yorimichi is delighted at the birth of his first son (FUJIWARA no Michifusa).

Moon Over the Peaks: FUJIWARA no Kanshi, Michinaga's daughter, passes away.

The Dream of the King of Chu: FUJIWARA no Kishi, also his daughter, passed away after having done poorly since the birth of her son (Emperor Go-Reizei). Michinaga and his wife were overcome with grief.

The Jewel in the Robe: Shoshi takes Buddhist orders.

New Water: Empress Ishi's confinement

Jeweled Decorations: The death of Empress FUJIWARA no Kenshi

Crane Grove: Michinaga's peaceful death at the age of 62
(The following is the sequel.)

The Courtiers' Cherry-Blossom Viewing: The age of Chancellor Yorimichi
Shoshi's cherry-blossom viewing

The Contest: Rinshi's seventieth birthday celebration

A Lady-in-Waiting Who Grieved to Wear: The death of Emperor Go-Ichijo and Emperor Go-Suzaku's accession to the throne
A Star Awaiting the Sunset: Princess Shoshi became Empress to Emperor Go-Reizei.

The Spider's Behavior: Chancellor FUJIWARA no Yorimichi loses his heir, Michifusa, due to an epidemic.

Comparing Roots: Emperor Go-Reizei's accession to the throne

After the Smoke: The burning of Hojo-ji Temple
The death of Emperor Go-Reizei and Emperor Go-Sanjo's accession to the throne

The Branch of Pine: Emperor Shirakawa's accession to the throne

Nunobiki no Taki (Nunobiki Waterfall): The death of Yorimichi
FUJIWARA no Morozane becomes the chancellor.

Murasakino: Emperor Shirakawa's abdication in 1086
Emperor Horikawa ascends to the throne, and Morozane becomes the grand minister of state. Finally, it celebrates the Fujiwara family's prospects by describing 15-year-old FUJIWARA no Tadazane's (Morozane's grandson) serving at a festival at the Kasuga-taisha shrine, and the story ends.

[Original Japanese]