Heike Paintings in the Early Edo Period: Edification and Ideology for Elite Men and Women

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The Heike monogatari (Tale of the Heike) is a warrior chronicle represented in a variety of formats: not just texts but narration, performing arts, and paintings, among others. This paper explores the elite reception of Heike paintings in the Edo period by connecting it closely to the reception of other formats. Studying the "Chishakuin group"-a canonical group of paintings for elites depicting two battles in the Heike monogatari-and analyzing in particular the pair of screens in the British Museum, I will bring to light some intended functions of a social, political, and ideological nature that the Edo warrior elite expected of these paintings: most centrally, to edify the audience and legitimize the Tokugawa rule. As will be shown, these functions relied closely on the similar ones expected of other formats of the Heike monogatari. In fact, I will argue that Heike paintings, as well as the tale itself, were targeted to and received by elite women, not just men. I will investigate an interesting case of appreciation of Heike picture scrolls in 1632 by Tofukumon'in, a daughter of the second Tokugawa shogun Hidetada and the imperial consort of Emperor Go-Mizunoo. It will be made clear that political and ideological reasons stemming from her particular background and circumstances were behind Tofukumon'in's practice of reading the Heike paintings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalArchives of Asian Art
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Byobu (folding screens)
  • Emaki (picture handscrolls)
  • Genpei War
  • Heike monogatari (Tale of the Heike)
  • Kassen-e (battle pictures)
  • Tofukumon'in

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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