Five double-page & three full-page woodcuts. 35 folding leaves. 8vo, orig. wrappers, orig. block-printed title label on upper wrapper, new stitching. [Japan: 1681].
The Taiheiki [Chronicle of Great Peace] is a historical epic written in the late 14th century that covers the period of war within Japan from 1319 to 1367 between the Northern and Southern courts. It is part of the genre known as gunki or kassen monogatari, tales of epic wars between two parties. A popular story, it was recycled and re-worked in later centuries, mostly as a parody of current events and problems or as a basis for fictional stories. Some of these parodies include tales about plants or animals, including Shojin gyorui monogatari [Tale of Vegetables and Fish], ca. 1425; Aro kassen monogatari [Tale of the Battle of Heron and Crow], perhaps before 1556; Sumizome no sakura [Cherry in Nun’s Robe; also called Plant Chronicle of Peace], 1653; and Uo Taiheiki [Fish Chronicle of Peace].
Our Uo Taiheiki may have been written by Komiyama Jikyu, ca. 1673. It is part of the rich tradition within Japanese literature of gijinka. This is anthropomorphism, attributing human characteristics to a god, animal, or object. It is often used in witty parodies or satires, filled with puns; these non-humans could freely criticize current events or employ re-worked historical stories behind the shield of gijinka for satiric and literary purposes.
Our work uses the original Taiheiki to tell a story of a great war between the fresh- and salt-water fish in the tidal Yodogawa River, which runs through Kyoto to Osaka Bay. A peace is finally reached when an observing cormorant, acting as judge, points out that the only ones benefitting from this war are fishermen.
The text and illustrations are incredibly rich with puns, double meanings, and plays on words. The characters depicted in the fine woodcuts are all humans but have headgear of large fish.
The block-printed label on the upper cover states “Kakai uo taiheiki kan” [“River, Ocean, Fish Chronicles of Peace, complete”].
A very good copy of an extremely rare book. Some occasional light soiling and one natural paper flaw carefully repaired, but A bit of worming, well repaired. We locate no copies outside of Japan.
Item ID: 7016