A History of Japanese Literature/Book 5/Chapter 1

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BOOK THE FIFTH

NAMBOKU-CHŌ (1332–1392) AND MUROMACHI
(1392–1603) PERIODS

(DARK AGE)

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTORY—"JINKŌSHŌTŌKI"—
"TAIHEIKI"


Towards the end of the Kamakura period the misgovernment of the Hōjō regents, who were to the Shōguns what the Shōguns had been to the Mikados, was the cause of general discontent; and when a Mikado of resolute character came to the throne, the opportunity seemed favourable for casting off the domination of the military caste. At the court of Kiōto there had always been a strong undercurrent of intrigue directed against the Shōguns' authority, and that of the regents who ruled in their name. The Mikado Go Daigo was the first who thought himself strong enough to take bolder measures. After a desperate struggle, and many vicissitudes of fortune, his enterprise was partially successful. It resulted in the establishment of two Mikados, who reigned simultaneously—one, the creature of the Shōguns, occupying the old capital of Kiōto; while the second held his court at Yoshino and other places in the province of Yamato, and enjoyed a somewhat precarious independence. This system, known in Japanese history as the Nam-boku-chō (Southern and Northern Courts), was put an end to by the reunion of the two lines in the person of Go Komatsu (1392), after a prolonged series of intestine troubles. A new dynasty of Shōguns, the Ashikaga House, was by this time established at Muromachi, in Kiōto, a place which gave its name to the next period of Japanese history. It remained in power until 1603, when the Shōgunate, having again changed hands, was transferred a second time to the east of Japan.

The 270 years covered by these two periods were singularly barren of important literature in Japan. One or two quasi-historical works, a charming volume of essays, and a few hundred short dramatic sketches (the ) are all that deserve more than a passing notice.


"Jinkōshōtōki"

The author of the Jinkōshōtōki was a statesman and soldier named Kitabatake Chikafusa, who acted an important part in the civil wars which disturbed Japan during the first half of the fourteenth century.

Chikafusa was descended from a prince of the Imperial family. He was born in 1293, and held various offices in the early part of Go Daigo's reign, but on the death of a prince to whom he was attached he shaved his head and retired from public life. In 1333, when the Emperor Go Daigo returned from the island of Oki, whither he had been banished by the Kamakura Government, Chikafusa was persuaded again to take office, and distinguished himself greatly in the wars which followed. The eminent services he had rendered to the cause of the Southern Court by his sword, his pen, and his counsel, were recognised in 1351 by the highest honours which his sovereign could bestow. He died a few years later.

The Jinkōshōtōki is Chikafusa's principal work. His object in writing it is indicated by the title, which means "History of the True Succession of the Divine Monarchs." It was composed in order to show that the Mikados of the Southern Court, whose minister he was, were the rightful sovereigns of Japan. This explains the prominence which he gives to matters affecting the authenticity of the Mikado's claims to the throne, such as the history of the regalia, genealogies, questions of disputed succession, and the like.

It was written in the reign of Go Murakami (1339–1345). The first of the six volumes of which it consists is purely mythical. It begins literally ab ovo with the egg-shaped chaotic mass from which heaven and earth were developed. Then we have an account of the creation of Japan by the male and female deities Izanagi and Izanami, taken partly from the Nihongi, but mixed up with Chinese philosophy and Indian mythical cosmography in the strangest manner. The descent of the Mikados from the Sun-goddess, who in Japan is the daughter of the divine creator pair, is then traced with due attention through a series of deities down to Jimmu Tennō, who is reckoned the first human sovereign of Japan.

The next four volumes are a resumé, necessarily brief and meagre, of the history of Japan from Jimmu Tennō (who came to the throne, according to the ordinary Japanese chronology, in B.C. 660) down to the accession of Fushimi in A.D. 1288.

The sixth volume deals with the history of Chikafusa's own time. It is very disappointing. Although the writer and his sons took a prominent part in the fighting and politics of their day, Chikafusa has not thought proper to give more than a short and bald account of the events in which he was a principal actor. Most of this volume is taken up with dissertations on the principles of government, which, however necessary for a comprehension of the motives and ideas of Japanese statesmen under the old regime, are not very interesting to the European reader.

By his own countrymen Chikafusa has been much lauded as an exponent of the Chinese type of political philosophy. Even modern critics bestow on him a lavish praise which to us seems hardly deserved. His writings certainly contain evidences of statesman-like capacity, as for example his condemnation of sinecures and mortmain grants to ecclesiastical foundations; and if there is also much that we are inclined to set down as mere platitudes, it is fair to remember that Chikafusa was the first Japanese writer who attempted to apply philosophical principles to actual politics, and that what seems trite to us may have appeared novel and striking to contemporary readers.

The style of the Jinkōshōtōki is simple and unpretentious. Its value as literature is small in proportion to the political influence which it has exercised. Not only was the cause of which the author was a devoted champion substantially furthered by its publication, but it has also left its mark on later times. Chikafusa's patriotic sentiments and his loyalty to the de jure sovereign of his country had a large share, directly, or filtered down through the works of writers who derived their inspiration from him, in forming the public feeling and opinion which led to the restoration of the Mikado's power in our own day.

He is one of the few writers of this class who do not indulge in Tanka.

The following extracts will give some idea of the quality of Chikafusa's political reasonings:—

"Great Yamato is a divine country. It is only our land whose foundations were first laid by the divine ancestor. It alone has been transmitted by the Sun Goddess to a long line of her descendants. There is nothing of this kind in foreign countries. Therefore it is called the divine land."

"It is only our country which, from the time that heaven and earth were first unfolded until this very day, has preserved the succession to the throne intact in one single family. Even when, as sometimes naturally happened, it descended to a lateral branch, it was held in accordance with just principles. This shows that the august oath of the gods [to preserve the succession] is ever renewed in a way which distinguishes Japan from all other countries."

·······

"There are matters in the way of the gods [the Shinto religion] which it is difficult to expound. Nevertheless, if we do not know the origin of things, the result is necessarily confusion. To remedy this evil I have jotted down a few observations showing how the succession from the age of the gods has been governed by reason, and have taken no pains to produce an ordinary history. This work may therefore be entitled 'History of the True Succession of Divine Monarchs.' "

·······

"The man devotes himself to husbandry, providing food for himself and others, and thus warding off hunger; the woman attends to spinning, thereby clothing herself and also making others warm. These may seem mean offices, but it is on them that the structure of human society rests. They are in accordance with the seasons of heaven, and depend on the benefits drawn from earth.

"Others are skilled in deriving gain from commerce; while others, again, prefer the practice of the mechanic arts, or have the ambition to become officials. These are what are called the 'four classes of the people.'

"Of officials there are two classes—the civil and the military. The method of the civil official is to remain at home and reason upon the right way, wherein, if he attains to lucidity, he may rise to be a Minister of State. It is the business of the soldier, on the other hand, to render service in warlike expeditions, wherein, if he gains fame, he may become a general. Therefore these two professions ought not to be neglected for a moment. It has been said, 'In times of civil disorder, arms are placed to the right and letters to the left; in peace, letters are put to the right and arms to the left.' "

·······

"It is the duty of every man born on the Imperial soil to yield devoted loyalty to his sovereign, even to the sacrifice of his own life. Let no one suppose for a moment that there is any credit due to him for so doing. Nevertheless, in order to stimulate the zeal of those who come after, and in loving memory of the dead, it is the business of the ruler to grant rewards in such cases [to the children]. Those who are in an inferior position should not enter into rivalry with them. Still more should those who have done no specially meritorious service abstain from inordinate ambitions. It is a truly blessed principle to observe the rut of the chariot which has preceded, at whatever risk to our own safety [that is, a conservative policy should be maintained at all hazards]."

·······

"I have already touched in several places on the principles of statesmanship. They are based on justice and mercy, in the dispensing of which firm action is requisite. Such is the clear instruction vouchsafed to us by Tenshōdaijin [the Sun Goddess]. Firm action is displayed in various ways. Firstly, in the choice of men for official positions. Japan and China both agree that the basis of good government consists in the sovereign finding the right man and bestowing his favour on him. Secondly, in excluding private motives from the distribution of appointments to provinces and districts. This should be done on grounds of reason only. Thirdly, firm action is shown in the reward of merit and the punishment of crime. By this means encouragement is given to virtue, and wickedness is repressed. If any of these three things is neglected, we have what is called bad government."

·······

"Sinecures and jobbery in the matter of promotions are steps towards the downfall of the State, and fatal to the permanence of the royal office."

Another work by Chikafusa is the Gengenshiu, in eight volumes. It contains a resumé of the myths which are articles of the Shinto faith.

Like the Jinkōshōtōki, the celebrated work named Taiheiki is a history of the attempts of the Mikado Go Daigo to shake off the domination of the "Eastern Barbarians," as the Kamakura Shōguns and their adherents were called, and of the civil wars arising out of these enterprises which distracted Japan for more than forty years.

The edition entitled Taiheiki Sōmoku has an introduction purporting to relate the circumstances under which this work was compiled, on the authority of a "tradition," the sources of which are unknown to us. Begun, it is said, at the instance of the Mikado Go Daigo, by a priest named Genye, it was continued by other priests at various times, until its completion in 1382. These writers, we are told, based their narratives on information obtained directly from the Shōgun Takauji, Nitta Yoshisada, Kusunoki Masashige, and other chief actors in the political events of the day. Recent investigation, however, seems to show that the author was really a priest named Kojima, probably belonging to one of the three thousand monasteries of Hiyeisan, who died in 1374, but of whom nothing further is known. If this be correct, either the former account is an imposture, of which there are not a few in the literary annals of Japan, or Kojima may have utilised materials collected in the manner just described. Internal evidence points to the Taiheiki being the work of one person who wrote some time after the events related, and who owed much more to his imagination than to direct communication with the heroes of his story.

It begins with a sketch of the history of the Shogunate from its foundation by Yoritomo in 1181, and then goes on to describe the political condition of Japan at the accession of Go Daigo in 1319. The events of this reign, which ended in 1339, are given in considerable detail, and the work is continued to the close of the reign of Go Murakami (1368).

The Taiheiki, as it has come down to us, contains several chapters which have little or nothing to do with the general plan of the work, and look very like interpolations by some later writer. Such are the chapters on "Rebellions in Japan," on the conquest of Yamato by Jimmu Tennō, on the Corean expedition of Jingō Kōgu, and on the Mongol invasion of Japan by Kublai Khan. The addenda in the Sōmoku edition form, of course, no part of the original work.

Taiheiki or "Record of Great Peace" is a strange name for the history of one of the most disturbed periods that Japan has ever passed through. It presents a succession of intrigues, treasons, secret conspiracies, and open warfare, with wholesale sentences of death or banishment. This was not, however, the original name of the work. It was at first called Anki Yuraiki or "Record of the Causes of Peace and Danger." Another name for it was Kokuka Jiranki, or "Record of the Cure of Civil Disturbance in the State." These last titles rather suggest a philosophical history. But the Taiheiki is very much the reverse of this. It is clearly the work, not of a statesman or philosopher, but of a literary man intent on producing an ornate and romantic story. So long as this end is attained, fact and fiction are to him very much alike. It is difficult to say which predominates in his narrative. He is notoriously inaccurate in such matters as numbers, dates, and genealogies; but that is nothing to the way in which he embroiders his accounts of sieges and battles with details that cannot possibly have been handed down by eye-witnesses, and to the dreams, portents, and miraculous occurrences with which his story abounds. There are also numerous speeches, apparently adapted by him to the speaker and the occasion, but which, like those in Thucydides, have nevertheless a certain historical value. The serious way in which the commentators treat the Taiheiki's frequent excursions into the land of romance is not a little amusing.

The style of Kojima (if he is the author) has been condemned by native critics as inflated and pedantic. It must be admitted that there is not a little truth in these charges. The Taiheiki supplies abundant evidence of his erudition and command of all the resources of Chinese and Japanese rhetoric. His pages at times are highly charged with Chinese words and phrases, and fairly bristle with Chinese historical allusions and quotations. In this style of writing, a "bamboo grove" means a family of princes, a "pepper court" is put for the Imperial harem, "cloud guests" stand for courtiers, the Mikado's carriage is termed the "Phoenix Car," and his face the "Dragon Countenance." A fair lady is said to put to shame Mao Ts'iang and Si She, famous beauties of Chinese antiquity. Civil war is a time when "wolf-smoke obscures the heaven, and whale-waves shake the earth." Kojima does not hesitate even to insert long episodes of Chinese and Indian history which present some resemblance to the events which he is describing, especially if they lend themselves to romantic treatment.

Still more trying to the ordinary Western reader than his ostentatious display of Chinese learning is the Buddhist theology in which Kojima was plainly well versed, and of which there is more than enough in the Taiheiki. Students of the history of religion, however, will find this feature of the work interesting. Kojima is a typical case which illustrates the national propensity for compromise and arrangement in matters of faith. In the Taiheiki he makes an attempt to reconcile three essentially conflicting systems, viz., Chinese philosophy, Shinto mythology, and Buddhism, including with the latter the older Indian myths which found their way to Japan in its company. Thus in a passage near the end of Book XVI. he describes the Yin and Yang (the negative and positive principles of nature according to the Chinese) as the origin and source of all things. These two elements by their mutual interaction evolve Izanagi and Izanami, the creator deities of the Shinto Pantheon. Their child Tenshōdaijin (the Sun Goddess) proves to be a manifestation of Buddha, one of whose services to humanity was at some far remote period to subdue the "Evil Kings of the Six Heavens" of Indian myth, and compel them to withdraw their opposition to the spread of the true doctrine (that is, Buddhism) in Japan.

Kojima, however, does not always draw his inspiration from China or from theology. Like the Heike Monogatari, the Taiheiki contains a number of highly poetical passages which owe nothing to foreign models or ideas. In metre they resemble Naga-uta, except that the order of the alternation of five and seven syllable phrases is reversed. Words of Chinese origin are not wholly excluded. One of these passages describes the enforced journey of Toshimoto, an adherent of the Mikado Go Daigo, to Kamakura, where he was executed for treason to the Shōgunate; and another, that of the same Mikado, to an exile in the island of Oki. The names of places along the route are ingeniously woven into the narrative in such a way as to suggest reflections suitable to the circumstances. This feature of the Taiheiki has had an enormous influence on the work of the dramatists and novelists of the Yedo period, as is shown by the numerous direct imitations of the passages just described (known as michiyuki or "journeys"), and by the rhythmical swing of the alternation of seven and five syllable phrases, due to its example, which pervades so much of the subsequent popular literature.

Europeans who propose to take up the study of the Taiheiki will be glad to learn that there still remains a good deal of straightforward, business-like narrative, which, though not without occasional florid phrases and picturesque touches, is laudably free from recondite allusions and obscure metaphors, perplexing to the unlearned, and condemned as pedantic even by those who understand them.

The language of the Taiheiki is very different from that of the writings of the Heian period. Simpler forms are substituted for the older, more elaborate grammatical structure, and the vocabulary is enriched by the accession of a vast number of Chinese words, which no longer, as formerly, are only admitted to the literature after a time of probation in the colloquial speech, but are taken straight from Chinese books.

The importance of the Taiheiki in the history of Japanese literature is far greater than its intrinsic merits would lead us to expect. More than any other work it is the foundation of the modern literary style, and its good and bad qualities generally are reflected in the writings of a host of imitators, direct or indirect.

The events and personages which it describes are the themes of a very large share of the modern literature of Japan, and allusions to it are continually met with. Its popularity is further testified to by the fact that there sprang up at Yedo and Kiōto a distinct class of professors who earned a living by giving Taiheiki readings. They correspond to the biwa-bonzes who chanted the Heike Monogatari.

The following is an account of a battle between the Shōgun's adherents and the monks of Hiyeisan, who had for once espoused the Mikado's cause. It was fought near Karazaki, on the shore of Lake Biwa. This passage may serve as a specimen, as it was probably the model, of innumerable similar combats in Japanese literature:—

"When Kaitō saw this, 'The enemy are few,' he cried. 'We must disperse them before the rear comes up. Follow me, my lads.' With these words he drew his 3 feet 6 inch sword, and holding up his armed left sleeve as an arrow guard, rushed midmost into the whirl of the expectant foe. Three of them he laid low. Then retiring to the beach of the lake, he rallied to him his followers. Now when Kwaijitsu, a monk of Okamoto, descried him from afar, he kicked over—'Kappa!'—the shield which he had set up before him, and with his 2 feet 8 inch bill revolving like a water-wheel, sprang forward to attack him. Kaitō received the stroke with his armed left sleeve, while with his right he aimed a blow at the skull-piece of his adversary's helmet, meaning to split it fair in twain. But his sword glanced off obliquely to the shoulder-plate, and thence downwards to the cross-stitched rim of his épaulière, doing no harm. In endeavouring to repeat the blow he used such force that his left stirrup-leather broke, and he was on the point of falling from his horse. He recovered his seat, but as he was doing so Kwaijitsu thrust forward the shaft of his bill so that the point entered Kaitō's helmet from below two or three times in succession. Nor did he fail in his aim. Kaitō, stabbed through the windpipe, fell headlong from his horse. Kwaijitsu presently placed his foot on the depending tassel of Kaitō's armour, and seizing him by the hair, drew it towards him, while he cut off his head, which he then fixed on the end of his bill. 'A good beginning! I have slain a general of the military faction,' he exclaimed joyously, with a mocking laugh. Whilst he was standing thus, a boy of about fifteen or sixteen, with his hair still bound up in 'Chinese-ring' fashion, wearing a corselet of the colour of brewer's grains, his trousers tucked up high at the side, came out from among the onlookers, and drawing a small gold-mounted sword, rushed at Kwaijitsu and smote him vigorously three or four times on the skull-piece of his helmet. Kwaijitsu turned sharply, but seeing a child of twice eight years, with painted eyebrows and blackened teeth, thought that to cut down a boy of this age would be a piece of cruelty unbecoming his priestly condition. To avoid killing him he made numerous dashes, repeatedly flourishing his weapon over him. It then occurred to Kwaijitsu to knock the sword out of the boy's hands with the shaft of his bill and seize him in his arms; but while he was trying to do so, some of the party of the Hiyei cross-roads approached by a narrow path between the rice-fields, and an arrow shot by one of them transfixed the lad's heart so that he fell dead upon the spot. Upon inquiry it was found that this was Kaitō's eldest son Karawakamaru. Forbidden by his father to take part in the fight, he was discontented, and mixing with the crowd of spectators, had followed after. Though a child, he was a born soldier, and when he saw his father slain he too fell lighting on the same battlefield, leaving a name behind. Alas, the pity of it!

"When Kaitō's retainers saw this, they felt that after having their chieftain and his son killed before their eyes, and, what was still worse, their heads taken by the enemy, none of them ought to return home alive. Thirty-six of them, bridle to bridle, made an onrush, each more eager than the other to fall fighting, and make a pillow of his lord's dead body. Kwaijitsu, seeing this, laughed out, 'Ha! ha! There is no understanding you fellows,' he exclaimed. 'You ought to be thinking of taking the heads of enemies instead of guarding the heads of your own people. This is an omen of the ruin of the military power. If you want the head you can have it.' So saying, he flung the head of Kaitō into the midst of the foe, and with downward-sweeping blows in the Okamoto style, cleared a space in all directions."

The next specimen of Kojima's style is from an account of the arrest of Toshimoto, one of the Mikado Go Daigo's principal advisers, on a charge of conspiracy against the Shōgunate.

"On the 11th day of the seventh month he was arrested and taken to Rokuwara [the residence of the Shōgun's representative at Kiōto], and was despatched thence to the eastern provinces. He set out on his journey, well knowing that the law allowed no pardon for a second offence of this kind, and that whatever he might plead in his defence he would not be released. Either he would be done away with on the journey, or he would be executed at Kamakura. No other end was possible."

(Then, without any warning of type or otherwise, there follows a passage which in metre, diction, and sentiment is essentially poetry. It is not very original, however, much of it consisting of scraps of verse supplied by the author's memory from older writers.)

"But one night more and a strange lodging would be his,
Far from Kadono, where in spring his steps had often wandered
in the snow of the fallen cherry-flowers;
Far from Arashiyama, whence on an autumn eve he was wont to
return clad in the brocade of the red maple leaves—
Despondent, his mind could think of nothing but his home, bound
to him by the strongest ties of love,
And of his wife and children, whose future was dark to him.
'For the last time,' he thought, as he looked back on the ninefold
Imperial city,
For many a year his wonted habitation.
How sad his heart must have been within him
As he set out on this unlooked-for journey!
His sleeve wet in the fountain of the barrier of Osaka—
No barrier, alas! to stay his sorrow—
He sets forth over the mountain track to Uchide[1] no hama,
When from the shore he cast his glance afar over the wave."

Here the author becomes so involved in ingenious punning combinations of the names of places on the route with the thread of his story that it is impossible to follow him in a translation.

The following is one of the extraneous chapters of the Taiheiki. It describes in a very imaginative fashion the famous Mongol invasion of Japan by Kublai Khan in the thirteenth century of our era.

"Poring over the records of ancient times, in the leisure afforded me by the three superfluous things [night, winter, and rain], I find that since the Creation there have been seven invasions of Japan by foreign countries. The most notable of these attacks were in the periods Bunyei (1264–1275) and Kōan (1278–1288). At this time the Great Yuan Emperor [Kublai Khan] had conquered by force of arms the four hundred provinces of China. Heaven and earth were oppressed by his power. Hard would it have been for a small country like our own to repel him, and that it was able easily and without effort to destroy the armies of Great Yuan was due to naught else but the divine blessing.

"The plan of this expedition was as follows: General Wan, the leader of the Yuan force, having estimated the area of the five metropolitan provinces of Japan at 3700 ri square, calculated that to fill this space with soldiers so as to leave no part of it unoccupied would require an army of 3,700,000 men. So he set forth from the various ports and bays with his troops embarked in a fleet of more than 70,000 great ships. Our Government, having had previous information of this design, ordered preparations to be made. The forces of Shikoku and Kiushiu were directed to assemble in all haste at Hakata, in Tsukushi; those of the western provinces of the main island hurried to the capital; while the men of Tōsandō and of the northern provinces occupied the port of Tsuruga, in Echizen.

"Thereupon the warships of Great Yuan, 70,000 in number, arrived together at the port of Hakata on the third day of the eighth month of the second year of Bunyei (1265). Their great vessels were lashed together, and gangways laid across from one to another. Every division was surrounded by screens of oilcloth; their weapons were set up in regular array. From the Gotō Islands eastward as far as Hakata the sea was enclosed on all sides for 400 ri, a of and sudden became dry land. One wondered whether a sea-serpent vapour had not been belched out and formed a mirage.

"On the Japanese side a camp was constructed extending for thirteen ri along the beach of Hakata. A high stone embankment formed its front, precipitous on the side of the enemy, but so arranged in the rear as to allow free movement for our troops. In the shelter of this, plastered walls were erected, and barracks constructed, in which several tens of thousands of men were lodged in due order. It was thought that in this way the enemy would be unable to ascertain our numbers. But on the bows of the hostile ships, beams like those used for raising water from wells were set up to a height of several hundred feet, at the ends of which platforms were placed. Men seated on these were able to look down into the Japanese camp and count every hair's end. Moreover, they chained together planks forty or fifty feet wide so as to form a sort of rafts, which, when laid on the surface of the water, provided a number of level roads over the waves, like the three great thoroughfares orthe twelve main streets [of Kiōto]. By these roads the enemy's cavalry appeared in many tens of thousands, and fought so desperately that our troops relaxed their ardour, and many of them had thoughts of retreat. When the drum was beaten, and a hand-to-hand contest was already engaged, iron balls, like footballs, were let fly from things called 'cannon' [with a sound] like cartwheels rolling down a steep declivity, and accompanied by flashes like lightning. Two or three thousand of these were let go at once. Most of the Japanese troops were burnt to death, and their gates and turrets set fire to. There was no opportunity of putting out the flames.

"When the men of Upper Matsura and Lower Matsura saw this, they felt that ordinary measures would be useless, so they made a circuit by way of another bay, and, with only 1000 men, ventured on a night attack. But however brave they might be, they were no more than one hair upon a bull or one grain of rice in a granary. Attacking with so small a force, they slew several tens of thousands of the enemy, but in the end were all made prisoners. They were bound with cruel cords, and their hands nailed to the bulwarks of the line of vessels.

"No further resistance was possible. All the men of Kiushiu fled to Shikoku and the provinces north of the Inland Sea. The whole Japanese nation was struck with panic, and knew not what to do. Visits to the shrines of the Shinto gods, and public and secret services in the Buddhist temples, bowed down the Imperial mind and crushed the Imperial liver and gall-bladder. Imperial messengers were despatched with offerings to all the gods of heaven and earth, and all the Buddhist temples of virtue to answer prayer, great and small alike, throughout the sixty provinces. On the seventh day, when the Imperial devotions were completed, from Lake Suwa there arose a cloud of many colours, in shape like a great serpent, which spread away towards the west. The doors of the Temple-treasury of Hachiman flew open, and the skies were filled with a sound of galloping horses and of ringing bits. In the twenty-one shrines of Yoshino the brocade-curtained mirrors moved, the swords in the Temple-treasury put on a sharp edge, and all the shoes offered to the god turned towards the west. At Sumiyoshi sweat poured from below the saddles of the four horses sacred to the deities, and the iron shields turned of themselves and faced the enemy in a line."

(Many more similar wonders follow.)

"Now General Wan of Great Yuan, having cast off the moorings of his 70,000 ships, at the hour of the dragon on the seventeenth day of the eighth month started for Nagato and Suwō by way of Moji and Akamagaseki [Shimonoseki]. His fleet were midway on their course when the weather, which had been windless, with the clouds at rest, changed abruptly. A mass of black clouds arising from the north-east covered the sky, the wind blew fiercely, the tumultuous billows surged up to heaven, the thunder rolled and the lightning dashed against the ground so abundantly that it seemed as if great mountains were crumbling down and high heaven falling to the earth. The 70,000 warships of the foreign pirates either struck upon cragged reefs and were broken to atoms, or whirling round in the surging eddies, went down with all hands.

"Nevertheless, General Wan alone was neither driven off by the storm nor buried beneath the waves, but flew aloft and stood in the calm seclusion of the middle heaven. Here he was met by a sage named RyoTō-bin, who came soaring from the west. He addressed General Wan as follows: 'The gods of heaven and the gods of earth of the entire country of Japan, 3700 shrines or more, have raised this evil wind and made the angry billows surge aloft. Human power cannot cope with them. I advise you to embark at once in your one shattered ship and return to your own country.' General Wan was persuaded. He embarked in the one shattered ship which remained, braved all alone the waves of 10,000 ri of ocean, and presently arrived at the port of Mingchu [in China]."

The word rendered "cannon" is teppō, lit. "iron tube." It properly means a matchlock. But according to the encyclopædia called the Sansaidzuye, neither cannon nor matchlocks were known to the Chinese before the sixteenth century. Matchlocks were first introduced into Japan by Mendez Pinto and his companions in 1543, and were not known to the Chinese until later. The inference is that this passage, and probably the whole chapter, is a later interpolation.

It is perhaps necessary to remind the reader that there is a nucleus of fact hidden among all this fictitious embroidery. Kublai Khan did send a large fleet against Japan about the time stated, which met with a fate similar to that of the Spanish Armada prepared for the conquest of England.


  1. Uchide means "to set forth," and hama, "shore."