Okagami, the Great Mirror

Okagami, the Great Mirror Fujiwara Michinaga (966-1027) and His Times - Michigan Classics in Japanese Studies

Paperback (01 Jan 1991)

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Presented here in a new and complete translation is the Japanese classic Okagami, a historical tale that mirrors a man's life and the times in which he lived. Dating from the late eleventh or early twelfth century, it focuses on Fujiwara Michinaga, the leading political figure in the great family that dominated the court during most of the Heian period.
The Great Mirror can be viewed as a type of history writing, following the rise of an aristocratic family from its seventh-century inception to its zenith in the career of its great descendant. Yet it is no chronicle, since it is not a comprehensive history in any form, whether of Japan or of the Fujiwara family. Important events are treated obliquely, barely mentioned, or omitted outright. The author's stated purpose is to describe and explain his protagonist's brilliant career, so it might seem that The Great Mirror is a mirror of a man's life, a biography. Yet the author displays a persistent tendency to digress. The entire final section of the book is made up of anecdotes that have only the most tenuous connection with Michinaga.
In this The Great Mirror exhibits traits of Japanese oral storytelling. Prose literary narratives called setsuwa were open-ended works amenable to accretions and deletions that were collected and circulated by monks and professional storytellers. In the twelfth century, Heian Court society saw itself in catastrophic decline, spurring nostalgia for the reigns of earlier emperors and the desire to collect anecdotes about court society and its concerns. The Great Mirror, though distinct from other collections of its time, is very much a product of this age and spirit.

Book information

ISBN: 9780939512508
Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Imprint: University of Michigan, Center for Japanese Studies
Pub date:
DEWEY: 952.01
DEWEY edition: 20
Language: English
Number of pages: 381
Weight: -1g
Height: 230mm
Width: 155mm
Spine width: 28mm