Thus did the sons of the Heike vanish forever from the face of the earth.
November 16, 2008 8:29 AM   Subscribe

The Tale of the Heike (Heike Monogatari) is a medieval Japanese account of the rise and fall of the Taira clan and has inspired many other works of art. Click on the chapters and scroll down to see Heike illustrations (or start here), see more art or figures inspired by the Heike. Would you rather read?

You can read two chapters of Helen Craig McCullough's translation or read a Michael Watson translation of the nô (Noh) play Kogô (illustration), inspired by the tale. (.doc file, link doesn't point directly to it.)

The story was performed by biwa hôshi, "lute monks", and its most popular version was compiled by the blind* monk Kakuichi in 1371. The events recounted occur during the Genpei War (short version). The Genpei War took place in the 12th century between the Taira and Minamoto clans and was the end of the Heian era depicted in the famous Japanese text, The Tale of Genji.

Heike means "House of Taira" and Genji "Minamoto clan".

John Wallace (first link) isn't one for web design, but seems to have a penchant for collecting.

*cf. Homer, Milton, Joyce, Borges.
posted by ersatz (10 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
One of the things I remember most clearly from Carl Sagan's Cosmos.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:52 AM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

You can't post a story on the Tale of the Heike and miss out discussing the opening stanza! I found the following here (you may have to adjust the character encoding on your browser to view the Japanese):

ぎおんしょうじゃ かね こえ しょぎょうむじょう ひび

The temple bell of Gion rings to remind us that all is fleeting and all is impermanent
posted by KokuRyu at 9:03 AM on November 16, 2008

Me too, Ironmouth. I suppose that was the first Japanese story I heard as a little girl. I've heard the story about the crabs may not be true, though.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:24 AM on November 16, 2008

Best heard performed, of course, by Hoichi the Earless.
posted by kickingtheground at 9:29 AM on November 16, 2008

For an alternate take on the Tale of Heike... try this
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:22 AM on November 16, 2008

Eiji Yoshikawa's version (Heike Monogatari, "the Heike story") is breathtaking.
posted by vivelame at 10:36 AM on November 16, 2008

You can't post a story on the Tale of the Heike and miss out discussing the opening stanza!

It was too big for the post title. This is how McCullough renders it:

The sound of the Gion Shoja bells echoes the impermanence off all things; the color of the sala flowers reveals the truth that the prosperous must decline. The proud do not endure, they are like a dream on a spring night; the mighty fall at last, they are as dust before the wind.
posted by ersatz at 12:00 PM on November 16, 2008

I have McCullough's translation, but it sits on the Enormous Pile of Books I Have Yet to Read.
posted by adamdschneider at 6:31 PM on November 16, 2008

Saxon Kane: that movie has absolutely no relation to Tale of the Heike apart from Miike scripting the names of the two gangs as Taira and Minamoto. It's about as silly as recasting the gangs of West Side Story as the Kennedys and the Bushes.
posted by junesix at 9:17 PM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding Eiji Yoshikawa's version. It's a re-telling of the classic story with modern prose and more character development and I think it's much more accessible. It was one of the first books my dad brought back for me from Japan and I still re-read it once a year.
posted by junesix at 9:25 PM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

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