Kojiki, Part 2

From a previous post of an article written by Cynthia Lenssen Broshi (Jin Shin Jyutsu Journal – Israel) in which she mentions the word “Kojiki”.  I thought many readers might be unfamiliar with the ancient Japanese chronicle and began a brief introduction yesterday. Here is the continuation of that introduction:

“If you are not feeling well, the most important thing you can do is breathe.”
— Master Jiro Murai

Kojiki or Furukotofumi (古事記), ( “Records of Ancient Matters”), is the oldest surviving book dealing with ancient Japanese history. It was codified in the first half of 680 C.E., by decree of Emperor Temmu. The author of this codification, called “the original Kojiki,” is unknown but is supposed to have been Wani or another member of his family, because the text contains numerous passages praising the Wani clan. In 712 C.E., O no Yasumaro added some improvements and a supplementary explanation and presented it to the emperor. The oldest handwritten copy extant is the one which was transcribed in 1371-1372 C.E. by the head monk of Shinpuku-ji Temple.

The introduction of writing in the fifth century C.E. and Buddhism in the sixth century C.E. had a profound impact on the development of a unified system of Shinto beliefs. Within a few years, during the early Nara period, the Kojiki (712 C.E.) and the Nihon shoki (The Chronicles of Japan, 720 C.E.) were written by compiling existing myths and legends into unified accounts. These accounts were written for the purpose of shoring up support for the Imperial house, by legitimizing its lineage as descended from the Sun Goddess Amaterasu. Much of the area which is now Japan was under only fragmentary control by the Imperial family, and rival ethnic groups continued to war against the encroachment of the Japanese. These two mythological anthologies were meant to justify the authenticity of the Imperial family’s control over Japan. While Nihon shoki focused on establishing the Imperial family as the authentic rulers of a Japan unified against the neighboring countries of China and Korea, Kojiki, the older text, focused on establishing the identity of the Imperial family as descendants of a divine being. Kojiki, together with Nihon shoki, has been a primary sacred text in Shinto.

History

Around 672 C.E., after the Jinshin Rebellion, Emperor Temmu desired to enhance the Imperial genealogy and the existing oral traditions concerning aristocratic families, so that these could be passed down to future generations. Hieda no Are, a 28-year-old supporter of the emperor, had the ability to read passages of text at a glance and to remember stories as they were told in detail. Emperor Temmu ordered Hieda no Are to learn Teiki (an Imperial genealogy which was maintained by government officials and is no longer in existence) and Kuji (the oral traditions of each clan’s history, also no longer in existence). However, these researches ended with the passing of Emperor Temmu. At the start of the Nara period (710- 784 C.E.), Emperor Genmei again wanted to correct and organize Teiki and Kuji. According to its preface, in 712 C.E. under the order of Emperor Genmei’s imperial court, O no Yasumaro presented Kojiki, based on a story memorized by Hieda no Are.

Kojiki consisted of two parts; the genealogy of the Emperor, and oral tradition. The former contained the names of the first to the thirty-third Emperors and the names of their empresses, the Imperial princes and princesses, and their descendants. It also gave the names of all the Imperial palaces and reigns; the year of each reign’s collapse according to the sexagenary cycle; their life spans of the members of the royal family; the locations of their tombs; and the events took place during each reign. During official rituals, these details had been recited by memory by a clan of narrators in the service of the Imperial Court, until they were finally recorded in the middle of the sixth century C.E. The oral traditions included stories of the court and tales of the origin of the Imperial family and the nation of Japan.

to be continued…

 

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