Makino Atsushi: Dharma-king Go-Shirakawa’s Kingship in the Heike monogatari

Dharma-king Go-Shirakawa’s Kingship in the Heike monogatari

by MAKINO Atsushi
Talk given at the Dec. 8-9, 2010 Conference

Go-Shirakawa does not play a leading role in the Tale of Heike (Heike monogatari) corpus, but he is the only personality that appears throughout the entire story. He plays a leading role behind the scenes. So I want to consider, how does the Heike present Go-Shirakawa’s kingship? In this lecture I will focus on the Engyō-bon 延慶本 manuscript of the Heike, in which Go-Shirakawa appears more frequently than in other versions, such as the Kakuchi-bon version which is more frequently read.

In the Engyō-bon it is in the chapter entitled “The Kanjō of Go-Shirakawa” (法皇御灌頂事) wherein Go-shirakawa is drawn in the finest detail. The kanjō is a ceremony marking the completion of esoteric Buddhist instruction. Go-Shirakawa is seen therein devoting himself to Buddhist doctrine and ascetic practices, thereby becoming the ideal Dharma-king, or King of the Buddhist Law.

On the other hand, the Engyō-bon draws the figure of Go-Shirakawa in ways that can not be considered those of an ideal ruler, as in its chapters on the Shishinotani plot and the Hōjūji battle(鹿谷事件; 法住寺合戦). In the former, Go-Shirakawa's subjects were arrested by the Heike army; and in the latter, we see a fight between Go-Shirakawa and Minamoto Yoshinaka. In these scenes Go-Shirakawa is also seen enjoying performances of comic acts called sarugaku (猿楽), or monkey music,and his abnormal devotion to such entertainment causes a serious affair.

So how were Buddhist ascetic practices and fondness for monkey music related? The Heike compiler seems to praise Go-Shirakawa on the one hand and blame him on the other. My view is that praise and blame existed simultaneously, since both related to aspects of Go-Shirakawa’s personality and his kingship elicited both. So what kind of kingship was it? When we can articulate the answer to that question, we will know that the Heike compiler understood Go-Shirakawa’s kingship well.

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