Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hyoshaku, "Kiritsubo" 1.1c

More than you ever wanted to know about 女御.

I mentioned in the last post two supplementary volumes of notes.  The second is labelled by Hagiwara as 余釈, or "extra annotations."  This is a dumping ground for annotation with any of three qualities -- passages that are too long for the main headnotes, passages that are useful but not essential for understanding the text, and issues from old commentaries that Hagiwara seems to think are worth preserving but not completely accurate.

The annotations to this first sentence surprisingly lengthy explanations of the terms 女御 and 更衣, ranks of women in the Emperor's service.  The terms are Chinese loans (like many government terms of the period).  There had long been an interest in something called 有識故実, which consisted of finding precedents for terms such as these in older writings.  There are at least three commentaries in the Edo period devoted to this practice just dealing with the Genji (Hagiwara does not cite any of them, however).

My translations of "Consort" and "Intimate" are arbitrary; I borrowed them from Royall Tyler's English translation.  Also, there are some passages of 漢文 in these notes -- rather than trying to represent that in the post I'll just write a kundoku instead.


Mingo nisso (1598): The Rites of Zhou says that the three fujin, the nine hin, the 27 seifu, and the 81 nyougo correspond to the three kou, the nine kyou, the 27 taifu, and the 81 genshi.


The Rites of Zhou is a Confucian classic compiled some time in late BCE.  This quotation does not actually seem to come from that work -- it appears in the Chinese history 後漢書 (The Later Chronicles of Han) and may have derived from some commentary.  The basic idea behind this cryptic citation is that the Emperor's inner palace was supposed to be ordered in parallel to the outer governance to ensure stability.  This concept is part of what underlies the Japanese court's concern over Emperor Kiritsubo's behavior in the first chapter of Genji.

I'm not sure why Hagiwara cites this single part from the very long note in the Mingo nisso, and especially why he omits Michikatsu's own note that the Japanese court of the Heian period was very different from these Chinese models.



Kakaisho (1360's): The Rites of Zhou, the Tenkan chapter, says "The nyougo are in charge of keeping order in the King's sleeping chamber."


Shinshaku (1758): The nyougo is equivalent to today's fujin. The term nyougo is first seen in the Shoku Nihon Kōki, volume eight: "The death of Fujiwara no Takushi, nyougo of the sub-4th rank." However, it may be that the term was used starting in the late Nara period. There are three people in this Tale identified as nyougo. In the Yūryaku section of the Nihon shoki, the characters 女御 do appear, but this is simply borrowed from Chinese writings -- the office of nyougo did not exist at that time. It is wrong to view this as their beginning.


The Shinshaku's 浄子 is a mistake; the Shoku Nihon Kōki itself says 沢子.  Fujiwara no Takushi was one of the women in Emperor Ninmyō's (810-850) court.  Yūryaku is one of the legendary Emperors; the sections of the Nihon shoki that cover the first few reigns borrow heavily from Chinese sources.  Many old commentaries cite the NS passage (which says that Yūryaku wanted to make a woman named Wakahime his mime (女御)) as the first appearance of nyougo, Mabuchi seems to be correct that the office did not actually exist at the time.



Rokasho (1504): The term nyougo covers from above rankless to the second and third rank.

I'm not entirely sure what 無位以上 means here.


Mingo nisso's explanation cites many commentaries and is quite detailed, but I omit it here. You should look at it in that commentary. The 13th book of Motoori [Norinaga]'s Tamagatsuma says, When did the office of nyougo actually become fixed? It is incorrect to see it as beginning with Wakahime in the reign of Emperor Yūryaku. The appearance of 女御 in that book is simply another example of the compilers borrowing from Chinese sources; the office did not exist at that time. Later people have been confused by the inclusion of such [Chinese] words in the early chronicle. Originally in the Chinese court, the term nyougo was a broad name referring to women who served the King, and was not a name for a fixed office. In our country, too, it was originally the same, and later became a fixed office. The term in the Nihon shoki also just means a woman who serves.


The Tamagatsuma is a collection of over 1000 short essays by Norinaga on many different topics dealing with words and phrases.  I'm not sure if Hagiwara seriously wants his readers to look at the MN or not -- the commentary there is very long, and a lot of it deals with a detailed explanation of the makeup of the Chinese court, the roles assigned to the various women there, and how they embody various Confucian virtues.  It's hard to believe Hagiwara would have considered that useful information.

Next, 更衣 gets the same treatment.


  1. I'm not sure why Hagiwara cites this single part from the very long note in the Mingo nisso, and especially why he omits Michikatsu's own note that the Japanese court of the Heian period was very different from these Chinese models.

    A couple of posts ago we saw Hagiwara's claim that Shikibu intended the story partly as political polemic, specifically in favor of a strong centralized Imperial system. Maybe this was part of that train of thought. (It doesn't seem to be a train that actually goes anywhere, mind you.)

    I'm not entirely sure what 無位以上 means here.

    I think you got it right in the translation, though? "From rankless up to (and including) second and third rank".

    1. But isn't rankless the highest? In the next part 更衣 are 3rd through 5th rank.

    2. Hm, I admit my knowledge of Heian politics/court structure is only "interested reader" level (definitely never studied it academically), but I thought that rankless was for people who were outside the system -- whether for obscure technical reasons or because they really were non-nobles.

    3. Well, now that you bring it up I don't really know either -- the reference works I have at hand don't really illuminate the issue much. I may have to ask my advisor here to see if he knows. I thought I vaguely recalled seeing that an Empress was rankless because she was beyond the rank system (and 女御 did become Empresses) but I may be inventing that.

  2. Is it possible that the other direction is indicated and that rather than purely rankless it means peerless..without rank above, so outside the system indeed but for slightly different reasons and the direction being..'rankless' downwards to 2nd and 3rd rank'? So down as opposed to up as it were?