A Tale of Two Brothers: Medieval Depictions of Ancient Japanese Mythology

This event occurred in the past. It is still being displayed for informational purposes, to help you get in contact with the organizer(s).


Tue, 2/7/2017
Please note: this event occurred in the past!


Begins at 4:00 PM

Event Type:


Participation Details:

No participation details specified



  • (217) 244-1432

Parent Program(s):

  • Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures



Website URL:





Speaker(s): Matthieu Felt, Doctoral Candidate, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University

Abstract: In the twelfth-century, a surge of works that reference or cite the eighth-century Nihon shoki mark the rise of what is commonly referred to as the “Medieval Chronicles.” In the tradition of Nihon shoki exegesis, these materials are largely sidelined because their contents diverge markedly from the base text. This talk will illustrate one of the most important innovations of these works, the deployment of Nihon shoki as an originary narrative, using a late twelfth-century picture scroll, the Hikohohodemi no mikoto emaki. This text adapts an eighth-century Nihon shoki episode about two brothers, the younger of which falls into the lineage of the imperial genealogy, and the older of which is forced to surrender to the younger and serve as his jester. In the picture scroll version, the older brother’s capitulation is amended to say that he pledges to present offerings to the younger on court holidays, an interpretation wholly absent from the original. I show that such adaptation is widespread in materials produced in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries; in this case, the changes to the original story reflect an effort to both legitimize court holidays and couch a direct relationship between the emperor and controllers of economic capital in a remodeled vision of antiquity. Such use of Nihon shoki as an originary narrative is widespread in other contemporaneous works from the Medieval Chronicles, including poetic treatises, political histories, and military chronicles. Despite the relatively freewheeling interpretative nature of these works, their deployment is firmly connected to Nihon shoki reception in the preceding period, and their innovations set the stage for a new approach to its exegesis in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.


Cost: Free and open to the public.

Cities Impacted:

Connect with us

University of Illinois
Portal questions or comments? Contact us!
© 2017 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

Follow us: