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Gukanshō (愚管抄?) is a historical and literary work about the history of Japan. Seven volumes in length, it was composed by Buddhist priest Jien of the Tendai sect c. 1220.[1]

Jien, the author of Gukanshō (as rendered in a portrait found in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu.)

Political problems arising from the relations between the Imperial government and the bakufu inspired Jien to write.[2] Jien was the son of Fujiwara no Tadamichi, and his insider's perspective ensured that his work would have a distinct point-of-view. Rather than working towards an absence of bias, he embraced it; and Gukanshō is fairly described as a work of historical argument.[3] The writer does try to approach Japan's past in a new way, but he does so under the influences of old historical and genealogical interests.[4]



The text is composed of three major sections:

  1. Volumes 1 and 2 consist of imperial chronicle beginning with Emperor Jimmu and concluding with Emperor Juntoku.
  2. Volumes 3 through 6 present a historical description focusing on the transition of things.
  3. Volume 7 offers a summary of the state of things.

The careful writer attempted to apply Buddhist principles such as mappō to the process of developing a chronicle of people and events. He was also self-consciously focused on the application of Buddhist principles in the analysis of Japanese history.[5] However, Jien could never completely divorce his position as as a son and brother of Fujiwara kogyū officials from his position as a priest who studied and practiced Buddhism.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Brownlee, John. (1991). Political thought in Japanese historical writing: from "Kojiki" (712) to "Tokushi Yoron" (1712). pp. 92-102.
  2. ^ Brown, Delmer et al. (1975). Gukanshō, pp. 402-403.
  3. ^ Brownlee, pp. 92-93.
  4. ^ Brown, p. 6.
  5. ^ Brownlee, p. 96.
  6. ^ Brown, p. 418-419.


  • Brown, Delmer and Ichiro Ishida, eds. (1979). Gukanshō; "The Future and the Past: a translation and study of the 'Gukanshō,' an interpretive history of Japan written in 1219" translated from the Japanese and edited by Delmer M. Brown & Ichirō Ishida. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03460-0
  • Brownlee, John S. (1991). Political Thought in Japanese Historical Writing: From Kojiki (712) to Tokushi Yoron (1712). Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. ISBN 0-889-20997-9
  • (Japanese) Okami, Masao and Toshihide Akamatsu. (1967). [Jien, c. 1220] Gukanshō. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten. ISBN 4-0006-0086-9

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