The Demon at Agi Bridge and Other Japanese Tales (Translations from the Asian Classics)
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Burton Watson and Haruo Shirane, renowned translators and scholars, introduce English-speaking readers to the vivid tradition of early and medieval Japanese anecdotal (setsuwa) literature. These orally narrated and written tales drew on both local folk tradition and continental sources. Taken from seven major anthologies of anecdotal literature compiled between the ninth and thirteenth centuries, these dramatic and often amusing stories open a major window onto the foundations of Japanese culture.
Out of thousands of setsuwa, Shirane has selected thirty-eight of the most powerful and influential, each of which is briefly introduced. Recounting the exploits of warriors, farmers, priests, and aristocrats, and concerning topics as varied as poetry, violence, power, and sex, these tales reveal the creative origins of a range of literary and dramatic genres, from court tales and travel accounts to no drama and Kabuki. Watson's impeccable translations relay the wit, mystery, and Buddhist sensibility of these protean works, while Shirane's sophisticated analysis illuminates the meaning and context of their compact stories. Capped by an extensive bibliography, this collection fully immerses the reader in the thrilling world of secular and religious tales.
dated after Takakuni’s death makes his editorship improbable. The Konjaku monogatari shū is the first world history of Buddhism to have been written in Japanese; two-thirds of the anthology is composed of Buddhist stories and the rest, secular stories. Books 1 through 4 describe the history of Buddhism in India, from the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha to the spread of Buddhism after his death. Books 6 through 9 (8 is missing) cover the transmission of Buddhism from India to China. Books 11 through
children of ours, we can go out to the mountain fields, gather fruits and berries to feed the children, and at the same time prolong our own lives.” With this thought in mind, they went to the cave and said to the lion, “The lion is the king of the beasts. Therefore, it is up to him first of all to pity and take care of the other beasts. We too are beasts, lowly though we are, and so deserve your pity. We have given birth to two children. While they were still little, we would carry one on our
spot nearby took hold of the holy man’s hand and pulled him to his feet. The priest, using both hands, wiped the water from his face, spat out a mouthful of river water and, turning to the man who had pulled him out of the water and rubbing his palms together in appreciation, said, “I am immensely grateful to you! I will repay your kindness when I reach the Western Paradise!” Then he scrambled as fast as he could up the riverbank. The people who had gathered to watch, along with the young boys
opulence, and in the early morning of the second day, he had them brought to the Kazan’in residence. Then he wrote out a Vow of Intention and posted it on a pillar in the office of the samurai. The Vow of Intention stated: “From this day forward, I vow never to gamble. In the past, I once did so, joining with the others, but that was only once. From now on, if I ever do so again, may I be punished in this life and the next.” When he had posted it, some of his companions condemned him as a cheap
Who Was Born of the Thunder’s Rejoicing” (1:3) probably began as a local legend or series of legends from Owari Province that the Gangō-ji temple turned into a Buddhist tale. The setsuwa appears to link together a number of disparate stories—the capture of lightning, the gift of a small child who has great strength, a contest of rock-throwing strength, the exorcism of a demon who turns out to be the vengeful spirit of a dead person, and a water contest—that appear in other folktales and legends.