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Battle of the Genji and Heike Forces

Accession Number
1964/2.64

Title
Battle of the Genji and Heike Forces

Artist(s)
Japanese

Artist Nationality
Japanese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
1573-1650

Medium & Support
6-fold screen, ink and color on paper

Dimensions
30 in. x 162 in. ( 76.2 cm x 411.5 cm )

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection Fund

Label copy

Battle of the Genji and Heike Forces

Japan
Momoyama period (1583–1615) to Early Edo period (1615–1868)
Early 17th century
Six-panel folding screen, ink and color on paper
Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection Fund, 1964/2.64
 

The most renowned battle in Japanese history took place in the twelfth century, when the Heike (also known as Taira) and Genji (also known as Minamoto) clans struggled to gain control of Kyoto, the Heian-period (794–1185) capital. Tales of this legendary event were spread throughout Japan by itinerant monks, who sang of it while playing the biwa, a stringed instrument much like a lute. Over the following centuries, the story was also recorded in what came to be known as The Tale of Heike, which, along with The Tale of Genji, is among the most famous stories

in all of Japan. These stories became the subjects of Noh and kabuki theater, as well as many paintings and prints.

Here, the Heike forces, in samurai armor, approach by ship from the left, while Genji forces rush to the shore on horseback and on foot. This draws the viewer’s attention to the center of the composition, where the confrontation will take place. The Heike forces can be identified by the red banners on their ships, while the Genji clan carries white banners. This combination of colors is seen today in Japan’s national flag.



Subject matter
The most renowned battle in Japan took place in the twelfth century over control of the Heian (794-1185) capitol of Kyoto. This legendary tale was spread by itinerant monks who sang of the drama while playing the biwa, a stringed instrument much like a lute, as they travelled Japan. The details of the struggles for power between the Heike (also known as Taira) and Genji (also known as Minamoto) clans were recorded in what came to be known as the Heike Monogatari (Tale of Heike) over the following centuries. Along with the Tale of Genji, the Heike Monogatari is one of the most famous stories in all of Japan.

Physical Description
This 6-fold screen is a depiction of the Battle of Genji and Heike. In samurai armor, the Heike forces approach by ship from the left, while Genji forces rush to the shore on horseback and on foot—drawing the viewer’s attention to the center of the screens, where their confrontation will finally take place. The Heike forces can be identified by the red banners on their ships, while the Genji clan carries white banners.

Primary Object Classification
Painting

Primary Object Type
screen

Additional Object Classification(s)
Painting

Collection Area
Asian

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
arrows
battles
boats
clouds
horses (equipment)
oceans
screens (furniture)

6 Related Resources

Apocalypses
(Part of 4 Learning Collections)
Children's Literature and Stories
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Death and Dying
(Part of 8 Learning Collections)
Combat, Battle, Warfare
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)

& Author Notes

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