Variations and Interpretations of the Japanese Religious Folk Ballad, Sanshō-Dayu, or “Princess Anjyu and Prince Zushiō” (1): The Narrative Tradition Kept by Visually Impaired Minstrels

Wells, Keiko (Articol)

“The Japanese religious folk ballad, Sanshō-Dayu 『山椒大夫』(“Sanshō, the Bailiff” or “Princess Anjyu and Prince Zushiō”), is a combination two legends, one of a young princess and another of her brother. The princess sacrifices her life for her brother, while the prince endures trials to become a man of status. It is a religious story, and describes the origin of the Kanayaki Jizō Bodhisatva statue. Older versions are miracle tales, in which the tortured princess dies and becomes a Bodhisattva, or Buddhist Saint. Though no complete original text remains, it is said that the ballad appeared in the 14th century. It belongs to a genre called Sekkyō-bushi, which was sung and chanted by traveling singers, who were almost always visually impaired. Sekkyō-bushi became popular in medieval Japan and has been passed down as a form of traditional religious entertainment, especially in rural areas. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Sanshō-Dayu was arranged in folk drama forms such as Gidayu (a chanted theatrical narrative) or Ningyō jōruri (puppet plays) and Kabuki (classical dance-drama). The performance versions flourished especially in urban areas. After Japan opened cultural communication with the West in the late 19th century, the story incorporated new values and became part of modern culture. The most famous versions are a novella by Ōgai Mori (1915), and the classic film by Kenji Mizoguchi (1954). This paper examines the evolution of Sanshō-Dayu’s many variations, and analyzes commonalities and differences to clarify the story’s history and legacy. The history of Sanshō- Dayu variations provides a fascinating case study of how a folk narrative can survive centuries, while evolving along with changes in society, economy and media. This paper consists of two sections: Part One, “The Narrative Tradition Kept by Visually Impaired People”; Part Two, “The Dramatic Tradition in the Puppet Show, Modern Fiction and Film”. Both sections focus on how the heroine and hero are depicted while using Buddhist folklore effectively for character development. The heroine, Anjyu, is a sacrificial lamb, a virgin mother to her brother Zushiō, and a symbol of compassion. Zushiō, a traditional hero of a male-dominant feudal society, becomes an orphan, wanders in the wilderness, and finally finds restitution by virtue of his courage and divine intervention. The narrative tradition emphasizes the more mythical story of Anjyu, while the theatrical tradition is more interested in the adventures and human drama of Zushiō’s tale. In conclusion, after close examination of adaptations and changes in the Sanshō-Dayu ballad, this paper attempts to explore Japanese religious sentiments and gender value matrices as well as the nature of narrative traditions in Japan.”

Cuvinte cheie: Buddhist folklore, Goze-uta, Itako-saimon, Japanese culture, Japanese literature, Mizoguchi Kenji, Mori Ōgai, Narrative performance, Ningyō- joruri, Oral literature, Religious literature, Religious narrative, Sanshō-Dayu, Sekkyō-bushi, Transformation of narrative text, and Visually impaired singers

Revista de etnografie și folclor / Journal of Ethnography and Folklore

2015, nr. 1-2, p. 5-28