Ujigawa no kassen 宇治川の合戦
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Lit. battles of the Uji 宇治 River. Two dramatic and decisive battles that took place near the Uji bridge over the river in the Genpei War, Genpei kassen 源平合戦 celebrated in literature and art. Both battles are recounted in HEIKE MONOGATARI 平家物語 (The Tale of The Heike), and GENPEI SEISUIKI 源平盛衰記 (The Rise and Fall of The Genji and The Heike). 1) Also known as Ujibashi no tatakai 宇治橋の戦い (The Battle at the Uji Bridge). In the fourth month of 1180 the prince Mochihito 以仁 (1151-80) and his men fled from the capital to Miidera 三井寺 and then to *Uji where they hid in the Byoudouin 平等院. When the Heike 平家 warriors arrived, a fierce battle ensued with fighting on the bare beams of Uji bridge, because the planks had been removed as a defensive measure. In particular, the heroic exploits of the rebel monk Joumyou 浄妙, who fought nimbly on the bridge girders, and his comrade Ichirai 一来, who leap-frogged over Joumyou to get at the enemy, are vividly portrayed. Eventually the whole Heike army crossed the river and forced the rebels from the Byoudouin, later killing Mochihito and forcing his cohort Minamoto no Yorimasa 源頼政 (1104-80) to commit suicide. The "Battle of the Bridge" was illustrated both as one part of the screens of Genpei battles, and as the sole subject of works such as the anonymous Ujibashi kassen byoubu 宇治橋合戦屏風, and *ukiyo-e 浮世絵 prints. 2) Also known as Ujigawa no senjin 宇治川の先陣 ( the Race at the Uji River). During the 1183 battle, Genji warriors Sasaki Takatsuna 佐々木高綱 (b/d dates unknown) and Kajiwara Kagesue 梶原景李 (1162-1200) riding Minamoto no Yoritomo's 源頼朝 (1147-99) famous horses Ikezuki 生ずき and Surusumi 磨墨, led the combined Minamoto forces across the flooded Uji river. The two competed to cross first, with Sasaki winning, by tricking Kagesue into stopping to tighten his saddle girth, before the rest of the army crossed and routed the battalion of Kiso Yoshinaka 木曾義仲 (1154-84). The image of Takatsuna and Kagesue riding in mid-stream was much illustrated in screens of Genpei battles, such as the pair of screens attributed to Yano Yoshishige 矢野吉重 (1596-1653, Eisei Bunko 永青文庫, Tokyo), as well as in scrolls such as by Tosa Mitsuoki 土佐光起 (1617-91, Tokyo National Museum) and Matsumura Goushun 松村呉春 (1752-1811), and in warrior prints *musha-e 武者絵 by ukiyo-e artists.

*heike-e 平家絵

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