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Kojiki (, "Records of Ancient Matters" or "An Account of Ancient Matters"), also sometimes read as Furukotofumi, is the oldest extant chronicle in Japan, dating from the early 8th century (711-712) and composed by ? no Yasumaro at the request of Empress Genmei. The Kojiki is a collection of myths, early legends, songs, genealogies, oral traditions and semi-historical accounts down to 641 concerning the origin of the Japanese archipelago, and the Kami (?). The myths contained in the Kojiki as well as the Nihon Shoki (?) are part of the inspiration behind many practices. Later, the myths were re-appropriated for Shinto practices such as the misogi purification ritual.
Shinpukuji-bon Kojiki (?)
Emperor Tenmu ordered Hieda no Are to memorize stories and texts from history, many of which appear to have been, until the creation of the Kojiki, commonly known oral traditions. Beyond this memorization, nothing occurred until after Empress Jit? and Emperor Monmu had both passed and Empress Genmei came to reign. According to the Kojiki, Empress Genmei on the 18th of the 9th month of 711 ordered the courtier ? no Yasumaro to record what had been learned by Hieda no Are. He finished and presented his work to Empress Genmei on the 28th of the 1st month of 712.
The Kojiki could be made to further the Imperial right to rule. This historical narrative is broken into the Age of Gods and the Age of Humans, wherein the mythology of the gods which gave birth to the land is told and transitioned in a chronological fashion to the reign of the Emperors. This narrative sets forth the divine mandate by which the Yamato line has right to rule, and through the rhetoric used in the Age of Humans, the historical and military qualifications were likewise established. Several of the narratives which give support to the imperial line, such as the subjugation of certain Korean kingdoms, have been confirmed as historically false and were included merely to erase failures and bolster reputations of Emperor's past. Vast amounts of the Age of Humans is spent recounting genealogies, which served not only to give age to the imperial family, which was likely much newer than the Kojiki claims as little evidence has been found to support the existence of early Emperors, but also served to tie, whether true or not, many existing clan's genealogies to their own. Regardless of the original intent of the Kojiki, it finalized and possibly even formulated the framework by which Japanese history was examined in terms of the reign of Emperors.
The Kojiki contains various songs and poems. While the historical records and myths are written in a form of Chinese with a heavy mixture of Japanese elements, the songs are written with Chinese characters, though only used phonetically. This special use of Chinese characters is called Man'y?gana, a knowledge of which is critical to understanding these songs, which are written in Old Japanese.
The Kojiki is divided into three parts: the Kamitsumaki (,"first volume"), the Nakatsumaki (, "middle volume") and the Shimotsumaki (, "lower volume").
The Kamitsumaki, also known as the Kamiyo no Maki (, "Volume of the Age of the Gods"), includes the preface of the Kojiki, and is focused on the deities of creation and the births of various deities of the kamiyo () period, or Age of the Gods. The Kamitsumaki also outlines the myths concerning the foundation of Japan. It describes how Ninigi-no-Mikoto, grandson of Amaterasu and great-grandfather of Emperor Jimmu, descended from heaven to Takachihonomine in Ky?sh? and became the progenitor of the Japanese Imperial line.
The Nakatsumaki begins with the conquests of Jimmu, which make him the first Emperor of Japan; and ends with the 15th Emperor, ?jin. The second through ninth Emperors' reigns are recorded in a minimum of detail, with only their names, the names of their various descendants, and the locations of their palaces and tombs listed, with no mention of their achievements. Many of the stories in this volume are mythological; the allegedly historical information is highly suspect.
The Shimotsumaki covers the 16th to 33rd Emperors and, unlike previous volumes, has very limited references to interactions with deities. (Such interactions are very prominent in the first and second volumes.) Information about the 24th to 33rd Emperors is scant.
What follows is a condensed summary of the contents of the text, including many of the names of gods, Emperors, and locations as well as events which took place in association with them. The original Japanese is included in parentheses where appropriate.
The handing down of old folklore and its significance
Heldt, Gustav. 2014. The Kojiki: An Account of Ancient Matters. New York: Columbia University Press. (ISBN978-0-231-16389-7)
There are two major branches of Kojiki manuscripts: Ise and Urabe. The extant Urabe branch consists of 36 existing manuscripts all based on the 1522 copies by Urabe Kanenaga. The Ise branch may be subdivided into the Shinpukuji-bon (?) manuscript of 1371-1372 and the D?ka-bon () manuscripts. The D?ka sub-branch consists of:
the D?ka-bon () manuscript of 1381; only the first half of the first volume remains
the D?sh?-bon () manuscript of 1424; only the first volume remains, and there are many defects
the Shun'yu-bon () manuscript of 1426; one volume
The Shinpukuji-bon manuscript (1371-1372) is the oldest existing manuscript. While divided into the Ise branch, it is actually a mixture of the two branches. The monk Ken'yu based his copy on ?nakatomi Sadayo's copy. In 1266, Sadayo copied volumes one and three but did not have access to the second volume. Finally, in 1282, he obtained access to the second volume through a Urabe-branch manuscript that he used to transcribe.