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Rites and Rule: Kiyomori at Itsukushima and Fukuhara


Heather Blair offers a correction to the politically centered paradigm for early medieval history. English-language historians have generally focused on the political and military history of the Genpei War (1180-1185), attending to the war's victors, the Minamoto, while defining Taira no Kiyomori (1118-1181) primarily as a failed warrior. Placing Kiyomori in the context of Heian court culture, Blair instead argues that ritual played an important role in the Taira family's rise. Formulating a new theoretical model of ritual regimes, she first outlines the regime piloted by Retired Emperor Go-Shirakawa (1127-1192), with whom Kiyomori interacted constantly, and then examines Kiyomori's ritual activities and their relation to his political career. Through a close analysis of Kiyomori's construction of a set of signature sites, rites, and texts—at both the ocean-side shrine Itsukushima and Fukuhara-Blair makes her case for the importance of ritual in twelfth-century politics.

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