Nijūshikō (二十四孝: The twenty-four filial exemplars) (genre )



In the Japan Review #34 from 2019 there is an article, ‘Translation: The Twenty-Four Filial Exemplars’, by R. Keller Kimbrough. This appears on pages 69 to 94.

The opening introductory paragraph says: .

“The following set of stories is an English translation of Nijūshikō 二十四孝 (The twenty-four filial exemplars), which is a fifteenth- or sixteenth-century Japanese translation of the early fourteenth-century Quan xiang ershisi xiao shi xuan 全相二十四孝詩選 (Selected verses on all aspects of the twenty-four filial exemplars), compiled by the scholar Guo Jujing 郭居敬 from a variety of earlier Chinese sources. Records indicate that the work was first imported to Japan in 1381, and although the identity of the translator is unknown, Tokuda Kazuo argues that the translation was likely produced in or around the Tenshō 天正 period (1573–1592), when there was a noticeable spike in interest in the work in Japan. The oldest extant text of the translation dates from the Keichō 慶長 period (1596–1615), when it was published in an illustrated “Saga-bon” 嵯峨本 moveable-type-printed edition with calligraphy by Hon’ami Kōetsu 本阿弥光悦. The work was widely reproduced in text and illustration from the seventeenth through the early twentieth centuries.”

Kimbrough explained: “The work begins auspiciously with accounts of the Chinese emperors Shun and Wen (r. 2233–2184 BC and 180–157 BC). All of the stories are moralistic in tone, and with the possible exception of episode 22, they are all concerned with the Confucian virtue of filial piety and its frequently miraculous effects. Each of the episodes is prefaced by a Chinese verse in four five-character lines. The verses are untranslated within the larger Japanese translation, but in some editions of Nijūshikō, including the one translated here, they are glossed with Japanese readings and creative interpretations of the Chinese. Each of the verses is followed by an explanatory tale in Japanese (which, in some cases, is inconsistent with the poem that it supports), and depending on the published edition of the work, each of these is either prefaced or followed by a block-printed illustration that is also sometimes inconsistent with its episode.”

Kimbrough’s translation of the Nijūshikō was published in Osaka between ca. 1716-1729. “The publisher, Shibukawa Seiemon 渋川清右衛門, specialized in educational works for women…” Kimbrough notes: “The unknown Japanese translator took substantial liberties with his or her translation of Guo Jujing’s collection of tales, resulting in what is essentially a Japanese, rather than Chinese, work of literature.”