Documentation:Bibliography of Source Materials in Japanese Studies/Special topics/Abe no Seimei

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In Japan’s long history of literature, many names enjoy persistent popularity and many literary personas undergo fascinating changes. Among them, the Heian period court magician (Onmyōji 陰陽道) and literary legend, Abe no Seimei (安倍晴明, 921 –1005), has developed sustained popularity across time periods, social class and media. (This entry refers Abe no Seimei as Seimei for short.) Despite Seimei's appearance in various media in both China and Japan, understanding this character calls for an interdisciplinary approach that covers religious studies, sociology, and literature. Through centuries of telling, retelling, and recreating Seimei-related stories, many images and literary motifs are gradually associated with him, such as the fox wife Kuzunoha, vengeful female demons/ghosts, and Minamoto no Hiromasa (源博雅, 918 – 980).

This entry collects both academic and non-academic materials about Abe no Seimei as a historical figure and a character in fiction.

Abe no Seimei as a Historical Figure

Bibliography of
Source Materials in
Japanese Studies
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This open bibliography will provide an overview of foundational sources and tools in Japanese studies. It is currently being developed by students in ASIA 521A.
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Onmyōdō in Japanese History

Japanese Journal of Religious Studies dedicated an entire volume (Vol. 40, No. 1, 2013) to "Onmyōdō in Japanese History." Among various articles in this volume, the following surveys historical accounts to reconstruct a timetable Seimei's life and effectively introduce information about Heian period court ranking system and major sources for historical analysis.

  • Shigeta Shinʾichi 繁田信一 and Gaynor Sekimori. "A Portrait of Abe No Seimei." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 40, no. 1 (2013): 77-97. Accessed April 9, 2021.

The Seimei Phenomenon

  • Tanaka Takako田中貴子. Abe no Seimei no issennen: “Seimei genshō” wo yomu 安倍晴明の一千年:「晴明現象」を読む. Kodansha, 2003.
  • Watanabe Morikuni 渡辺守邦. “Seimei Tenshō no tenkai—Abe no Seimei Monogatari wo jiku toshite (kinsē shoki bungaku no shomondai)” 晴明伝承の展開--「安倍晴明物語」を軸として (近世初期文学の諸問題). In vol. 58 no. 11 of kokugo to koku bungaku 国語と国文学 (1981.11), pp. 99-109.

Texts and Theater in the Edo Period

Starting from the late Muromachi period, both commoners and the elite class enjoyed a relatively peaceful environment for ‘literary production and recreation. The political turmoil leading up to the Tokugawa government (circa 1600-1868) caused job insecurity among teachers who taught the elite samurai class. As a result, there was a group of well-read former teachers and scholars who started to focus on the commoners and discovered the monetary value of publishing.


Abe no Seimei Monogatari 安倍晴明物語 (1662)

The changing political environment and new literary form kanazōshi 仮名草子in the seventeenth century, which The Story Collection of Abe no Seimei is categorized as, contributed to this transition between the cultural production mode sustained by sponsorship from aristocrats and the market economy influenced by popularity among commoners.

The entire collection consists of seven volumes: the first three consist of a relatively continuous narrative. In comparison, the last four volumes are akin to encyclopedias of knowledge that were believed to be Seimei-related, such as auspicious signs and physiognomy. In terms of length, the non-narrative portion of the last four volumes takes more pages, which raises interesting questions about the form and intended function of narrative versus non-narrative forms.

  • Asai Ryōi 浅井了意. Abe no Seimei Monogatari安部晴明物語. In Kanazōshi shūse 仮名

草子集成, ed. Asakura Haruhiko朝倉治彥, pp. 364-469. Tokyodō, 1980.


Shinodatsuma 信太妻

  • The primary text can be found in this book: Araki, Shigeru and Kichizō Yamamoto. 1973. Sekkyōbushi: Sanshō Dayū, Oguri Hangan Hoka. Shohan. ed. Vol. 243. Tōkyō: Heibonsha.

Theater Scripts

Puppet Play (浄瑠璃)

Ashiya Douma Ou'uchi Kagami 蘆屋道満大内鑑 (1747)
Relevant Academic Articles
  • Janet E. Goff. "Conjuring Kuzunoha from the World of Abe no Seimei." 2001. In A Kabuki Reader: History and Performance, 301-315: Routledge:

"In the highly competitive seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Japanese theatre world, the ability to rapidly produce new crowd-pleasing plays was critical to a theatre company's commercial viability. Playwrights kept close track of the latest fashions and capitalized on technological innovations. They followed and flouted dramaturgical conventions, plucked ideas from hit plays, and constructed new parts to showcase star performers.

These trends are reflected in the genesis of Ashiya Doman Ouchi Kagami (A courtly mirror of Ashiya Doman), a five-act puppet play by Takeda Izurno (d. 1747) that made its debut at Osaka's Takemoto-za in 1734 and was transferred to the kabuki stage a few months later. Today, Izurno's play is best known for its depiction of Kuzunoha, the white fox of Shinoda Forest who gave birth to Abe no Doji, eventually famous as the yin-yang diviner Abe no Seimei."

Novel and Manga Adaptations

  • Onmyōji 陰陽師 (on going serialzed novels from 1986)by Yumemakura Baku 夢枕獏. This novel served as the foundation for many manga, anime, film, and TV drama adaptations. The homosocial (and homosexual?) bond between Seimei and Hiromasa in fan fiction also stemmed from this novel.

Film and TV Drama

  • Onmyōji (陰陽師). Dir. Takita Yōjirō (滝田 洋二郎). Toho. 2001.
  • Onmyōji II (陰陽師II). Dir. Takita Yōjirō (滝田 洋二郎). Toho. 2003.