Niki Natsumi

Mino’odera engi: the Education of Monks and Lay People


Mino’o dera engi is a foundation narrative that transmits the origins of the temple of Mino’o in the province of Settsu (Ōsaka prefecture today). The only extant version is held by the Imperial Archives, and thought to have been copied in the Kamakura period. Since it is mentioned in Sangoku dentō-ki, authored by Kōfukuji monk Kakuken in 1173, it is considered to have been written at the latest toward the end of the Heian period. To this day, Mino’o is famous for its waterfall, which at that time was venerated as a sacred abode for holy men, while poetic collections and court diaries record it as a place of pilgrimage for both aristocrats and monks. In this presentation, I would like to examine the descriptive strategies of Mino’o dera engi in reference to the splendor of the waterfall, seen as the symbol of Mino’o. The text mixes verses with kanbun, so it is highly likely that the author would have had knowledge of Chinese poetry and prose, although nothing further is known about him at this stage. At the end of the Heian period, poets would visit mountain temples, and entrust their own melancholy feelings to their description of the landscape. Often, reigning and retired emperors would leave the capital to visit sacred mountains such as Kumano or Iwashimizu, and glorify in written vows the Buddhist rituals taking place there. At the time, mountains were playing an important role as a stage for literary production. Simultaneously, as far as Chinese poetry and written vows are concerned, it was also a period in which a classification of modes of expression occurred, and a vast number of manuals written, that could be likened to encyclopedias. In that context, what characteristics could be attributed to the first expressive modalities in which the Mino’o waterfall is described in our document. Clarifying this question ought to help us getting a clearer picture of the author.