The Samurai. The Heike samurai clan. The Bushido Code.
before the golden period of Japanese heraldry,
the beautiful butterfly pattern was a favorite
amongst warlords and their samurai, from as early
as the Nara period (710 AD - 786 AD)
as crest or emblem on their armor, it appears
to have been favored for its apparent delicate
nature and elegant symmetry, achieved through
the evolution from lowly caterpillar to noble
of the ill-fated Heike (also know as Taira or Heishi) clan -Japan
rulers from 794 AD until 1185 AD- were particularly
fond of the butterfly design.
The Haike were one of the four important clans that dominated Japanese politics during the Heian period (794-1185), along with the Fujiwara, the Tachibana, and the Minamoto. The
Heike samurai clan defeated the Minamoto clan in 1161.
Twenty four years later, betrayed and outnumbered three
to one, were annihilated by the Minamoto
at the great
battle of Dan-no-ura
in 1185. The surviving nobles bravely died fighting
or committed suicide by jumping into the sea -graceful
to a life in shame- however, according to one legend, their
souls became butterflies. The Heike went down fighting,
and so earned themselves the traditional Japanese admiration
for brave and doomed warriors.
| If you have an interest in Japanese culture
and Bushido (The Way of the Warrior) in particular,
The Tale of the Heike (Heike
collective account of the 5-year Genpei
War (1180-1185) for the control of Japan. One
of the must-read epic masterpieces, a Japanese
the compilation of oral tradition.
most widely known version was first compiled
by Yukinaga, a blinded
warrior monk, in 1371. Although there have been
several serious attempts of translations since
1918, a very complete one was made by the
Stanford and Berkley
Craig McCullough, published in 1988. Burton
Watson (Translator) and Haruo Shirane (Editor)
produced an abridged version
published in 2006.
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