Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


Abe no Seimei(921-1005)and illness:
Physicians, Masters of the
Way of the Yin and Yang, and Monks in
ancient-medieval narratives
(11th-13th centuries)

Hayek Matthias

(The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, School of Cultural and Social Studies,
Department of Japanese Studies

Key words;

Abe no Seimei, Way of Yin and Yang, physicians, esoteric monks, edifying narratives, onmyōji, divination, causes of diseases, representation, Heian period, Kamakura period.

This paper aims to shed light on the role of Yin Yang masters toward diseases in Ancient to Medieval Japan. In order to do so, I chose to focus on the way Abe no Seimei, Yin Yang masters archetype, is depicted in setsuwa narratives dealing with illness. Looking through the Konjaku monogatari-shū and the Kokon-chomon-jū for tales containing any of following terms: kusushi, onmyō onmyōji kaji, I was able to determine some kind of pattern regarding the division of the roles between physicians, Yin Yang masters, and esoteric monks toward illness. Then, a comparison of the depicted Heian period with the historical reality lends me to confirm the existence of a correlation between the causes of the diseases and their cures. Therefore, Yin Yang masters with divinatory skills allowing them to determine these causes, appear to be essential in cases of illness. Moreover, it seems that the way of Yin and Yang and its practitioners were expected, in regards to diseases, as a middle solution appropriate to a peculiar kind of problem exceeding medicine’s area of competency, but which could neither be taken in charge by esoteric monks.