Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Tag: Samurai (Page 1 of 2)

Episode 216 – The Scourge of the Gods, Part 7

This week: what did it all mean?

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Conlan, Thomas. In Little Need of Divine Intervention.

Rossabi, Morris. Kublai Khan: His Life and Times.

Turnbull, Stephen. The Mongol Invasions of Japan of 1274-1281.

Adams, Ryon. Outfought and Outthought: Reassessing the Mongol Invasions of Japan.

Images

Temur Khan, successor of Kubilai. His hair is done in Mongolian fashion for this portrait, but Temur was a Confucianizer just like his grandfather.

A printing plate (left) and example of paper currency (right) from the Yuan dynasty. Paper money was an attempt to fund the dynasty’s wars, but overprinting led to destructive levels of inflation.

The Hongwu Emperor, the founder of the Ming Dynasty who would displace the Mongols only a few generations after Kublai’s death.

One of these days I’ll watch the taiga about Hojo Tokimune.

Younger folks might know Tokimune as the face of Japan in Civilization VI. Incidentally, the “triforce” actually was the Hojo family mon, or crest — it was the symbol of the Hojo family.

Episode 215 – The Scourge of the Gods, Part 6

The 1281 invasion is at the gates (or the seawall, I suppose). How will round 2 play out?

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Conlan, Thomas. In Little Need of Divine Intervention.

Rossabi, Morris. Kublai Khan: His Life and Times.

Turnbull, Stephen. The Mongol Invasions of Japan of 1274-1281.

Adams, Ryon. Outfought and Outthought: Reassessing the Mongol Invasions of Japan.

Images

Japanese forces arrayed along the new defensive walls of Hakata. The walls proved invaluable to holding the city and preventing a large scale Mongol landing.

Samurai and Mongol vessels engage in Hakata bay.

Japanese raiding vessels (right) raid a Yuan dynasty warship. These naval raids were incredibly effective, leading to the decision to lash Yuan ships together for safety — and making the ships vulnerable in turn to typhoon winds.

An Edo period print of the 2nd typhoon.

Wrecks of Mongol vessels from the 1281 invasion, like this one discovered in 2011, are shedding new light on our understanding of both the invasion itself, and of medieval Chinese shipbuilding techniques.

General Tran, who led the war effort against the Mongols in Vietnam, remains a cultural hero to the Vietnamese people. His skillful generalship also prevented Kubilai from amassing a new force for a third invasion.

Episode 213 – The Scourge of the Gods, Part 4

This week, we cover exciting topics like meteorology and internal Mongol family politics! But wait, there’s also a bit of Zen theology dashed in to spice things up!

It’s an eclectic week on the podcast for sure!

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Conlan, Thomas. In Little Need of Divine Intervention

Turnbull, Stephen. The Mongol Invasions of Japan of 1274-1281

Adams, Ryon F. “Outfought and Outthought: Reassessing the Mongol Invasions of Japan.”

Images

An ink painting by Yosai Kikuchi from the late Edo Period depicting the 1274 typhoon. The exact nature of the storm remains unclear, but the story has retained popularity throughout Japan’s history.

Discovered Mongol shipwrecks like this one (from the 1281 campaign) help us investigate the truth (or lack thereof) behind the stories of the “divine wind.”

This isn’t really super relevant to this week, but I found this example of a Yuan dynasty hand cannon too cool not to include.

A park in Jingmen, Guangdong commemorating the final Yuan dynasty victory over the old Song dynasty in 1279. The final destruction of the Song absorbed a great deal of Kublai’s attention between the invasions.

The divisions of the Mongol Empire at the time of the war between Kublai and Kaidu. Green is Kublai’s territory, Grey is Kaidu’s, and purple is that of the Ilkhan Abaqa.

Episode 212 – The Scourge of the Gods, Part 3

This week I promise we’ll actually get to the 1274 invasion. But first, how were the samurai who defended Japan organized, and what weapons did they use?

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Turnbull, Stephen. The Mongol Invasions of Japan of 1274-1281.

Conlan, Thomas D. In Little Need of Divine Intervention: Takezaki Suenaga’s Scrolls of the Mongol Invasions of Japan. 

May, Timothy. The Mongol Conquests in World History.

Images

Modern practitioners of kyudo, or the martial art of archery, use a weapon very different in composition from Kamakura era samurai. Yet the basic structure remains the same, particularly the size of the weapon and unusual placement of the grip.

A Kamakura armor set; this particular one was for the heir of a major shugo family, and is thus more ornate than normal.

This detail from a scroll depicting the Mongol invasions gives you a good sense of the relative equipment of both sides.

This map labels both Tsushima and Iki islands, the first two targets of the 1274 invasion. Hakata bay is just to the left of the name Fukuoka.

A depiction of the 1274 combat. Note the exploding bomb in the center.

Episode 211 – The Scourge of the Gods, Part 2

This week: why did Kublai go to Japan? A quick overview of the tensions that led to the first invasion, and a look at the armies of Mongols and Chinese that would fight it.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Turnbull, Stephen. The Mongol Invasions of 1274 – 1281.

May, Timothy. The Mongol Conquests in World History.

Conlan, Thomas. In Little Need of Divine Intervention.

Images

The reconstructed walls of Xiangyang. Though these walls are from a later time than the Mongol invasions, they give some sense of how imposing the original works were.

A Song dynasty river warship with a traction catapult attached to it. Warships like this one kept the Mongols out of south China for decades.

A basic schematic for a counterweight trebuchet. This design helped the Mongols break through the walls of the Chinese fortress of Xiangyang.

A reconstruction Mongol bow unstrung, strung, and at full draw. The bent horn tips add extra power by enabling the bow to flex more.

Lamellar armor from one of the predecessors of the Yuan (the Jin Dynasty). You can see how the loose arrangement of scales provides protection but also keeps the armor relatively light.

Episode 153 – The Birth of the Samurai, Part 8

This week, we conclude our series on the rise of the samurai with murder, intrigue, political reform, and gratuitous Game of Thrones references.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

McCullough, Helen. The Tale of the Heike.

Friday, Karl. Hired Swords: The Rise of Private Warrior Power in Early Japan.

Sansom, George B. A History of Japan to 1334.

Images

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Minamoto no Yoshitsune’s exploits remained the stuff of legend after his death. They are memorialized in manga, TV shows, video games, and statues like this one.

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An Edo-era print of the three Minamoto brothers (from left to right: Yoshitsune, Yoritomo, Noriyori) by the prolific printer Utagawa Kunisada. I particularly like this print because of the way the men are dressed. Yoshitsune and Noriyori are in battle gear, but Yoritomo is dressed like a courtier — or perhaps a politician.

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We’ve already touched on the Japanese fondness for wax statues. This one shows the monk Benkei at the moment of his death protecting his friend Yoshitsune. It depicts a popular tale about Benkei: that he died standing up and never fell to the ground until toppled after the battle. That story mirrors one from China about another famously loyal warrior with a halberd: the great Chinese saint of war Guan Yu. The two stories were probably linked specifically to draw a parallel between the reputation of Guan Yu and that of Benkei.

 

Episode 152 – The Birth of the Samurai, Part 7

 

The Genpei War comes to a close in this action packed episode! Kyoto will fall! The Taira will burn! Oxen will be deployed as tactical weapons!

 

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

McCullough, Helen Craig. The Tale of the Heike.

Dalkey, Kara. Genpei.

Sansom, George B. A History of Japan to 1334.

Images

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The major battles of the Genpei War.

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The Battle of Kurikara, complete with oxen charging in on the top right.

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Yoshinaka mired in the mud at the Battle of Awazu.

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Yoritomo’s downhill charge at Ichinotani as depicted in a diorama, because the Japanese really love dioramas.

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A map of the Battle of Ichinotani. Noriyori’s route is in blue; Yoshitsune’s is in Green.

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The Taira fleet gathering up escaping samurai in the Battle of Yashima.

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Dan-no-ura, the final battle of the Genpei War.

Episode 151 – The Birth of the Samurai, Part 6

 

This week, we let slip the dogs of war as Japan plunges into a new phase of conflict. Though Prince Mochihito will not make it out of 1180, the rebellion he starts will catch on in eastern Japan. Young Minamoto no Yoritomo, with some prodding from his new father-in-law/captor, will rise up to assume his birthright as leader of the Minamoto (but not without some controversy).

 

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

McCullough, Helen. The Tale of the Heike.

Sansom, George. A History of Japan to 1334.

Adolphson, Michael. The Claws and Teeth of the Buddha.

Dalkey, Kara. Genpei.

Images

 

Episode 150 – The Birth of the Samurai, Part 5

We’re live, folks! Sorry for the delay. It’s time for the career of Taira no Kiyomori, the man whose talent and ambition was matched only by his temper and his ego.

 

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Sansom, George. A History of Japan to 1334

McCullough, Helen Craig, trans. The Tale of the Heike.

Black, Jeremy. War in the Early Modern Period.

Keene, Donald, trans. Essays in Idleness (Tsurezuregusa) 

Images

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A diorama of Fukuhara during its brief time as Japan’s capitol. Courtesy of the City of Hyogo tourism office.

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Prince Mochihito depicted escaping from Kyoto after his declaration of rebellion. This image (like most others I’ve been using) is from the Edo period, when stories of this time provided grist for the mill of popular entertainment presses.

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Another image of Prince Mochihito.

Episode 148 – The Birth of the Samurai, Part 3

 

This week: the Taira family continue their rise to prominence, the Minamoto get stuck spinning their wheels for a few decades, and warrior violence makes its way to Kyoto.

All that, plus the hottest court gossip of the 1120s, this week.

 

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Sansom, George B. A History of Japan to 1334.

McCullough, Hellen, trans. The Tale of the Heike.

Turnbull, Stephen. Pirates of the Far East.

Turnbull, Stephen. Samurai: World of the Warrior.

Varley, H. Paul. Warriors of Japan: As Portrayed in the War Tales.

Images

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Taira no Tadamori, whose clever leadership propelled the Taira to a central position at court. This illustration, like most of the other character sketches we have, comes from the late Edo Period; the exploits of the Taira were popular grist for the mill of pop culture.

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Taira no Kiyomori as a young man. Get used to that face; you’ll be seeing a lot of it.

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Minamoto no Yoshitomo, the renegade son of the Minamoto family head. Unlike most of his relatives, he backed the sitting Emperor Go-Shirakawa over the Retired Emperor Sutoku in the Hogen Rebellion.

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Emperor Go-Shirakawa, who was lucky enough to get the support of Taira no Kiyomori in his dispute with his imperial relatives.

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A screen showing the main (and only) battle of the Hogen Rebellion — Kiyomori’s suprise attack on Sutoku’s palace.

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A detail shot of the screen above, providing a closer view of the way the fighting is being depicted.

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