Battle at Rokuhara, from The Tale of the Heiji Rebellion


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This action-packed fragment is one of fourteen salvaged from a handscroll illustrating the epic narrative The Tale of the Heiji Rebellion, which describes the confrontation in late 1159 between two military clans: the Minamoto and the Taira. Their conflict led to the collapse of aristocratic courtier control of the government, and the rise of autocratic rule by a series of warrior clans. The original handscroll was severely damaged in the eighteenth century, and the portion that survived was cut into sections that were then remounted as hanging scrolls. This detail from a battle scene depicts a frantic melee of armored soldiers and horses, with two warriors of the Taira clan closing in on a Minamoto soldier. As the latter draws his sword, one of the warriors grabs for his horse’s trappings while another seizes the soldier’s helmet and raises his sword to behead him, beneath the red banner of the Taira forces.

Battle at Rokuhara, from The Tale of the Heiji Rebellion, Fragment of a handscroll mounted as a hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on paper, Japan

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