Kyudo Notebook: Raiki Shagi

After the Nagoya seminar I was pondering the origins of the two texts that seem to have pride of place in modern Kyudo, the Raiki Shagi and Shahou Kun. The history of the second text is given briefly in Uno-sensei‘s explanation in the Kyudo Kyohon, but what about the first? It’s given without any attribution at all. Just from the wording I suspected that it was originally Chinese, but it wasn’t until I read Essays in Idleness that the nickel finally dropped.

It turns out that it’s from the Lǐjì (禮記), one of the five Confucian classics. Raiki is just the Japanese pronunciation of 禮記, and shagi identifies chapter 46 (射義, shèyi). The chapter is really pretty long, and the text we have at the front of the Kyohon is a collection of excerpts that have been edited together to create a coherent summary of what someone (still unclear) considered the important lessons for us today. And indeed much of the chapter concerns precise rules for competition involving people of different ranks that don’t have much application to modern Kyudo. The Chinese Text Project has a bilingual version of the chapter here, and it’s very informative to look at the full version.

For example, I always assumed somehow that what we have in the Kyohon as “the round of moving forward and backward” was a description of sharei, or taihai in general, where we do indeed move forward and backward. What James Legge has the text saying is:

    The archers, in advancing, retiring, and all their movements, were required to observe the rules. With minds correct, and straight carriage of the body, they were to hold their bows and arrows skilfully and firmly; and when they did so, they, might be expected to hit the mark. In this way (from their archery) their characters could be seen.

Another curious point is that, apparently, in ancient times people shot in time with music!

Anyway I take it that one reason the text is given without attribution is that, back in the day, when the Kyohon was being written (and even more so before that), the text didn’t need any identification: people still studied the classics, and indeed being educated meant being well versed in the Chinese classics, just as in Europe, say, it might mean being educated in Latin and Greek literature. Ask people now, though (on either side of the world), and I’m not so sure!

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