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Master of Arts (M.A.)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Miyamoto Musashi, Gorinsho, Book of Five Rings, Warfare, Swordsmanship, Kendo
Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645) wrote the Gorinsho ("Book of Five Rings") at the end of his life. The text is divided into five sections, “Earth,” “Water,” “Fire,” “Wind,” and “Space;” the first three introduce and explain both military strategy and warfare of his school, Niten-ichi-ryū. “Wind” is a critique of the tendencies Musashi noticed in other sword schools, and “Space” describes the concept of warfare and how to embody its “true way” (though this scroll is evidently incomplete).
There are many English translations, yet I make the claim that one more is necessary. Since its first translation in 1974 to its most recent in 2009, the Gorinsho’s meaning has been ill represented in English and no extant translation is suitable for scholarly reference. These translations suffer primarily from three flaws: fundamental translation errors, the effacing of cultural references, and an apparent lack of knowledge concerning the Gorinsho’s textual history. The source text for these problematic English translations is invariably the Hosokawa family manuscript, a wholly unsuitable manuscript for translation.
In recent years, the Harima Musashi Kenkyūkai, a Japan-based research group, has done much worthwhile scholarship on the Gorinsho and has compiled a new annotated edition of the text based on a thorough examination of all extant manuscripts. My translation is based on their authoritative edition and it benefits greatly from their research. This thesis endeavors to make clear the case that a new scholarly Gorinsho translation is necessary and provide a preliminary, annotated translation to fulfill that need.
Stephen M Forrest