Pt. 3:  Translations of Kanadehon Chushingura  (Starr Reference Room)

43. The First Translation of Kanadehon Chushingura

       The earliest complete translation of Kanadehon Chūshingura into a foreign language was this Chinese work in three volumes. The 1815 version shown here is the earliest of several editions published in Japan, but according to the preface, the first edition was published in China in 1794, although no copy has ever been discovered. The preface also suggests that the translator, whose pen name was  Chen Hongmeng, worked not from a Japanese original but from an inferior version composed in Japanese-style Chinese (kanbun). At any rate, the work was presumably first issued somewhere in China and then made its way to Japan, where it was published in Edo twenty years later. At least three later editions followed in Japan, in 1820, 1825, and an undated work that is probably from the Meiji period.

      The translation covers ten acts of Kanadehon Chushingura, omitting Act VIII, the michiyuki travel scene. It appears to be an embellishment as much as a translation, adding poems in Chinese that were not in the original. The text is provided with punctuation marks for Japanese readers.

Chen Hongmeng
鴻濛陳, trans.
chen ku  忠臣庫
3 vols.
Edo: Kanseido, 1815.
Starr East Asian Library,

Gift of Donald Keene


44.  French and Italian Translations

             The earliest French translation of Kanadehon Chūshingura seems to have been a secondary translation of 1886 by Albert DousdebPs from DickinsChiushingura of 1875 (see case on opposite side).  Then in 1918, a good-quality French translation was produced by the Japanese scholar Shinobu Junpei (1871-1962), entitled Tchushin-goura, ou “Le tresor des vassaux fideles.  This was superceded in 1981 by the work on display here, including translations of both Kanadehon Chûshingura and two important other works related to the Chûshingura tradition, and translated by two leading contemporary French scholars of Japanese literature.

            In Italian, the translation here by Mario Marega, with an exquisitely decorated cover, was published in 1948. 

Rene Sieffert and Michel Wassermann, trans.
Le Mythe des quarante-sept ronin; Kenko-Hoshi monomi-guruma par Chikamatsu Monzaemon; Goban Taiheiki par Chrikamatsu Monzaemon; Le tresor des vassaux fideles par Takeda Izumo; Fantomes a Yotsuya par Tsuruya Namboku

: Publications Orientalistes de France, 1981. 


Mario Marega, trans.
Il Ciuscingura, La vendetta dei 47 ronin

: G. Laterza & Figli, 1948. 

45.  The Introduction of the 47 Ronin to the West

       The earliest introduction of the story of the AkÇ Incident to the West seems to have been a brief but largely accurate account by Isaac Titsingh (1740-1812), head of the Dutch trading station in Nagasaki in the early 1780s; it appeared in his posthumous Illustrations of Japan (London, 1822). The story was next told by the English diplomat Rutherford Alcock in Capital of the Tycoon (London, 1863), where it was treated purely as legend, with no mention of any proper names or even of the bakufu. The truly influential account, however, was that of A. B. Mitford, who recounted the story as the first of his Tales of Old Japan, drawing on what seems to have been a current oral storytelling (kôdan) version in Japan. It was also later issued separately as a small pamphlet, as seen in the 1892 edition from Jiujiya.

      Also influential, particularly for the influence that it had in molding Theodore Roosevelt’s admiration of the Japanese samurai spirit, was a translation (in fact, more of a rewriting in English) of a late Edo collection of popular tales of the Gishi entitled Iroha bunko (A Library of the Kana, 1836-41) by Tamenaga Shunsui.

Above and left:
A. B. Mitford (Lord Redesdale) (1837-1916)  
“The Forty-Seven Rônins

In Tales of Old
First edition:
London & New York: Macmillan and Co., 1871. On display: above, 1894 edition; below,
Single-volume pamphlet,
Tokyo: Jiujiya, 1892.  

Right top and bottom:

Tamenaga Shunsui 為永春水 (1818-1886)
The Loyal Ronins: An Historical Romance

Translation of Iroha bunko
Shiuichiro Saito (1855-?) and Edward Greey (1835-1888)
New York
: Putnam, 1880.

46.  English Translations of Kanadehon Chushingura 

The complete text of the j
oruri puppet play Kanadehon Chūshingura, the core text of the theatrical tradition of the story of the 47 RÇnin, has been translated three times into English. Frederick Dickins’ translation was first published in Yokohama in 1875 in an exquisite edition with woodblock illustrations and went through numerous editions after that in Japan, London, and New York; displayed here is an 1885 Yokohama edition. Dickins took numerous liberties with the text, altering and expurgating it. Jukichi Inouye’s translation, which appeared in a small edition in 1894 and then in the revised edition of 1910 on display here, was a great improvement, if still tamed of all erotic references. It also included woodblock illustrations. Donald Keene’s translation of 1971 remains today the authoritative English version and is widely used as a classroom text.


Frederick Victor Dickins (1838-1915), trans.
, or, The Loyal League:
A Japanese Romance

: Z. P. Maruya, 1885  

Right, in the center:

Jukichi Inouye, trans.
, or The Treasury of Loyal Retainers
Above: revised 1937 edition

Below: First ed.,
Tokyo: Nakanishi-ya, 1910  

Far right:

Donald Keene, trans.

ushingura: The Treasury of Loyal Retainers
New York
& London: Columbia Univ. Press, 1971