An Annotation of Liu Tao attributed to Kobayakawa Hideaki (1582-1602)


Scholar’s Pick 4: Fragment 74


Kuboki Hideo
Nihon University, Tokyo, Japan


This fragment is datable to about the beginning of the seventeenth century. It may appear like a stand-alone shikishi card, but once we examine it closely, we realize that the first line is a quote from an ancient Chinese book on the art of war, Liu Tao 六韜, then line 2 onward is an annotation of the first line written in Japanese. Probably there existed an annotated copy of Liu Tao on luxurious paper bound in a book format from where this fragment was cut.

The content essentially states that a retainer is not enough to be just loyal to his lordship; a true loyal retainer is one who speaks up to his lordship for the country and its people. Intriguingly, the accompanying kiwamefuda attributes this fragment to “Kingo Chūnagon Lord Hideaki” (金吾中納言秀秋卿) or the warrior lord from the Japanese Warring States Period, Kobayakawa Hideaki 小早川秀秋 (1582-1602). Kobayakawa Hideaki is considered to be one of the most infamous “traitors” of Japanese history whose betrayal during the Battle of Sekigahara (Sekigahara no tatakai 関ヶ原の戦い) in 1600 catalyzed his lord’s monumental defeat.1

Was the fragment attributed to Hideaki because the appraiser knew that it was actually copied by him? Or was it done so out of sarcasm or dark humor? A tantalizing case, indeed!

1. For an accessible summary of the Battle of Sekigahara and Kobayakawa Hideaki’s conduct that defined the course of history, see Myles Hudson, “Battle of Sekigahara,” Britannica,

Prev Next