Taira Kiyomori (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: A warrior who rose to power in the last years of aristocratic government in Japan, Kioyomori used political connections and the marriages of his daughters to control the imperial court. Shortly after his death, his family was destroyed, marking the most dramatic rise and fall in Japanese history.
Taira Kiyomori was the son of the great warrior Taira Tadamori, whose military family had formed an alliance with retired emperors at the Japanese court. Both sides prospered from this alliance as the aristocratic Fujiwara family, which had dominated imperial government for generations, declined in power.
Actually, there is some doubt about Kiyomori’s parentage on both sides. It may well be that he was the son of the emperor Shirakawa II, who asked that Tadamori rear him as a warrior. His mother was said to be Lady Gion, a favorite mistress of Shirakawa. She was apparently very pious, for she commissioned costly Buddhist services, but little is known about her influence or the early training of the young Kiyomori. Imperial patronage helped gain for him important appointments and governorships in southwest Japan and the Inland Sea. These areas were important sources of revenue, because trade with Sung China flowed through their harbors, many of which Kiyomori developed.
In twelfth century Japan, the aristocratic court in the imperial capital of Kyoto retained its prestige,...
(The entire section is 2282 words.)
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