Navigation auf


Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies

Childbirth in Medieval Japan: Time, Politics, Expertise


Anna Andreeva, PhD (University of Heidelberg)

Date and Time

November 26, 2020, 4 - 6 pm


In medieval Japan, pregnancy and childbirth were understood as natural but unpredictable, risky affairs, fraught with various kinds of uncertainty, including the possible death of the pregnant woman and her offspring. For high-ranking aristocratic families, whose daughters had a chance of becoming imperial consorts, such possibilities presented a potentially dispiriting course of events or, in the event of a safe birth, a sure way to achieve certain political and socio-economic aspirations. Historical sources describe how elite households dealt with such uncertainties and dilemmas – by planning ahead and fostering special expertise that could help their daughters to conceive and give birth easily. This talk will focus on the several kinds of expert knowledge that the elite families, such as the Fujiwara and Saionji, were able to employ in order for their daughters and sisters to give birth to Japan’s future rulers. Of special importance in these kinds of medieval knowledge were the competing time schemes that envisioned pregnancy in terms of distinct timeframes and modes of observation. Based on the analysis of previously unpublished or little-studied medieval manuscripts and sources, this talk will analyze the different kinds of gendered medieval knowledge on conception, pregnancy, and childbirth developed by Buddhist scholar-monks, yin-yang diviners, physicians, and “experienced women” in tenth- to fourteenth century Japan.


The presentation will be given via ZOOM. To get the link together with the invitation please register with


Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies - Japanese Studies