Kishōtenketsu (起承転結) describes the structure and development of classic Chinese, Korean and Japanese narratives. The structure originated in China and was called qǐ chéng zhuǎn hé (起承转合) and used in Chinese poetry as a four-line composition, such as Qijue. From there it moved to Korea where it is called gi seung jeon gyeol (Hangul: 기승전결; Hanja: 起承轉結). And then finally to Japan where the name Kishotenketsu originates and is also referred to as kishōtengō (起承転合).

The Chinese () means start or introduction, usually meaning the reason something started; () meant handling, process, or hardships; () turn, turning point, crescendo; and () result.

The Korean interpretation is 기 is raising issues and introducing characters, 승 is the beginning of the action (But not to solve a problem, necessarily more for self realization), 전 is a change in direction or reversal, 결 is the thing to be concluded and any lessons gained through the process or results.

However, the Japanese interpretation of it is introduction, kiku (起句), development, shōku (承句), twist, tenku (転句), and the last character indicates conclusion or kekku (結句). 句 is the phrase (, ku), and () means "meeting point of introduction 起 and twist 転" for conclusion.

The following is an example of how this might be applied to a fairytale.

  • Introduction (ki): introducing characters, era, and other important information for understanding the setting of the story.
  • Development (shō): follows leads towards the twist in the story. Major changes do not occur.
  • Twist (ten): the story turns toward an unexpected development. This is the crux of the story, the yama (ヤマ) or climax. In case of several turns in the narrative, this is the biggest one.
  • Conclusion (ketsu), also called ochi (落ち) or ending, wraps up the story.

A specific example by the poet Sanyō Rai (頼山陽):

  • Introduction (ki): Daughters of Itoya, in the Honmachi of Osaka.
  • Development (shō): The elder daughter is sixteen and the younger one is fourteen.
  • Twist (ten): Throughout history, daimyōs killed the enemy with bows and arrows.
  • Conclusion (ketsu): The daughters of Itoya kill with their eyes.[1]

The first verse introduces the female characters of the story. The second verse gives more details about both. Verse three goes astray to an unrelated territory. Verse four explains: The main characters of the story seduce men with their eyes – killing them just as the, until now, unrelated generals who kill with bows and arrow – thus showing the relation of the daughters of Itoya and the killing generals.

The same pattern is used to arrange arguments:

  • Introduction (ki): In old times, copying information by hand was necessary. Some mistakes were made.
  • Development (shō): Copying machines made it possible to make quick and accurate copies.
  • Twist (ten): Traveling by car saves time, but you don't get much impression of the local beauty. Walking makes it a lot easier to appreciate nature close up.
  • Conclusion (ketsu): Although photocopying is easier, copying by hand is sometimes better, because the information stays in your memory longer and can be used later.

In the structure of narrative and yonkoma manga, and even for document and dissertation, the style in kishōtenketsu applies to sentence or sentences, and even clause to chapter as well as the phrase for understandable introduction to conclusion.

The concept has also been used in game design, particularly in Nintendo's video games, most notably Super Mario games such as Super Mario Galaxy (2007) and Super Mario 3D World (2013); their designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Koichi Hayashida are known to utilize this concept for their game designs.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Maynard, S. K. (1997). Japanese communication: Language and thought in context. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press, 159-162.
  2. ^ Tom Phillips (2015-03-17). "Nintendo's "kishōtenketsu" Mario level design philosophy explained". Retrieved September 16, 2016.