Political problems arising from the relations between the Imperial government and the bakufu inspired Jien to write. Jien was the son of Fujiwara no Tadamichi, and his insider's perspective ensured that his work would have a distinct point-of-view. Rather than working towards an absence of bias, he embraced it; and Gukanshō is fairly described as a work of historical argument. The writer does try to approach Japan's past in a new way, but he does so under the influences of old historical and genealogical interests.
The text is composed of three major sections:
- Volumes 1 and 2 consist of imperial chronicle beginning with Emperor Jimmu and concluding with Emperor Juntoku.
- Volumes 3 through 6 present a historical description focusing on political transitions.
- Volume 7 offers a summary of the contemporary state of the Japanese polity.
The careful writer attempted to apply Buddhist principles such as mappō to the process of developing a chronicle of people and events. He was also self-consciously focused on the application of Buddhist principles in the analysis of Japanese history. However, Jien could never completely divorce his position as a son and brother of Fujiwara kogyū officials from his position as a priest who studied and practiced Buddhism.
- Brownlee, John. (1991). Political thought in Japanese historical writing: from "Kojiki" (712) to "Tokushi Yoron" (1712). pp. 92-102.
- Brown, Delmer et al. (1975). Gukanshō, pp. 402-403.
- Brownlee, pp. 92-93.
- Brown, p. 6.
- Brownlee, p. 96.
- Brown, p. 418-419.
- Brown, Delmer and Ichiro Ishida, eds. (1979). Gukanshō; "The Future and the Past: a translation and study of the 'Gukanshō,' an interpretive history of Japan written in 1219" translated from the Japanese and edited by Delmer M. Brown & Ichirō Ishida. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03460-0
- Brownlee, John S. (1991). Political Thought in Japanese Historical Writing: From Kojiki (712) to Tokushi Yoron (1712). Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. ISBN 0-88920-997-9
- (in Japanese) Okami, Masao and Toshihide Akamatsu. (1967). [Jien, c. 1220] Gukanshō. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten. ISBN 4-00-060086-9
- (in Japanese)愚管抄