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18 - The Literary Essence of Our Court (Honchō monzui)

from Part II - The Heian period (794–1185)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2016

Haruo Shirane
Affiliation:
Columbia University, New York
Tomi Suzuki
Affiliation:
Columbia University, New York
David Lurie
Affiliation:
Columbia University, New York
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Summary

Fujiwara no Akihira compiles Honcho monzui or Literary Essence of Our Court is a repository of model pieces featuring genres that an educated Heian man needed to master in order to participate in court life, perform duties within the court bureaucracy. Canvassing about two centuries of Sino-Japanese literature from the Saga through the GoIchijo courts, he selected 427 pieces by seventy authors for a vast panorama in fourteen volumes, arranged by thirty-nine genres, with a special focus on the Engi, Tenryaku, and Kanko eras, high points for courtly kanshibun. Though it was the first anthology to feature a vast panorama of Sino- Japanese genres, Literary Essence took cues from previous collections. Inspired by the central importance of the Wenxuan, the sixth-century Chinese anthology of ornamental prose and poetry that was a major textbook for students in the "History and Literature track" at the Heian Academy, Akihira may have tried to create a Wenxuan for Japan.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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