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8 - Sugawara no Michizane, a Heian literatus and statesman

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

Sugawara no Michizane ranks among the best-known poets of the Heian period, although he must be among the least often read. Through the Nara period, Michizane's ancestors had served as minor officials at court. The move of the capital to Heian marked a change in the family's fortunes. By the time of Michizane's birth, the Sugawara were known as a family of court scholars. In Michizane's world, scholarship meant a form of Sinology that combined mastery of the Chinese classics with the ability to make practical use of such knowledge. Compositions included both prose and poetry, both official documents and personal expressions. Michizane also wrote waka and associated with some of the major waka poets of his day. Most of Michizane's prose consists of official documents and religious writings, often drafted for others less skilled at composition in Chinese. In Japanese, one rarely wrote of love for one's children. In Chinese, Michizane wrote very affecting poems on that subject.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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