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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: January 2016

21 - Introduction to medieval literature

from Part III - The medieval period (1185–1600)


Kokinshu represents the major phase in the evolution of Japanese poetry after the late eighth-century Manyoshu, one whose articulation of self and world would influence Japanese culture for a millennium. Much of the unprecedented nature of Heian waka can be traced back to Uda, whose entourage first developed utaawase and byobu uta, both staples of later court poetry. The authority of the Kokinshu and its poetics was unquestioned in the two imperial anthologies, Gosen wakashu and Shui wakashu, that followed it. Of the anthology's two prefaces, the more commented-on is the Kana Preface and composed by the anthology's chief editor Ki no Tsurayuki. The Mana Preface, which is named after the literary Chinese it was written in by Tsurayuki's scholarly clan-mate Ki no Yoshimochi, was intended for the sovereign. Kinto became the premier arbiter of poetic taste under the patronage of Fujiwara no Michinaga, who encouraged the composition of waka as part of banquets.