Skip to comments.Ancient Poem Found On Wood Strip (Japan)
Posted on 05/24/2008 8:46:56 AM PDT by blam
Ancient poem found on wood strip
The Yomiuri Shimbun
NARA--A wooden strip unearthed in fiscal 1997 from remains of the eighth-century Shigarakinomiya palace in Koka, Shiga Prefecture, was found to be inscribed with a pair of waka poems, one of which is included in "Manyoshu" (The Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves), Japan's oldest existing collection of poems, a board of education announced Thursday.
It is the first time that a wooden strip inscribed with a poem from the collection has been found.
On one side of the strip is a poem about Mt. Asaka, in present-day Fukushima Prefecture, while the other side bears a poem about Naniwazu, an ancient port in Osaka.
The poem on Mt. Asaka included in "Manyoshu" is described by Ki no Tsurayuki, a renowned poet of the Heian period (794-1192), as an archetypal poem in the preface of "Kokin Wakashu," a compilation of waka poems.
Since the strip is believed to have been made during the same period that "Manyoshu" was compiled, the discovery is of considerable importance to studies of the collection.
The poems were written using Chinese characters in the phonetic Manyo style. The poem on Mt. Asaka is included in volume 16 of "Manyoshu."
The characters for "asakaya" and "ruyama," written in black ink, were legible, leading to the discovery.
The poet, a court lady who served King Katsuragi, writes in the Mt. Asaka poem that her sincerity is deeper than the shallow spring that reflects Mt. Asaka. The poem was written to placate the king after he visited the Mutsu regions, straddling the current Aomori and Iwate prefectures, and was upset by the way he was entertained by a local governor. According to the legend, the poem brought the king out of his bad mood.
The "Manyoshu" collection, comprising 20 volumes, was compiled in the seventh to eight centuries and includes about 4,500 poems composed by emperors and aristocrats as well as commoners. None of the volumes from the original collection survive, but copies made in the Heian period and after remain in existence.
The wooden strip was unearthed from the Miyamachi Remains in Koka, where part of the Shigarakinomiya palace stood between 742 and 745, created by the order of Emperor Shomu.
The 1-millimeter-thick strip is torn into two pieces measuring 7.9 centimeters and 14 centimeters in length. The strip is believed to have been about 60 centimeters long originally, and was probably used as an uta mokkan--a wooden strip inscribed with a poem to be read aloud during ceremonies and parties.
It was discovered in a ditch about 220 meters to 230 meters west of the main section of Shigarakinomiya Palace in an excavation in fiscal 1997. The strip is believed to have been put there between late 744 and early 745.
Towao Sakaehara, an ancient history professor of Osaka City University, and other researchers began examining the pieces of the strip with the Naniwazu poem in December, leading them to discover the other poem on the other side.
"Manyoshu"'s 15th volume and appendix were compiled over a few years from 745. A leading hypothesis is that volume 16 was created by adding contents to the appendix of volume 15.
The poem strip is likely to have been made before the compilation of the collection was completed.
"The Asaka poem was included in the collection because it was widely known at the time," a Koka Municipal Board of Education spokesman said.
The Naniwazu poem is said to have expressed congratulations for the enthronement of Emperor Nintoku. Although it is not included in the "Manyoshu" collection, the poem was written on more than 30 unearthed items, including a wooden strip and clay pot.
In the Kokin Wakashu, the pair of poems are introduced as the first poems to be learned.
The finding shows that the tradition of pairing poems began in the Nara period (710-794), about 160 years earlier than once believed.
Susumu Nakanishi, director of the Nara Prefecture Complex of Man'yo Culture, called the wooden strips a valuable discovery, saying: "We learned the strips were used as a material for compiling 'Manyoshu,' and also that kana letters in the 'Manyoshu' collection's copies made in the Heian period and after in the handwriting of many different people matched the letters in the discovered strip. It's an important artifact in the study of 'Manyoshu.'"
Roses are red...
there once was a girl from Nantucket....
[Towao Sakaehara, an ancient history professor of Osaka City University}
Most professors seemed ancient to me in college...
Virerts are brue...
The poet has been tentatively identified:
It's a l-o-n-g story, but, maybe someday I'll get around to writing down how (in an antique weapons shop way back on an out-of the way side street in Kyoto) I was presented with a bamboo fan bearing a hand-written inscription written and signed by Tojo Hideki (Generalissimo Tojo)...
I can’t imagine actually laying hands on a work of art that is so ancient. A tool or something utilitarian would be one thing, but a poem? Amazing.
The sense of connection with ones history and ones ancestors must be absolutely overwhelming for these archaeologists.
I'm old enough to remember when that name was as well know in American homes as is Saddam Hussein is today.
As am I. I remember during WWII, that our garbage pickup man used a mule-drawn wagon -- and he called his two mules, "Hitler" and, "Tojo" -- and he cussed them a lot!!! '-)
That does not mean that the fan is not a valuable historical document. (It was presented to the old Nipponjin who gave it to me ["I presento-you in memory of my GI drinking buddy!"] as a commendation for valor...)
Japanese who have seen it invariably say, "Ah! Takai desu!!" ("Very precious!!")
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