Man’yōshū and Kokinshū Demonstrated Japan’s Literary Achievements Essay

Man’yōshū and Kokinshū Demonstrated Japan’s Literary Achievements Essay

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In Japanese literature, poems were one of the first forms of writing. This form of writing brought a whole new level of human expression. Two well known collaborations, known as the Man’yoshu and the Kokinshu, demonstrated Japan’s literary achievements. These two anthologies, which showcased works from a wide range of social groups, set a standard for poetry writing by allowing individuals to express their feelings through words. Although the Man’yoshu and the Kokinshu were compiled of Japanese poetry, the two books played roles in separate societies, where they each held their own significance.
The Man’yoshu is most well known for being the earliest recorded collection of Japanese poetry. Also known as the “Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves”, the Man’yoshu was mainly composed of poems that were written in the middle of the 8th century, however there are older poems that’s are part of the collection. Considered to be “the oldest and greatest of the Japanese anthologies of poetry,” the Man’yoshu held a variety of different poetry styles. Many of the poems written in the Man’yoshu were based off of Chinese ideals and literary styles. Being “the most advance country in the world,” China was used as a base point for creating Japanese literature. At the time, Japanese people became aware that “poetry composition was highly valued and became a requirement for those seeking a bureaucracy position.” Using their culture and institutions, Japan began to experiment with Chinese poetry, mainly the shih. As they began to make progress, literacy in Japan grew. The Japanese people began to realize through reading Chinese poems that poetry was used as a form of expressing one’s emotions and thoughts. However having the desire to cre...


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At first Japan began to create its form of literature through the readings of Chinese poems. By using China as a foothold, Japan was able to increase its literacy by experimenting and eventually creating their own style of poetry. Through the creation of the anthology Man’yoshu Japan was finally able to express their thoughts and feelings openly by creating a wide variety of waka. This set the stage for the Kokinshu whose poems became the standard in writing Japanese poetry for the next century and lasted up until the eighteenth century.



Works Cited

Handout 2: Man’yoshu
Handout 4: Kokin waka shu
Keene, Donald. Anthology Of Japanese Literature. Groove Press. New York 1955.
Man'yoshu & The Imperial Waka Collections. http://web-japan.org/museum/others/uta/ tanka/tanka_02.htm
The Kokinwakashu. http://www.temcauley.staff.shef.ac.uk/kokinshu.shtml

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