Man’yōshū vs. Kokinshū Contribution to Japanase Literature Essay

Man’yōshū vs. Kokinshū Contribution to Japanase Literature Essay

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In class,we have talked about two poetry collections: the Man'yōshū and the Kokinshū, both of which are significant in pre-modern literature. Completed within 150 years of each other, one could say the purpose and presentation of both anthologies differ as the country of Japan became more solidified as time went on. The two collections are very different from each other in many aspects, such as organization, presentation, and purpose; thus, both contribute to Japanese literature in different ways.
First of all, there are the technical differences between the two works pertaining to their authorship and date of completion. Man'yōshū was compiled by a few poets, but the main compiler was Ōtomo no Yakamochi. Man'yōshū's last poem is dated circa New Year's Day AD 759, and although the collection is attributed to spanning two centuries prior, it cannot be said that is true. The Kokinshū was also compiled by a few poets, namely Ki no Tsurayuki, Ki no Tomonori, Ōshikochi no Mitsune, and Mibu no Tadamine. Ki no Tsurayuki is considered to be the main compiler and editor, who helped complete the work around 905 AD.
In relation to the technical differences, the poetry organization within each collection is where the division of the two anthologies seem to take place. The Man'yōshū contains over 4500 poems: around 4200 tanka, 265 chōka, and 60 sedōka. The poems are divided into twenty volumes, but with seemingly little organization; the first two books are considered to be halves of each other, while the last four are all works by Ōtomo no Yakamochi, but the organization in the middle seems to lack in terms of theme of the poetry. The poetry could be termed one of three types in the Man'yōshū: banka (an elegy based on the death of a roya...

... middle of paper ...

...I find the selection in Keene's anthology to be more appealing than the Man'yōshū collection—the Man'yōshū collection has its strong points as well; I liked the “completion” of poems since they are chōka and can tell a story within one poem. However, with metaphors, one can have a little more room when interpreting a poem, which was more evident in the Kokinshū.

Works Cited

Citko, Malgorzata. Handouts 2 and 4.
Katō, S., & Sanderson, D. (1997). A history of japanese literature: from the man'yōshū to
modern times. Psychology Press. (Accessed on Google Books)
Keene, Donald. (Ed.). (1955). Anthology of japanese literature from the earliest era to the mid
nineteenth century. New York, NY: Grove Press.
Wixted, J.T., Rodd, L.R., Grzanka, L., & Henkenius, M.C. (1996). Kokinshu: a collection of poems ancient and modern. Cheng & Tsui. (Accessed on Google Books)

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