This paper will discuss and compare the anthologies of Manʻyōshū and Kokinshū, which were the earliest poetry collections of the classical period in Japan. Manʻyōshū was the earliest anthology of poems and included both long and short forms. It was compiled in the 7th century. Kokinshū was a collection of short poems known as tanka, consisting of 31 syllables. It was compiled in the 8th-10th century. The Kokinshū became the poetry standard for the next 1,000 years in Japan. (The Manyōshū and Kokinshū Poetry Collections)
The Manʻyōshū, also known as the Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves, is the earliest collection of Japanese poetry which was compiled sometime in 759 AD and was divided into 20 volumes, containing 4,516 Japanese poems. There are 4,200 tanka (short poems), 265 chōka (long poems), and 60 sedōka (head-repeated poems), which was a repeated verse form of 5-7-5, 5-7-5. The Manʻyōshū is also the largest collection of poems ever and was compiled by not only aristocrats but also emperors, peasants, and soldiers. The last four volumes are said to be compiled by Ōtomo no Yakamochi who wrote 473 poems. Other important contributors were Takechi Kurohito, Yamanoue Okura, and Kakinomoto Hitomar, who supposedly wrote about 367 poems and was one of Japan’s greatest poets. The poems were recorded by oral tradition and is considered as great literature from the Nara period. Manʻyōshū was written in manyogana and did not have a preface. Early poems from Manʻyōshū have Confucian or Taoist themes and later poems reflect Buddhist teachings. The Manʻyōshū was written to show national identity to prove themselves since China was bigger. (Ten Thousand Leaves)
The first poem from the Manʻyōshū is about a man trying to woo a girl and wanting to marry her because her father is powerful and owns a lot of land. (Keene 33)
Your basket, with your pretty basket,
Your trowel, with your little trowel,
Maiden, picking herbs on this hillside,
I would ask you: Where is your home?
Will you not tell me your name?
Over the spacious Land of Yamato
It is I who reign so wide and far,
It is I who rule so wide and far.
I myself, as your lord, will tell you,
Of my home, and my name.
The second poem from the Manʻyōshū is about the emperor admiring the beautiful land that he presides over. (Keene 34)
Countless are the mountains in Yamato,
But perfect is the heavenly hill of Kagu;
When I climb is and survey my realm,
Over the wide plain the smoke-wreaths rise and rise,
Over the wide lake the gulls are on the wing;
A beautiful land it is, the Land of Yamato!
The Kokinshū, also known as the Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern, was commissioned by Emperor Daigo and was completed in 905 AD. There were four main compilers named Ki no Tsurayuki, Ki no Tomonori, Ōshikōchi no Mitsune, and Mibu no Tadamine. All of the compilers were aristocrats, including members of the royal family and high ranking officials. The Kokinshū...