[Wakatai jisshu] (Treatise on poetry)


[Wakatai jisshu] (Treatise on poetry)

calligraphy / Heian

Heian period, 11th century

Ink on decorated paper


National Treasure

This treatise on waka, or Japanese poetry, is ascribed to Mibu no Tadamine, a representative poet from the Heian Period, which lasted from 794 to 1192. Tadamine was also one of the compilers of the Kokin waka shu, a famous poetry anthology compiled at the behest of the emperor.
The treatise discusses waka poems by categorizing them into ten styles in accordance with Chinese poetry conventions. It also contains five example poems for each style and short explanatory comments in Chinese. This work is the oldest extant copy of the treatise.
Let's take a look at the paper first. It is decorated with tobikumo, a pattern that resembles flowing indigo and purple clouds. This kind of decorated paper was only produced from the mid-11th century to the start of the 12th century, which suggests the work dates back to the Heian period.
At the end of the treatise, the calligrapher is identified as Fujiwara no Tadaie by Kohitsu Ryosa(1572-1662) founded the Kohitsu family, which specialized in the appraisal of ancient writing. There is no conclusive proof that this was indeed written by Fujiwara no Tadaie, but the harmonious blend of elegant Chinese and Japanese characters is beautiful indeed.
The exhibit features a handscroll and a hanging scroll. The segment mounted on the hanging scroll was originally part of the handscroll. The color of the paper has darkened slightly, presumably because it was displayed and appreciated on various occasions in the past.

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