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Poets, Paragons, and Literary Politics: Sugawara no Michizane in Imperial Japan

From: Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies
Volume 74, Number 1, June 2014
pp. 43-99 | 10.1353/jas.2014.0004



Robert Tuck examines the Meiji reception of the Heian scholar and poet Sugawara no Michizane (845–903) to outline the development of several influential modern narratives of Sino-Japanese literary relations. Beginning with the views of Michizane held by Edo-period Confucian scholars, he proceeds to cover key debates among Meiji scholars concerning Michizane as an icon of imperial loyalty and as a kanshi poet of “utmost sincerity” (shisei). In the 1890s literary scholars attacked all Heian kanshi writing as insincere and formalistic, but from 1902, the one-thousandth anniversary of Michizane’s death, other scholars made Michizane the focus of a new narrative in which Japan overcame the linguistic obstacles of literary Chinese and domesticated kanshi. By analyzing Meiji scholars’ discourse on Michizane, Tuck reveals the cultural and ideological currents that continue to influence narratives of Sino-Japanese literary history to the present day.

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