restricted access Man'yo Daishoki
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Part One Views on Poetry 26 MAN’YŌ DAISHŌKI Keichū | 1690 [Keichū began working on Chōryū’s unfinished manuscript in 1683, and completed his work by 1690. The word daishō 代匠 in the title appears in a number of Chinese works, notably Lunheng and Wenxuan, and refers to work begun by one skilled person later being finished by another person. This is clearly a nod to the work of Chōryū. Keichū viewed the poetic anthology Man’yōshū as having been corrupted over time by so many hands having been involved in its transmission that he determined to go back in time, as it were, and restore the anthology to its original state. His purpose was to elucidate the true state of the poems in Man’yōshū, a work difficult to read. Keichū wanted people to be able to appreciate the poetry, not someone else’s interpretation of it.] Our court belongs to the divine country. Therefore, in the official histories and public documents, divine affairs have priority over temporal ones. In ancient times, the sovereigns governed the country solely according to Shintō. Nevertheless, not only were the people primitive, but they lacked writing, so they transmitted everything orally, resulting in a lack of didactic criticism in the indigenous religion, but found in the Confucian Classics and Buddhist works. The works Kujiki,1 Kojiki,2 and Nihongi3 are ancient, but these only record public events at court from the divine age. It is testimony to the divine beginning of poetry (waka) that though it weakened through the successive reigns, undergoing a variety of changes, our form of poetry never died out. Susanoo4 originally was ruler over the land, and because he lamented 1. A work with a fraudulent preface trying to make it appear that the work was compiled by Shōtoku Taishi and Soga no Umako; in the Edo era from the time of Tokugawa Mitsukuni it was labeled a fraud, though Motoori Norinaga noted that some parts are ancient and authentic (MNZ 1976.9:14–15). As time went on, however, this stance softened so that most researchers consider it to be a derivative work having relied on Kojiki and Nihon shoki. For a patiently laid out argument that attempts to date the text, see Bentley (2006). 2. Presented at court in ad 712 by Ō no Yasumaro. It is written in a mixture of Classical Chinese with phonograms inserted to assist in accurate recitation. 3. Normally called Nihon shoki. It is the first official history of the Japanese court, written in beautiful Classical Chinese. It was presented to the court in ad 720. 4. Susanoo was the younger brother of Amaterasu, and committed crimes in heaven and KEICHŪ | Man’yō daishōki27 and mourned for his mother, Izanami, who had already gone off to the nether world [world of spirits], his father, Izanagi, told him to do as he pleased and cast him out. Because Susanoo was of a violent nature, green mountains become desolate. If his nature was this way, how was he able to become the father of our tranquil form of poetry?5 The limited knowledge of man cannot comprehend the good and evil workings of the kami. The thirty-­ one syllables of Japanese poetry belong to the yang element,6 and within the upper and lower halves of poetry reside all the elements of heaven and earth, yin and yang, master and subject, father and son, husband and wife. The upper half of poetry consists of three stanzas of 5-­ 7-­ 5 and this equals the yang element [seventeen syllables, an uneven number], and three stanzas is also yang. The fourteen syllables of the lower half constitute the yin element. Also, two stanzas [an even number] fits the yin pattern. The five stanzas taken together also form the yin element.7 This is also apparent since the upper stanza is longer than the lower stanza. Because the structure of poetry comes from divine intention, human poets cannot comprehend its profundity, and surely they will compose poetry using ordinary emotions when allotting words into the yin and yang sequence , but the poetry will spontaneously spring from the principle of the way things should be. Our court exists in the middle of the eastern sea, so it is a yang country. When yang is distinctively superior, it surpasses resoluteness . The sun goddess used the virtue of perseverance to come down [to this land] and establish the earth, so later she was able...


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