Waka manuscripts

Looking at the kinds of texts that were bound as tetsuyōsō, we notice patterns in how the two main sizes (yotsuhan and mutsuhan) were used. We have already noted that handwritten waka (Japanese old poetry) works were frequently bound as scrolls but monogatari were not, and the same selective pattern seems to apply to the different sizes of tetsuyōsō binding.

Waka in yotsuhan-bon format

A large number of waka manuscripts in tetsuyōsō format are in the larger yotsuhan-bon size. The Goshūiwakashū is a representative example (fig.1)

*Goshūiwakashū* Fig.1 Goshūiwakashū [Later Gleanings of waka, 1086]
Click to take a closer look: Vol.1, Vol.2

The 10th-century Kokinshū was the first and most influential of the imperial waka collections, so a great many different texts survive. The one shown here is a late 13th century copy (fig.2).

*Kokinwakashu* Fig.2. Kokinwakashū, Click to take a closer look

Waka collections by individual poets are known in Japanese as shikashū (personal collections). The Shigeie-shū (Collected Poems of Shigeie) is the personal poetry collection of Fujiwara no Shigeie (1128-1181). This is the oldest extant text of the work (fig.3) and the calligraphy is truly exquisite.

Shigeie-shu Fig. 3. Shigeie-shu, Click to take a closer look

The Gotoba-in Mishō (August Treatise of Cloistered Emperor Gotoba), also known as Gotoba-in gokuden (August Teachings of Cloistered Emperor Gotoba), is a treatise on the theory and practice of poetry composition (fig.4). The copy owned by Keio Library is also the oldest extant manuscript of the text and it is listed as an Important Cultural Property.

Gotoba-in Mishō Fig. 4. Gotoba-in Mishō, Click to take a closer look

Waka in mutsuhan-bon format

Moving on to mutsuhan-bon, this book contains two texts, the Nijūhappon narabini kuhon shiika (Poems on the 28 Chapters of the Lotus Sutra and the Nine Levels of Amida’s Paradise) and the Genson sanjūrokunin shiika (Poems by 36 Living Poets), two collections of Chinese and Japanese poems compiled as a tribute to the deceased and to serve as a room ornament respectively. (fig.5)

Nijūhappon narabi ni shiika/Gensonzanjūrokunin shiika Fig. 5. Nijūhappon narabi ni kuhon shiika/Gensonzanjūrokunin shiika,
Click to take a closer look

Both are the oldest extant versions of these texts. Here we have a 15th-century copy of the Hekianshō(fig.6), a commentary of selected poems from the first three imperial waka anthologies (Kokinshū, Gosenshū, and Shūishū) by the great early-medieval poet-scholar Fujiwara no Teika. It is in the hand of one of the most representative poets of the mid-Muromachi period, Asukai no Masayasu (1436-1509).

Gotoba-in Mishō Fig. 6. Hekianshō, Click to take a closer look

Waka manuscripts and book formats

These are but a few of the most interesting pieces in Keio University’s collection, but generally speaking, there are far more waka works in yotsuhan-bon format than in the smaller mutsuhan (“sixth”) format.

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This article is from the free online course:

Japanese Culture Through Rare Books

Keio University