Skip main navigation

Featured texts 6: Poetry collections by Japanese Zen monks

Featured texts 6: Poetry collections by Japanese Zen monks
Next, let us look at poetry collections authored by Japanese Zen monks. When we discussed books for early study (Step 3.3), we discussed the Kinshūdan(*), which was compiled by Zen monks in Japan. In fact, however, the Kinshūdan consists of poems taken from two large earlier collections each including more than 1,000 poems, namely, the Shinsenshū (Newly Selected Collection) and the Shinpenshū (Newly Edited Collection), both of which were also compiled by the monks of the Kenninji temple in Kyoto. Thus, collections of Chinese poetry were widely read within medieval Japanese Zen temples, mostly in manuscript form. Some of these works were later published in print form during the Edo period.
This Zoku shinpen bunrui shoka shishū is one of the few extant manuscripts of the Shin-penshū. The copy was made in Satsuma (modern Kagoshima prefecture), which shows that Gozan-ban editions also circulated in peripheral areas. This is Gakusha ryotei bun’inshū shoka shikan(*). The work rearranges by rhyme the poems in the Shinsenshū and in the Shinpenshū. Poems in Shinsenshū and Shinpenshū are already categorized by theme such as seasons, animals, trees and flowers. This collection rearranges them by rhyme in addition. For example, you can see “East” (in Kanji), as the first character. This indicates the rhyme in Chinese. This is the collection of the similar poems starting from the same character. ie, same rhyme.
Zen monks were also keen poets and compiled numerous poetry collections. What kind of collections were made? Watch Prof. Horikawa describe some examples using items from Keio University’s collections.

Keio University books introduced in the video:

  1. Jinxiuduan (J. Kinshūdan; Collection of Brocade Pieces), late-16th c. manuscript
  2. Zoku shinpen bunrui shoka shishū (Later Newly-Edited Treasury of Poets by Category), Bunmei 6 (1474), manuscript
    Click to see the image and information
  3. Gakusha ryotei bun’inshū shoka shikan (The Scholar’s Inn: A Poetry Treasury by Rhyme), early 17th c., manuscript
    Click to see the image and information

Keywords introduced in the video

This article is from the free online

Sino-Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now