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Manyoshu

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  • Date: c. 760s
  • Japanese: 万葉集 (man'you shuu)

The Man'yôshû ("Collection of 10,000 Leaves"), compiled around the 760s, is the oldest collection of Japanese poetry. Officially commissioned by the imperial court, it contains around 4,500 poems, including waka, tanka, and chôka, along with some forms such as the sedôka which fell out of use shortly afterwards.

Unlike the classical poetry of the Heian period which would come later, Man'yôshû poetry does not focus on as sanitized an aesthetic, including treatments of poverty, vermin, and filth which Heian poetry ignores to the more exclusive focus on "cleaner," elegant subjects of seasonal beauty and the like.

The Man'yôshû is written chiefly using native Japanese words, rather than Chinese-derived compounds, but is written entirely in kanji, each of which is used to represent a sound, without meaning, a writing style or system which has come to be known as Man'yôgana.

References

  • David Lu, Sources of Japanese History, New York: McGraw Hill (1973), 39-40.
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