Man’yōshū vs. Kokinshū and Their Significance

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The Man’yōshū and the Kokinshū are perhaps among the most revered and earliest collections of Japanese poetry. The Man’yōshū, meaning “Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves (or Generations),” is believed to be compiled by the poet Ōtomo no Yakamochi sometime after AD 759 during the Nara Period. It contains over 4,000 poems, mostly tanka, that date before the end of the eighth century, and the writings are somewhat divided chronologically into four periods. Almost two centuries later, the Kokin waka shū or Kokinshū, meaning “Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern,” was compiled under the imperial command of Emperor Daigo in AD 905 during the Heian Period by several well-known poets like Ki no Tsurayuki. Unlike the Man’yōshū, the Kokinshū’s …show more content…
In addition, the Kokinshū also contains the manajo, or Chinese preface, which served as a political statement to China about the recognition of Japanese poetry as its own. The Man’yōshū, on the other hand, though it had many concluding envoys for its poetry, did not have a preface written by its compilers or poets. The Man’yōshū and the Kokinshū also had different poetic forms, styles, and themes. While the majority of waka in both collections were tanka (short poems), the Man’yōshū contained much more chōka (long poems) and sedōka (head-repeated poems) than the Kokinshū, which only contained about ten of these altogether (Miner, 161, 163). By the time of the Kokinshū’s compilation in the Heian Period, both chōka and sedōka had greatly decreased in popularity. In terms of style, the Man’yōshū portrayed makoto (sincerity) while the Kokinshū displayed miyabi (courtly refinement) (Varley, 60-61). For instance, in dealing with love, the
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