Dance of the Butterflies: Chinese Poetry from the Japanese Court Tradition
- About the Book
The composition of Chinese poetry (kanshi) in the Japanese court dates to the mid-seventh century. During the Heian age (794–1185), kanshi emerged as one of two preeminent poetic genres employed by aristocrats, scholar-officials, and priests; over the centuries it developed into one of Japan’s most enduring literary forms. This anthology, comprising some 300 kanshi by 80 poets, is the largest collection of translated kanshi ever produced. It includes an introduction to the kanshi genre, biographies of the poets, and extensive annotations. The poems sketch a graceful panorama of life in the Heian capital and in the provinces, offering rare glimpses into the private concerns, tastes, and aspirations of the well-born people of the times.Kanshi continued to flourish in Japan through early modern times, remaining vital down to the Taisho era (1912–1926). Its longevity was partly a function of its permeation to the townsmen class and to a larger range of female practitioners. Although the era of kanshicomposition has passed, some 5 million Japanese continue to participate in kanshirecitation circles. While Japanese vernacular literature has been studied extensively and is relatively well-known in the West, kanshi have received little scholarly attention in either Japan or abroad. It is hoped that the present anthology will bring this important genre more squarely into both the mainstream of Japanese studies and the consciousness of Western readers.
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