The title of this poetry collection, Autumn Bushclover Anthology (J. Akihagi-jô), comes from the first poem on its first page, which begins with the words, "The leaves of the autumn bush clover." The calligraphy is in the simple cursive style (J. sôgana) and dates from the Heian period (794-1185) when the form of writing known as "woman's hand" (J. onnade) began to assume its final form. The fact that the text originates at such a pivotal moment, as well as the beauty of both the characters and the colored papers on which they were written, have made this one of the most famous works in the history of Japanese calligraphy.
The scroll was made by joining twenty richly-colored sheets of paper dyed in various shades of white, indigo, brown, yellow, and green. Forty-eight Japanese poems (J. waka) have been copied out on the first fifteen sheets; and twelve letters by the Chinese Eastern Jin-dynasty (314-420) calligrapher Wang Xizhi (303-361) have been transcribed on the sixteenth through twentieth sheets. The poems on the first sheet are in the hand of Ono no Michikaze (894-966); the remaining nineteen sheets are said to have been copied by Fujiwara no Yukinari (972-1027), who put the final touches to Japanese-style calligraphy. There is no reliable evidence, however, that Yukinari was involved in the production of this manuscript, and some have suggested that the second calligrapher was the emperor Fushimi (r. 1288-98).
A section of philosophical treaties, Huainan zi, dating from the Former Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 8), had been copied out in vigorous but smooth and decorous standard-style characters (J. kaisho) on what are now the reverse sides of the second through twentieth sheets in the scroll. This manuscript was copied in China during the Tang dynasty (618-c. 907) and is known as the Commentary on Huainan zi (Ch. Huainan honglie binglue jiangu).