National TreasurePoetic Anthology of Bo Juyi

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  • 白氏詩巻
  • By Fujiwara no Kousei
  • 1 scroll
  • Ink on decorative paper
  • 25.4x265.2
  • Heian period/Kannin 2(1018)
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • B-2533

Bo Juyi (772-846), the celebrated Chinese poet from the middle of the Tang period (618-c. 907), is known as Hakurakuten in Japan. The Poetic Anthology of Bo Juyi (Ch. Boshi shi; J. Hakushi shi) was greatly admired by aristocrats during the Heian period (794-1185). Fujiwara Yukinari (972-1027) together with Ono Michikaze (894-966) and Fujiwara Sukemasa (944-998) were extolled for their superb calligraphy as the "Three Great Masters of Calligraphy," who brought wayô (a distinctively Japanese manner of calligraphy, in contrast to the Chinese manner) to maturity. Fujiwara Yukinari is regarded as the founder of the Sesonji lineage of calligraphy, which later became the leading tradition of wayô calligraphy.

This handscroll was written by Yukinari at the age of forty-seven. Eight poems from volume 65 of the Poetic Anthology of Bo Juyi are written in a sophisticated, dignified style of calligraphy on nine joined sheets of paper elegantly dyed in light brown, claret, and other shades. At the end of the handscroll, there is a postscript by Yukinari himself followed by another postscript indicating that the handscroll was purchased in Hôen 6 (1140) by Fujiwara Tadanobu (d.1187), the fifth-generation head of the Sesonji lineage. The colophon of Emperor Fushimi (r. 1288-1298) over the seams on the back of the paper attests to the fact that this handscroll was also a cherished treasure of the emperor.