National TreasureEssay on Ten Styles of Japanese Poems

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  • 和歌體十種
  • 1 scroll, 1 hanging scroll
  • Ink on decorative paper
  • 26.0x324.0
  • Heian period/11th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • B-3231, B-3232

The Essay on Ten Styles of Japanese Poems (J. Wakatai jisshu) is a poetry treatise completed around the end of the tenth or the beginning of the eleventh century. It is said to have been written by the poet and scholar Mibu Tadamine (898-920), who is known as one of the "Thirty-six Poetic Sages" (J. sanjûrokkasen). Because of this association, another name for this collection is the Ten Styles of Tadamine (J. Tadamine jisshu), although modern scholars doubt Tadamine's involvement.

This scroll, the oldest-known copy of this manuscript, was written on thin high-quality ganpi paper, known as torinoko (literally, "chick" paper because of its light yellowish brown, egg-like color), decorated with indigo and purple "flying cloud" (J. tobikumo) patterns. This type of paper was typically used in the Heian period (794-1185). Each of the ten styles of waka-one of the most popular styles of classical Japanese poetry, consisting of 31 syllables-is discussed separately. Five examples of each type of poem are given in hiragana (cursive phonetic script) and an added explanation is written in Chinese characters.

At the end of this scroll, the noted calligraphy connoisseur Kohitsu Ryôsa (1572-1662) names Fujiwara Tadaie (1033-1091) as the calligrapher, though there is no proof of this. Tadaie was the grandfather of the famous poet Fujiwara Toshinari (also known as Shunzei, 1114-1204).