These handscrolls are made of elegantly decorated paper with background paintings (called ashide-e , literally, “reed paintings”) over which the text of the Anthology of Japanese and Chinese Poems for Recitation (J. Wakan rôeishû) was transcribed. The second scroll has a colophon indicating that it was brushed on the fourth day of the fourth month in 1160 (Eireki 1) by Sesonji Koreyuki (d. 1175), a fifth-generation descendant of the master calligrapher Fujiwara Yukinari (972-1027). A distinguished calligrapher in his own right, Koreyuki is also known for having authored a book on calligraphy entitled Yakaku-teikinshô (“Selections from the Night Crane Garden”).
Ashide-e are paintings that incorporate a style of characters called ashide that were popular during the late Heian period (794-1185). Ashide designs mixed characters as pictorial elements with motifs such as reeds, birds, water, and other seasonal symbols, were used on a wide array of objects, including clothing and furniture.
Each section of the two scrolls has a complete ashide-e background painting whose delicate design poses a riddle based on the keyword of a poem. Such elegant visual and literary play was often enjoyed by Heian courtiers.
Although the title on the first page of the text is the Notes on the Anthology of Japanese and Chinese Poems for Recitation (J. Wakan rôeishû), the two scrolls actually contain the complete transcription of the work with no commentary. The Anthology was originally compiled by the Heian poet Fujiwara Kintô (966-1041), who selected approximately eight hundred outstanding Japanese and Chinese poems suitable for recitation and categorized them according to seasonal themes.