Japanese poetry, Chinese influence

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Japanese poetry is poetry of or typical of Japan, or written, spoken, or chanted in the Japanese language, which includes Old Japanese, Early Middle Japanese, Late Middle Japanese, and Modern Japanese, and some poetry in Japan which was written in the Chinese language or the ryūka written in Ryukyuan: it is possible to make a more accurate distinction between Japanese poetry written in Japan or by Japanese people in other languages versus that written in the Japanese language by speaking of Japanese-language poetry. Much of the literary record of Japanese poetry begins when Japanese poets encountered Chinese poetry during the Tang Dynasty (although the Chinese classic anthology of poetry,


Chinese literature was introduced into Japan ca the 6th century CE, mostly through the Korean peninsula. Just as the Chinese writing itself, Chinese literature, historical writings, religious scriptures and poetry laid the foundation for Japanese literature proper. Such influence is somewhat comparable to the influence of Latin on the European languages and literature.

In the court of Emperor Temmu (c. 631 – 686) some nobles wrote Chinese language poetry (kanshi). Chinese literacy was a sign of education and most high courtiers wrote poetry in Chinese. Later these works were collected in the Kaifūsō, one of the earliest anthologies of poetry in Japan, edited in the early Heian period. Thanks to this book the death poem of Prince Ōtsu is still extant today.

The strong influence of Chinese poetics may be seen in Kakyō Hyōshiki. In the 772 text, Fujiwara no Hamanari attempts to apply phonetic rules for Chinese poetry to Japanese poetry.

Many of the Tang Dynasty poets achieved fame in Japan, such as Meng Haoran (Mōkōnen), Li Bo (Ri Haku), and Bai Juyi ('Haku Kyo'i). In many cases, when these poets were introduced to Europe and the Americas, the source was via Japan and a Japanese influence could be seen in the pronunciations of the names of the poets, as well as the accompanying critical analysis or commentary upon the poets or their works.

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