Buddhist prayers were originally written in Chinese characters and in the form of couplets, but since the Kamakura Period they had come to be more freely written in kana characters. This shift in orthography eventually precipitated the influx of Japanese vocabulary and syntax into religious prayers. Later when prayers began to be written not only in kana but also in hiragana, they promoted a more rapid progress in the linguistic assimilation of Chinese into Japanese.
In Gekan-shū Fujiwara-no-Teika said that the two-line form of waka poems had already been common in the late Heian Period. Certainly the two-line style came to be dominant in this period, but it was actually not so standardized yet. In fact there were also not a few single-line poems due to an increase in the use of Chinese characters. This article will examine such a formal diversity during the transitional period with fifty-seven poems pasted on the eighty front and rear pages of the three major “tekagami” collections of imperial anthologies after Shin-kokin-waka-shū.
Since Buddhist poetry called “shakkyō-ka” became popular in the mid-Heian Period, it had been written in two different styles. While some poems were a sort of Japanese translations of Chinese Buddhist scriptures, others were directly rendered in Chinese Buddhist terms. At first the former served as poetical interpretations of holy texts, but they gradually changed into poems describing seasons or songs of love. The purpose of the latter was to preserve the teachings of great monks like Saichō and Kūkai. It was because their sacred philosophies were regarded as untranslatable that they were written in the original religious language.
Some versions of the collected portraits of the thirty-six great poets are edited after the style of the Narikane edition, in which the poems are written from left to right on the left side of the pictures. According to Fujiwara-no-Toshitada, this arrangement is made in order to vividly represent the poets’ voices in waka competitions. Or it is also likely that it was modeled on the calligraphy of “hengaku,” a wooden tablet dedicated to gods in medieval times. This article will examine the peculiar style of the Narikane edition in relation to the standard arrangement of writing and picture, the pattern of a pair of pictures, and other editorial compositions.
In July 1416 or the twenty-third year of the Ōei Period, a stone image of Jizo Bodhisattva was said to suddenly appear on the bank of the Katsuragawa River. Katsuragawa-jizō-ki is a rare book which eloquently describes a series of festive events caused by this appearance of the divine statue. The sophisticated style of the book indicates how highly developed Chinese literacy was in the literature of the Muromachi Period. Indeed in the book written in the form of correspondence the diversity, vitality, and order of the world are represented with brilliant figures of speech derived from the Chinese academic tradition. This genealogy of knowledge is indispensable for studies on the literature, history, and culture of ancient and medieval times.
In some religiopolitical books of medieval times there can be found such vivid descriptions of dialogues that one feels like actually listening to them. Tendaimonyō-jizaibō by Jōmyō, for example, is known for its exquisite use of colloquial expressions. This paper will examine the vernacular style of Tendaimonyō-jizaibō, Furin-shuyō-shō, and Tetsujin-shō, especially their idiosyncratic way of writing and reading Chinese characters.