Introduction to the Project
on Nara Poems


The Manyoshu, translated as the Collection of Myriad Leaves, is the oldest existing anthology of Japanese poetry. It is believed to have been compiled by the poet and court official Otomo no Yakamochi around the 8th Century during the Nara Period (710-794 A.D.). The collection is divided into twenty separate books with over 4,500 poems composed by a variety of authors, both male and female with roles ranging from soldiers to monks to members of the Imperial family. The Manyoshu embraces both Imperial and common, urban and rural, imtimately revealing the strata of medieval Japanese society. The topics covered within the Manyoshu are sufficiently varied, with a range much wider than what is found in other Japanese poetry anthologies, using topics that may have been considered unacceptable by court poets in later periods.

This project seeks to analyze the relationships between poets, assuming some may be found, from within the Manyoshu itself as well as in relation to the poets of the Chinese poetry anthology, the Quan Tangshi. Comparisons of these two works will illustrate possible cultural and social differences between Japan and China during this time and provide us with a more coherent network of relations and communications between the two. In addition, we plan to investigate whatever social, political, and cultural information that can be extracted from our digital exploration of the text.

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