audio
Segment of Kokin Wakashu Poetry Anthology, Chapter 19 Known as “Koyagire” (Kokin Wakashu "Koyagire")
The Magic of Japanese Masterpieces
13m 58s

Broadcast on January 21, 2016
Available until March 31, 2029

Japan developed distinctive cultural forms on the basis of Chinese influence in the 10th and 11th centuries. The Kokin Wakashu – an anthology of old and modern poems written in the Japanese poetic form known as waka – is a representative product of that era. The most appropriate way to write waka was to use the hiragana script created by simplifying Chinese characters. The work we introduce this time comes from an eleventh century copy of the Kokin Wakashu and is regarded as the pinnacle of hiragana calligraphy. Written with a thin brush on paper which glitters with tiny fragments of mica, we see several dozen lines of smoothly flowing connected, vertical script. The calligrapher is believed to have been an aristocrat and the script became the blueprint of the hiragana syllabary that is used in Japan today. We look back over the history during which the original scrolls were cut up into small segments for purposes of appreciation and delve into the beauty of the Japanese style of calligraphy.

photo