(Some of the works of theGenryaku-koubon Manyoushuu (Anthology of Ten Thousand Leaves, Genryaku Edition)
Ink on decorative paper
Heian period/11th century
Tokyo National Museum
The Anthology of Ten Thousand Leaves (J. Man'yôshû) is the earliest extant Japanese poetry collection. Most of the poems were written in the seventh and eighth centuries, but this poetry classic continued to be copied throughout Japanese history. This edition is one of the "Five Great Man'yôshû Codices," which also includes those known as the Katsura, Ranshi ("Indigo-died Paper"), Kanazawa, and Tenji versions. Among these, this copy is regarded as being particularly important both because of the skill of the calligraphers who collaborated on the project and also because it includes the largest number of poems. This work is called the Genryakukô Version because an inscription on the last volume states that it was collated in the first year of the Genryaku era (1184).
This text is written on the high-quality paper made of ganpi fibers known as torinoko (literally, "chick" paper, owing to its light yellowish brown color), decorated with subtle purple and indigo "flying clouds" (J. tobikumo) and marked with guidelines in light ink. The poems are written in either hiragana (the Japanese phonetic syllabary) or the more traditional man'yôgana, which represents words logographically and/or characters phonetically in Chinese characters. The writing of the first volume has historically been attributed to the renown calligrapher Fujiwara Yukinari (972-1027), who is included as one of the "Three Great Masters of Calligraphy." Yukinari is said to have perfected Japanese-style calligraphy. However, the calligraphy style dates this work somewhat later than Yukinari.
In the late seventeenth century, these volumes belonged to Nakagawa Jôu (n.d.) of Matsusaka, a city near Ise Shrine. Later, they were acquired by the princely Arisugawa family, which passed on six volumes to the newly-formed princely Takamatsu family. The other fourteen volumes, which first became the possession of the Kuwana Matsudaira family, were later owned by the high-ranking government official Mizuno Tadakuni (1794-1851), and then by the Kogawa family before all twenty books came into the collection of the Tokyo National Museum.