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Friday, September 24, 2010

waka poems about the moon

此の世をば わが世とぞ思ふ 望月の かけたることの なしと思へば

"The world is my oyster, I lack for nothing like the full moon," written by Fujiwara no Michinaga(藤原道長,966-1028)

But the full moon has nothing else to do but wane.
Michinaga was ensconced in a high seat of power.  Murasaki Shikibu(紫式部) is a private tutor of his daughter.

天の原 ふりさけ見れば 春日なる 三笠の山に 出でし月かも

"When raising my head skyward, I found the moon, it could be the same moon that rises over the Hill of Mikasa in Kasuga,"written by Abe no Nakamaro (阿倍仲麻呂, c.701-c.770)

He was a scholar, administrator and waka poet in the Nara period.  He went to the Chinese Tang dynasty as one of Japanese Missions to Imperial China in 717. Kibi no Makibi(吉備真備) and the Buddhist monk Genbou(玄昉) were fellow passengers.
To survey international circumstances or advanced technologies and to collect Buddhist scriptures, the missions staked their lives on the voyage to China.

He passed the civil-service examination and achieved successful career as a bureaucrat in China. It was hard to receive a permission from the emperor to go home because Nakamaro found favor with the emperor.
In 753, his ship drifted down to the coast of Vietnam due to wrecking after he got permission to come back temporarily to Japan. He could not get a permission again. So he abandoned to return home and remained in China until his death.

His Chinese name was Zhao Heng (晁衡).  He was a close friend of the Chinese poets Li Bai(李白) and Wang Wei(王維), among others. Wang Wei was reluctant to leave Nakamaro in his poem when Nakamaro embarked for Japan. Li Bai grieved Nakamaro's ill-fated death in his poem when getting misinformation of his death.

He could not return home, but his waka poem was introduced into Japan.

Sei Shinsei (or Ino Manari, 井眞成) also remained in China during the same period.

In 2004, a Chinese university announced that his epitaph was discovered at a construction site. He had been unknown until the news made him famous. The epitaph lifted him up from obscurity.
Although it is thought that he is a member of the missions or an official and is from Fujiidera City in Osaka, his life is poorly understood.
He died in China, but his epitaph visited home in 2005.

For your information, the statue of the Chinese Buddhist priest Ganjin(鑑真) who was the founder of Toshodaiji(唐招提寺) also has visited home. He visited Japan in response to a request from a Japanese emperor. He attempted to visit Japan six times over strong protests of the Chinese emperor and his Chinese followers.

The original sentence of his epitaph is as follows.


"■" means illegible characters.
Two Japanese modern characters(即 and 既) are used in place of undisplayable characters.

The epitaph's summary:

His last name is 井 and his first name is 真成. He came from Japan.
He was endowed with tremendous talent and was dispatched on a mission to the Chinese Tang dynasty from a distant country.
He continued his civilized behavior and was so eager to learn, but he suddenly passed away at the age of 36 at a public dormitory in the 1st month in 734.
The emperor raised his official rank to "尚衣奉御"(department head of management of emperor's clothes) in mourning his death and had a funeral at national expense on the banks of the San River(滻水).
His splendid funeral was held in the procession including a white carriage and flag-flying.
People who attended the funeral heaved a sigh at the sight of the setting sun and headed for the cemetery in sorrow.
Although death is inevitable, people in his home country also would mourn the loss of him.
The remains are buried in a foreign country, but we sincerely hope that his soul will return home.

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