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1. Carrying on the Classics

Until medieval times, Japanese people learned classics mainly through a teaching system that focused on passing knowledge from a master to pupils. Interpretations of words and sentences were conveyed in this manner. Particularly, classics represented by Kokin waka shu (a collection of waka poems edited more than 1,000 years ago), Ise monogatari (the Tales of Ise), and Genji monogatari (the Tale of Genji) were regarded as indispensable for waka poets who needed to be literarily sophisticated. Studies of Confucian texts were maintained by families of hereditary scholars.

Thanks to endeavors of classicists and other well-educated people, we can enjoy the fruits of the classics today. Many of the manuscripts, annotated books, and lecture notes were produced during such inheriting process. However, it is undeniable that such classics were inherited to limited persons until medieval times. It was not until early modern period that classics were widely spread to the public by the introduction of printing techniques for publication.

For Section I, we have selected famous Japanese and Chinese classics in order to show how they were accepted and inherited.

Ise Monogatari and Genji Monogatari 1

1. Ise monogatari

  • copied in early modern period (16th-17th century), 1 book, 24.9 by 19.0cm <WA16-29>

This is a manuscript of Ise monogatari (a collection of stories about waka poems in the 9th century). This is a copy of the manuscript made by Shotetsu, a famous waka poet (1381 to 1459) in the Muromachi Period (14th to 16th centuries).

2. Ise monogatari

  • printed in 13th year of the Keicho Era (1608), 2 books, 27.1 by 19.4cm <WA7-238>

These are the earliest printed books of Ise monogatari. Old-movable type edition. This is a Saga-bon, the representative style of Japanese beautiful books that are appreciated for their flowing type styles, gorgeous binding and beautiful paper.

3. Ise monogatari kikigaki

  • 3 volumes, lectured by Sogi, noted by Shohaku, printed in the 14th year of the Keicho Era (1609), 3 books, 25.7 by 18.9cm <WA7-29>

This is an annotated book of Ise monogatari. Old movable-type edition. Lectures of Sogi (1421 to 1502), a renga (linked poetry) poet, were organized by his pupil, Shohaku (1443 to 1527). This is also a Saga-bon.

4. Iseisho

  • lectured by Sanjonishi Sanetaka, noted by Kiyohara Nobukata, copied at the end of the Muromachi Period (16th century), 1 book, 27.6 by 22.5cm <WA16-50>

This is an annotated book of Ise monogatari. Notes of the lectures by Sanjonishi Sanetaka (1455 to 1537), a famous classist. Kiyohara Nobukata (1475 to 1550), the scribe, is also a famous Confucian scholar.