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native culture, this did not happen. But Chinese nevertheless continued
to hold much attraction for the Japanese, both as a classical language
and, in poetry, as a means to express those ideas of a complex or abstract nature for which the waka was totally inadequate. The earliest
anthology of Chinese poetry by Japanese, the Kaifûsò (Fond Recollections
of Poetry), was compiled in the mid-Nara period, about the same time as
the Man’yòshû. An example taken from this anthology is the following
piece, “Composed at a Party for the Korean Envoy”:
Mountain windows scan the deep valley;
Groves of pine line the evening streams.
We have asked to our feast the distant envoy;
At this table of parting we try the pleasures of poetry.
The crickets are hushed, the cold night wind blows;
Geese fly beneath the clear autumn moon.
We offer this flower-spiced wine in hopes
To beguile the cares of your long return.9 3 The Court at Its Zenith In 794 the court moved to the newly constructed city of Heian or
Kyoto, about twenty-eight miles north of Nara. The decision to leave
Nara was apparently made for several reasons. Many people at court had
become alarmed over the degree of official favor accorded to Buddhism
and the manifold opportunities presented to Buddhist priests to interfere
in the business of state. Their fears were particularly aroused when an
empress (Shòmu’s daughter) became closely involved with a faith-healing
priest named Dòkyò (d. 772). Before the loss of his patroness, who died
in 770, Dòkyò rose to the highest ecclesiastical and ministerial positions
in the land and even sought, through the pronouncement of an oracle, to
ascend the throne itself. Dòkyò thus achieved notoriety in Japanese history as a commoner who blatantly challenged the imperial family’s sacrosanct claim to reign exclusively over Japan. The Dòkyò affair appears to
have convinced the court of two things: that Nara, with its many Buddhist
establishments and its ubiquitous priesthood, was no longer satisfactory
for the conduct of secular affairs; and that henceforth the line of succession to the throne should be confined s...
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- Spring '13