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Dance of the Butterflies: Chinese Poetry from the Japanese Court Tradition

125 Dance of Butterflies
Translated and edited by Judith N. RABINOVITCH and Timothy R. BRADSTOCK
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The composition of Chinese poetry (kanshi) in the Japanese court dates to the mid-seventh century. During the Heian age (794-1185), kanshi emerged as one of two preeminent poetic genres employed by aristocrats, scholar-officials, and priests; over the centuries it developed into one of Japan's most enduring literary forms.  This anthology, comprising some 300 kanshi by 80 poets, is the largest collection of translated court kanshi ever produced.  It includes an introductin to the kanshi genre, biographies of the poets, and extensive annotations.  The poems sketch a graceful panorama of life in the Heian capital and in the provinces, offering rare glimpses into the private concerns, tastes, and aspirations of the well-born people of the times.  Kanshi continued to flourish in Japan through early modern times, remaining vital down to the Taisho era (1912-1926).  Its longevity was partly a function of its permeation to the townsmen class and to a larger range of female practitioners.  Although the era of kanshi composition has passed, some 5 million Japanese continue to participate in kanshi recitation circles.  While Japanese vernacular literature has been studied extensively and is relatively well known in the West, kanshi have received rather little scholarly attention in either Japan or abroad.  It is hoped that the present anthology will bring this important genre more squarely into both the mainstream of Japanese studies and the consciousness of Western readers. | 304 pages


  • Preface
  • List of Poems by Title
  • Title Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Poetry Translations
  • Biographies of Kanshi Poets of the Nara and Heian Periods
  • Bibliography

  • Judith N. RABINOVITCH is Karashima Tsukasa Professor of Japanese Language and Culture at the University of Montana. Her specialty is Japanese court literature written in Chinese.
  • Timothy R. BRADSTOCK is Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at the University of Montana.

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