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Keikokushū Reconsidered: On the Negotiation of Kidendō Literary Production in Early Heian Japan
Individual Paper Presenter(s)
Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Owing perhaps to the severely mutilated form in which it survives, with only six volumes remaining out of the original twenty, the literary anthology Keikokushū (Collection for Governing the Realm, 827 CE) has received relatively little scholarly attention. The present paper focuses on the structure of this neglected work by placing it in the context of the institutionalization of sovereign-centered poetry banquets and the reorganization of the kidendō (Way of Annals and Biographies) at the Bureau of Education (daigakuryō), which took place during the first three decades of the ninth century, thus culminating at the time the anthology was being compiled. I argue that this work can be thought of as a negotiation among a number of interconnected elements. Specifically, the textual genres that traditionally lacked a stable position within the institutional activity in literary Sinitic of kidendō graduates (for example, shi poetry and fu rhapsodies) acquired in the anthology a hierarchy that was synchronized with both the new de facto trajectory of kidendō education and the outlets for literary composition provided by institutionalized poetry banquets. To the extent that it naturalized an ecosystem of literary production that would have a profound impact on the subsequent period, then, Keikokushū stands at the threshold of Heian kidendō culture as a whole.