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Li Jiao’s Songs: Commentary-Based Reading and the Reception of Tang Poetry in Heian Japan

In: East Asian Publishing and Society
Author:
Brian R. Steininger Princeton University bsteinin@Princeton.edu

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The poet Li Jiao (ca. 646-715), now largely forgotten, enjoyed unusual success in Heian and Kamakura Japan. In the twentieth century, a lost commentary to Li’s poetry was rediscovered in several different manuscript lineages. This paper argues that the commentary spread to Japan early in the Heian period, and was instrumental in Li Jiao’s popularity there. Analysis of the role of imported commentaries helps to explain the shape of the Chinese canon in Japan, including the tremendous popularity of Bai Juyi. Literacy practices institutionalized in the Daigakuryō (State Academy) led to the success of certain poets over others, directing the local canon as well as local composition in literary Sinitic genres.

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