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Traversing the Frontier

Traversing the Frontier

The Man'yōshū Account of a Japanese Mission to Silla in 736–737

H. Mack Horton

ISBN 9780674053304

Publication date: 10/15/2012

In the sixth month of 736, a Japanese diplomatic mission set out for the kingdom of Silla, on the Korean peninsula. The envoys undertook the mission during a period of strained relations with the country of their destination, met with adverse winds and disease during the voyage, and returned empty-handed. The futile journey proved fruitful in one respect: its literary representation—a collection of 145 Japanese poems and their Sino-Japanese (kanbun) headnotes and footnotes—made its way into the eighth-century poetic anthology Man’yōshū, becoming the longest poetic sequence in the collection and one of the earliest Japanese literary travel narratives.

Featuring deft translations and incisive analysis, this study investigates the poetics and thematics of the Silla sequence, uncovering what is known about the actual historical event and the assumptions and concerns that guided its re-creation as a literary artifact and then helped shape its reception among contemporary readers. H. Mack Horton provides an opportunity for literary archaeology of some of the most exciting dialectics in early Japanese literary history.

Praise

  • The first literary study of the Man’yōshū published in a generation, Traversing the Frontier provides a smooth and faithful translation of the 145 poems in the Silla sequence. Through erudite and approachable commentaries on this miniature anthology, and valuable chapters on its literary and historical contexts, this fine study serves as an excellent introduction to the entire Man’yōshū, and to early Japanese poetry in general.

    —David B. Lurie, Columbia University

Author

  • H. Mack Horton is Professor of Premodern Japanese Literature and Culture at the University of California, Berkeley.

Book Details

  • 648 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center

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