Abe no Nakamaro

Abe no Nakamaro

Abe no Nakamaro

Abe no Nakamaro (阿倍 仲麻呂) was a member of the Abe Clan living from 698-770AD.1 He is known to have been born in Abe, Nara Prefecture.2

During his lifetime he was both a poet and government official in China.

In 717 he departed to China with Kibi no Makibi and Priest Genbō as part of an embassy. Here he took a Chinese name a gained official posting there.

Nakamaro also made a literary reputation whilst here meeting the Chinese poets Li Bo and Wang Wei.1

At 37 years of age he was made Director of Protections and put in control of Three Offices (Arms, Arsenal and Palace Guards).3

In 753 he attempted to return to Japan alongside Fujiwara no Kiyokawa, however he was prevented by shipwreck. As he was stuck in Japan he eventually was made the governor general of Vietnam.

He died 54 years of age in Chang’an.1

One of his poems can be found in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (No.7) and goes as follows:

Japanese text4
Romanized Japanese1
English translation1
天の原
ふりさけ見れば
春日なる
三笠の山に
出でし月かも
ama no hara
furisake mireba
kasuga naru
mikasa no yama ni
ideshi tsuki kamo
I gaze up at the sky and wonder:
Is that the same moon
That shone over Mount Mikasa
At Kasuga
All those years ago?

Footnotes

1. Kodansha. (1993) ”Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia”. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.
2. Louis Frederic, translated by Kathe Roth (2002) “Japan Encyclopedia”. London: Harvard University Press.
3. MacMillan, P. (2018) ”One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each: A Treasury of Classical Japanese Verse”. St. Ives: Penguin Classics.
4. Suzuki, H. et al. (1997) ”Genshoku: Ogura Hyakunin Isshu”. Tokyo: Bun’eidō.

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