Fujiwara no Kintō


Fujiwara no Kintō
Fujiwara no Kintō by Kikuchi Yōsai

Fujiwara no Kintō

Fujiwara no Kintō (藤原 公任) was a renowned member of the Fujiwara Clan living from 966-1041AD.12 He was the son of Fujiwara no Yoritada12 and had a son by the name of Sadayori.3 He was also known in his lifetime as Shijō Dainagon.1

During his life his was a stateman and poet1 and also held the position of Office of Major Counsellor.3 He was also renowned for his calligraphy and as a musician.1

Later in his life, after the death of his daughter, he enters religion and left Kyoto to the north to live in a valley. His home then became a ‘mecca’ for the best poets and minds of the time and they defered to him in poetic matters.3

His life is connected with many forms of literature. He is seen mentioned in the books of Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shonagon, as well as the Eiga Monogatari, Konjaku Monogatari and Ōkagami. Additionally more than 100 of his poems can be found in Imperial Anthologies.12

Wakan rōeishū
Poems from the Wakan rōeishū.

One his most famous compilations was his list of the Thirty Six Poetic Geniuses,123 with other publications fully, or partly by him being entitled:

  • Kintōshū, his personal poetry collection containing 385 poems.12
  • Nyoihōshū, ‘Collection of Buddhist Teasures,’ containing 775 poems.1
  • Waka kuhon, ‘Levels of Excellence in Waka,’ a poetry treatise classifying poems in order of preference.1
  • Shinsen zuinō, ‘The Essence of Poetry, Newly Selected,’ anthology setting forth his ideals of ‘deep feelings, beauty of effect, and an engaging ouch of novelty in conception.’2
  • Shūi waka-shū, 20 scrolls poetry expansion of the earlier Shuishū.12
  • Wakan rōeishū, ‘Collection of Japanese and Chinese Songs for Singing.’ which includes 216 Japanese poems and 587 Chinese couplets.12 He was the sole editor of this.3

One of his poems was included in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (No. 55) and goes as follows:

Japanese text5
Romanized Japanese1
English translation
Taki no oto wa
Taete hisashiku
Na koso nagarete
Nao kikoe kere
The waterfall dried up
in the distant past
and makes not a sound,
But its fame flows on and on -
And echoes still today.1

The waterfall's sound
Faded into nothingness
A long time ago-
But its name has come down
Still to be heard today4

It is said it was written when a group of courtiers visited an old waterfall.

The first line of the version from the Shuishū reads: taki no ito wa ‘the waterfall’s thread.’4


1. Louis Frederic, translated by Kathe Roth (2002) “Japan Encyclopedia”. London: Harvard University Press.
2. Kodansha. (1993) ”Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia”. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.
3. MacMillan, P. (2018) ”One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each: A Treasury of Classical Japanese Verse”. St. Ives: Penguin Classics.
4. Carter, S.D. (1991) “Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology.” California, Stanford University Press.
5. Suzuki, H. et al. (1997) ”Genshoku: Ogura Hyakunin Isshu”. Tokyo: Bun’eidō.

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