Fujiwara no Shunzei

Fujiwara no Shunzei
Depiction of Fujiwara no Shunzei.

Fujiwara no Shunzei

Fujiwara no Shunzei (藤原 俊成), also known as Fujiwara no Toshinari was a member of the Fujiwara Clan. He was the father of Fujiwara no Teika, and the adoptive father of Priest Jakuren. He was a renowned poet living from 1114AD to 1204AD, entered into religion in 1176 and taught Fujiwara no Ietaka as he grew up.

During his life he held the position of Master of the Empress Dowager’s Palace, was a protege to the Emperor Toba and was a renowned poet. As a poet he is known to have adopted the ‘new style’ of poetry by Minamoto no Toshiyori. He is known to have been friends with the wandering poet-monk Saigyō Hōshi,1 and was a student of Fujiwara no Mototoshi.3

He acted as the judge of many poetry competitions, and 2000 of his poetic judgements have survived to this day. His literary accomplishments incluse compiling the Senzaishū and writing the Korai Fūteishō (Treatise on Poetic Styles through the Ages; 1197-1201). In addition to a private collection of poetry we can find 450 of his poems in the Imperial Anthologies.

Several aethetic concepts have become closely associated with him, such as the concept of sabi (loneliness), yōen (ethereal beauty) and yūgen (mystery and depth). All of these greatly influenced the development of waka, haiku and noh plays.

One of his poems is included in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (No.83) and goes as follows:1

Japanese text2
Romanized Japanese1
English translation1
世の中よ
道こそなけれ
思ひ入る
山のおくにも
鹿ぞ鳴くなる
Yo no naka yo
michi koso nakere
omoiiru
yama no oku ni mo
shika zo nakunaru
There's no escape in this sad world.
With a melancholy heart
I enter deep in the mountains,
but even here I hear
the plaintative belling of the stag.

Footnotes

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

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Battle of Mimikawa

Japanese text2
Romanized Japanese1
English translation1
世の中よ
道こそなけれ
思ひ入る
山のおくにも
鹿ぞ鳴くなる
Yo no naka yo
michi koso nakere
omoiiru
yama no oku ni mo
shika zo nakunaru
There's no escape in this sad world.
With a melancholy heart
I enter deep in the mountains,
but even here I hear
the plaintative belling of the stag.